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Why a Degree Still Matters

Why a Degree Still Matters

Torturing amount of readings, madness of deadlines, and semesters of uncertainty… Is it all worth it? Don’t be ridiculous, of course it is. By Natasha MH

Thanks to social media where everyone is a professor of comment in every matter, a lot of garbage talk has spewed forth about the credibility of obtaining a degree. “Miss, Gates and Jobs quit, but look at them.” Yes, let’s look at them. Similar to the scarcity of finding tiny particles of gold sifted through the percolation of pebbles and sand by the river banks, how do we separate the wheat from the chaff of persuasion, the fantasy from fiction of conviction, when people keep raising comparison between Steve Jobs’ and Bill Gates’ titanic success to regular undergrads just because both did NOT graduating from college? The answer is simple: we are not Jobs and Gates.

1. There is this existential non-tangible element called LUCK. The chance of winning the UK national lottery jackpot is approximately 1 in 14 million. Yes, the principle works the same for any lottery attempt and each time you’re pitting your luck against Jobs and Gates. There is no limitation for hope and dreams but you need to study your statistical odds beforehand.

2. Culture of Employers. Contemporary employers may say they seek those “willing to learn and pull in the hours”. What they don’t explain to you is how Human Resource departments operate, which is this: they will need to evaluate your paper qualification into the sum equation of your working experiences, age, gender, ethnicity (some companies have a quota for ethnic minorities), company policies and corporate cultural training demands. That’s how they determine your salary scale and cap it’s ceiling (the maximum you can achieve within that bracket income till you proceed with further training or higher learning). A degree will always triumph over a diploma by a few hundred Ringgit.

3.A degree bestows you certain skill sets which are unobtainable elsewhere. While in university you may roll and tumble over reading assignments, analyses and copious amount of writing, what is does to your brain and character development is actually amazing which, if we are able to see it literally, will astound you. A degree requires higher level thinking. This is a transmission from your digestion of books, journals and drafts of writing and constant debating with yourself and your lecturers. There is a reason why we lecturers make things hard for you – to push you to think of alternatives. The world is in constant dire need of cures, solutions, treatments and thinkers, and you are one of them. The moment you chose to be in university, you have made a pledge to be part of a larger community that seeks to help make the world a better place. Therefore, be proud and be socially responsible to those who are less fortunate to you. By reading this whole paragraph, you would have thought “I didn’t see it that way” and that is how higher learning processing does to our perceptions on life. Reading and researching changes a person to be better, more considerate and attentive to the world.

4. You’re not intimidated by research. In every job, there is research. When I first joined the working world as a journalist, my editor told me to cover a business event which I had no idea about. Immediately I went to my computer and read, read and read. I knew how to research using keywords, refer to the index, interpreting pages and pages of text was no big deal, and I knew how to connote the information. It was almost a subconscious effort. I may be new to my job, but I was an old hand at doing the job. Later when I joined the corporate world, my boss asked me to prepare and present an entire deck of research and to construct a proposal. She said valiantly, “I give you only a week to work on this and you may have to sacrifice your nights and I expect a damn good job to impress the clients.” After years of studying, mind-mapping and typing dissertations of over thousands of word count, impossible-to-please lecturers, surviving cultural theories and having you question your life, faith and everything else after learning Post-Structuralism, this is child’s play. You tell your boss, “No one can scare me except for Vlad the Impaler, impress me like Jacque Derrida and frustrate me like The French Feminists.” And when your boss replies, “Who the hell are them French feminists and show me that God damn Vlad Derrida guy on FB,” you know you have won. You know who has the smarter brain in the room, better grammar and cultural cultivation. You know your boss is illiterate, insecure and be easily replaced by you.

5. Esteem. As demonstrated in the point above, it does, and it will, elevate your self-esteem and boost your confidence. If you have siblings taking a diploma and you do a degree, you know who your parents will be praising the moon over. They will do that regardless of where they are: weddings, family reunions, to anyone who would listen. It is unfair but even parents can be biased when you are a degree holder over a diploma sibling. That is the pattern of culture and society as taught by the Frankfurt School.

6. Resume. The semantics of the word “university” in semiology speaks volume about intelligence, prestige and cultivation. This, in turn, increases your value and social status the same way a criminal record helps to devalue and swallow one’s reputation causing you to emotionally and physically disenfranchise from respectable communities. You may achieve wealth but without enduring 3 years in a degree programme your mouth may not represent the class system you deserve.

7. You survived a rite of passage which has been honoured and practiced in civilized societies for centuries. When a woman undergoes childbirth and can use the pain and experience over a man throughout her life, the same power is entrusted to you when you graduate. It IS a big deal. Anyone worth his mettle knows it is not easy to get into college, survive it let alone graduate without becoming a different person, one that is empowered and strengthened. When a friend drops out, we are quick to wonder what’s wrong with him or the programme. But seldom do we see this like The Games of Thrones where it is not about the ones who drop out, it’s about the ones who STAY, and that is you.

8. A degree is not mathematics. A lot of people criticize how algebra becomes useless post high school. No graduate would discredit their pride and years soldiering through university. Everything mattered and the sense of achievement in indescribable. You value your mentors and friendship more after convocation, and you

remain nostalgic of the campus years till you die. Ask any graduate. We only grumble in class because, as you would understand by Max Webber’s and Antoni Gramsci’s dictum by now, the petulance only binds you closer to the dichotomy of your classmates so you won’t feel alienated for being a smart ass when you’re thinking secretly “I really love this subject”. Many friendships sustained into adulthood stem from uni days and suffering together is always more fun than alone. That’s life. It’s also called Marxism.

9. Survival of the Fittest. Often, in time of crunch crisis and deadline madness, it feels tempting to throw in the gauntlet. You look at your essay and question your credibility. Remember Charles Darwin’s scheme of life. It’s usually when you think you cannot, it means you can. You opted for university to gain more knowledge, and that means swallowing the bitter pills of contrasting ideas, new challenges and meeting difficult lecturers. If obtaining a degree was easy, everyone would do it, and it would diminish its significance.

10. The only beast to tackle on campus is the Goliath of reading. Big deal. By point 10, it would be clearer to you that reading is fun when all the knowledge adds up. You can never reclaim the years when all you had to do was just read and argue. And that is what a degree trains you to do in every module: read, reflect and debate. Isn’t that the best job one can have for at least 4 years? Cast aside the temptation to quit midway and find a job, or to procrastinate graduating cos you are tired of reading. Reading is a profound joy. The pathway to endless possibilities. And that’s what we often under look when discussing Jobs’ and Gates’ financial ladder of success. Gates, for one, is a prolific reader. He makes annotations and puts aside 4-5 hours a day to read. This is why he and his wife Melinda created a grant-making foundation that supports initiatives in education, world health and population, and community giving in the Pacific Northwest. Gates personally puts reading on a high pedestal as a keystone to all accomplishments.

As for Jobs, let’s take one pivotal incident in his life as a cautionary tale: In the spring of 1985 Apple’s board sided with the CEO, removing Jobs from his command of the Macintosh group. They basically stripped Jobs of responsibilities and gave him an office that he referred to as ‘Siberia.’ This was the very same company Jobs had established from scratch. Jobs left Apple and spent the summer of 1985 in a “midlife crisis, deciding what he wanted to do with his life and flirting with all kinds of possibilities” from entering politics to becoming an astronaut. My plug is, even when you do achieve success of epic proportion, it doesn’t exclude you from Life’s devious hand in the game of luck. So let’s stop the comparison. Even Steve Jobs, at the height of his success mind you, had to amble back and forth to secure a job, which brings us back to point number 1…

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