Lately I’ve been contemplating the “Big Score” mentality, the idea that one’s activities lead to an enormous payoff, or one gambles on an enormous payoff, but in all cases ignoring larger, sustainable practices and results. It’s the IPO release, the hit novel, etc. Just take a look at politics and ask yourself how many people think their candidate will make It All Perfect Forever. That’s the Big Score.
The Big Score is unsustainable and irrational, and economically is a form of extraction economics; it’s about drawing in enough money and resources for a financial payoff without necessarily doing anything with long-term value.
Now we may complain about people who look for the Big Score, but a very common idea about education is a form of widespread “Big Scorism” and that’s the Degree. Or the certification. Or the class. The idea one thing will Change It All Forever.
I know plenty of people who got degrees, especially lately, and aren’t getting any use out of them; in fact their student debt may be erasing any value they could get out of it. In short, the degree is not a gateway to prosperity; it’s often part of “Big Scorism.”
I am in no way blaming the students who got degrees and can’t get work; in most cases they were a victim of cultural problems. I want to explore just what happened and where the Big Score mentality affected education.
Economics is one reason the degrees don’t pay off; the world economy crashed thanks to bad regulation and greedy people. The Big Scorism of economics, from the money-shuffling to the house-flippers who fell for it, meant economic catastrophe. That affected the value of degrees since the economy of the world doesn’t have as much money to invest and spend on people with, well, degrees.
The changes in the world reveal the Big Score approach in education because the many students who had prepared with what they thought would pay off now find that it doesn’t work. There’s ways they could have been better prepared, from internships to alternate degrees, from good advice and help relocation. Instead they weren’t prepared and many a student listened to the Big Score approach – get a degree all is well – because it’s what everyone was saying. It didn’t pay off.
A lack of sustainable, long-term thinking has also played into the Big Score approach; how many people pursued degrees because they figured it would pay off, without knowledge of the bigger picture or the career options? I still recall the (many times) law school was supposedly the key to a career, which isn’t quite the case. I still can’t get over the comptuer/science decline DARPA saw a few years ago. How many people, in fact, actually are taught or learn how the economy works?
Historical change is finally another issue. Really, there have been times where a degree in this or that was a career guarantee, or at least a guarantee of a job right out of college. Not the case now.
Time and again I hear people who got degrees wondering what happened. What happened is they got sold a focus on one thing, a Big Score, and it missed long-term planning and economic reality.
Solutions-wise, I think beyond all the economic and political fixes, a focus on education needs to cover two sides. The first side is the liberal arts to create a well-rounded person capable of learning and communicating. The second needs to be a sustainable career focus on how a person can play a role in society (or invent their own). Degrees, classes, etc. are just a part of this two-sided larger picture.
And we need to forget the Big Score.
Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach. He blogs on careers at http://www.fantopro.com/, nerd and geek culture at http://www.nerdcaliber.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at http://www.stevensavage.com/.