Fortune 500 University
We don't want an education. We just want the paper. And Wassamatta U. is happy to oblige. No one cares except the huge multi-national corporations. And the medium-sized regional companies. And the small businesses. And Ma and Pop stores. They are all victims of academic fraud. The credential says the candidate can do the work. But they can't.
Not now, but soon there will be a demand to improve education. But don't ask the drunkard for the solution to alcoholism. Don't ask the college presidents for the solution to academic fraud.
The solution to academic fraud must come from those who stand to gain the most from better education -- those who need the educated employees.
Boeing needs engineers. They should teach them internally, to standards that exceed their requirements.
Dow needs chemists. They should teach them internally, to standards that exceed their requirements.
Wal-Mart needs cashiers. They, too, should train them in simple arithmetic and personal skills.
None of these companies can find employment candidates of sufficient skills or experience, regardless of academic background. Many years ago I learned of a major American employer who had started basic literacy classes because their line workers could not read. (Anyone wonder why we've replaced low-skilled labor with robots?) I know of a major American retailer who teaches arithmetic and change-counting to their trainees. And they hire mainly high-school graduates.
The trend for college graduates is not much more encouraging. A group of Ph.D. biochemists worked for seven months at an R&D facility before an outsider introduced basic standardization techniques that chemists should learn in 101. They were in utter failure before that. The academic system had failed a whole department of Ph.D.s, and consequently a large biochemical company. Businesses will soon begin to protect themselves by teaching their own.
Before long, business will realize the benefits of taking capable candidates and educating and training them to the specifics of the industry: aeronautics, mechanics, chemistry, physics, mathematics, management, systems architecture, programming, warehouse management, distribution, international commerce, and the host of unique roles that make each business different.
In previous decades, airlines found enormous benefits in ab-initio (from the start) training of pilots. Taking candidates who didn't even have a single-engine land certificate, airlines like Lufthansa and American Airlines would train pilots all the way to Air Transport Pilot in less than two years. And it would be done "their way." Any pilot working for the company would respond exactly the same way, with exactly the same words, to any situation. The cockpit management and emergency procedures of these commonly-trained teams was a phenomenon.
Once trained, industry graduates could be granted an industry-specific certification, very much like the ones we wave about during interviews. (They mean nothing, either, but we still brandish them like blessings from heaven.) Would Exxon hire a Dow chemist? I think so. Would General Dynamics hire a Boeing engineer? I'd think they would.
Nobody would have to worry about grade inflation. The best and brightest would not apply to Cal Tech or Florida State. They would apply to 3M or General Electric. And they would be rewarded with the kind of education that companies will need in the coming decades.
Were this to happen, and I an optimist, I would think the exodus of superior freshman candidates from engineering and science programs would be a warning sign and encourage failing universities to pursue greater academic rigor. But I'm a pessimist. It will only accelerate the academic trend of attracting the greater and greater numbers of elementary education, home economics, and journalism majors.
After all, for every hard-to-find physics major candidate, there are 1,000 easy-to-find education major candidates. And they both spend equal amounts of money at the registrar's office.
I fear classical education has died. No one wants the one thing the classical education guaranteed, anyway: a common cultural, scientific, and philosophic foundation on which to build the remaining life and career.
Nobody wants to earn an education, either. Everybody wants the job that George Jettson had, pushing a button all day. Can't we train rats to do that?
Paris. 'Cause she pushes everybody's buttons.