|Now bend over.|
I read that Washington DC is now going to require all child-care workers—kindergarten teachers, ECE, daycare workers—to have college degrees.
It’s a terrible idea.
At the same time, I keep reading pieces about the decline of the American “working class,” how those without a college degree can no longer find decent work. How this has become a social crisis, with a frightening rise in suicides, drug abuse, family breakups, and tearing of the social fabric. Witness the voter rebellion that just elected Trump.
We keep reading that this is caused by globalization, and by automation. Maybe, but there is another obvious cause, which is far more under our control: creeping credentialism. We now require a college degree for all sorts of jobs that used to be available out of high school.
Leaving vast swathes of the population without a living wage.
Since World War II, this disease of credentialism has been growing. Everybody wants to be a “professional,” and everybody wants to go to college. And those who do not, or cannot, are thrown to the curb, as “deplorables.”
According to studies (e.g., Brookings Institute), the net result, along with rising unemployment and declining prospects for so many, has been a rise in costs and a deterioration of services for the general public.
Nor is this surprising. Any certification regime is really a cartel in restraint of trade. By limiting competition, it forces consumers to pay higher prices.
Those in the given “profession,” the “experts,” love the idea. They get more power and more money. Hence the virus has passed quickly from one job to another.
But it is not good for the general public. Besides rising costs as a consumer, for inferior service, he is barred from more and more jobs for which he will not have the specific qualification. And, if he is poor, cannot afford to get. And a lot of funds and energy are ploughed into useless education instead of productive work. The rich get a bit richer, the poor get a lot poorer.
In some jobs, mind, it does make sense to have specific academic qualifications: medicine, law, engineering, accounting, dentistry. Or at least, to have specific qualifying exams testing necessary knowledge. In sum, the traditional professions, as we knew them before World War II.
But for most jobs, it does not make sense.
Take ECE, the current example. Caring for children is a talent. It is not really something you learn: you have a maternal or paternal instinct, or you don’t. You empathize with kids, or you don’t. There is probably nothing at all you could get by sitting at a desk for four years that would make you any better at it. Instead, such an academic qualification directs you away from all the skills you need for the job, and requires skills unrelated to it. Anyone who is really good with children and enjoys being around them is going to find it hard to ignore them entirely and instead devote four years to isolation from them. The ability to do so does not bode well for their commitment to kids.
So such accreditation selects for those less cut out for the job. At the same time, it reduces the pool of employees available, and forces employers to select on grounds other than actual ability to do the job.
No surprise, then, if the quality of day care begins to fall. While the costs go up.
We have seen the same thing happen, over about the last generation, to journalism. The skills that make a good newsman—a refusal to defer to authority, a restless curiosity, and an ability to write well—are either not teachable, or antithetical to the requirements of an academic journalism degree. So the rise of journalism schools has kept good journalists out of journalism, and fairly quickly destroyed the field.
That chicken is now roosting. Amateurs on the Internet are now able to wipe the floors with multi-million dollar media enterprises.
We have seen the same thing happen, over about the last generation, to el-hi teaching. Costs for education at all levels have been spiralling upward, since we started requiring education degrees, and the quality of teaching has been drifting downward.
Academic ability is indeed a valuable prerequisite here—you cannot teach what you do not know, and the best learners are the best teachers. Nevertheless, by requiring a specific qualification, a specific education in “education,” instead of subject knowledge and overall academic ability, the field has been destroyed.
The problem here is that anyone who has attended schools at various levels for twelve or sixteen years, and has been an able student, necessarily knows a lot about how to learn and how to teach. That’s a lot of hours of classroom observation, discovering what approaches work and do not work, and so forth. There is really no valid knowledge about how to teach thet might be transmitted in an education degree that he or she is not by then already going to know.
In order, therefore, to narrow down the number of prospective teachers, and so establish their cartel, “education professionals” have had to create an entirely bogus field. It is not just that education degrees are content free: in order to teach something new that marks their graduates as “trained professionals,” they have to constantly come up with something they have not seen before. Inevitably, they gravitate to teaching and requiring techniques that are proven not to work in the classroom.
Now schools must hire based on holding this degree, at the cost of both teaching ability and subject knowledge. As with ECE courses, any good teacher would find sitting through a typical ed degree more or less intolerable: they would have to put aside for the duration any of their natural teaching instincts, and any of their natural learning instincts, to do something that violates everything they care about.
So again, the education accreditation process systematically weeds out good teachers.
This is probably going to be the next chicken to arrive home. We already know that private schools that do not require teachers to be certified do consistently better; and complete amateurs, homeschooling parents, do consistently better; than the “professionals.” Just wait until online education gets widespread.
Another problem with accreditation for any field is that it standardizes. Any work of standardization eliminates the bottom of the field; but at the inevitable cost of eliminating the top as well. Any unconventional methods will not pass muster, regardless of whether they are unusually bad or unusually good. So unless all that is required in a given field is competence, you lose as much as you gain.
For some fields, like accountancy or dentistry or copyediting, that works well.
Many other fields suffer from imposed conformity. Journalism is an obvious example: when all journalists write the same way, and think the same way, it becomes tedious to read a newspaper. Teaching is another: part of good teaching is inspiring interest, and when everyone teaches to formula, interest is the first thing lost. ECE would be a third.
Generally, any field in which talent or giftedness is important will suffer from “professionalization.” Professionalization tends towards mediocrity.
At the same time, the requirement that just about everyone spend long years at a desk to get a decent job is a cruel imposition on the young. There is a reason why the generation gap and teenage angst surfaced soon after the Second World War. In was then, thanks largely to the GI Bill, that higher education and the requirement for it became widespread.
As a result: widespread youth unemployment; young people perhaps being locked for life into an unsuitable career. Young people forced to delay marriage and family, forced to delay their financial independence and adulthood to jump for years through humiliating and essentially meaningless hoops. So a sense of existential angst, frustration, alienation, and a lot of destructive behaviours: loose sex, drugs, mental illness, suicides. So the teenager was invented; so the Sixties happened.
And we are training people to remain children, in permanent infantilism, by tacking on four or six more years of childhood dependency, instead of teaching them to be responsible adult individuals. This, as Jefferson pointed out, is antithetical to a democracy. This kills good citizenship.
The quality of higher education has also been devastated. College should be for the exceptionally intelligent. It does not make sense any more if it is for everyone. It becomes just a holding pen, a second high school, because people have to be pushed through who have no natural talent or interest for things like critical analysis, memorization, or the world of ideas. As it gets corrupted by this dumbing down, it is no longer available for the highly intelligent.
Here is a useful estimate of average IQ by college subject. This is fairly reliable, because SAT and GRE tests match up well with IQ scores. It seems to me a good rule of thumb that any subject not attracting an average IQ of about 120 or above would be better dealt with by a technical college, or apprenticeship. Folks functioning below about this level are not really going to be adept at critical thinking. Better for them to concentrate on learning the particular skills to do a particular job, instead of wasting their time.
Unfortunately—perhaps you’ve noticed—technical colleges keep disappearing. They keep morphing into universities. This is a bad tendency on two grounds: first, we need more technical colleges, not more universities, and second, it sends the message that even the technical schools think college is the goal.
The drive for accreditation has devastated the young. It has devastated the working class. At the same time, it has emphasized the gap between the poor and the rich. And at the very same time, it has ensured that the rich, and those in control, the “elite,” are less competent and less intelligent on average year by year.
This is not heading in a good direction. The working class gets less, and pays more, while they increasingly see they are being governed and lorded over by idiots.
I suggest that government should pull out altogether from regulating professions. Leave it to the free market. Pull out any regulations tending to favour professionalizing. If people see a need for quality control, they will demand it of the professions themselves, one by one. There is no reason for government to be involved.
To reduce the notion that college is for everyone, I suggest that government pull any funding—which is vast--to majors or universities attracting an average IQ below 120, or the equivalent SAT score. And no student loans for college for students below that level. Below that level, they and we would be better off with technical college, or apprenticeship.
Sure, give funding and student loans in the same proportion to those below that IQ level, But not for college. For technical school or apprenticeship, or loans to young entrepreneurs.
Some may be uncomfortable with using SAT score exclusively to choose university students, and not marks. Because it discounts individual effort. And intelligence is not quite the same as academic ability. Although the correlation is pretty strong.
But marks are fundamentally unreliable. Set a minimum mark, and all marks will probably rise to meet it. You could set a standard test of academic knowledge; but you would be penalizing people who go to bad schools in bad neighbourhoods—usually poor people. Another option would be to let just about everyone in for first year, but then flunk them ruthlessly. The problem there is that it is too much pressure: you are evaluating for steely nerves early maturity as much as ultimate ability.
But we must not go on as we are. We are heading for the abyss.