I happened to come across an interesting article examining the rejection of three established business leaders to Harvard Business School and Stanford Business School. I think it is important to first recognize that education exists to give students the tools they need to be successful in all their live endeavors, i.e. train them to acquire, comprehend, and apply information to whatever novel or everyday situation they might encounter. Recounting the sentiments of a psychology professor, who offered it as the most honest advice he could give our class, a degree does not guarantee you a job or make you right; it means someone, but not everyone, recognizes that you have completed a degree of professional training and met a given standard. The full value of an education is measures in how it helps you problem solve.
That said, the perception is that Ivy League schools like Harvard and Standard have a social component to them, i.e. it’s not what you learn from these school so much as who you get to know. In fact, it’s often more about who you already know. Admittedly, these schools do have a large number of applicants, thus the rules of market competition dictate tightening the standards of admissions. Henceforth, only the most academically qualified are even considered, whether or not others can understand the lessons to be learned. As physicist Richard Feynman once noted, an inability to reduce a concept down to its most elementary level means we do not understand that concept, quantum theory in his case, which might be interpreted to mean you don’t truly understand something until you can teach it to others.
Meanwhile, one might also argue that these candidates could have legitimately been rejected, because the MBA program would have been of little value to them given their past successes, i.e. these schools want to be virtuous. Of course, the facts suggest these schools are more interested in what their students will do for their prestige than what they can do for their students, so this is likely far from the truth. Unfortunately, this type of self-serving snobbery creates a major social problem, specifically given the limited measures these schools use to judge the worth of their applicants. Let’s remember that there is a difference between being a elite, who wants to be the best at what he does while encouraging and helping others (find a path forward) to be the best they can be, and being an elitist snob who mocks other for not being in the same position.
As before mentioned, schools give students tools for success, thus a failure to include otherwise gifted students, who looked insufficient on paper, denies innovative and thoughtful individuals access to the tools they need to overcome their weaknesses to achieve even greater success. It is important to realize that there are a great deal of well-educated, thoughtless fools. That is, people learn technical skills, which are useful, and massive amounts of knowledge that they like to regurgitate to make themselves look smart, but they do not necessarily think. Babies “outsmart” their parents and deer “outsmart” hunters, because the more knowledgeable and intellectually skilled fail to adequately analyze what is obvious from the perspective of a baby or animal. Consequently, the best academically successful students may not be the ones who make the most of an Ivy League MBA program.
More importantly, businesses are far more inclined to hire people who are associated with these schools. This means they may not necessary be getting the type of innovative and creative talent they need to succeed in the future. Keep in mind, past experiences only say someone was successful, thus future success is only more possible. For individuals, this means they may find themselves locked out of given career paths, which limits their opportunities to succeed. In turn, this system of discrimination based on social inheritance creates an environment where success is less likely for everyone. Recalling a rather upsetting ABC True Confessions piece on discriminatory hiring practices, which included the targeting of women with children, there is a subtle bit of wisdom for school admissions staff, hiring managers, politicians and every other decision maker out there to learn: instead of trying to disqualify someone based on faulted preconceived metrics, you should be focusing on what people might bring to the table then go with the person who has the most to offer.
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