To the Editor:
After reading “The Desire for Credentials in an Age of Anxiety” by Alain de Botton, (The Chronicle, September 14) I was discouraged by the consistent inability to see the forest for the trees. I understand that Harvard and Wharton, among others, are leaders in education, however, it seems to me that most students do not go there. The vast majority of student are regular people with average backgrounds and intelligence who are looking to improve their own lives while making a contribution to society.
What I am seeing as an educator, is that a bachelor’s degree provides much more than "...one large qualification.” A four-year degree requires students to immerse themselves in reading, thinking, organizing ideas, expressing those ideas in coherent ways, synthesizing those ideas in new ways to address today’s issues, and expressing those ideas in ways that can be understood by others. These skills will never be achieved by simply earning “microcredentials.”
Maybe the expensive “geniuses” from Harvard and Wharton (who apparently come into the world already endowed with those intellectual gifts) will no longer need to earn a B.A. as de Botton suggests, but the rest of us need the additional years of study before we focus on mini-qualifications in order to thrive in the real world.
Duane E. Mitchell
Assistant Professor of Business Management
University of Pittsburgh at Bradford