Further Thoughts On The Big Score: Education

A few days ago I look a look at “Big Score” mentality and leadership.  It’s time to look at Education.

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

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 https://www.stevensavage.com/.




The Big Score And Bad Economics

(Sorry for the delay in posts, been a tad busy!)

Economic policies, economic choices like careers and business plans, are of utmost importance in life.  Sun Tzu may have talked the importance of war, but I wish the guy had taken a little more time to focus on economic issues as well.  Then again he was kind of busy being brilliant.*

When one considers economic issues in a society, the most important thing is sustainability – can one maintain a functional system or even enhance it over time.   This is necessary to society as society itself is essentially a long-term thing – no long-term economics, no society as many nations have found out throughout history.  When there is no planning and cultivating of a sustainable economy (or half-baked planning constrained by ignorance, ideology, or moral faults) there is no stability, no success, and no society.

Needless to say I see great examples of bad planning and bad policy today.  Hopefully you see them, but by now fish may have no word for water.**

There are many reasons for that, but one thing I feel should be examined – and which is not examined as much as it should be – is the idea of the “Big Score.”

The “Big Score” permeates our culture and our economic culture.  It’s the lottery win, the perfect IPO release, the Big Novel that makes you famous for life.  It’s the idea of having the bit, the big victory, and then everything will be fine.  It’s the economic version of the Rapture.

In the small, the “Big Score” is believing that college degree will set you for life – and in the large it is the idea that our student loan bubble won’t hurt “us.”  In the small, the “Big Score” is the idea of the IPO that’ll make you rich forever, and in the large everyone thinking they’ll be the next Facebook before the VC pulls out.  In the small, the “Big Score” is hoping for a piddly tax break you’re convinced will jump start the economy forever, while wondering what happened to the school system.

In a way, the “Big Score” is the Winner-Take-All/Superstar effect internalized.  It’s the idea you will/can triumph and have it all fantastic forever.  You just need to get there “once”, forgetting plenty of others want to get there too.

Of course we don’t get there.  We don’t build a sustainable system, a sustainable economy, a sustainable career, a sustainable life.  We focus too much on the low-chance “Big Score” and not enough on the possibility of a sustainable economy or economic life.

Then we wonder what happened.

– Steven Savage

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 https://www.stevensavage.com/.

* I do recommend reading “The Art Of War” so you can know about what everyone pretends they read.

** I could have made an “underwater housing” joke here, but didn’t.  You’re welcome.