Monday, November 28, 2022

TRASHING THE VALUE OF ACADEMIC CREDENTIALS


Politicians typically push for an increase in the high school graduation rate. They also urge an increase in  college degrees. But when these things happen, who benefits and who loses? 

The law of supply and demand makes it clear that as the percentage of students receiving diplomas increases, the value of those diplomas decreases. In short, their value depends on their scarcity. Should nearly everyone have one, the credential offers little competitive advantage. Then the only value is defensive, because not having one would then be a devastating handicap. 

Suppose high schools really do produce even more graduates. What will happen? Youngsters who do not, perhaps cannot, go to college will be hardest hit. That's because they depend on their high school diploma to open doors for them. But an increase in the graduation rate will further devalue their diploma and more doors will be shut to them. In short it will become even more useless than it is now. 

You might think if we do produce more graduates, at least more kids will be educated. But that's not necessarily so. The easiest way to increase the number of high school graduates is to discreetly reduce requirements for graduation. Many inner city and rural poverty schools already have adopted such a policy. Essentially it now is: "Come to school most of the time, generally behave yourself and we will give you a diploma."  This then often degenerates to: "Come to school at least some of the time, don't create major disruptions and we will still give you a diploma." And yet folks wonder why so many contemporary high school graduates can barely read.

These degenerate dynamics are not confined to basic education. They are active in higher education — big time. Encouraged by political correctness, professors and administrators who maintain high standards have become unwelcome. Encouraged, even required, by the administration the professor is now urged to cox, cajole, coddle and "be their friend." And this is precisely how we now are getting college graduates who, as the time honored saying goes, can't tell shit from Shinola.

It isn't only political correctness that feeds this cancer. In fact that is often merely a cover for a more basic motivation. It is financial pressure. Administrators ultimately have to pay the bills or shut up shop; and college applicants are much scarcer these days. That's precisely shat underlies the politically correct rhetoric. That's ultimately why they pressure professors to not discomfort or discourage students. "The customer is always right."

Professors too have an ulterior motive for being politically correct. Keeping a sufficient numbers of students in their classes. That is how it has come to pass that political correctness is murdering the intellectual rigor that higher education non-negotiably requires.

How can any professor do their job when they fail to challenge students to consider discomforting ideas? How can they dodge that duty without also failing to encourage thought and growth? Serious thoughts about important things are, by their very nature, discomforting and disconcerting. And serious thought about important things is precisely what higher education must be all about. It must not just become a glorified trade school where one only learns to do things like more effectively sell people stuff don't need, count corporate dollars, or use one's knowledge of chemistry to create napalm that sticks more readily to children. No, as Malcom Forbes says, real education replaces an empty mind with an open one.

Remember too, 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 get out of this mess? Toughen graduation requirements at every level. Reduce 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 trouble classrooms by disrupting other's learning and having no interest in reducing their own ignorance. At best these drones just want that piece of paper.

This is a drastic solution to a drastic problem. It means fewer students, fewer school administrators, fewer professors, and fewer institutions of higher education. Many 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, it will. That's why it won't happen. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't happen.  -GKC 

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

No comments: