How can I tell if I am smart and/or educated?

In this thread, a number of posters suggested that attending college imparts a certain something into the student that is not available via other routes to knowledge.

Read the thread for the full story. I include a sampling here for your convenience:

Now, I don’t dispute that college is a fine route to becoming “educated and well-informed”, I dispute that it’s the only route.

Neither do I dispute that ‘possession of a college degree’ correlates with ‘smart person’ and ‘career success’ nor that ‘possession of a college degree’ is a cheap and easy indicator - from a potential employer’s point of view - of a minimum level of competence (at something. I am not sure what. Read on).

One of the criticisms of IQ testing (which I don’t agree with BTW) is that it measures some vague attribute that is only relevant to your ability to score highly in IQ tests. Could that criticism also apply to college degrees?

Is it not likely that employers may be using ‘college degree’ as a proxy for ‘likely to be successful’ (rather than knows a lot about transistors or democracy in Acnient Greece or the works of Jane Austen or whatever). In which case, IQ tests might fit the bill adequately at much less cost (to the student and society) were it not illegal to use them in such a manner.

Anyway, finally, my question is this.

What is this certain *something *that college imparts to the student and how would I know if I possess it without actually spending the four years it takes to obtain a degree?

One of my father’s responsibilities at work was deciding who to hire, after the obviously ineligible were weeded out. He told me that a college degree meant that a person was likely to be goal oriented, was likely to be able to plan his/her life to some extent, and showed that the applicant was capable of setting goals and meeting them. In other words, just FINISHING college showed certain character traits which he regarded as desirable in his offices.

College/university culture is quite different than other cultures. In high school, very few students are actually enthusiastic about the academic subjects, or at least very few will admit to such enthusiasm. Sports and other social school activities, yes, that’s fine, but the subjects themselves? Whereas in college, many students are actually very happy to be studying at least some of the subjects they’re taking classes in. Sure, you have to meet the core curriculum, but there’s all sorts of exciting and interesting classes to take.

One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t finish college, and that I commuted to my state university. I wish that I’d lived in a dorm. I might have gotten my degree if I had. As it was, I was going back and forth between going to college, work, and my parent’s home…and while I was treated as an adult in the first two places, my parents expected me to act like an obedient child at home.

Just my very inexpert opinion but…
when I was hiring for engineering positions I considered:

Bachelors degree = understands the most basic concepts and can be taught the rest.

Masters degree = understands a good bit more and is capable of learning on their own.

PhD = Understand quite a bit and can probably fill in any gaps on the job.

With an IQ test I have no gauge of any of those things.

Again just my opinion.

D’oh! Strike that ‘not’ and replace it with a ‘quite’.

Can you stand in a room with other people you consider educated and smart and not feel like Larry the Cable Guy at a chess tournament?

If so, you’re doing just fine.

This is a great observation but I think it supports my assumption that college demonstrates rather than *imparts * the character traits and qualities that correlate with career success.

Once I am in my 30s and 40s, I will (hopefully) have other evidence of those traits and qualities and a college graduate would be wrong to assert that a non-graduate can’t possibly have them.

A college education is as good or bad as the people who deliver it. In some schools the professors are diligent, know their stuff, and care about teaching; the administration is willing to uphold high standards and prevent grade inflation; the support staff do their jobs well; and the university cares about education. At those schools, anyone who graduates must first overcome serious academic challenges and expand their mind. At other schools the professors view teaching as an annoyance, the administration lets standards slip for business research, and nobody takes care of the little things that are necessary for the school to run correctly. At those schools, an education is not guaranteed to impart anything.

I don’t dispute that there are certain vocations (engineering, law, medicine) where degrees and higher degrees are evidence of knowledge. In the other thread, the ‘college is the only way to knowledge’ advocates made a distinction between vocational knowledge and the kind of a knowledge that a college graduate should have.

In this thread, I am concerned with that other kind of knowledge.

There is a (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) law that declares that it’s impossible for someone to recognize that they are not as smart as the other people in the room. I forget the name of the law. Anyone?

ETA Dunning-Kruger Effect

Here are some things that college may impart to the student

  1. capability of setting goals and meeting them (as mentioned above)
  2. focused study in an area of interest, beginning to develop a professional expertise
  3. an appreciation for learning for its own sake, e.g., because it enriches your life or makes one a more informed citizen or better parent
  4. willingness to do things on basis of delayed gratification - investing time, effort and money in order to increase prospects for a better career
  5. willingness to abide by the rules in a structured environment
  6. a transitional period between childhood and the working world during which the student takes on increasing responsibilities for personal life (laundry, cooking, living within a budget, paying rent and bills)
  7. in many cases, a chance to broaden horizons by interacting with people from different geographic regions, having different religious or political views, etc.

I suppose that one could meet these goals by working in the right kind of job instead of going to college. It’s hard to imagine what that might be, but I imagine a job that requires some creativity or problem solving and has room for advancement based on good performance. Bonus points if you can work in a diverse workplace or work with the public so that you can gain exposure to individuals from a variety of backgrounds.

I don’t have a good metric for determining whether you’re educated, but when I was writing in the other thread, I was specifically thinking of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Note that knowledge is the very first level of the hierarchy.

By the way, it’s not my intention to denigrate formal education or college graduates. I have the highest respect for both.

Too much for editing:

The presentation is slightly tongue-in-cheek, but the research is mostly solid. The original paper is generally accessible, fairly entertaining, and well worth reading.

A great list! I’d probably come up with a similar list myself and I don’t doubt that college can help a young person achieve them. But I am fairly sure that I managed to achieve them without going to college.

Does college build those skills, or does it allow people to demonstrate that they already have them? That’s not at all obvious.

The Dunning/Kruger paper was an entertaining read - thanks for that.

It looks like the Bloom hierarchy will require more attention and I look forward to studying it tonight.

I’ve been mentoring fresh 22-year old college-grads in business consulting for the last 10 years and 90 to 95% do not leave college with an apprecation for learning for its own sake. If they truly did, it would make my job a lot easier!

I also disagree with this bullet point considering most college grads are in debt.

I’m not sure what you mean. Taking on college loan debt can be thought of like taking on a car loan or a mortgage - you agree to finance the item over time. As long as you make your payments on schedule, then you are taking financial responsibility, right?

Actually, it’s pretty easy to come up with the right kind of job it hit all your bullet points. Any technical career field in the military (I may be biased, I was a programmer in the Air Force).

Today, when I’m interviewing people for entry level positions I don’t see any relation between undergraduate schooling and any point on your list. I’ve found that what a person does outside of school is a better indicator of success than what, if any, degree they have.

On the other hand, I’d also encourage any one with the oppertunity to go to school before they start working to do so. It’s a painfull experince to try to go to school with a family and a job that comes with constant on-call. There are some incredible gaps in my knowledge that come from learning stuff as I could find it, and never realizing that the class where most people learned this also covered that over there.

Yes, I didn’t mean to suggest that a non college graduate could not develop these qualities, too.

So is the OP a trick question? Will this be covered on the exam? I’m worried about my GPA here! :smiley: