An essay by Charles Murray on the opinion page of yesterday’s Wall Street Journal contains a provocative statement promoting the substitution of focused competency certificates for the BA degree. He writes:
Outside a handful of majors — engineering and some of the sciences — a bachelor’s degree tells an employer nothing except that the applicant has a certain amount of intellectual ability and perseverance. Even a degree in a vocational major like business administration can mean anything from a solid base of knowledge to four years of barely remembered gut courses.
The solution is not better degrees, but no degrees. Young people entering the job market should have a known, trusted measure of their qualifications they can carry into job interviews. That measure should express what they know, not where they learned it or how long it took them. They need a certification, not a degree.
This brings up a few questions. Is the role of education for job placement or knowledge construction? If a student were to earn a series of certificates, how long would they be valid before the job changes (or disappears) as society changes? What’s the value of a traditional BA in a rapidly changing society?