In the mid-90s, I attended the University of Maryland and they had a policy that stated that in every course you took (except math and computer science), you had to write a 10-page paper and give a 5-minute speech. I graduated with a perfect 4.0, but I learned almost nothing of value from my courses except the ability to write papers and to speak in front of a crowd. Those two skills are extremely valuable in business, but the University no longer requires them. Now they teach nothing of value. Nothing. That’s not just sad, it’s morally wrong.
I graduated from college with a degree in Information Systems Management, and took courses in IT Security, Network Management, and Telecommunications. But I never actually saw a router, a switch or a CAT-5 cable in person. Pictures in books. Yeah.
A year later, I studied for – and received – my designation as a Certified Network Technician, but I still had never actually touched a router, a switch or a CAT-5 cable. (That’s like becoming a Certified Auto Mechanic without ever seeing a car’s engine.)
So I got my degree in computers, and graduated at the very top of my class, but didn’t actually learn anything about computers until I started working in the field. The single most valuable skill I learned in college was the skill of public speaking, and that skill is no longer being taught. Sure they require every student to take a speech class, but that isn’t nearly enough, because they don’t require nearly enough time in front of the microphone. My speaking skills came from those required speeches, five long minutes each, several times every semester.
Today, we ask these kids to start their careers with a mountain of debt and absolutely no marketable skills. I interview recent grads for web development position who don’t know how to develop websites. The colleges, in an effort to give them a well-rounded education (and bleed from them every dime they possibly can), teach the web development students a little bit about a dozen different languages, but they don’t teach them a LOT about any language in particular. It’s like teaching someone to say “Hello, my name is John Doe. What is your name?” in 12 languages. That person can say he has studied 12 languages, but he won’t be fluent in any of them, so you couldn’t hire him as a translator. As an employer, I’d much rather have someone who has studied a single language extensively, and actually learned to work and solve challenging problems using that one language.
College costs keep going up and the quality of the education keeps going down. What is wrong with us?