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What I Learned About Sheepskins

People had always told me that a college degree was the key to success. “Once you get an education,” my uncle had told me, “they can never take that away from you.” And of course there were all those comparisons between lifetime earnings of college graduates and the miserable salaries of non-graduates.

I had way over 300 semester hours of college. I had a BBA from the finest school in Oklahoma and an Ed. D. from a respectable graduate school. In the stories, I should have been able to “write my own ticket.”

But the statistics lied, as they so often do. It’s true no doubt that college graduates get better jobs and make more money than non-graduates, but the implied causal effect is untrue. Education may be associated with higher salaries and better jobs, but it  doesn’t cause them.

What causes financial success is being trusted by the people with the money. One’s years of following orders in school proves what? It proves that one can follow orders! It’s the same, by the way, as the military. If one succeeded in obtaining an honorable discharge after military service, one has shown that one can follow orders and, consequently, might make a loyal employee.

The truth is that the successful college graduates would probably have been successful even if they hadn’t gone to college. They started out with more money than the non-graduates, more leisure time, more cultural background, more travel behind them, more books read, and -- most of all -- more contacts among the people with the money. That’s why they succeeded, and it’s why, even with my college background, I was almost unemployable in Dallas in 1978.

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