Monday, November 28, 2022

UNDESERVED ACADEMIC CREDENTIALS: why are they multiplying?

Anxious to maintain enrollment, school administrators cleverly use equity "concerns" to covertly press for lower standards. Professors, worried about class numbers and eager to "earn" good "course evaluations" (which everyone knows are really student evaluations of professors) pass way too many dolts. Politicians simultaneously push for increasing high school diplomas and college degrees. But as these things happen, what else occurs? 

The law of supply and demand provides the answer. As the percentage of students receiving diplomas and degrees increases, the value of those credentials decreases. That's because their value depends on their scarcity. If nearly everyone has one, any credential offers little competitive advantage. The only remaining value becomes defensive That is, not having one now becomes a devastating handicap. 

So suppose high schools and colleges really do turn out even more graduates. Who pays the highest price? High school youngsters who do not, perhaps cannot, go to college. That's because they heavily depend on their high school diploma to open doors for them. The same ultimately applies to college degrees. In short these credentials become even less valuable than they are now. 

You might think that if we do graduate more kids, at least they will be better educated. But the easiest way to increase the number of high school graduates is to quietly reduce the requirements for graduation. Many inner city and rural poverty schools already have already done that. Their tacit policy is: "Come to school most of the time, generally behave yourself and we will give you a diploma."  This often degenerates into: "Come to school at least some of the time, don't create major disruptions and we will still give you a diploma even if you can barely read." 

These dynamics of degeneration are not confined to basic education. They also are active in higher ed. Encouraged by political correctnes, by ranking equity over excellence, and by a scarcity of customers, professors and administrators who try to maintain high standards have become unwelcome. Instead, professors are encouraged by the new breed of administrator to cox, cajole, coddle 'students' and "be the student's friend." 

Spurred on by political correctness, fear of negative student evaluations and a paucity of students in their classes, professors, in turn, often decide, "I'm not going to be a policeman"and ignore both their student's subject matter ignorance and their often remarkably egregious plagiarism. Some so-called professors even completely abandon their duty and openly say things like, "I couldn't sleep at night if I prevented someone from graduating." (An actual quote from a Georgia State professor.) Consequently we're getting more and more college graduates who, to put it crudely, can't tell shit from Shinola.

Of course it isn't just political correctness that feeds this cancer. In fact it is often merely a cover for a more basic concern: the need for ever scarcer tuition income. Administrators ultimately have to pay the bills or shut up shop; and college applicants are frighteningly scarce these days. So they subtly pressure professors to not discomfort or discourage students by actually maintaining standards. It's become, "the customer is always right."

Of course college degrees are subject to the very same law of supply and demand that applies to high school diplomas. The more plentiful they are, the less value they have. That's why it is now often necessary to get an advanced degree to gain the same competitive advantage that a bachelor's degree used to confer.

So how can we reverse these trends? Toughen graduation requirements at every level thereby reducing the number of high school and college diploma recipients. This will increase the diploma’s value and offer a boost to those who must depend on them for competitive advantage. It will also reduce the number of "students" who not only have no interest in reducing their own ignorance. 

This is a drastic solution to a drastic problem. It means fewer students, fewer school administrators, fewer professors, and fewer institutions of higher education. Educator jobs will disappear. Unemployment roles will swell with youngsters who are currently engaged in pretending to be students. Will this prove politically and practically unacceptable? Yes. That's why it probably won't happen. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't.  -GKC 

 For a more detailed examination of this and related issues See Dissecting School Benefits" 

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