Getting Schooled

Mar 19th 2015
Categories: Thoughts

I must prefix this discussion with the disclaimer that I haven't done any studies nor performed official research, however I have a general feeling, it's an atmosphere, that I've noticed. And often a shared feeling like this, or a bias perpetuated in the media is enough to make a difference in the way we think about things.

In the TV Series Suits (which I've been watching lately) the main law firm has a strict policy wherein they hire exclusively from Harvard. "Of course!" many people say... "Harvard is the best!", but are they really? Is everyone who graduates from Harvard just inherently better than those girls and guys who get their community college degrees or go to a local state University in Mississippi somewhere?

When did schooling become more important than skill?

Certainly these schools have obtained their reputations as a result of careful planning, good professors, and a rigorous and uncompromising gauntlet of education. This means that to make it through one of these schools you must be rather clever, and that graduating there DOES mean something, but I'm not convinced that it means enough to justify this educational prejudice that I've seen.

These Ivy League schools require amazing marks, community involvement, and LOTS of money for students to attend. If a student is missing one or more of these things, they will miss out on the opportunity to attend one of these schools, and as a result will miss many further opportunities that they may have otherwise been been qualified for. Many companies will pass over State University degrees for someone from Yale without even a second thought. When did schooling become more important than skill? Someone who made a few poor choices in high school and didn't find their passions until a few years into college is systematically disadvantaged from that point on. It doesn't have to be this way!

I'm Canadian, and as far as I can tell, this problem hasn't gained much traction here. I can get just as far with a degree from University of Saskatchewan as I can with one from University of Toronto. In fact, I'd never even heard of University of Toronto until now when I needed to look it up to confirm that it actually exists. Companies here tend to use degrees as a baseline requirement for a job, but not as a strong indicator of skill or personal ability. This is good, it gives equal opportunity to all qualified applicants and makes the job hunt about finding the person most qualified, not the one with the most family money or who happened to be the smartest when they were 16. Additional benefits are that students can go to school close to home (further reducing financial barriers to education), or can choose a school that has programs that are interesting to them; making these choices without fear that their future will suffer as a result.

Discrimination is discrimination; if a company is hiring someone based on their age, race, religion, OR their Alma Mater instead of solely evaluating their skills as objectively as possible, then it's still discrimination.