The bureaucratic must-be-college-educated-with-at-least-a-Bachelors-degree-but-prefer-a-Masters-degree mindset in the USA job market today is extremely frustrating. Where is the value of self-education? Where is the admiration of an entrepreneurial journey versus the traditional academic route?
I greatly admire those who have traversed the traditional path and obtained a college degree(s); I only wish the self-educated were also appreciated and considered for their tenacity and perseverance in learning along the road less traveled.
I have always been curious; I’m a lifelong learner. I have always been entrepreneurial; I started my own cottage industry at the age of 21 with a high-school diploma and minimal occupational training. I was the vanguard for home-based telecommuting in the 80s until outsourcing and offshoring collapsed the USA market; I then chose to “pivot” and evolve or I risked becoming obsolete.
I have gone on to add substantial entrepreneurial skills, more than the average college-educated worker. I now desire more traditional employment, but because I attended college yet never completed a degree (cost prohibitive for a self-employed single mom prioritizing raising her family over college and career) I find I’m discriminated against and eliminated for possible careers by an automated computer system designed to suit current societal “standards.”
No parchment? Résumé rejected.
Native peoples value community and storytelling. Their innovation comes from necessity and ingenuity. Members are recognized for their gifts, their talents, and their skills—often handed down from generation to generation—and there is no “degree” to be obtained to be a contributing member to their societies; rather, they have “rites of passage” to become a functioning adult member of their tribes.
My mother’s ancestry is Native American, and as a child I was privileged to visit Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Arizona with her. To this day, I’m mesmerized by the sheer creativity of those cave-dwelling indigenous people. From the lower levels, there is an ancient hand-carved ladder engraved into a cantilevered cliff face leading to the upper-cave ruins. I remember thinking as a kid, “How did they make that? How brave must they have been to create and climb those primitive steps and expand their community inside a cave on the side of a cliff?” The image has stayed with me these many decades; they certainly didn’t have a Master’s degree in Architecture and Urban Design or Sociology and Economics.
Why is a college degree one of the only “rites of passage” that is recognized in the USA economy today? Unless you’re revered as a super-successful technology or celebrity male dropout (Bill Gates · Steve Jobs · Frank Lloyd Wright · Buckminster Fuller · James Cameron · Mark Zuckerberg · Tom Hanks · Harrison Ford), you might as well be invisible.
The current broken bureaucratic and economic systems are contributing to the rapid disappearance of the middle class in the USA; many people are now unable to climb the economic ladder or are falling off the cliff.
In the age of Snapchat—where content disappears forever within 24 hours, creating that marketers’ emotionally frenzied dream state of “Fear Of Missing Out”—and the age of “The Global Now,” with its state of constant anxiety because technology is ever changing and never sleeps, isn’t there room in our global economy for more than only the college-educated “haves” or the lower-wage “have nots”?
The new global economy is slowly changing the landscape of our planet from one of rampant industrial consumption to more connected and sustainable communities, emphasizing web-based learning and hands-on apprenticeships. We are making gains with initiatives like the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. It is my hope that lifelong learning becomes an admired achievement for all peoples worldwide and that self-learned skills become recognized, appreciated, and monetized.
The USA could embrace change by telling a different story. No parchment required. What is the story you wish our future generations to tell?