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Million-dollar misunderstanding

[ 2010-04-02 09:00]     字号 [] [] []  
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Million-dollar misunderstanding

Reader's question: Mark Schneider, a vice president of the American Institutes for Research, a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, calls it 'a million-dollar misunderstanding.' Could you explain “a million-dollar misunderstanding”?

My comments:

In other words, a big misunderstanding.

The above quote is from a Wall Street Journal story (What’s a Degree Really Worth? February 2, 2020) about the difference between the life-time earnings of a college graduate and those of a high school graduate. It’s generally believed that college grads might be able to make up to a million dollars more in their career than a high schooler but recent research has found that idea to be probably untrue. The difference, according to, is considerably smaller – the conclusion being that the financial value of a college diploma, too, may have been overvalued.

Don’t burn all your books, please….

Anyways, Schneider was actually making a play of words with that estimated “million-dollar” difference in the career earnings between the two groups when he used the term “million-dollar misunderstanding”, meaning that the misunderstanding is one of huge proportions.

Similarly, you may hear people talk about “million-dollar ideas” - ideas that may prove to be worth millions of dollars.

In other words, great ideas.

Or “million-dollar lessons” - lessons you could not buy even if you were willing to pay a million dollars, again figuratively speaking, for them.

Speaking of which, “million-dollar lessons” must still be available on a college campus. But they’re hidden somewhere in the dull textbook, the large library or the strange head of a quaint teacher and it’s all up to the student to seek and find them. As the saying goes, when the student is ready, the teacher appears.

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Go to Zhang Xin's column


About the author:

Zhang Xin has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.