Colleges Are Graduating Career Idiot Savants

Colleges Are Graduating Career Idiot Savants

A Harvard Business School professor and former student have written a book called Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns.

They argue that America’s academic institutions are failing their students – not by grade, but by incompetence. Beset by cumbersome support structures and archaic faculty traditions, they do not teach America’s youth to think, analyze or communicate effectively.

Sadly, it’s even worse than that. The nation’s college and universities are now graduating career idiot savants. Their young and (today) older students are taught a lot about a specific subject and absolutely nothing about how to transform that knowledge into a career in the real world.

The masters of the ivory tower – the tenured professors who set the standards for graduation – aren’t driven by greed, however. Their motivation is hubris. They are convinced that only the subjects they teach are worthy of credit toward graduation.

This self-serving assumption may have been benign in the slower, less demanding workplace of the 20th Century. In today’s world of work, it threatens the economic well being of every student in every major at every degree level.

To survive and prosper in today’s economy, a person must be proficient in BOTH an occupational field and career self-management.
• They must have in-depth knowledge of a profession or the analytical and communications skills required to be trained in one.
• They must have the knowledge and skills required to set appropriate career goals for themselves, complete the preparation necessary to achieve those goals, perform at their peak once those goals are realized, and overcome the inevitable challenges that will occur along the way.

Colleges and universities are failing students because they do the first and completely ignore the second. They are, as a result, graduating an entire generation of Americans who will struggle to find a job and struggle even more to hang onto it once they’re employed.

In China, by way of contrast, this monumental failure of responsibility does not exist. Every Chinese student must take a credit granting course called Personal Mastery and cannot graduate until they pass it. They are being prepared for the 21st Century workplace, while American students are being set up to fail.

Moreover, this tragedy has a Shakespearean tint and tone. It is self-inflicted. Colleges and universities have its resolution within them, but have been too prideful, myopic or both to use it.

The expertise required to teach students the skills and knowledge of successful career self-management languishes within their placement and career centers. To cure the harm they are wrecking on their students, therefore, colleges and universities need only practice what they preach. They should go back and re-read their literature. As Shakespeare noted in All’s Well That Ends Well, “our remedies oft in ourselves do lie.”

Work Strong,

Note: To read more about Career Fitness and Career Activism, get my books, Work Strong: Your Personal Career Fitness System and The Career Activist Republic. Both are available at, in many bookstores and on

Look for my new book, Walden 4G: A Novel About Rediscovering Hopefulness (and America’s Secret Utopia), due out next spring.