The “Harvard Alumni Magazine” recently published information on their graduates that should call into question some of the values we are teaching our kids.

“Among those who graduated around 1970, 22 percent of the men were in finance or management 15 years later. Among those who graduated around 1990, the figure was 38 percent. The proportion of male graduates working in finance alone increased from 5 percent to 15 percent in the same period. And a “Harvard Crimson” survey last year found that among graduating seniors heading straight to work — roughly three-quarters of the class of 2007 — 58 percent of the men were headed for finance or consulting, and more than 20% of all men for investment banks.”

And, why? Well,

“. . . the median income for (the graduating) men was $162,000 . . .”


“. . . the graduates in finance earned nearly three times that median . . . “

For the record, among the general population, men’s median income was just over $42,000.

Unfortunately, for more and more of our young people, “success” is being defined as annual income — and the resulting inference has become, “the more you earn, the more ‘successful’ you are.”

Combined with a greater and greater emphasis on hiring only those individuals who have a college degree, attitudes are changing — and, not for the better.

There is no correlation between “smart” and “great grades.” There is no correlation between “success” and “earned income.” Americans used to understand this. The respect we have had for people who work “successfully” with their hands was equal to whatever academic achievement one might attain.

Many farmers, auto mechanics, and factory workers (as well as other professionals) were considered “smart,” “successful,” and commanded our respect, along with the few who worked to attain doctorates in science, medicine and mathematics. (Today, with the never-ending flood of PhDs in every imaginable academic discipline, the degree itself is devalued.)

In my own experience, I’ve known “smart” and “successful” individuals in almost every line of work. So many individuals who worked so brilliantly with their hands or their head that one could not help but respect them. Their work ethic distinguished them and they contributed to America’s quality of life in so many meaningful ways.

Two of the three most “successful” VPs I employed at ITC did not have college degrees. One had gone from high school directly into hardhat employment. The other had gone directly into the U. S. Navy and, after that, the blue collar world. I was lucky to have found them. They each supplied their unique and valuable talents to building a company, leading large groups of people, and establishing long term relationships with many Fortune 1000 customers. They were immensely “successful” people! And, boy, were they “smart!” One is retired today and travels the country in a motor home visiting national and state parks. (And, incidentally, he can readily fix anything that goes wrong with his vehicle — “smarts” that totally escapes me.) The other is a “successful” VP for a Fortune 500 company.

Unfortunately, each of them had told me years ago that without the opportunity given them by ITC they would have been dead-ended as their former employers did not promote individuals without college degrees.

What a shame! What a waste!

As Americans, we should re-open our eyes. “Success” is not a function of how much one makes nor how many degrees one has. “Success” is leading the way in a job activity of choice — and, doubly so if, along the way, contributions to society and other people’s families are a direct result of one’s “smarts” and “skills.”

More on Friday – – – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder of ITC Learning