Buying good grades and good jobs

I read an interesting article yesterday which was recommended to me by a colleague titled, “A Russian Teacher in America” by Andrei Toom.  I think this is an article about business, learning, and the business of learning.  I don’t think you need to be a math expert to enjoy this article.  An excerpt was highlighted for me which is so intriguing that I’m going to quote the whole thing to you.

It is the basic principle of the market that everybody tries to get as much as possible and to pay as little as possible. There is nothing wrong with this: when I buy something, I try to save money, and everybody does the same. What is wrong is that some students apply the same rule to learning: They seem to think that they BUY grades and PAY for them by learning. And they try to PAY as little as possible! In other words, some students seem to think that it is a loss whenever they learn something. This looks crazy when put in such straightforward terms, but there are students who behave as if they think this way. (I do not know what they really think.)

Wow!  This hits a little close to home I think.  I definitely was doing just that in some of my undergraduate classes that I didn’t like.  So I strongly recommend reading the article if that sounds intriguing to you.  But I think this economy of learning goes further.  I think is very applicable to how students think about getting a job.  Here’s my screenplay for how a young ambitious American might think:

I’m in high school and I’m shopping for a job for when I grow up.  I drive over to my local Job Depot and start to look at the shelves of jobs to see which I find interesting.  I find a VP position at Computers’R’Us that looks cool.  I discover that in order to purchase the job I want I must have a diploma worth of currency (whatever that means…).  I don’t have a diploma, so I walk over to the financing desk  to see if I can get a loan.  They tell me in order to purchase without a diploma I must spend many years in lower level jobs before moving up in a single company.  That doesn’t sound too good.  Perhaps I can go get a diploma.  But I want to spend as little as possible in order to get this diploma thing that Job Depot seems to think I need to get that VP position.  [Insert Toom’s analysis here]  Now I have my discounted diploma (what a steal!) I can now purchase my job.  I’m entitled to it as I have the appropriate amount of currency.  The only problem is perhaps I believe that because I “paid” for that VP position I shouldn’t have to work hard again.  I paid for my position and I should be able to keep it, without effort, just as I would keep a couch or a dress.

Does this sound problematic to anyone else?

About Samantha from SocialMath

Applied Mathematician and writer of
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