Now hiring college grads is racist, too
I treated the NPR story on some companies' decision to loosen hiring requirements for certain jobs by not requiring a college degree as background noise, until at the very end I was startled by its dismissive description of a college diploma as just "a piece of paper that someone paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for."
Really? Is that all that it is? Is that what years of study boil down to?
I am perfectly willing to admit that plenty of jobs need no degree, native intelligence coupled with basic training being sufficient. I will also admit that education is wasted on some people — though they graduate from a college, they gain nothing by it. I will further agree that both subjects are perfectly legitimate for a radio segment.
But denying the value to education as such?
Thinking that I had misheard, I listened again (NPR's transcript did not contain the quote that so ruffled me) — and sure enough, it was there, right toward the end, 3:53 into the segment. Also, the segment had an unmistakable agenda that I missed the first time around. "Some economists ... say employers requiring a four-year degree increases social and racial inequality[.] ... [I]n 2021 college degrees have become a proxy for race and class in America. If you arbitrarily say that a job needs to have a bachelor's degree, you are screening out over 70% of African-Americans. You're screening out about 80% of Latino-Latina workers, and you're screening out over 80% of rural Americans of all races. And you're doing that before any skills are assessed. It's not fair."
Aha! Education means racism. This proven, the segment raises not a few questions that it fails to answer. Why is it that "70% of African-Americans and 80% of Latino-Latina" don't get a college education? They can't? If so, what's in the way? One hears of affirmative action that facilitates their entry into colleges. It doesn't work? Or is something else the matter?
And are the requirements for a bachelor's degree necessarily "arbitrary"?
Look, I get it — as is the case with all markets, the labor market is subject to rules of supply and demand. College-educated workers may be a luxury that, at the moment, the labor market cannot supply in adequate numbers — so where it is possible, it makes sense for companies to settle for less. But what does it have to do with racism? Why argue that education has no value? Should we all be uneducated to prove our anti-racist bona fides? Instead of the equality of the opportunity to succeed, should we all be equal in common ignorance? If not all can, or want to, get through college, does it really mean that the college has no value, that the diploma is just "a piece of paper that someone paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for"?
When dealt a lemon, it is natural to try to turn it into lemonade. I understand. But why denigrate what is good just because you don't have it? Why attribute this lack to racism? Why should the grapes be forever sour?
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