Remember WWII, the sky was filled with mostly high school grads and they did a great job.
True, however it's fair to say things were just a wee bit less computerized, integrated and regulatory back then. By far. By big time far.
Those guys were stick and rudder to the core, and hats off to them all. Yet combat aside, I bet they still crashed/errored in some way/etc at a rate far in excess of what is found today. They were also considered to be very, very expendable. The beaches we stormed were filled with mostly high school (or lower) graduates as well, and they did a great job. This really isn't a relevant comparison to anything going on today.
Do you "need" a degree to operate the controls and FMS of a plane? Of course not. You don't "need" a degree for anything. Nothing. Take the education of the average heart surgeon. Now subtract one mandatory history class back in his/her sophomore year of college and assume that person still went on to get all other required training/residence/internship/etc.
That person would be trained to the exact same standard, skill, etc. only with no degree. They would be just as good as all their peers with degrees, no doubt. The degree itself is not a catch all failsafe, it was never intended to be. It is simply a gateway. Everything involved in getting a college degree isn't necessary in ANY profession, EVER. Not pilot, not nurse, not doctor, not lawyer, not computer programmer, not anything. Ever. Never will be. But degrees are still a valid wholesale measurement of one's ability to succeed in a given profession, despite the fact that it's validity in measuring such is and never will be perfect.
You could train someone to be a great airline pilot without ever doing a single eights on pylons. You can be a great airline pilot without a degree. Yet eights on pylons are required by regs. Many employers require degrees. That doesn't mean that anyone who has a degree is awesome and anyone who does not sucks. It is simply a gateway. One of many, actually, which, taken in the aggregate with all the other ones, helps in many, many employer's eyes form a wholistic picture of an applicant from a general predictability/known quantity perspective.
That is always going to be the case, and fighting it will always come across as sour grapes. If you want a job that requires a degree, get the degree. It's as simple as that.