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Wal-Mart U
June 5, 2010 5:24 AM   Subscribe

"I do math all day at Wal-Mart." From the Washington Post: "Under a program announced Thursday, employees of Wal-Mart and Sam's Club will be able to receive college credit for performing their jobs, including such tasks as loading trucks and ringing up purchases." Dilution of the meaning of higher education, or laudable way to spread credentials to people without the opportunity to attend traditional college? Or both?
posted by escabeche (103 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sit in a class room with a stuffy professor who hasn't actually worked in his field for 2 decades, or learn from the people who do the stuff everyday...seems obvious to me.

Yes, I'm sure it will "dilute the meaning of higher education" but isn't higher education known for being nearly useless in the real world?

College credit thing aside, working in this way, where you apply lessons to your daily work, encourages workers to not just do what they're told, but to learn why they're doing what they're doing, which only leads to thinking about improvements in methodology and the desire for more responsibility. At least in a perfect world.

Honestly, I think this will benefit Wal-Mart most of all, but there's nothing wrong with that if it brings up some folks that would otherwise be left behind.
posted by toekneebullard at 5:32 AM on June 5, 2010


Isn't ringing up purchases basically arithmetic and data entry? University-level math has vanishingly little to do with arithmetic and data entry.
posted by Xany at 5:38 AM on June 5, 2010 [39 favorites]


I hope they teach mycology to the cashiers.
posted by atrazine at 5:39 AM on June 5, 2010 [60 favorites]


No doubt employers will value a degree from WalMart U quite highly.
posted by chunking express at 5:40 AM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


the company negotiated a 15 percent tuition reduction on other courses at APU in exchange for handling some administrative and marketing duties.

American Public University is one of a growing number of so-called career colleges that operate on a for-profit model, rather than as state institutions or private foundations.

Somehow Wal-Mart giving their employees a 15% discount to a for-profit college of Wal-Mart's choosing sounds more like a shady scheme than an actual employee benefit.
posted by allkindsoftime at 5:42 AM on June 5, 2010 [65 favorites]


Not to minimize the need for ditch-diggers and elevator operators, but...

These same math whizzes look at you funny when you buy $6.25 worth of stuff and hand the cashier a ten, a one, and a quarter.

Dilution of higher education? No, a real college degree will still mean the same as it ever did. I'd call it "Destruction of APU's credibility" instead, proving them as just another online diploma mill.

Now, in fairness, TFA throws a few ambiguous references to internships, business practice, and ethics, rather than focusing on that one adorable quote about math. And I usually tend to rant about the importance of real-world skills over academic ones; That said, even as worthless as many of us may consider a business degree, I still have to rate the real thing as more meaningful than stocking shelves - Wallyworld employees don't intern as the CFO's personal assistant, they just work a menial job for a pittance.



allkindsoftime : Somehow Wal-Mart giving their employees a 15% discount to a for-profit college of Wal-Mart's choosing sounds more like a shady scheme than an actual employee benefit.

Sorry, son, you fail ethics under rule 14b - "What Sam Walton says, goes". But you can retake the exam same time next year. :)
posted by pla at 5:54 AM on June 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


If Wal-Mart really wants to help people they should pay a better wage. This just seems like a way to trick people into thinking they are being better compensated by handing out essentially free credits instead of something useful, like money.

Now they can get employees invested in an program that keeps them working at Wal-Mart while they earn a "degree" that probably isn't going to be very impressive to anyone outside of Wal-Mart. I feel for the folks who want to better themselves, but this feels like going into the company store to me.
posted by Menthol at 5:58 AM on June 5, 2010 [33 favorites]


Yes, I'm sure it will "dilute the meaning of higher education" but isn't higher education known for being nearly useless in the real world?

Er, not really? I mean, I guess it depends on what you study.
posted by Comrade_robot at 6:05 AM on June 5, 2010 [16 favorites]


Beyond. Creepy. And since when have Walmart cashiers done math all day? That whole business model is based on automating as much as possible so as not to be at the mercy of a skilled workforce. Seriously. Walmart (or any business) isn't going to risk a dime of their money relying on the shaky math of its not particularly well educated workforce. What this does is further degrade the meaning of the word education for the benefit of Walmart much like the words "organic" and "progressive" have been recently. What's next? State colleges accepting transfer credits from Burger U? Thanks Walmart, for making this country even more of a laughingstock.
posted by jake1 at 6:06 AM on June 5, 2010 [11 favorites]


Also, from the article:

Many of the courses for which Wal-Mart workers can get credit are business-related, such as retail shipping and receiving, ethics, commercial safety and finance fundamentals.

Which is quite reasonable. Now personally I think that those are not real university subjects and should be taught at commerce trade schools, but that is my European upbringing and not the way you guys have ever done things in the USA.
posted by atrazine at 6:19 AM on June 5, 2010 [8 favorites]


Question: If 43% of a Wal-Mart stores 237 employees want to join a union, and a certification election requires 51% of the employees to vote yes, how many more employees must the organizers persuade in order to win the election?

Answer: None, Wal-Mart would rather close the store than permit that to happen.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:23 AM on June 5, 2010 [58 favorites]


And since when have Walmart cashiers done math all day?

I may be missing it, but I don't see where it gives any details about what sorts of job duties will translate to what sort of credits. The employee quoted is a manager. This part makes me suspect this isn't open to entry-level employees in the first place:

"The program is designed to encourage more workers to climb the corporate ladder."

Still, plugging numbers into formulas that you were probably handed when you began the job isn't a math skill that you should get college credit for. If he can create those formulas, then he might understand the math he's using.

(This post should really have a link to the prior MeFi discussion about for-profit colleges.)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:30 AM on June 5, 2010


i certainly found work to be very educational ... but it is/was not a suitable substitute for the classroom. in fact i think they worked pretty well together. yeah, you can learn a lot from wal mart ... but not everything, and having both the work and education experience, they actually work better together.

but up to 45 percent of your credit from walmart? i didn't really find loading and unloading trucks to be that educational. plus, this is an online university--so people aren't getting any classroom time.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 6:30 AM on June 5, 2010


Nothing like lining up some new customers for an Internet-based, for-profit "university". APUS is accredited, so presumably it's not a total scam. And maybe some good will come from this if it expands the horizons of folks who do nothing all day but load trucks or ring up purchases. But I can't help but think this is selling false hope and student debt to people who won't be well served by the investment. It's $250/credit hour and 120 hours to an undergraduate degree, which my cash register says is $30,000.
posted by Nelson at 6:35 AM on June 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Not to worry; I'm sure there'll soon be a Walmart Financial Group, which will handle loans for its employees/students/customers.
posted by mannequito at 6:46 AM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Perhaps they don't deserve the credits, perhaps they do. But every degree administrator knows that if you can pass the latter sequence of courses for a B.S. degree --- the courses that are dependent on some earlier ones --- then clearly you don't need to take the earlier sequence after all. Every college in the country will give you credit for Calc 1 if you can pass Calc 2. Now if you take Stats 1 do you deserve credit for Linear Algebra? Certainly not, but must of the first 1--2 years of college is prep for the last half. In other words, let them have the chance to skip to the end of the BS degree; if they can finish it, then good for them. If not, a good educational institution will say, "well, looks like you perhaps should take math 1 after all, let's do that."
posted by Tristram Shandy, Gentleman at 6:56 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Furthermore, good for Walmart for giving people incentive for finishing a degree that they might not have already considered.
posted by Tristram Shandy, Gentleman at 6:57 AM on June 5, 2010


And since when have Walmart cashiers done math all day?

There's a surprising amount of math involved with retail work. More than a few times over the years I would reflect upon how wrong I was as a kid to think I'd never use math in the real world.
posted by padraigin at 7:21 AM on June 5, 2010


No, a real college degree will still mean the same as it ever did. I'd call it "Destruction of APU's credibility" instead, proving them as just another online diploma mill.

I don't want to derail too far, but this is an important point in the conversation about for-profit colleges. In all the stories you hear about these scams (and it is a scam, with the goal being to capture federal funds), nobody ever mentions the real victims. Some for-profit colleges are built from the ground up. But more and more are old colleges under "new ownership." If you're a corporation looking to get in on one of these scams, it's difficult to earn accreditation for your brand-new college. It's much easier to find one that is struggling financially and take it over.

The real victims of for-profit colleges are the students who graduated from these schools in years past, before they were taken over. Those graduates didn't sign up for a degree from a diploma mill: They paid tuition and attended classes at a real, honest-to-God college. All of a sudden they turn around five, ten years later and the name on their diploma is owned by "Kaplan College," and everybody knows what that means.

Anyway. I read the NYTimes article about this yesterday, and one of the lines that caught my eye was from a Wal-Mart employee who has been trying to juggle college and working. And that's commendable, but what he says about this new program is that it "gives me the confidence that I can go and not have to worry about sacrificing one thing or another." That's not a good thing. Education and work are supposed to require sacrifice. I don't know where people get the idea that they shouldn't have to sacrifice. I do know a few people who have finished their college or graduate degrees with zero debt in this economy, which is unusual and impressive, and they all did it by working full-time while going to (actual, not Internet) school. That's one heck of a sacrifice. That's what makes it an accomplishment.
posted by cribcage at 7:31 AM on June 5, 2010 [18 favorites]


It's $250/credit hour
That's a lot. My local community college is $118 per credit hour.
Every college in the country will give you credit for Calc 1 if you can pass Calc 2.
Not exactly. My university will give you credit for Calc 1 if you can pass a CLEP test in calculus, showing that you've mastered the Calc I material. You can't just enroll in Calc II, pass it, and then retroactively be assigned credit for Calc I. (In fact, you can't enroll in Calc II at all unless you've taken Calc I or received a certain score on an AP or CLEP test.) But anyone can take the CLEP. There's no reason to get credit from Wal-mart.
posted by craichead at 7:35 AM on June 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


So I just watched the entirely of Generation Kill (I'm on a Marine kick) and the phrase that stuck out as summing up the whole gestalt of the experience, the superposition of the series was "The Wall Mart Wall Of Heroes." Let it float upon the ocean of your mind.
posted by The Whelk at 7:49 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


One more step in the long march as treating humans as (corporate) resources. Education? Not self-improvement or mind-expansion, it's preparation for a shareholder value increasing job!
posted by DU at 8:04 AM on June 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


Dilution of the meaning of higher education?

When I moved to Salt Lake Lake City to be with the then-future Mrs. Beese, I transferred credits to the University of Utah. They required everyone to take a 1-credit "introduction to the school" orientation thingy. At one point, our tasks included preparing flyers for some small event. I was given some flyers and some markers with which to make the printing more noticeable.

I received college credit for coloring.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:04 AM on June 5, 2010 [18 favorites]


This will make Walmart less popular among people with college degrees and more popular among people without them.
posted by box at 8:08 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


He was right.

Frito: Yah I know this place pretty good, I went to law school here.

Pvt. Joe Bowers: In Costco?

Frito: Yah I couldnt believe it myself, luckily my dad was an
alumnus and pulled some strings.
posted by larry_darrell at 8:30 AM on June 5, 2010 [15 favorites]


Okay, so the problem with this article is that everyone in it is lying. And they're lying because otherwise Wal-Mart would fire them.
"We want to provide you with more ways and faster ways to succeed with us," Eduardo Castro-Wright, head of Wal-Mart's U.S. division, told 4,000 employees during the company's annual meeting.
That's a lie.
"People will surprise you if you give them opportunities," said Tom Mars, chief administrative officer at Wal-Mart. "The single biggest competitive advantage we have . . . is our associates."
Yeah, that one's a lie. Or, okay, you can read it as a half-truth. "People will surprise you if you give them opportunities" is likely a true statement, but Tom Mars has gone out of his way to refrain from indicating whether or not he thinks this APU deal is an opportunity or not — I think it's pretty obvious to anyone that it's a superficial lie with a very faint outward resemblance to an opportunity. But that "the single biggest competitive advantage we have... is our associates" is a lie. Right now, their single biggest competitive advantage is pretty obviously their scale (they're so big and important that they can shake down suppliers for just about anything they want), and if I had to guess, their second biggest advantage involves their finely honed and quite sophisticated management/supply chain processes, which (as far as I've heard) are entirely about moving goods into and through their stores as cheaply as possible, in a completely standardized way that requires as little skilled labor as possible. Which is to say, their second biggest competitive advantage is their ability to operate without their laborers having to do anything that any other warm body couldn't do.

Urgh, okay, I'm getting too wrapped up in the individual lies, which isn't the point. The point is that in this sitiation, Eduardo Castro-Wright and Tom Mars and every other fucking person involved in this operation is so thoroughly expected to lie that it would be shocking if any of them told the truth about anything more complex than their own names (I'm going to grant them the marginal trust required to assume that they're not lying about their names). They would be so fired if they told the truth about anything beyond that. And then there's the people like Daniel Soto:
Daniel Soto of Hardeeville, S.C., works full time at Wal-Mart as a zone manager supervisor, lending a hand in several departments. He had to give up college to work, but said he could see some of his duties translating to academia, such as the algebraic equations he uses to figure out how much merchandise will fit on a shelf or how much of a product to order.
the people who read more like victims than like vampires, who you know would be out of work if he told anything remotely resembling the truth to the Washington Post. Higher education is not a vocational program, and Daniel Soto, like everyone else in the world, knows how to tell the difference when not being paid to pretend he can't.

Why does Wal-Mart make all of its employees affirm a set of cultural narratives about the importance of education, success, "climbing the ladder," the value of free association, (why do they use the liar word "associate"?), and opportunities for every individual to fulfill their potential? Especially when Wal-Mart's role in society is so known by everyone to be the opposite of that that it sort of feels dumb, or maybe a little Holden Caulfield-ish, to even talk about it? This is not a rhetorical question. Seriously, why is it so important to Wal-Mart to make their employees, top to bottom, tell lies claiming that Wal-Mart is about opportunity, respect, education, free association as people, and fulfilling individual potential, even and especially when everyone knows they're lying?
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:18 AM on June 5, 2010 [31 favorites]


So to sum up most of these comments: "There's no way Wal-Mart employees can benefit from getting some more education."
posted by toekneebullard at 9:32 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


toekneebullard: nope, you got it the wrong way around altogether. I think what most people are saying is that sham credits from a fake university isn't education.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:41 AM on June 5, 2010 [12 favorites]


Somehow Wal-Mart giving their employees a 15% discount to a for-profit college of Wal-Mart's choosing sounds more like a shady scheme than an actual employee benefit.

I used to work at Wal-Mart, and frankly, it sounds remarkably like the Wal-Mart health plan.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:45 AM on June 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


toekneebullard: "but isn't higher education known for being nearly useless in the real world? "

you clearly don't have one, if you think that. i don't have one either (though i'm working on it) and yes, actually, an education is critical for most things that don't involve pumping gas or decorating donuts (though those are perfectly honourable professions). i'm a self-taught software developer, and i see ways that an education would have made me better every day.

the next time you drive across a bridge, consider the possibility that it was engineered by someone who got math credit at Wal-Mart. *shudder*
posted by klanawa at 9:45 AM on June 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Seriously, why is it so important to Wal-Mart to make their employees, top to bottom, tell lies claiming that Wal-Mart is about opportunity, respect, education, free association as people, and fulfilling individual potential, even and especially when everyone knows they're lying?

Senator Roark: Power don't come from a badge or a gun. Power comes from lying. Lying big and gettin' the whole damn world to play along with you. Once you've got everybody agreeing with what they know in their hearts ain't true, you've got 'em by the balls.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:50 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


All fine and dandy, but will there be a mycology course?
posted by mendel at 10:05 AM on June 5, 2010


It will be interesting in 5 years to see how many hired to the ranks of Wal-Mart corporate and management have APU degrees.

If I were betting, I'd probably guess "none" to "no more than you can count on one hand."
posted by weston at 10:05 AM on June 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


So to sum up most of these comments: "There's no way Wal-Mart employees can benefit from getting some more education."

No, that's really not summing up most of the comments at all, actually.
posted by blucevalo at 10:09 AM on June 5, 2010 [11 favorites]


Seriously, why is it so important to Wal-Mart to make their employees, top to bottom, tell lies claiming that Wal-Mart is about opportunity, respect, education, free association as people, and fulfilling individual potential, even and especially when everyone knows they're lying?

To be fair to Wal-Mart, at most of the places I've worked for, this is the narrative that's pushed. Most people want to be part of it. Who doesn't want opportunity, respect, education, camaraderie, and fulfillment of potential? Everybody. Everybody wants to believe where they are right now is a step along that path. That's part of why you take a job. And some in management probably genuinely want to believe they're doing something more than skimming of the backs of labor –– they're making a difference too! Though I'm sure that there's no shortage of those who understand that the narrative will serve the company well even if it's complete illusion.
posted by weston at 10:19 AM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Being a cashier requires no math. With the computers most places have, you need to input how much money the customer gave you. It will then tell you how much change to give and (in my case) show pictures of each bill/coin with a number below it.

I don't think this is a bad thing - it's efficient, prevents mistakes (which can get someone fired) and it helps give jobs to new immigrants/people with mental disorders, etc. But it seems weird to get any math credit for that.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:20 AM on June 5, 2010


All fine and dandy, but will there be a mycology course?

I presume you mean Mycology 201?
posted by joe lisboa at 10:23 AM on June 5, 2010


I received college credit for coloring.

I hope you stayed inside the lines. We don't stand for high school level coloring here at college.
posted by Babblesort at 10:31 AM on June 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


I suspect that "the algebraic equations" are actually performed by plugging numbers into a spreadsheet or some such tool provided by corporate headquarters... length of shelf in column A, width in column B, height in column C. I just don't think that's enough for even a high school algebra credit.
posted by RestlessNeerdowell at 10:37 AM on June 5, 2010


I hope they teach mycology to the cashiers.

atrazine: i see what you did there!
posted by msconduct at 10:37 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Despite all the sneering toward Walmart, I'm still not seeing much problem here. I've worked for several companies that encouraged employers to continue in relevant education. One was even generous enough to provide a small subsidy. The goal for the company was expanding it's skill base (and as a result, mobility) among it's proven employees. It understandably was not too interested in helping employees get literature degrees. If there was a problem, it was that the relevant courses were only offered locally by for-profit institutions. Not because they are for-profit, but because they are expensive. The cheaper local community colleges are more oriented to prepping students for four year universities, and have been rolling back their more job skill related courses as a result. Still, there seemed to be a reasonable number of takers.

Walmart's involvement is even more integrated. I have trouble seeing why this is bad overall.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:55 AM on June 5, 2010


I've worked for several companies that encouraged employers to continue in relevant education.

This isn't relevant education. It's a fraud.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:03 AM on June 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


You Can't Tip a Buick, your comment about the enforced narrative at Wal-Mart reminds me of the problems Wal-Mart encountered when they tried to set up shop in Germany:

[W]hether they liked it or not, every morning staff members were now obliged to sound the Wal-Mart cheer because this once impressed founder Sam Walton when he was on his travels in South Korea.

Although there was a minority who liked the novelty, the Wal-Mart chant and dance didn’t go down well with others. Many staff told Lebensmittel Zeitung that they found it both stupid and embarrassing.

For instance, one cashier lady told me after a store visit: “Except for when you press people come, quite frankly, when they start their whiggle we hide in the toilet”.

Wal-Mart never understood that the chant doesn’t suit modern Germany. Recent history has made many Germans critical of forced group activities. Others were unpleasantly reminded of the mass meetings in vogue under communism in the former German Democratic Republic.


(PS: I assume "whiggle" means song & dance.)
posted by dhens at 11:07 AM on June 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Are they paid in company scrip?
posted by Cranberry at 11:08 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


...but said he could see some of his duties translating to academia, such as the algebraic equations he uses to figure out how much merchandise will fit on a shelf or how much of a product to order.

This is bullshit. Those shelves, and the merchandise that will fit onto them, are pre-planned to a fare-thee-well by groups far, far above this guy, in the home office or in China. Planograms are designed, re-designed, and re-re-designed to optimize product placement and volume. There is no way in hell a mega-corp like WalMart would leave something like how to fit merchandise on a shelf to the supposed math skills of a lower-level lackey.

Ditto for how to adjust orders. There's a company formula for that, too. Nothing is left to chance.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:11 AM on June 5, 2010 [11 favorites]


This thread is ok, but revisiting the MiHail portobello thread is the very best kind of time-squandering nostalgia. Yay!
posted by everichon at 11:29 AM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


msconduct: thank you for that. Four years later, MiHail still feels Metafilter love from the great beyond.
posted by Jade5454 at 11:31 AM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Depends how it's done, I guess. My take on it comes from being in a similar situation with military experience.

So, I'm a few months shy of 40 years old. I'm embarrassed to say that I have never completed a degree. I'm a pretty capable dude, though; my job is not exactly unskilled labor. I would have needed a degree to be hired had I not been doing the same thing (more, actually, when you consider the management responsibilities that just accumulate the more senior you get, regardless of education level) in the military already. So now I'm in a weird spot. I want a degree, and I probably need one to advance more than a step or two further than I am right now.

The ACE is an organization that evaluates college credit for military experience, and recommends (not grants) credit based on specific specialties, schooling and whatnot. Not just 'hurf durf all that marching should be worth some PE credit,' but actually sending people to say, the Naval nuclear power training program and seeing what gets taught. I don't think giving someone a little math credit for being able to routinely drive a ship to solve range, course, and speed of a target given only bearing and received sound frequency is all that silly.

The good part about that is, it's still up to me to choose what I do. For example, the University of Washington will credit my ACE recommendations, but only up to so many credits and only in certain things. I would still be completing the University of Washington degree, meeting the same standards as other students, with waivers from the University itself for some of the lower division requirements, and some of the very specific upper division stuff depending on the degree (for example, nuclear instrumentation techniques.)

If WalMart wants to have ACE come over and evaluate some of their jobs, I don't see how that's any different. Although I can't imagine that truck unloaders are going to get much in the way of credit recommendation, maybe the middle management types might get some business program credit. It would still be up to the workers to fill in the gaps with real classes.

The thing I'd be wary of is a more University of Phoenix-style model, where they give credit towards their own degree for dubious things, and then issue a degree that doesn't really impress any employers later. (apologies if I'm wrong about UoP, that's the reputation I've heard, though)
posted by ctmf at 11:34 AM on June 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


For the everyday mental arithmetic, that I see a lot of people struggle with, I've always thought there should be dart boards in the staff rooms of every shop.

Not that I'm comparing playing darts to a college education.
posted by selton at 11:50 AM on June 5, 2010


toekneebullard: isn't higher education known for being nearly useless in the real world?

No, I don't think so. Certainly some degrees are of questionable value, depending on their focus and the institution that granted it. But anyone engaged in real world engineering or hard science professions will tell you that you won't make it very far in their real world without an education. You might take the technology of today for granted, but without higher education we would be living in a very different place. Higher education also strengthens the softer skills, such as communication, presentation and the ability to dissect complex text.

I think your comment does go to the core of the issue though. Many people seem to think that a university degree is just a piece of paper, and that is the mere possession of the title that is most important. That must be the case in some jobs, but I know that as a software developer, a degree has only ever gotten my foot in the door. Interviews are typically filled with questions about algorithms and problems to solve. These are skills that are continuously challenged once you actually begin working. Could you pick up a few textbooks and bullshit your way into a job as a chemist or a structural engineer? I think it is unlikely, and the truth would would become clear pretty quickly if you were working at a high level.
posted by sophist at 11:54 AM on June 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


If WalMart wants to have ACE come over and evaluate some of their jobs, I don't see how that's any different. Although I can't imagine that truck unloaders are going to get much in the way of credit recommendation, maybe the middle management types might get some business program credit. It would still be up to the workers to fill in the gaps with real classes.

I would absolutely wholeheartedly support this. The way that you're getting your degree is being held to specific criteria and standards, and it's a shame that it's not a more widely-followed model.
posted by desuetude at 11:57 AM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is great.

My advanced seminar in ideologies of embodiment and representation in the ancient Near East--a course which has taken me several thousands of dollars and about a year of preparation time to design--is pretty much exactly the same as learning how to clean up spills in aisle 12.

Way to go Wal-Mart!
posted by felix betachat at 12:06 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


dhens - The "whiggle" is this part of the dance/chant where you have to shake your butt while standing up from a squat. We tried to avoid this, too, because it was stupid, you were interrupted in the middle of the day to do it, and sometimes we had to do it where the customers could see.

Thorzdad - Actually, what was put on the shelves and how was frequently left up to the zone or department managers. There were schematics from head office sent, but they didn't usually work for the layout of the specific department. The only time they worked at all was for the holiday displays. But there was really not that much algebra involved. There was a little, but it was basically at a junior high level. Ditto with order quantity and timing - it worked better if employee discretion was used. People aren't automatically idiots just because they happen to currently be working for Wal-mart. Head office was actually ignored at the store level a lot, to the benefit of the store. (When a store has been out of something for months or is moving their crap around for no apparent reason and making gigantic traffic jams in the aisles, THAT is usually the fault of a directive from head office.)

Man, I hated working there so, so much, and this sounds like another Wal-mart PR scam.
posted by wending my way at 12:07 PM on June 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


My last job involved assessing transfer credit for an online university (not UoP or APU).

Here's the thing, if American Public University awards 50 hours of credit for a student's work at WalMart, and the student later decides to transfer elsewhere, that credit is GONE. No other university will accept it because they don't have the same deal with WalMart as does APU. No one cares that APU accepted it, because they have their own standards. The university I worked for would probably not accept it (that depends on details that were not in the article). So an employee/student has a tremendous incentive to 1) stay at WalMart and 2) finish their degree with APU. They're stuck. I think most would agree that this is not conducive to a person's education or wellbeing.

However, if ACE evaluates the credits, as ctmf mentions, any university can accept them. For some reason I doubt this will happen...
posted by desjardins at 12:21 PM on June 5, 2010 [13 favorites]


>This isn't relevant education. It's a fraud.

How so? Your previous posts come off as passionate, but don't really point to anything of the sort, except perhaps in your mind and those of like minded Walmart bashers. How, exactly, is Walmart's (or any employer's) encouragement of targeted education among it's employees a fraud? "They're lying!" doesn't clarify much, and only seems to be subjectively true if you have a stake in denigrating Walmart and it's practices.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:33 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is so wrong on so many different levels, I can't begin to detail the ways but ok, let's fast forward a few years, beyond the court determined federal funding to support this dog, beyond the tax breaks and educational justifications to a time when there's no way in hell you'll get any kind of higher ed without genius level mental exhibition or folks with a deep enough pocket to fund your future (surely they'll continue letting us pauper ourselves for education, this world's most stupid business plan) and you've nowhere to go save to sign up with the corporate group who will give you the future servitude you find least oppressive.... I wonder if you'll get a choice of where to put the tattoo?

Oh yeah, one more thing: if Wal-Mart employees want to join a union, I suggest they form their own and try to keep away from the rest of the sharks in the tank.
posted by Guy Newport at 12:43 PM on June 5, 2010


For me, one of the problems is that that targeted education is funneled through one institution.

My employer has a Tuition Reimbursement program for job-related classes, and I took a class in SQL with it. I took it at a local community college (Bellevue College) as a night class. However, I could have taken that class (or other related ones) anywhere. Or, I could have ordered a bunch of books and taught myself. I had a choice of how and where I wanted to study. I'm not seeing these Wal-Mart employees being given that same choice.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:46 PM on June 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


2N2222: I'm not saying Wal-Mart is lying because they're Wal-Mart, I'm saying they're lying because they're lying. I refer you to other posts about the difference between scam colleges built solely to attract federal money, such as APU, and the processes used by ACE to ensure that college credits actually are what they claim to be.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:52 PM on June 5, 2010


2N2222 - That wasn't directed at me (other than as a Wal-mart basher), but it's a fraud because it's encouraging employees to pay quite a lot of money they probably can't afford to get credits that they can't use at other universities, most likely without telling them that they can't use them at other universities. Or if they complete the entire degree through APU, it's not going to be as respected as any not-for-profit degree out in the world for getting a job outside of Wal-mart. Which would be the point in paying a lot of money to get a degree. Many people are also going to be misled about that, if they're not familiar with the reputation of for-profit universities. So there really is no benefit to that degree at all.

YCTAB was calling it fraud because getting people to pay money for a benefit they think they're going to get (but they're really not) is the definition of fraud.

What is it about Wal-mart's practices, in human resources or otherwise, that makes you think we're wrong to be down on Wal-mart?
posted by wending my way at 12:56 PM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also I refer you to most every quote1 in the original article, which is just chock full of casual, empty bullshit.

[1]: There's a good possibility that Cari Prill of Bad Axe, quoted at the end of the piece, is actually not lying about anything, though she'd likely get more benefit from an actual degree from an actual school than she would with the thing that APU hands out.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:00 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the thing is, 2n2222, that there's nothing especially novel either about American employers subsidizing their employees' education or about students receiving credit for things they learn on the job. Those are both pretty long-established practices. What is novel here is a company entering into an agreement with a particular for-profit institution to offer employees credits that will only be accepted at that particular institution. It's easy to see what Wal-mart gets out of it: their employees have an incentive to stay at Wal-mart, which will subsidize their tuition and then later pretend that the degrees they get are legitimate in a way that other employers may not. It's easy to see what's in it for APU: they're going to get a lot of extra students. It's not easy to see what's in it for the students/ employees. It seems that, in every possible way, they would be better off if things were done the way they're usually done, which is that they would get credits and scholarships that they could take to any accredited college or university.
posted by craichead at 1:00 PM on June 5, 2010 [10 favorites]


Yes, I'm sure it will "dilute the meaning of higher education" but isn't higher education known for being nearly useless in the real world?

"Mr. Toekneebullard, your heart surgery scheduled this morning will be performed by Dr. Vinnie Boombatz, who does not hold a medical degree from a traditional medical school. We really think he's doing great and is ready to perform his first open heart surgery on a live patient."
posted by krinklyfig at 1:04 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


If your beef is that APU's accreditation isn't worth crap, then I can see criticism about getting federal money. Is this actually the case?
posted by 2N2222 at 1:23 PM on June 5, 2010


"The credits will be given for Wal-Mart's own training as well as on-the-job experience."
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:27 PM on June 5, 2010


Wal-Mart offering courses in ethics? Now that's a laughable premise.
posted by tybeet at 1:30 PM on June 5, 2010


That said, even as worthless as many of us may consider a business degree, I still have to rate the real thing as more meaningful than stocking shelves - Wallyworld employees don't intern as the CFO's personal assistant, they just work a menial job for a pittance.

Yes, ostensibly, an MBA should teach a person enough to run a business. I don't think that's what's happening here. Certainly, Wal-Mart doesn't want their employees to learn that anyway, because at that point why would they work for them?
posted by krinklyfig at 1:48 PM on June 5, 2010


"The credits will be given for Wal-Mart's own training as well as on-the-job experience."

You say that like it's a bad thing.

The goal here seems to create a workforce from within that is optimized for retail operations. A constant theme here is that the skills learned won't be portable. It seems to me that the credit obtained would be quite portable in it's field. Walmart isn't training heart surgeons. It's training retail workers.

Furthermore, it seems condescending to say Walmart employees are unable to make decisions for themselves about the value of a Walmart-subsidized education. If employees see no prospect for bettering their lot through this program, they'll be unlikely to participate.

Yes, ostensibly, an MBA should teach a person enough to run a business. I don't think that's what's happening here.

Do MBA programs teach that anywhere? The MBAs from respectable schools I know really seem more like the product of a diploma mill than not.
posted by 2N2222 at 2:06 PM on June 5, 2010


University level education is much more a middle class socialization mechanism than a place to learn challenging conceptual material, and has been for some time. That is not to say that one cannot obtain a formidable education in college, but it's certainly not a requirement, and certainly not the option chosen by the vast majority. If you can get a degree whilst working at Wal-Mart pushing buttons, why should that be viewed any less favorably than getting a degree at a brick and mortar institution that primarily requires you to spend lots of mom and dad's money and play beer pong?
posted by solipsophistocracy at 2:36 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


"The credits will be given for Wal-Mart's own training as well as on-the-job experience."

You say that like it's a bad thing.
Fail, 2N2222. You know the difference between higher education and training sessions at Wal-Mart. Out in the wild, you would never mix up this with this or this or this. Calling the latter the former, when you, as a sapient human being, know how to tell the two sorts of thing apart:
  1. is deceptive
  2. weakens the usefulness of the term "higher education"
  3. cheapens the value of that term
Which you know, because you have both a brain and some sort of functioning sense organs.

But moreover, all of the schools I linked to up there are (last I checked) open admissions, all are significantly cheaper per credit than APU, and all have programs that apply to people who want to climb the ladder in retail sales.1 If Wal-Mart were interested in helping their employees do that, they could help them attend one of those schools or one of the thousands of other schools like them across the United States. Or if they really thought that their training sessions and the experience of working at Wal-Mart were worth college credits, they'd get them accredited instead of going to that APU scam outfit. But, they didn't get them accredited, and instead are going through APU. I'm not sure why you're insisting on the possibility of there existing in an alternate universe a version of this racket that's not a scam2 when the words in the original article, which presumably you've read, indicate that we're living in the real universe, where this is a way for Wal-Mart and APU to rip off both their employees and the federal government for a lot of money in exchange for fake credits.

... man, this is a bad day for me. I've been successfully trolled by both the Washington Post and a dude with too many numbers in his name.

[1]: And you know what, I respect the hell out of all the schools I linked to up there. My first degree was actually an AA from one of them. If they didn't exist, I probably would have been boned for life instead of doing actually sorta semi-ok for myself, aside from having a tendency to fall for trolls. But, yeah, when someone promises something like a degree from one of those schools, but instead comes up with diploma-mill stuff like giving credits for, and I quote again and it is very much a bad thing, "Wal-Mart's own training as well as on-the-job experience," boy howdy it gets me mad.
[2]: Which, I admit, you're right about: I'm sure it's possible, in an alternate universe, for a version of this that isn't a scam to exist.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:41 PM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


2N2222 - I think I was assuming, like most everyone in this thread, that the Wal-mart workers would be getting degrees in actual fields that would be non-portable because of how they got them. Fields like "Business," or "Accounting," or maybe "Liberal Arts."

Your statement seems to imply that people would be getting degrees like "Retail" or "Cash Register Management," which I wouldn't think would be the case. And if, by some fluke, that *is* the case, do you honestly think it would improve the lives of people to spend over a year's salary on a retail degree? What if they don't want to work retail forever and they're only doing this because it's the only place hiring in town? Being a cashier or stocker is not usually considered a career path one would actually purposely pay money to continue doing, it's something you do because you need money to pay the bills. In other words, it's the kind of thing people go to college to avoid having to continue doing. If you meant moving up the ranks within the company, that's already what happens at the lower and middle management levels, without paying for an APU degree. (Upper management are usually graduates of real college.)

People can be naive about the higher education system and how different flavors of college are viewed without being stupid. If none of their relatives went to college and the main source of their daily social interaction is at work, why would they know that this offer can be simultaneously legit yet a horrible idea? If it were just Wal-mart throwing APU college credits at these folks, that would be hokey, but people in this thread would be much less concerned/annoyed. They're not - they're making people pay for them. Paying money to keep the same quality of life in the same field is not usually viewed as a step up.
posted by wending my way at 2:44 PM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Mr. Toekneebullard, your heart surgery scheduled this morning will be performed by Dr. Vinnie Boombatz, who does not hold a medical degree from a traditional medical school. We really think he's doing great and is ready to perform his first open heart surgery on a live patient."

Your average Wal-Mart employee will not be going to medical school or law school or getting a phd in hard science, regardless of this program, so I think these comparisons to higher education are rather spurious. A better comparison is perhaps a vocational school.

None of which changes the fact that this is a useless and relatively expensive degree from a crap diploma-mill worth less than the paper it's printed on.
posted by cj_ at 2:46 PM on June 5, 2010


University level education is much more a middle class socialization mechanism than a place to learn.... If you can get a degree whilst working at Wal-Mart pushing buttons, why should that be viewed any less favorably than getting a degree at a brick and mortar institution....

Well, besides not teaching them anything mind-broadening (like Liberal Arts) or anything outside a limited area of vocational training, it's also not going to socialize them into the middle class.

I mean, the student-victims will think it does, and they'll boast of having the first college degrees in their families, but will be puzzled and frustrated when no one else treats their degrees as real, when they are in fact no more welcome accepted as middle class than before.

In fact, they'll be worse off, as anyone with a real degree sees a University of Phoenix or ITT (not IIT) graduate as someone with substandard training (and it's training, not education, from those places) who was too much of a dupe to realize his training was substandard.
posted by orthogonality at 3:22 PM on June 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


I love how everyone is taking my "isn't higher education known for being nearly useless in the real world?" comment and applying it to doctors, scientists, and engineers.

Yes, there are many vocations out there that require genuine, tough education. I'd love to know the percentage that scientists, doctors, and engineers make up of the work force.

I'm willing to bet that at least 60% of workers learn what they need to know for their job, from their job training, or from social interaction. Most of what you use in real life that you learned from college is simply personal responsibility.
posted by toekneebullard at 3:25 PM on June 5, 2010


cj_ - Your average American will also not be doing any of those things, but it doesn't follow that everyone should be sent to vocational school instead. That seemed like a jab at a certain socio-economic class. There are some mind-bogglingly stupid people at Wal-mart, but there's also a lot of high school and college age people, as well as divorced parents, and people saving up money in rural communities for houses, colleges, or children. Limiting their options to vocational training will not help the class gap, especially if they're interested in college. I mean, you wouldn't see someone waiting tables or working in a call center and immediately label them as not having the aptitude for college with even talking to them, right?

Sadly, even a vocational training limitation would still be a better deal than this, as it that would lead to a marketable skill.
posted by wending my way at 3:33 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jaymes Murphy, 24, a salesman from Victoria, Tex., who was at the annual meeting, said he tried for several years to juggle work and school with little success. He would attend class from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then sprint to his job as a cashier at Wal-Mart, working from 3 p.m. to midnight. He eventually quit school but he still dreams

Someone somewhere is dreaming of what you have easily obtained, yours with so little effort.

Tonight, some idiot lawyer will bump into me, or a stay-at-home Saks shopper will brush past me, entitled and not one dendrite sparking with an idea of Jaymes Murphy. Yet he dreams of them every night.
posted by plexi at 3:41 PM on June 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Although Wal-Mart says about 70 percent of its managers begin as hourly employees, it estimates that about half of its employees do not hold college degrees.

I'm surprised the number college graduates is that high. How sad is that? Fifty percent of their employees have degrees but work at Wal-Mart-- they can't all be managers, some of them must be worker bees.

I wonder, if this works out, will Wal-Mart eventually open their own college? If they can require that anyone interested in ascending the ranks of management have a college degree, and then offer them a way to buy a Wal-Mart degree-- would that be illegal? It sure as hell would be profitable.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:44 PM on June 5, 2010


2N2222 : Furthermore, it seems condescending to say Walmart employees are unable to make decisions for themselves about the value of a Walmart-subsidized education.

With the exception of the retirees working there just to get out of the house a few days a week, I'd have call it a safe bet that most of those working for Walmart don't exactly lead the pack at evaluating their future educational and professional opportunities.



toekneebullard : I love how everyone is taking my "isn't higher education known for being nearly useless in the real world?" comment and applying it to doctors, scientists, and engineers.

Because if we qualify your statement with "useless degrees have no use in the real world", it doesn't leave much to discuss.

I'll agree wholeheartedly that the majority of jobs that "require" a degree, don't. That doesn't make the educations themselves worthless, however - Even the fluffiest of degrees requires a certain baseline level of knowledge across a wide range of topics, as well as the personal discipline to show up to class and pass the exams. I would even argue that as the point to requiring a degree for an otherwise low-skilled job - It assures the employer that whatever else they may need to teach you to do the job well, they don't need to worry about basic math, English, and at least the capacity to learn.
posted by pla at 3:47 PM on June 5, 2010


toekneebullard - Why is proving how large a percentage of the population you think "should" go to college be a point here? If people want to go to college to learn something different than what they're already doing, they should at least end up with a real degree that will help them get into the field, and not be misled about the quality of the degree. That's pretty much what this boils down to.

I think the apprenticeship system is pretty great for a lot of things, especially repetitive office tasks or physical things like construction. But not the sciences (hard or soft), medicine, architecture, psychology, law, or even things like languages, culture, and history studies, because all of these fields require you to get a mental database of background knowledge, not just processes, that you're not going to get by being "on the job." What would that even mean, to have a computer programmer, archaeologist, accountant, or Shakespeare scholar "on the job" without a fairly solid basis in their field? They'd spend all day wasting their employer's time by reading books and researching without even having a broader picture of the situation to go from. I'm not entirely clear which majors you think consist solely of just learning responsibility and social skills, come to think of it. Marketing? Interior design?

But I would substitute "on the job" training for about half of the liberal arts nonsense you have to take in addition to your major classes. Those are usually the ones you never use again.
posted by wending my way at 4:01 PM on June 5, 2010


Graduate school is pretty much an apprenticeship program for the hard sciences.
posted by Zalzidrax at 5:07 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not that that really affects your point all that much as attending graduate school requires a fair amount of education in the first place.
posted by Zalzidrax at 5:25 PM on June 5, 2010


But I would substitute "on the job" training for about half of the liberal arts nonsense you have to take in addition to your major classes. Those are usually the ones you never use again.

I dunno about never using them again. My brother credits his "academic breadth" (and his general interest in thing outside of programming) with his success as a programmer. He has the programming skills and experience to get interviews, but he tends to out-interview his competition because he can talk about things other than programming, communicate with people other than programmers, and, since he cleans up well and can take clients out to dinner, serves multiple purposes within a company.

A friend who used to hire a lot of engineers complained regularly that, while their skills were OK, their inability to think about a project in a large or flexible way made them much less useful to him until he had retrained them himself. He also griped continually about their crappy writing skills (which, to move beyond the single point anecdote is an endemic problem in the sci/tech disciplines).

So, no, I don't think General Education or "breadth credits" are particularly wasted, especially if the program does what it should and isn't constantly undermined by faculty expressing the "useless humanities" canard over and over.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:11 PM on June 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Anything other than remedial college credit seems amiss. Else it should be Vo-Tech school credit. (I'm anti-dilutian that way.)
posted by Twang at 6:19 PM on June 5, 2010


What's next, four year college for pizza deliverymen?

Snow Crash becomes more and more relevant as time goes on.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:29 PM on June 5, 2010


I find it kind of depressing that nearly everyone here seems to have taken as a given that a university education = job training, or that the only point of getting an education is to get a job, or that your choice of program of study should be dictated by what job you hope to get out of it at the end.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 6:46 PM on June 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


>You know the difference between higher education and training sessions at Wal-Mart. Out in the wild, you would never mix up this with this or this or this. Calling the latter the former, when you, as a sapient human being, know how to tell the two sorts of thing apart:

1. is deceptive
2. weakens the usefulness of the term "higher education"
3. cheapens the value of that term


Sorry for trolling you, You Can't Tip a Buick, but if you're worried about the the term "higher education", that horse left the stable long ago. Your concern about being trolled betrays way to much emotional involvement over this issue. I suggest this isn't the moral outrage you seem to want it to be.

I do think APU is expensive for what it is. It's also much more convenient for a whole lot of folks who might otherwise not take advantage. This is where for-profit colleges win. You don't have to like it. I have a feeling Walmart's program would not succeed in a place like CA, where community colleges are dirt cheap compared to those in other States. Though curricula at various community colleges may not offer relevant courses.


>I think I was assuming, like most everyone in this thread, that the Wal-mart workers would be getting degrees in actual fields that would be non-portable because of how they got them. Fields like "Business," or "Accounting," or maybe "Liberal Arts."

Your statement seems to imply that people would be getting degrees like "Retail" or "Cash Register Management," which I wouldn't think would be the case. And if, by some fluke, that *is* the case, do you honestly think it would improve the lives of people to spend over a year's salary on a retail degree?


I dunno. I do know a few folks who spent some coin on liberal arts degrees working in retail fairly long term. Was that worthwhile?

>Well, besides not teaching them anything mind-broadening (like Liberal Arts) or anything outside a limited area of vocational training, it's also not going to socialize them into the middle class.

>With the exception of the retirees working there just to get out of the house a few days a week, I'd have call it a safe bet that most of those working for Walmart don't exactly lead the pack at evaluating their future educational and professional opportunities.

These kinds of responses strike me as pretty snobby. Socialized into middle class? Walmart employees poorly evaluate their opportunities? Really? How reasonable is it to make such broad assumptions?

I still get the feeling that whenever an issue has the word "Walmart" in it, too many MeFites are satisfied to let the automatic response kick in.
posted by 2N2222 at 6:57 PM on June 5, 2010


A little late to this party, but FWIW:

I was a manager for WM for several years, and when I first read the WAPO article, thought it was a good thing, encouraging employees to become more educated and help them...

Yes, I have been brainwashed. After reading the cost per credit hour, I see the purpose of this program: the company will soon require a degree for promotion to a salaried position, and then point to this " opportunity" they have set up as a defense against a class-action lawsuit. In addition, I am ashamed I didn't read it as a profit generator. I would bet money that even with the discount, WM is still making money off enrollees.

I don't have a major issue with the company, but I can say that their training programs are all geared to defense against lawsuits, to protect the bottom-line. I suspect the rest of this program is about PR;" if it's good enough for the military, it's good enough for our associates."

I also think that the company will end up basing store mgr bonus dollars on the number of associates who sign up for the " University", and thus save some more money there. They already do this for the United Way payroll deduction. I had a District Mgr offer to reimburse us so he could get 100% enrollment.

I am not on the WM hate bandwagon, but everything they do is geared to profit and PR.
Having said all that, there are some jobs that require substantial skill and training- the ability to work the returns counter efficiently is the equivalent of several psych credits.
posted by Stellaboots at 7:49 PM on June 5, 2010 [8 favorites]


I teach Ethics, in fact I teach a class in applied business ethics. I am absolutely certain that a company which refuses to allow people to unionize and considers full-time employment to be 32 hours a week so that it does not have to provide health care benefits to its employees will provide an education in ethics every bit as good as mine.

Similarly, being a slave will teach you a lot about personal liberties and individual rights; living in a theocracy will teach a lot about religious tolerance; and being bullied every day will teach you empathy.
posted by oddman at 8:01 PM on June 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


2N2222 : These kinds of responses strike me as pretty snobby. Socialized into middle class? Walmart employees poorly evaluate their opportunities? Really?

So take my statement as false - Why does a company best known for how poorly it treats its employees, have no shortage of them?

Any job in a recession, sure. But before we had double-digit unemployment?
posted by pla at 8:07 PM on June 5, 2010


Related? (US-only Hulu link.)
posted by dhens at 8:47 PM on June 5, 2010


The problem with for-profit schools is that even if they're accredited, it's a total mystery to employers what getting a degree entails. Offering credit for work experience is getting dangerously close to degree-mill territory.

As it stands now, accreditation standards are ridiculously lax, which in turn means employers have learned not to trust any school that hasn't been around for at least a hundred years or so. But there are only a limited number of these schools and they can only accept so many students, which means they are expensive and inaccessible to millions of otherwise-qualified people.

A handful of specific fields have gotten together and set standards for themselves. Due to American Chemical Society standards, I know that a chemistry major from Winona State took just about the same classes with the same syllabus and grading standards as one from Harvard.

But most fields don't have a single professional organization with exacting standards for what it means to have a degree.
posted by miyabo at 10:33 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


toekneebullard: "but isn't higher education known for being nearly useless in the real world?"

I've looked all over... were's the "extremely unfavorite" link?
posted by pkingdesign at 10:35 PM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


wendingmyway--

Actually, most computer programming is learned on the job -- academia has some ... issues ... in this space.

It's a problem, because there's some real problems (usually in performance) where you really do want people to have foundational knowledge.
posted by effugas at 10:42 PM on June 5, 2010


their training programs are all geared to defense against lawsuits, to protect the bottom-line

And now that training can count towards a degree in law or finance.
posted by ryanrs at 11:10 PM on June 5, 2010


WalMart could become a self-sustaining lifeform. Millions of drone bees, growing and building and shipping and selling endless volumes of the cheapest-made products. You'll grow up wearing WalMart diapers, you'll do a stint in the WalMart fry pit, you'll go to WalMart school, you'll work as a cashier for years, you'll pay into WalMart healthcare, eat WalMart food, purchase a WalMart television. You'll buying courses and you'll keep working your way up, and eventually you'll get the chance to run a store for a decade or so. Then you'll "retire," and become a door greeter, and a shelf-stocker, and you'll buy your medicines and buy your walkers from WalMart, and then you'll get cancer and a WalMart Hospice stay, and you'll die within your allotted two month period of insurance coverage and then you'll pull the ripcord 'cause you're just a burden now.

The Chinese are doing the same. There'll be a generation Foxconn, bred, born, and raised.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:19 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, most computer programming is learned on the job -- academia has some ... issues ... in this space.

As someone who's spent over 25 years in that field, I'd respond with a resounding NO to what you just said.

While the specifics of how to turn a computer science degree into generating actually working engineering might be learned on the job, the skills that you exercise every day cannot possibly be learned on the job - you simply have to spend many hours making stupid mistakes and making toy programs before you could possibly get anywhere - but more, you need a theoretical background so you know instinctively what is possible, what is easy and what is attainable with work - and how to get to these things.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:36 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I find it kind of depressing that nearly everyone here seems to have taken as a given that a university education = job training, or that the only point of getting an education is to get a job, or that your choice of program of study should be dictated by what job you hope to get out of it at the end.

Well, if you change "the only point of getting an education is to get a job" to "the only point of getting an education is to better your prospects" or something, yeah, sure -- this is what Universities have always been for. All of the universities or university-like institutions around the world with which I am familiar were founded to credential people for some kind of career, usually in law, religion, or civil service. (I could be wrong here, I have not made this a special field of study.) The idea of "university for university's sake" was a 19th C European creation for a very small set of the population who did not have to worry about employment.

Now, what I do believe (and believe strongly) is that a university education, as it exists today, should give a student a grounding in more than training for a specific job. I am deeply involved in my university's revision of its General Education curriculum, and I think that curriculum is extremely important -- students should graduate from a university with a broad education as well as solid training in their area of major study (which could be something tailored toward a specific job -- say Chemical Technician -- or something that might lead to a career but might also include general training on critical thinking, writing, etc -- say Medieval History). Students in the sciences should have at least a passing familiarity with literature, history, philosophy, etc (and these should not be courses that have been bent out of shape to fit the needs of Accrediting Bodies) and students in the humanities should have at east a passing familiarity with the scientific method, principles of mathematics, logic, statistics, etc (and these courses should also not be bent out of shape, although this is much less of a problem).

If a student just wants a degree in Business, Engineering, Education, or whatever, if they are totally career-driven, then they should be going to a technical school and not a university. The university exists to train its students in both a specific field and broad areas of knowledge. Making this work the way it is supposed to, without driving students, advisers, administrators of tightly-accredited degree programs, university administrators, faculty senates, and GenEd committee members insane, well, that is the challenge, isn't it?
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:02 AM on June 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Of course when McDonald's gets in on the act, its Hamburger University diplomas will carry some major weight.
posted by bwg at 6:53 AM on June 6, 2010


It's a WMCMM cert. program (WalMart Certified Middle Manager) being presented as a real University Degree.* They should either call it a cert or have ACE come do a real evaluation for real transferable credits. (or both)

*I suppose they could make the program rigorous enough to be a real degree. Problem is, nobody in the corporate or academic world is going to believe that. That would be even more depressing - to have done all the work required for a real-live degree, and have nobody believe you.
posted by ctmf at 10:32 AM on June 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I find it kind of depressing that nearly everyone here seems to have taken as a given that a university education = job training, or that the only point of getting an education is to get a job, or that your choice of program of study should be dictated by what job you hope to get out of it at the end.

This sounds great if your family is rich enough to not care about how much it costs, or whether or not you will be employable when you leave. Not everyone is that lucky. For years there has been this line or something similar at liberal arts colleges, "we train you for life, not for a job". But then you have the fact that a lot more people are going to college these days, and dropping $100,000 or more, while coming out of it with a lot of knowledge in an area that doesn't really require any technical skills, and has even fewer job prospects. Then they can't find a job and end up working as a waiter or a barista, or going back to school.

Your disdain for work training seems to imply there is something dirty about it, that only academic pursuits are pure and that having some real world use might taint the education. I think that having a rewarding career in a field that you find challenging is great. Having studied for years and seeing that work pay off when you can apply what you have learned to real world situations is extremely gratifying. Being able to speak knowledgeably about complex issues at your job because you had the training that prepared you for it results in being well respected. Being unemployed and in hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt for a college education where you spent most of your time discussing philosophy in a seminar course is soul crushingly depressing.

What I would like to see is a system similar to that of the UK and Europe. More technical schools, and less focus on trying to provide every student in the country with a generalized university education. I'm not saying all our universities should be turned in vocational schools, but I think there are probably a lot of students who would be better off if that had taken that route. Not everyone can be an art critic, a media analyst, a screenwriter or a philosopher. I think we are setting up a generation of students for financial and career problems by convincing them they need a college education that doesn't teach them any real job skills, and in fact by demonizing and denigrating any education which stoops to the level of teaching a useful trade.
posted by sophist at 12:07 PM on June 6, 2010


I find it kind of depressing that nearly everyone here seems to have taken as a given that a university education = job training, or that the only point of getting an education is to get a job, or that your choice of program of study should be dictated by what job you hope to get out of it at the end.

I don't believe that at all, I'm still a big supporter of the idea of a liberal arts education. But WalMart is not offering a university education through this program.
posted by desuetude at 12:51 PM on June 6, 2010


I think the apprenticeship system is pretty great for a lot of things... But not the sciences... psychology... because all of these fields require you to get a mental database of background knowledge, not just processes, that you're not going to get by being "on the job."

Wow. Must have learned how to shoot that thar magnet pulse into the ole brain case whilst I was sleepin', because I certainly don't learn anything like in the laboratory at which I am employed, essentially as an apprentice. Just cause I happen to pretty much live there (at least for the 80 hours a week I work at four bucks an hour) doesn't mean that everything I learn there isn't "on the job."
posted by solipsophistocracy at 9:01 PM on June 6, 2010


"I do math all day at Wal-Mart."

Since when is arithmetic college-level math? Walmart's accountants already have accounting degrees. The business managers already have business degrees. The people in skilled, licensed trades have those skills and those licenses. The only people using statistics and calculus at Walmart learned it at college already. I would be shocked to find out that anyone working on the floor at any Walmart store used anything tougher than basic algebra. Maybe someone has to figure out a two variable equation every once in a while, but that's not a skill that they learned on the job.

I'm still looking for the hook, here. Somewhere in this Walmart is making money. It's the only reason they do anything. So, what is it? Is it increased employee loyalty and lower turnover because employees will be afraid of losing their education credit in they quit or get a poor performance review? are they getting kickbacks from APU? Are employees who are interested in higher education taking off less time from work? Is Walmart getting tax breaks for offering education to their employees?
posted by Revvy at 11:02 PM on June 6, 2010


Fraud

Could someone explain to me in detail how Walmart is profiting out of this scheme financially and what the scheme consists of? I'm finding it hard to wrap my head around the whole concept.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:44 AM on June 7, 2010


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