In Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address the 44th president praised the fact that we live in a world with “Facebook and Google.” It is extremely fascinating that these two companies have become so successful — providing outlets for communication and research on a global scale.
However, later in his address Obama goes on to stress the importance of an education, saying that America’s percentage of people holding a college diploma ranks only ninth in the world — a startling fact considering our nation used to reign supreme.
The correlation in these two statements by the president is a convoluted but serious one.
The creator of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, may have a had an award-winning movie made about the early years of his now multi billion-dollar site and he may have been named TIME magazines person of the year — but he never got a degree. He dropped out of college because of the success of his website.
First off, it should be said that we are in no way questioning the intelligence of Zuckerberg or taking a stance against the major social network of our time.
But the Lariat recognizes a propelling trend toward online innovation. One that could arguably be associated with the billions of dollars that are associated with those tales like Zuckerbergs — a 20-something developing something on the Digital Frontier while huddled over a computer in his room.
As we become a society that becomes more dependent on the Internet and technology, should we begin to consider how important a degree from an institute of higher education is in America? Or how digital technologies, while they allow many to make it big without a degree, could be detrimental to our future generations’ aspirations?
Zuckerberg — and all other non-degree holding, Internet-based billionaires — are the exception in America. While their ingenuity is astounding and admirable and their innovations are changing the way this world operates, there is still something to be said about them not holding a degree higher than a high school diploma. As we begin to raise a nation that receives iPod touches for their seventh birthday and reads all books on an e-reader, we may begin to idealize the exceptions.
We herald their creations as incredible (rightfully so) but their back-stories don’t provide the best example for students – especially in a nation that has a national collegiate ration that is falling.
But technology definitely is not the first, or last, industry that has unintentionally promoted a path to fame and success sans higher education.
The public has always held sports stars and film actors and actresses in high esteem while a large percentage did not attain a degree.
Of course there are exceptions to the exceptions, which we find in the actors and athletes that do complete college before transitioning to their trade.
While completing a degree is a personal choice and the technological industry has a few stand out celebrities that have not finished college, it is safe to say that the thousands of workers that now make up the companies are highly qualified degree holders that have had to fight for their employment at companies like Facebook.
Many Internet companies are known for their intense application processes and the rigor of their workloads, though the best and brightest flock toward them.
So, while the innovations of the exceptional Zuckerbergs of the world are truly amazing and benefiting the world, it is safe to say that more people should idealize the degree and its benefits. Because being a college graduate doesn’t mean that a person is better than someone else, it should be seen as a chance to be a role model for the kids aspiring to something great.
As numerous people from Baylor’s student population go out and create new things, their back-stories will point all on-lookers toward one road — higher education.