At Least I Don’t Have To Cop To Yale

This is going to be a rooting-for-injuries post, I know, but reading this made my happy from within a pool of wince:

To get to Yale, you effectively must pass through a fifteen year funnel. No company can match that kind of screening rigor, so why not leverage it? From a company’s point of view, it would be dumb not to. (Also, think about it this way — if you are a high school senior with a choice of any school, and therefore one of the smartest in your class, will you choose Yale or a state school? I parenthesized this because it’s a straw man argument, but do consider that financial barriers to the Ivy League are basically non-existent nowadays.) Yes, you can get qualified candidates from other schools. But your chances of getting a “lemon” candidate from Yale are, I presume, much lower than getting one from another school.

That’s from a Yale student responding to Tom Friedman’s column in which he asserted that

[Employers] increasingly don’t care how those skills were acquired: home schooling, an online university, a massive open online course, or Yale. They just want to know one thing: Can you add value?


©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Now, as many of you have probably already guessed, Friedman’s column is business-as-usual for the MOU. It is interesting to Friedman-observers mostly for its wrinkle on the taxi-driver standard.  This time, the material for the column comes from Friedman’s daughter’s former Yale (sic!) roommate, the co-founder of what seems to be an out-source skills-vetting operation of the sort businesses used to do for themselves.  Slightly fancier identifiers, then, but the same trope: someone Friedman happens to know holds the secret key to explain some huge public issue.

Friedman also manages to avoid grappling with the basic logical problem that flows directly from his claim that “jobs are evolving so quickly, with so many new tools, a bachelor’s degree is no longer considered an adequate proxy by employers for your ability to do a particular job.”  In such a circumstances specific skills may well be less significant than a capacity, however demonstrated, to acquire new competences as needed.*  I’m not asserting that as truth (I haven’t done the work needed to speak intelligently about hiring and workforce issues), but it’s basic (honest) argumentation to take on the strongest counters to your claim, and not simply assume your way past any inconvenient difficulties.

But, as I said, this is a pox-on-both-sides moment.  And I guess I have a personal rooting interest.  Harvard — and by extension those identified with or credentialed by the place — has had a bad run lately, what with the troubles within their economics shop (Alesina-Ardegna, Rogoff-Reinhardt); the Kennedy School (Jason Richwine’s Ph.D) general folly (the cheating scandal and the following e-mail search scandal)…and whatever else may be laid on the doings at the Kremlin on the Charles.    As some of y’all may have twigged, I’ve got Harvard on my resume — I earned my (one and only) degree there back when we still used our number 2 chisels on our slates, and I feel at least a bit personally angered and embarrassed by that (partial) list of folly and worse.

But at least for this morning, I don’t have to wallow in Harvard’s slop.  Instead, I’m enjoying the billowing scent of unexamined entitlement wafting up from New Haven.  For which, Mr. Anonymized Yalie Blogger, my thanks.

*Not to mention the dead give-away of the passive voice in that sentence “a bachelor’s degree is no longer considered…” Really?  Not saying that it’s not — I haven’t read any studies that may exist nor spoken to hiring executives at the range of places that would allow one to make such an ex-cathedra statement.  But again, I’d like to see something more than MOU’s say-so, if you know what I mean.  Or to be clear:  this is an instance of the failure of high-profile punditry.  This is essentially unforgivable intellectual sloth, enough to render the entire column meaningless.  But the Times seems unable or unwilling to ask their resident pooh-bahs to defend what they claim up to the level I would expect of anyone I teach past their freshman year.

Image: Limbourg brothers, Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry Folio 3, verso: March (Labors of the Month), between 1412 and 1416 and circa 1440.

Explore posts in the same categories: MSM nonsense, The Way We Live Now

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One Comment on “At Least I Don’t Have To Cop To Yale”

  1. kaleberg Says:

    It’s actually a perfectly good op-ed piece as long as you remember that Friedman is ALWAYS wrong. If anything, employers are getting even fussier about brand name college graduates. It’s much easier than assessing skills and probably more reliable. Besides, Friedman assumes that employers actually know what skills their employees require, and this error can easily be confirmed by the popularity of the comic strip Dilbert which is based on the opposite premise.

    * Yeah, the passive voice is a great tip off.

    ** I’m hoping Friedman never says something sensible like “water runs downhill”. We have enough infrastructure problems without having to turn around the insides of all our hydro power stations.

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