I hadn't heard this story about MIT firing its Dean of Admissions not for any shortcomings in her job performance but for having lied 28 years ago and said she had a college degree when she first applied for a low-level position at MIT. I think Kevin Carey says most of what needs to be said about the irrationality of this and the broader social and cultural obsession with the potentially meaningless bachelor's degree.

There's this current well-intentioned mania for producing policies that will get more people to go to college, and to some extent to get more people to graduate from college, but it's clear that the first step in anything along these lines is that we need to know something about why a college degree is valuable. Insofar as it's a pure screening mechanism (and there's considerable evidence that this is at least what it mostly is) then expanding access to college is only going to devalue the credential. Presumably there are some actually useful skills being imparted to some college students (my appreciation of the flaws of semantic internalism has, for example, much application to my role as a professional political pundit who must occassionally offer views about "originalism" as an approach to jurisprudence -- and, yes, this is irony in case any Atlantic readers out there aren't used to it) but it's really crucial that we figure out what these are and find ways to spread the skills themselves rather than the credential. Meanwhile, the habit of disqualifying perfectly competent people from jobs based on a lack of degrees has become yet another brick in the American wall of inegalitarianism.

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