By Jim Glennon
Should college degrees be a requirement to become a police officer?
I have two bachelor’s degrees. I also have a master’s degree in Law Enforcement Justice Administration.
What do those degrees and diplomas say, prove, attest about me as a person?
What do they say about my level of intelligence?
How about my common sense? My ability to communicate? To handle pressure and stress?
I ask those questions literally.
What does a college diploma prove about the person handed one on graduation day?
That they are smarter than those who didn’t go to college?
That they have a mastery of knowledge in a particular subject matter?
Does the subject matter of which they studied even…matter?
Is there a difference between someone with a GPA of 4.0 in Sociology vs someone with a 2.0 in Sociology? Is sociology a field that is desired by those hiring cops?
What about Marketing, Education, History, Political Science, European History, Gender Studies?
Or is the diploma the point? And again, what is that point?
What does the college degree prove?
It’s a cliché but, we all know people who would register high numbers on an IQ test. Who can read and remember the words well enough to regurgitate them back during testing. But, on the other hand, they possess no discernable level of common sense. They have no, what we refer to as, street smarts.
Let’s examine a few hypotheticals.
Candidate #1: 23-years-old. Earned a college degree in Marketing achieving a high GPA with their tuition being paid for by their parents, never had an actual job.
Candidate #2: 22-year-old. A college degree in Marketing and a C average but worked their way through college in a variety of jobs.
Candidate #3: 26-year-old. No college at all but, went into the Army at age 18 after high school graduation, became an Army Ranger and attained the rank of sergeant.
Candidate #4: 22-year-old. Got his first job as a caddy at age 13, held jobs during high school and worked as a plumber for four years after graduation, owns his own car and just bought a house.
Which looks as though they are best suited for the job of a police officer, just based on these facts?
If you have a college requirement, Candidates 3 and 4 are automatically eliminated.
I guarantee I’m not being humble in any way when I say my wife, the creative force behind Calibre and President of the company, is much smarter than I am. Much smarter.
And she never went to college.
Lisa Gitchell Glennon worked for Calibre Press out of our home as the person in charge of operations for about seven years before she became its principal owner and CEO.
Lisa at one point came up with a brand-new business model for Calibre that she believed would easily double the annual revenue. She brought her idea to the powers that be. They immediately saw the viability and value of the plan that she meticulously organized and presented in a professional manner.
They wanted to move forward.
And then they asked me to be the one in charge of the new business vertical.
When I asked incredulously why they wanted me to lead the new venture instead of Lisa, their answer and reasoning was as direct as it was nonsensical, “Because you have a college degree and she doesn’t.”
Why tell that story?
Because Lisa left the company, started her own and in less than two years, she owned Calibre Press.
The Private Sector Recognizes It
Again, I have the degrees. I am all for higher education.
Still, practical intelligence, common sense, street smarts, the ability to deal with and work with people and navigating creatively within a professional structure has almost nothing to do with attending college. In fact, college institutions may be an actual hinderance to the preparation of the young for adult life in almost any occupation.
What is the point of putting a particular value on a college degree?
What does it guarantee concerning a perspective employee’s abilities?
Still, many agencies demand degrees from higher institutions as some type of proof that the graduates will have the ability to handle law enforcement tasks.
At the same time, private institutions are starting to rethink the value of a college education.
Fox News, October 16, 2023, posted an article titled, US companies increasingly eliminate college degrees as a requirement amid ‘out-of-control’ school costs.
The article noted, “American businesses are increasingly eliminating college degrees as part of their requirements for corporate roles, which is part of a wider trend in the U.S. job market that is de-emphasizing the value of a four-year diploma, according to experts.”
They continued, “American companies like Walmart, IBM, Accenture, Bank of America and Google have announced plans to reduce the number of jobs that require college degrees. Walmart, for example, has eliminated college degrees as a requirement for hundreds of its corporate roles, vowing to remove “unnecessary barriers” that prevent career advancement. The company also announced it would waive the university degree as a necessity if candidates can show they have gained the necessary skills based on different, prior experience.”
We Will Teach You What to Think, Not How to Think
Why is the corporate world pivoting on decades old policies that put such a high value on higher education?
I can think of at least two reasons.
First, they recognized the perception of value associated with a degree was just that, a perception. The diploma alone being meaningless. By ignoring those with experience, abilities, and creativity, simply because they lack the requisite sheepskin, companies were letting talent walk out the door which damaged their bottom line.
Second, colleges today aren’t teaching critical thinking.
I know that’s a broad statement, but all six of my kids went to college and I heard these stories years before they became openly obvious.
In 2023, and for the last perhaps 20 years or so, way too many colleges and universities have abandoned what it is they are supposed to be. They have forgotten what they used to be. And outright lie about what they purport to be.
Too many teachers, professors, instructors stopped teaching kids how to think and instead started teaching them what to think. Punishing them for having the ‘wrong’ perspective. Limiting conversation and debate. Establishing boundaries on critical thought. Demanding allegiance to their personal virtuous viewpoints.
Step out of line and it will literally cost you your grade. Challenge their authority, you are out of their class.
The City Journal posted an article last week by John Tierney titled, Harvard’s Double Standard on Free Speech. Harvard has long been considered the pinnacle of a college education routinely ranking as one of the top two most prestigious universities in the country. But the author excoriates the storied institution for its lack of critical thinking and the shutting down of dissenting voices.
FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression) in its 2023 report ranked Harvard dead last when it comes to freedom of speech on its campus.
Tierney noted, “Harvard’s speech climate didn’t merely rank dead last among those of the 248 participating colleges. It was also the first school that FIRE has given an “Abysmal” rating for its speech climate, scoring it zero on the 100-point scale.”
He explains how FIRE evaluated the school. “Harvard’s abysmal rating is based partly on a series of censorship incidents at the school and partly on its students’ answers to questions in a national survey of 55,000 students.” That survey revealed that 75% of students are afraid of disagreeing with their professors.
Not many Harvard grads become cops. I grant you that, but that institution is not an outlier when it comes to cultural corruption on college campuses where teachers, professors and administrators shut down independent thought and critical thinking skills.
Think critically as a student you are ostracized by other students and punished by professors.
Think critically as a professor, swim against the prevailing current of social justice, and you lose your job!
I went to college in the 1970s, my BA is actually in Liberal Arts with a double Concentration, in Psychology and Recreation Administration. In my freshman year I had a professor who was pointed and specific about what was the point of attending the school. He said, “My job is to teach you to think critically. I’m going to challenge your arguments. Play devil’s advocate. In the end, I hope you never know what my actual views are.”
Two Stories About My Education and the Lack of Practicalities
As I said I have Concentration degrees in Psychology and Recreation Administration.
Before I became a cop, I spent a year working in a Park District as the Sports and Athletic Director. Basically, I organized and scheduled adult sports leagues and tournaments.
I was hired based on my degree, which I learned quickly prepared me for absolutely nothing practical for my position.
One of the first things I had to do was create a Round Robin tournament schedule. So, I sat my educated brain down to construct the bracket and within a few short seconds I realized that I had no idea how to do that. None! The most basic responsibilities for my position were scheduling and organizing.
Could I do that? Did my degree prepare me for that? Nope. I learned the theories of why people need to recreate but ZERO on how to work within a recreation system.
So, I turned to a guy who had been working at the district as an assistant for several years and he patiently instructed me on how to do draw up the brackets and over several months how to do every other aspect of my job.
At one point I asked him, “Why aren’t you the Director?”
“I don’t have a college degree.”
That was my first realization that college wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
My degree in Psychology.
How much of that study translated into the skills necessary to be an effective police officer?
However, I always had a job. My first one was helping my neighbor Greg Murphy deliver papers when we were about 11 years old. Started caddying at 13. Worked at a grocery store throughout high school. Worked as a laborer in the summers and I worked my way through college.
The day I set foot on campus I had two jobs lined up. Sophomore year I started bartending and did that until I graduated. Working several nights a week resulted in my grades suffering and my final GPA was 2.5, though no one has ever asked me about that
But, the experience behind the bar was priceless and directly related to my job as a cop.
I learned more about human nature and dealing with people in those years than I did in four years of college psychology classes.
Honestly—and I loved my Master’s program—I only chased that degree for my resume. That was my motivation, though I do admit, it did relate to what I was doing in law enforcement and even more as an instructor.
The point of this article is to rethink current philosophies and policies when it comes to hiring. I’m not at all insinuating that we should lower our standards. In fact we should raise them, along with pay. But a college education doesn’t equate to higher standards, does it?
Today isn’t 30 years ago, 10 years ago, or even five years ago.
The world has changed so quickly and drastically, law enforcement has to pay attention and catch up.
When I went to college every single person I knew, worked their way through. They had skin in the game, literal buy-in. They grew as human beings and became adults, balancing work and study. They paid their own rent and tuition, learned how to share responsibilities, budgeted spending money. They experienced life and grew quickly. If they didn’t, they failed on every level.
What percentage of college students today are working their way through? How many are forced to choose between an extra few hours of study or an extra shift at Jimmy Johns?
How many are truly self-sufficient and self-reliant?
Conversely, how many are still totally dependent on mom and dad for…well…everything? The ever-present safety net. Paying their tuition, rent, cell phone bills and dumping money into their debit accounts when they overdraft because they don’t know how to manage a bank account.
Is that lifestyle preparing them for independent thought, critical thinking and the taking of complete responsibility?
For law enforcement?
Face it, college today is not what it used to be.
Independent critical thinkers are a rare commodity. They may know how to read and remember the words of others, but do they have their own words?
Their own ideas?
Their own identities?
Or are they simply clones of those that spewed bias, bigoted perspectives cloaked in intellectual egotism?
Who is it, really, that we need leading the law enforcement profession today, tomorrow and beyond?
Society is dependent on that answer.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? E-mail your thoughts to: email@example.com