The Atlantic: Did I Really Go to Harvard if I Got My Degree Taking Online Classes?

Here’s the article so you read the answer to this non-starter of a question yourself: Did I Really Go to Harvard if I Got My Degree Taking Online Classes? – Theodore R. Johnson – The Atlantic

But, in case of TL;DR: Yes.

I hate these kinds of articles. I am undeniably proud of my work at Harvard, and am looking forward to completing my education. The author, in the end, is proud of his work as well, but also puts all this other needless burden on top the degree, as if somehow he not only has to qualify the degree to himself as well as others. The headline and opening headline are little more than link bait and some of the author’s own reactions speak to a conflict not shared by any of my schoolmates, both of which are in direct contrast to his evidence and summary. Let’s dissect…

About two years ago, my classmates and I gathered in Harvard Yard to receive our graduate degrees alongside more than 7,000 of the university’s newest alumni. As the procession made its way to our designated seating area, an onlooker eyed our banner with a puzzled look and asked the guy in front of me, “What in the world is the Extension School?”

My classmate’s reply: “It’s the back door into Harvard.” Ouch. . .

Bait. How can anyone associated with Harvard or critical of online curriculum not bite? Even so, so what? The author notes that schools like HES were established to “to engage the local community, further the education of university staff and their family members, and provide new skills to working adults.” Yep, that sounds like a back door to me, that Harvard wanted to make accessible quality education to as many people as are able and willing to attend, for the betterment of themselves and those around them in the real chance that some good will come of their work creating a virtuous circle perpetuated by a social service bestowed by an organization that wants to teach. The classmate’s attitude to their education is a problem only because it is typically punctuated by a short-sighted and wrong “Ouch” by the author. Was there not a smack to the back of the head and a “shut the fuck up” that followed his response if only because he didn’t get it?

At HES, of the 13,000 students, only about 2,000 are admitted degree candidates, and the school confers about 600 bachelor’s and master’s degree every year. Shinagel notes that of all the students that have taken courses at HES since its inception, less than one fifth of 1 percent have graduated with degrees. As it turns out, Harvard is hard. . .

At least the author has established one of the more little-known facts on campus that speaks to the fact that while admissions may be easier than, say, the College, Harvard is clearly not for everyone and is reflected by the dropout rate. But did he really have to take more than halfway through the article to get there?

That said, people drop out for a lot of reasons—the life of a working adult, especially with kids, is not easy—and while making someone drop out is likely a challenge, the chances increase dramatically when real life gets involved. Not that I am one for data-less speculation, but I have to wonder, perhaps idly, what the dropout rate would be if such issues were not in play in people’s lives.

. . . unfortunately, sometimes its students walk in with guilty consciences, especially when, like me, they probably would not have gained admission in the more traditional way.

Why is there guilt in taking something that is publicly, and soon freely, offered? If Harvard had a problem with the HES degree programs, they would shut them down. But they have not and the student body is growing in other ways that makes it even easier to take Harvard classes: see edX. Guilt has only to do with an individual’s attitude and has nothing to do with Harvard. Stop projecting and get on with it.

All who apply themselves can walk proudly out of the gates with a prestigious diploma in hand. This is exactly what Harvard allowed me to do. The school even provided a few stalks of wheat to carry during the procession as a reminder of HES’s founding mission and as confirmation that I did indeed belong.
Did I Really Go to Harvard if I Got My Degree Taking Online Classes? – Theodore R. Johnson – The Atlantic

Thank heavens for small miracles coming to that conclusion. I never thought this was going to end. This is the same kind of weird self-pity found over at Extensionstudent.com, and I have rarely ever see any questioning like this outside of the Extension student body. Maybe all this mucking around is self-doubt really does come from having left-over guilt of not having “done the right thing” and gone to college right outside high school. But one’s character is derived by one reaction to a situation, not necessarily the situation itself. By going to school, we are each righting some personal wrong, fulfilling a leftover, unkept promise. Here matters only the fact the work is being done, not a preconceived notion of temporal requirements predisposed by a non-answerable-to society.

In the end, either you are proud of your degree or you are not. You pays your money, you makes your choices. Live with it. While I am not going to kid myself even for one second that Harvard Extension is anything like Harvard College, but you won’t see me perpetuating this crap that a Harvard Extension degree is somehow inferior to any others just because some courses are also online. Casting around that kind of self-doubt undermines defenses that the HES degree is better than the online-only for-profit schools, despite the elevated levels of coursework. In the end, the HES degrees say “Harvard University” across the top just like all the others, and I highly doubt Harvard would be putting its name on those degrees if they felt the work was not worthy. Maybe I’m naive, but I am not worried about my school or my degree, if only because I am not doing this for anyone else but me. On this issue, I really don’t care what anyone else thinks. The author should consider the same.

Go Crimson.