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Why degrees don’t matter.

When I was a college student, I was a piano performance major, and one of my classes was piano, of course.  I was studying under a guy with a doctorate who styled himself a “doctor”, who had graduated from Juilliard, and was somewhat celebrated in his field.  Of course, he was a professor at a crappy college in a crappy town in the midwest, but still.  The guy was highly educated and considered one of the better pianist out there – I suppose, anyway.

I remember the day when I lost (a lot of) respect for him.

We were having our lesson, and I was sitting at the piano on the left hand side, and him on the right, as we did.  He pressed down a key, wiggled it around, and swore it had a vibrato.

Now, I was a lowly undergraduate student and he had a doctorate, but even I knew how a piano mechanism works.  The whole purpose of the mechanism is to hit the string and then get out of the way.  There’s no mechanism – by design– that would create a vibrato if you wiggled the key.  He swore up and down that there was.

This guy had a doctorate in piano performance and thought you could create a vibrato by wiggling the piano key???

I’m not calling him dumb.  He was a good pianist.  He had a lot to teach me that I wasn’t ready to learn.  But his fancy doctorate degree from Juilliard did not teach him enough about how a piano worked.  He got maybe 12 years of schooling (I don’t know exactly how many) and through all those years, did not ever be taught or understand that you can’t get a vibrato out of a piano key.

And it’s worse because the mechanism of a piano is open.  All you’d have to do is look inside and see that nothing useful is happening.

I am considering finishing my degree.  But not because it would make me smart, or not even because it’d be an indication that I’m smart.  Or even skilled.  All it would mean is that I put in the time.  That’s all any degree means.  But I have little to no respect for college degrees anymore as an indicator of nothing else but that.

If you disagree, I’m sorry they brainwashed you like that.  That’s how colleges make their money.  Especially particularly expensive and stupid ones like, say, Columbia.

It’s been thirty years, and it’s only now that I realize exactly how much my teachers back then lacked basic competence – for some things, anyway.  It’s a real eye-opener, really.

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