This is the first in a three-part symposium on The Higher Education Bubble -- why the West’s highly leveraged, heavily subsidized university system shall collapse and why that is a good thing.
Modern education is about selection more than enhancement, with educational qualifications mainly serving to “signal” or quantify a person’s hereditary psychological attributes. On average, a modern college or university education enhances neither skills nor behaviors, nor does it inculcate useful knowledge.
In practice, higher education mostly functions as an extremely slow, inefficient, and imprecise form of psychometric testing that measures intelligence and evaluates personality. It would therefore be easy to construct a modern educational system that was both more efficient and more effective than the current one.
Since the modern educational system in general, and higher education in particular, are vastly over-expanded, it is likely that sooner or later this situation will prove unsustainable. Not least because the education system has been, for about a century, based-on the expectation of continual expansion in personnel, resources, years of education, and inflation of qualifications.
Therefore, when the crash comes it will be catastrophic. I would guess the system will shrink to about a tenth of its present size -- back to what it was a century ago.
When a full account has been taken of IQ and personality, and when the presumed effects of chance have also been subtracted, then there is not much variation of outcomes left over for educational differences to explain. Educational and career outcomes are mostly a combination of genetic destiny and luck.
Of course, there will be some systemic effect of educational differences, but the effect is likely to be very much smaller than generally assumed, and even the direction of the education effect may be hard to detect when other more powerful factors are operative.
The fact that systematic differences in educational attainment within a society are mostly due to heredity is a stunning conclusion in a contemporary context. The whole educational system in modern societies is operating under false pretences.
Those aspects of modern education that are not psychometric are neglected and misdirected. In particular, the factual content of education is neglected -- yet factual content is probably much more important and makes a much larger long-term difference to life than do variations in educational methods. The information we learn as children may stay with us for the rest of our lives.
If psychometric estimates of IQ and personality were available for each person, then it would be easy to construct a modern educational system that was both more efficient and more effective than the current one. However, any such change would result in a massive downsizing of the educational system -- with substantial and permanent loss of jobs and status for educational professionals of all types including teachers, professors, administrators, managers, and politicians.
This impact of psychometric knowledge on educational professionals is likely to be a key underlying reason why IQ (especially) has become a taboo subject and why the basic facts of IQ have been so effectively obfuscated.
The most-selective and research-oriented universities are at the forefront of modern IQ resistance. At the same time, more functionally orientated institutions, such as the United States military, have for many decades quietly been using IQ as a tool to assist with selection and training allocations.
The vulnerability of the elite institutions to IQ knowledge is because most of the assumed advantages of an expensive elite education can be ascribed to their historic ability to select the top stratum of IQ (and also the most desirable personality types). The stability and predictive power of these traits means that the elite students are therefore pre-determined (on average) to be highly successful.
Consequently the most elite institutions and their graduates have in the past few decades, both via academic publications and in the mass media, thoroughly obscured the basic and validated facts about IQ.
We now have a situation where the high predictive powers of IQ and personality, and the stable and hereditary nature of these traits, are routinely concealed, confused or even dishonestly denied by some of the most prestigious and best-educated members of modern society.
Academics at the most expensive, elite, intelligence-screening universities tend to be hyper-skeptical of psychometric testing, precisely because they do not want to be undercut by cheaper, faster, more-reliable IQ and personality evaluations. But sooner or later, the modern elite will be overcome and replaced, or will destroy themselves.
I advocate a substantial reduction in the average amount of formal education and the proportion of the population attending higher education institutions.
This is necessary because present higher education serves very little positive function but wastes vast economic resources -- including the opportunity costs of alternative uses of millions of man-years of the most productive individuals.
At a personal level, higher education probably does more harm than good to lifestyle skills, damages morality, and inculcates numerous falsehoods and distortions -- fuelling the spiteful, conceited, and silly characteristic of the modern college graduate, which is known under the label of political correctness.
Instead of the present system, at the age of about sixteen each person could leave school with a set of fact-based examination results demonstrating their level of competence in a core knowledge curriculum; and with usefully precise and valid psychometric measurements of their general intelligence (IQ) and personality (especially their age ranked degree of Conscientiousness).
Most people would then begin on-the-job training or apprenticeship -- as in traditional societies.
Higher education should focus on elite professionals and a small amount of pure, vocationally-driven scholarship -- a few percent of the age group cohort going on to higher education has been found optimal in most societies, and it would vary between populations and civilizations.
In summary, modern societies are currently vastly over-provided with about ten times more higher education than they need, and this education has the wrong emphasis. In particular, the job of sorting people by their general aptitude could be done more accurately, cheaply, and quickly by using psychometrics to measure IQ and Conscientiousness. This would free-up time and energy for early training in key skills such as reading, writing, and mathematics; and to focus on a core knowledge curriculum.
However, for reasons related to self-interest, the intellectual class does not want people to know the basic facts about IQ. And since this class provides the information upon which the rest of society depends for their understanding, it is in an excellent position to keep the public in the dark about heritable intelligence.
Lacking the necessary knowledge of IQ and its effects, people are not able to understand the education system and what it actually does.