70% of Jobs “Created” Don’t Require a College Education

No wonder the collision of the higher education bubble and the job market is proving to be so painful.

This Real News Network interview with Jeannette Wicks-Lim shreds the idea that getting a college education is a way to get a well-paid job. While there is still an upper tier of positions that require a college education and in many cases, advanced degrees, the bulk of employment growth in this economy is in badly paid service jobs. Despite the fact that the pundit class keeps wailing how America isn’t growing enough high skilled workers to compete in the world economy, the evidence is otherwise. For instance, Gene Sperling will regularly contend that America needs more engineers. Yet engineering jobs don’t pay enough to reward the cost of getting that degree. I’ve had engineers regularly say in comments that the only way to do well with an engineering degree is to then get a law degree and become a patent/intellectual property attorney. If the US really does need more engineers for competitiveness reasons, then it needs to get the cost of their education down, much the way it subsidizes the cost of educating elite mathematicians and physicists.

The proof of the notion that a college education is a bad investment for many. From the inteview:

So if you look at these $10 an hour or less workers, you see that between—you know, over the last three decades, there was 25 percent of these workers who had some college experience, and now you’ve got 40 percent of these workers with some college experience.

Now of course, one can flip this on its head: the only reason to look at higher education in such a mercenary manner is that it HAS become so costly. It was not all that long ago that a college degree was seen as worth having for its own sake, for personal enrichment and as something that was broadly beneficial to society. For instance, why was it even remotely acceptable for women to get college degrees 50 years ago, when the overwhelming majority became full time wives and mothers? Sure, some of it was that educated women were perceived to make for better mothers, but on an NPV basis, that sort of “investment” doesn’t make sense. It was because education was perceived to have broader social/civic benefits; it

Based on the comments I’ve gotten from readers regarding the education of their kids (in quite a few cases, encouraging them not to go to college or only a community college, out of a desire to spare them student loan debt slavery), we are in the process of rapidly making Americans less well educated. This trend is underway; the US is the only advanced economy to show falling educational attainment levels, which results in its falling in world rankings. In 2007, the US was 12 of 24 OECD nations tallied; it had fallen from number 10 in a mere two years.

It’s hard to see how this situation gets turned around without tackling out-of-control higher education costs head on. And the precedents are ugly. From Richard Kline, hoisted from comments in an earlier post:

A better comparable might be The Dumbing of Hispania. In c. 1250, the Iberian Peninsula had a culturally diverse (if frequently warring) mosaic of ethnically distinct states, some of them with the best educational and literary cultures in Western Europe. By 1650, Hispania was an intellectually backward, econonmically pallid backwater, living off imperial rents and colonial slavery. That happened when rascist, ultra-conservative, aristocratically choked Castile conquered the rest, expelled or ‘converted’ those different (when not massacring them outright), eliminated any but the most rigidly orthodox education, neutered (and rapidly snuffed) such quasi-democratic institutions as had sprung up, and founded a military conquest state off whose extractions overseas the domestic state lived wildly beyond its means in a zombie-like fashion with utter disregard of the domestic economy. The same trajectory could be argued for several of the all-China imperial aggregations there, or the Persian Empire for instance.

That is what ‘decline’ really looks like in the historical record, folks: ultra-conservative, think-not empires run for the benefit of a tiny, parasitic elite. Historically, the process hasn’t been quick, taking numbers of generations. Whether those trajectories are accelerated in the modern age (since 1600 in most of the world) is debatable, if quite possible. It is a joke of the universe or some gods in it that ‘conservatives’ of the rejectionist sort are literally their own worst enemies in the long run—but they don’t care about the long run, only about staying rich and in power till they, personally, die in any given generation.

In our case, the elite would be the financiers, who’ve created allies in the sectors that benefit, at least short-term, from the bubbles they help create.

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  1. Tim Mason

    Following your link on falling educational standards, I find not only the article, but, among the comments, a rebuttal of the argument by Art Hauptman. A further exposition of Hauptman’s views are to be found in a column by Ben Wildavsky for the Higher Education Chronicle : http://chronicle.com/blogs/worldwise/unconventional-wisdom-on-u-s-higher-ed-attainment/27896 .

    Regarding the US’s losing two places in the OECD league table, it may be argued that this is not of great concern. The slippage occurred not because the US regressed (it actually gained one percentage point between the two moments of measurement) but because other countries have done even better. In a tight race, positions will change from one year to the next even though nothing dramatic is happening. The US may be dumbing down, but these figures do not demonstrate that it is.

    Although the reasons for going to university have changed over the decades, with a greater emphasis on placement than might have been felt previously, the relationship between higher education and better job prospects has always existed. It may not have been gentlemanly to admit to it fifty years ago, but graduation was then a major gateway to elite recruitment. What has happened is that politicians – and their electors – brought into the idea that the correlation between higher diplomas and better paid employment was indicative of causality, and that the causality ran from education to employment. That was always a gross error, and the pigeons are now coming home to roost.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      You seem to be cheerily minimizing the entire point of the post. The number of jobs that require a college education or advanced degrees are not growing much. Indeed, there is anecdotal evidence that they are falling. Engineering jobs, the sort of yeoman work that used to be basic training in fields like the law and software development are done in India. It isn’t just call centers and factory labor that is being offshored, increasingly white collar jobs are going that route too. And we see tons of other efforts to cut and continue to cut white collar work.

      So this is not, and never was, about “elite” jobs. There were never enought “elite” jobs to make for a robust middle class. There used to be a lot of jobs that required a decent level of education. Those are being hollowed out as factory labor has been.

      Having lived and worked a lot overseas, I still stand by my educational attainment comment, in part because US secondary education sucks. When I was a kid, it was generally acknowledged that a normal European high school education was vastly superior to a US high school education. Somehow we don’t admit that now even though US colleges seem to be devoting even more of their time to compensating for weak high school training than in the past. When I was in Oz, I found people I met in pubs to be better read, better critical thinkers, and as articulate as people I’d meet at cocktail parties in New York, where pretty much everyone there would have an advanced degree (law or MBA) or at least an undergraduate degree from an elite school (while the Oz types would AT BEST have a degree from a local university).

      1. JTFaraday

        That’s not what he said.

        I do agree that there’s no necessary correlation between educational attainment and literacy levels, just as there’s no necessary relationship between educational attainment and incomes.

        This last, especially, would be magical thinking. But as he points out, this is a form of magical thinking to which Americans are particularly prone:

        “What has happened is that politicians – and their electors – brought into the idea that the correlation between higher diplomas and better paid employment was indicative of causality, and that the causality ran from education to employment. That was always a gross error, and the pigeons are now coming home to roost.”

        This is why I call for a real industrial policy for the 21st century and not merely a minimum wage “job guarantee” that bespeaks a depressing lack of attention to who the unemployed and underemployed actually are–or, at least, who they are trying to be.

        1. Klassy!

          Bingo. Countries with lower income inequality do have industrial policies. I mean, how are you supposed to train for the job of the future if you don’t know what the future holds? Also, countries such as Denmark, Germany, and Norway have a large percentage of the population covered by collective bargaining agreements. They don’t have more college graduates than the US (this is not to say they are more poorly educated.)
          There is value to education beyond its economic utility as I’m sure everyone here would agree. Of course, there is the utility of not being taken in by any scam that comes down the pike.

          1. Cugel

            The missing question is “what percentage of young people even attend college to begin with?”

            That’s always been a minority of high school graduates. What are we going to do with all the young people (an actual MAJORITY of the 18-30 year old age group) who either never attended college to begin with, or perhaps attended community college for a year or two?

            It’s terrible that graduates from 4 year universities can’t get decent jobs, but it’s worse that the majority who used to go straight onto the unskilled job market without college aren’t even being considered.

            Right now, the military is the only opening for many of these people and this is a HUGE and growing problem. We’re going to have to cut back severely on the size and expense of our military, and this will impact minority hiring especially.

          2. dan h

            Great point Cugel…and often very hard to find or comprehend given the resources required for internet access, time available to browse and interact, and cultural/economic pressures influencing what content is viewed when on the web.

          3. Aquifer

            Cugel – “Right now, the military is the only opening for many of these people ..”

            As Lambert might say, is that a “bug” or a “feature”?

      2. dearieme

        “When I was a kid, it was generally acknowledged that a normal European high school education was vastly superior to a US high school education.” Apart from distant American kin I didn’t meet Americans until I went to university (in the 60s), where there were American exchange students. My experience supports your point. And the exchange students were supposedly among the better students from their home institutions.

      3. scott

        If I could find an engineering graduate that knew as much about physics as I did in high school, and knew how to think critically (a little logic, knowing basic fallacies, etc.), I’d hire him.

        Also, most starting engineering jobs happen at large corporations (small startups don’t have the resources to train a young engineer). Our large corps have more important things to do with their capital (like share buybacks) then hire young engineers. They would rather hire consultants on contract, and that requires experience. Catch-22.

      4. Tim Mason

        The jobs which were the basis of a ‘robust middle class’ were not, on the whole, the kinds of jobs for which a university education was necessary fifty years ago. One could become an engineer through apprenticeship with day-release. One could become a lawyer by working one’s way up from a clerkship. One could make a career in management without having an MBA. And so on. (This was still true of my own cohort (b. 1946) in the UK. One of the things that has happened over the last decades is diploma inflation. (Alison Wolf is good on this). As the educational system has expanded, driven by the attractive, but finally self-defeating, push for meritocracy that affected most OECD states since WWII, the level of qualification demanded for entry to middle-class jobs has risen, despite there being no real increase in the complexity of the tasks undertaken – indeed, with the routinization of what were once professional tasks, actual on-the-job demands for competence and initiative have fallen.

        The Education Bubble has been as pernicious in its consequences as the housing bubble. I say that despite being an educator, and despite the fact that I believe that higher education for all is, if done well, a very Good Thing indeed. Whether the wonderful baby can be saved as the dirty water gushes out is moot: under the present dispensation, one suspects that it will not.

        You believe that the American educational system has got worse. I do not have an opinion on that: the only Americans I meet on anything like a regular basis are highly educated. I haven’t noticed that they are any less educated than their European – mainly French – counterparts. They are certainly not a representative sample of Americans as a whole.

        But I hear very similar remarks being made about the French and the British educational systems. I have a greater knowledge of those two countries, and of their schools; I am not persuaded that there has been any great falling off in educational attainment in either of them. In the UK there have been some indications of a downturn in recent years, which I would attribute to increased tinkering and control by politicians, who capitalize on the the general anglo-saxon disdain for the teaching profession by putting in place a system or targets and testing that interferes with teaching and learning. But the underlying reality is that we are educating more people to a higher level than at any time in the past. I suspect – and Hauptman seems to support that suspicion – that the same is true of the United States. Your cocktail party encounters notwithstanding. (I am sorry to be flippant: in my trade, anecdotal evidence doesn’t cut the mustard).

        None of this is intended to undermine your argument about job creation, and the increasing gap between aspiration and reality that will ensue. We are in crisis, and have been so since at least the Thatcher/Reagan years. Pressure on social solidarities has become almost intolerable: in the UK, the poor have become the objects of an open campaign of vilification, and the health system has been dismantled with all the efficiency of a bulldozer. The educational system is moving in the same direction. But the desire to learn of our young, and the desire to instruct of their teachers, has not yet been extinguished. One of the darker paradoxes of our time is that the schools *will* get worse if we listen to those who say they are getting worse. I urge you not to play that game.

        1. From Mexico

          Tim Mason said:

          I agree completely with the points you’re making.

          Here’s how Wicks-Lin says the same thing in her interview:

          Workers are indeed getting better educated, so they are following this idea that getting more education will improve their economic status. But what we find is that their economic status doesn’t improve.

          And it must be pointed out that what is happening to labor in the US is hardly unique. It is also happening to labor in other developed countries, like Germany:

          Net real wages in Germany have hardly risen since the beginning of the 1990s. Between 2004 and 2008 they even declined. This is a unique development in Germany—never before has a period of rather strong economic growth been accompanied by a decline in net real wages over a period of several years. The key reason for this decline is not higher taxes and social-insurance contributions, as many would hold, but rather extremely slow wage growth, both in absolute terms and from an international perspective. This finding is all the more striking in light of the fact that average employee education levels have risen, which would on its face lead one to expect higher wage levels.

          Awkward facts like these throw cold water on Say’s Law, the darling of neoclassical economists. It holds that all offer creates its own demand. Thus low salaries and the low labor participation rate are due to a lack of skills and training on part of the workers, worker intransigence (workers’ refusal to work for the wage the free market determines), or “rigidities” introduced into the labor market by unions or government.

          But workers living in the developed countries should take stock, because where labor has really gotten murdered is in the developing countries like China and Mexico. In Mexico, for instance, the minimum salary will now buy only a third of what it did in 1982. The salary of the average union worker has lost 50% of its purchasing power since 1982.

          1. harry

            So I wouldnt disagree with most of what you wrote but I think you were a little aggressive with your dismisal of Say’s law. I would humbly suggest that it is tautological that supply creates its own demand. However it tells you nothing about the terms of trade. Consider for example an increase in the supply of child labour by a relaxation in the laws prohibiting it. I have no trouble believing that that additional supply will meet a balancing demand. The only question is at what wage rate.

            If there is a problem with aggregate demand and supply matching (and of course ex-post they always match), then one often constructs a Keynesian scenario to explain it. But this doesnt invalidate the underlying logic of Says law – if you have something to trade then you have something to trade.

          2. From Mexico

            I certainly understand that with the neoclassicists no values are sacred, except those determined by a free market, and that they have labored long and hard to show that practically all behavior is driven by pleasure and self-interest. This is very explicit in the writing of Gary Becker and Richard Posner. The great novelty of their analysis is that the real influence—-the meaninful existence—-of any collective “values,” “religion,” “culture,” or “justice” that go beyond a maximization of individual benefits and costs does not exist anywhere.

            Robert E. Goodin points out that mainstream economists tend to presume that if we can compensate people we can do “anything” to them. After all, they argue, they freely choose to accept the trade-off.

            In the neoclassical view, markets are an embodied rational will: the social world is governed by an “invisible hand” that miraculously produces a rational distribution of goods and services. In dissident views, like those of Minsky and Steve Keen, markets are highly irrational and prone to large swings in sentiment, ranging from “conservative” to “euphoric” to “ponzi.” As Steve Keen puts it, the “rational expectations” of the neoclassical economists means “never having to say you were drunk.”

            There has been a great deal of research done recently by neuroscientists, behavioral economists, biologists, pschchologists and those hailing from other disciplines, trying to determine what it is that motivates human behavior. What they’re finding is that we know very little, that there are a multitude of things that motivate human behavior, and rational expectations is probably not amongst the most important of them. As the psychologist Jonathan Haidt puts it, “Reasoning by its very nature is slow, playing out in seconds. Studies of everyday reasoning show that we usually use reason to search for evidence to support our initial judgment, which was made in milliseconds. But I do agree with Josh Greene that sometimes we can use controlled processes such as reasoning to override our initial intuitions. I just think this happens rarely.”

      5. jake chase

        The dumbing down of secondary education isn’t new. My parents attended ordinary high schools in the 1920s, one in Philadelphia, the other in Hollywood. Neither attended college. Both were highly educated although self educated. They maintained a marvelous library, knew reality as I only dimly suspected it, after four years of Ivy college and 3 at law school. The high school I attended was rated among the best in New York State, yet our twelfth grade math teacher was unable to teach us calculus and sat in the back while we were taught by our brightest student.

        What has happened in the past fifty years is credentialing. You need this or that degree to pursue this or that opportunity. The cost has gone from $3000 per year in 1967 to $50000 per year today. Meanwhile, the content of the education continues to deteriorate. University students attend televised classes in stadium sized rooms, are tested by multiple choice exams, never learn to write, barely learn to read, waste six or more years accumulating four year degrees.

        All this talk about ’employment opportunity’ relates to corporate job offers. But every corporation worthy of the name is busily engaged in reducing labor cost and dependence upon American workers in every way imaginable. Corporations specialize in exploiting labor, not creating opportunity. Most actual corporate ‘work’ is now done overseas at costs which are trivial by comparison to American wage rates. This will get worse, not better. Those who would live in America by third party employment are increasingly dependent upon government make work, regulation, paper shuffling, things like processing insurance claims, closing real estate titles, manipulating data, publishing unread reports. Today’s employment challenge is figuring out a career path in which one can hope to employ himself as soon as possible, developing skills for which those who have money will pay. It makes more sense to go to culinary school than law school, since the research and paper pushing can be done in India, but the eating will always be done here. The two most successful young men I know stopped their education with high school. One builds pools, the other installs window treatments. Both are highly skilled and have far more work than they can handle, and I know that anecdotal evidence is not conclusive, but still, it seems to me that 90% of the talk about creating jobs is simply errant bullshit, usually an excuse justifying some kind of corporate con.

        1. anon y'mouse

          “University students attend televised classes in stadium sized rooms, are tested by multiple choice exams, never learn to write, barely learn to read, waste six or more years accumulating four year degrees.”

          i don’t disagree with the overall tone of your post, but being in college currently (as a non-traditional student), this does not reflect my experience even with the community college that i availed myself of to get most of my undergrad credits at for half the cost of the state college i’m at now.

          your “six years” has little to do with the quality of the college instruction itself. what i see is that the first year is usually spent refreshing or catching up on things that probably should have been taught better in high school (in my case, all of the math that i had learned beyond grade-school level exited my brain 20 years ago). most don’t seem to enter with college level attainment in the traditional Three R’s. even now, in a 300 level writing class, it is obvious while doing peer reviews that most of my fellow students are still uncomfortable around the written word, perhaps because they don’t read very much in their offtime beyond Twitter/text messages.

          another problem with your “six years” is the cost. most of those i encountered in CC had families and many other priorities, and were working full time and going to school full time. something has to give. either the job suffers, or the schooling does. taking semesters off or going half-time in order to prevent homelessness is probably not unwise.

          none of my classes, in community or state, has been televised or in a stadium atmosphere, and no teacher that i’ve encountered would have dared to give a multiple choice test (i’ve talked to most instructors, and they think that those tests are crap!). for the most part, students must write answers in complete sentences that span at least a paragraph, and the Essay-based exam is more in evidence the higher up i’ve gone.

          anecdotal all of this may be, but perhaps you should actually speak with real students at your surrounding colleges. i have nothing to say of the “online” academies or televised-commercial schools for “technical” training.

          1. jake chase

            Granting that everything you say may be true, I don’t think it changes the essential point. To what does contemporary college education lead? I think Veblen had it right in his Higher Learning in America. Education is sold (and bought) as a strategy for competitive self improvement. But the product is mostly defective, and the problem is worsening. I plead guilty to hyperbole. It’s a lifelong vice, like too much seasoning in the soup. It comes from reading about this stuff day after day when I should be asleep.

          2. dan h

            2010 graduate of the university of illinois at urbana champaign here…my experience was nothing like what you’re describing. Multiple choice tests were the VAST majority of every test I took (and that includes my high-school experience at the elite north shore Loyola Academy College Prep where I walked the same halls as Michael Jordan’s sons…), probably half classes were massive PowerPoint lectures with a few hundred students with weekly smaller labs with a TA who often had terrible English, and the Gen Ed credit read were massively inflated to keep you down there dilly dallying…

          3. Klassy!

            The degree to which credentialism has infected our society is depressing. Why would someone need an MFA to write a novel? Some of the finest writers our country has produced were autodidacts.
            Maybe the MFA is to ensure employment, I don’t know.

          4. Neo-Realist

            re: college instructors w/ terrible english — They really suck when you’ve got a subject that is complex, at least for me — Assembler programming language in a CUNY college a long time ago.

            Other that, from my experiences in private and public school, middle and high in the 60’s and 70’s, the educational quality of composition and math wasn’t all that great–I remember my mother, a teacher herself, going to a PTA conference in the private school I attended and asking about the writing issues, and she was told in so many words that the compositional quality wasn’t as important as the expression of whatever emotions and understanding of the material by the student. Overall, I suspect that the educational, environmental and behavioral issues on the part of the kids (crappy parenting, crappy neighborhoods, etc.) that the schools were confronted with caused them to simplify education so they could move them through and not take up space for the next batch of doomed youth.

        2. Ed

          Completely agree, though when I’ve pointed out much of this before in other comments sections I’ve been accused of riding a hobby horse.

          Look, in some sense increased credentialism is another means to reduce real wages. More and more jobs “require” a university degree and college tuition has been rising faster than inflation for some time. So its getting to the point where a person entering the job market is purchasing a $50,000 license to file job applications, though paid for and delivered over a multi-year period. So this person’s lifetime wages upon entering the job market are reduced by $50,000 right off the bat, before you apply a present value discount or the interest costs if the money was borrowed.

          Now the catch is, since the license is now to just apply for jobs, not actually get a job, as the number of white collar jobs drops getting the license will stop making sense, especially as there is quite a bit of anecdotal evidence that its a handicap in getting the sort of service jobs that increasingly make up the American job market.

        3. Hans Suter

          “the eating will always be done here” sure, but about the cooking be done always here, I’d be less sure.

      6. nonclassical


        having lived-taught secondary level-Europe, I have been stating for years since return to states, that Europe (Germany, Denmark, France, northern Europe), the GOAL is fully educated workforce-over 70% graduating from 4 year university or vocational equivalent, FREE.

        The goal in U.S. is CHEAP LABOR FORCE-there is no INTENT to educate ALL, or find their aptitude driven skill-survival set…this is further, a Naomi Klein-like
        “disaster capitalism” feature, as corporations BLAME EDUCATION, as “provider of opportunity”….BUT it was never “educational opportunity” americans desired for their youth-it was always ECONOMIC opportunity…

        towit-states, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, 2005 economic report shows average wage necessary for family of 4=$45,000.00 gross, 2005….BUT actual number of jobs PAYING $45,000.00 per year were-are only 20% of jobs, and that is diminishing…and under 20% of American youth graduate from 4 year university or vocational equivalent….

        as this video shows, Americans are being “disaster capitalism” DUPED..

    2. SteveF

      Stop with the lower standards nonsense. The educational demands of today’s students K-12 are exponentially greater than they have ever been. Please stop harming our children with the false narratives and please visit your local public school to witness the herculean work being done by both teachers and students. I promise they will make you proud.

      1. TheSpangler

        SteveF says: “Stop with the lower standards nonsense. The educational demands of today’s students K-12 are exponentially greater than they have ever been.”

        Steve I am going to have to say that is a false claim. I am from Canada but I think between the two countries we are facing the same problem. Standards today are WAY lower than even that of 10 years ago. If I didn’t do my work, or did a completely poor job, I would fail and not pass. These days that won’t happen, many of my friends are now teachers and they say it’s almost impossible to fail kids, if they don’t do their work. If I miss a deadline, my client gets delisted and I get fired, this is not doing any favours to kids in school. Sometimes I needed to fail things so I would learn from my mistakes and failures. IE fail a project and my parents would come down hard on me.

        Instead of educating kids more focus is put on esteem and such and diminishing the value of education. I was fortunate enough to have good teachers in high school who taught me critical thinking and problem solving skills. However I was surprised going through university how much was just memory work and regurgitation, this one of the areas that is significantly wrong with North American education.

      2. dan h

        A larger amount of mundane, rote work aimed at molding students for short term, atomised goals is a pathetic vehicle to argue that education today is more difficult. Why is always more difficult to comes to terms with than how. Why takes critical thinking and TIME. Free time spent reflecting is the antithesis of modern life…

        So, please stop with the educational demands of today nonsense.

      3. nonclassical

        THiS, Steve, is TRUE…however, that does NOT correspond to economic opportunity, does it? AND schools ARE being scapegoated as “provider of opportunity”…

        check it out-fewer than 20% of Americans graduate 4 year university or vocational equivalent, as opposed to over 70% norther Europeans…

        and economic opportunity shows definitively, that eduction is NOT intended for all…when I began teaching, inner-city, I had class of sophomores-first year bussing…excellent students. I gave out 10 “A” grades…my dept. head stormed into my room and demanded I grade on “curve”…I showed her their work-informing her none of my other classes were anything like this one….she went a whiter shade of pale…I asked her HOW I ended up with this class….she informed my, that this was first quarter of bussing-they didn’t know how it would go, so all incoming sophomores ended up in this class…I asked how they
        “normally” placed youth? She stated, “We place so many “A” students, to raise up the “B” students, so many “B” students to raise the “C” students”…I fairly shouted-“YOU CREATE THE CURVE ON THE WAY INTO THE CLASSROOM”…and that stuck with me all years teaching…aptitude of students be damned…it is INTENDED that only the few “succeed”…TRUTH.

  2. David Lentini

    “I’ve had engineers regularly say in comments that the only way to do well with an engineering degree is to then get a law degree and become a patent/intellectual property attorney. If the US really does need more engineers for competitiveness reasons, then it needs to get the cost of their education down, much the way it subsidizes the cost of educating elite mathematicians and physicists.”

    I’m not sure how making a cheap education in engineering helps when businesses won’t make the investments that create the engineering jobs in the first place. What’s the point of a cheap (as in cost) engineering degree if you can’t get an engineering job when you graduate?

    I write from experience. I was in one of those subsidized Ph.D. programs (in chemistry) in the mid-to-late 1980s, but left to become a patent attorney when in became obvious there wasn’t going to be a reasonable career path in academia or industry (i.e., a path that did not require either a monk-like existence in endless post-doctoral programs and assistant professorships, or always looking over my shoulder for the next round of layoffs). Patent law looked quite good then (1988) for a stable lifestyle.

    In fact, I remember quite well how Derek Bok, then president at Harvard, told all of us entering in the graduate science programs how the world would be our oyster as the older faculty retired and we took their places. But then reality intervened. Many schools closed funded chairs in the ’80s to save money. But it also became clear, as described in a famous article written by physics at Cal Tech., how the boom in graduate school that started during the Viet Nam War created a glut of graduate students. In short, all the key factors pointed away from finishing a Ph.D.

    The real problem is also cultural. The rise of the anti-science movement (both liberal and conservative) starting in the ’70s movement has led to a three-decade-long attack on real interest in scientific and engineering research. What can you say about a country that continually rages over the teaching of evolution? And our glorious business schools and economics departments have been teaching our current crop of leaders to take the money and run, which leaves no incentive to invest in science and engineering. Today most of the CEOs I speak with proudly tell me how they ship all their engineering work to China and India.

    No, cheap degrees won’t solve this problem. We have a much larger task ahead to change our values.

    1. diptherio

      “The rise of the anti-science movement (both liberal and conservative) starting in the ’70s movement has led to a three-decade-long attack on real interest in scientific and engineering research.”

      Not entirely true. The Dept of Defense (and related agencies) still have a good bit of interest in all things scientific. Always on the look-out for the newest, most high-tech killing devices and whatnot.

      My GF is in a PhD chem program right now, and designed and constructed lasers before that. Most all of her laser customers were military and a good number of the available grants, fellowships and the like that she is looking at now are funded by DOD.

      If you want to be a scientist these days, seems like you’re almost required to assist our psychotic overlords in achieving their dreams of world domination.

      1. Mark P.

        This has always been the case.

        Silicon Valley in the 1950s was built almost totally on Cold War R&D spending, for instance, so as late as 1962 all integrated circuits — 100 percent of them — made in the US went to the U.S. military; even by 1967 the military was still procuring 70 percent of all ICs manufactured here.

        Today, similarly, it’s a well-known dirty secret that an institution like MIT makes about $1.3 billion of its budget from public fees and funding, and $1.7 billion from Pentagon R&D money, primarily through its Lincoln Labs.

        The military has the deep pockets and can make plausible claims about the desirability — or necessity under the existential conditions of actual war — of deeply expensive, decades-long development programs in areas like spaceflight, aviation, nuclear technology, radar, etc.

        That’s just the way it is.

    2. different clue

      I have never heard of a “liberal” anti-science movement. Can you offer any examples of “liberal” anti-science movement activity?

      1. Mark P.

        ‘Can you offer any examples of “liberal” anti-science movement activity?’

        Sure. Population genetics is now producing deeply interesting results. The field is the study of human differences, though, and innately controversial. Furthermore, the emerging science increasingly argues against human genetic uniformity and for instances of historically recent, rapid human evolutionary differentiation taking place in specific populations. Finally, there are possible biogenetic technologies in the works

        Can you imagine anything more frightening to many people than these sorts of things?

        So the emerging science is regarded by many as blaspheming basic notions of human equality that our still nominally egalitarian society subscribes to. All biologists now understand that one of their number who is foolhardy enough to mention some of the emerging science in public risks being fired, denied tenure and funding, and attacked as a Nazi-style eugenics proponent.

        For a specific example of how this argument plays out, consider the case of old-school geneticist Richard Lewontin, who for a couple of decades now has been fighting a Lysenko-style battle for the received dogma of human genetic uniformity against the emerging flood of genomic science —




      2. nonclassical

        ..in my experience it’s been an anti-liberal arts movement…no thinkers desired, thank you…my degrees in Philosophy, Poly-Sci, Lit, allow me much more comprehension than fellow workers…who are amazed I can (thanks to YVES) tell them what to expect of economics…over 10 years ago I told them (before finding YVES-it was obvious) there would be an economic disaster…and personally adjusted to withstand such…of course there was William Blum-Naomi Klein, John Perkins, Milton Friedman, Sept 11, 1973, 2 Kennedy assassinations and conspiracies….speaking of which:


        (it’s always been an interest-this 18 year old met RFK on the way to Oakland-California primary win-assassination-saw assassination broadcast seemingly minutes afar primary win)

    3. nonclassical


      here’s what you don’t know about “science”-“math”. First, U.S. comparison of
      test scores between Europe-others and U.S., is false comparison. In Europe, for example, at end of 8th grade, youth sit with counselor, parent, teachers, defining what 3 aptitude driven courses to pursue over next 2 years…youth usually decides 1 of 3…after 10th grade, they pare down to 2 discipline of pursuit. What this means is, only youth with science or math aptitude are continuing these discipline-but contrasted grades between these and U.S. youth
      do not take this reality into account…so ALL U.S. students, whether aptitude oriented or not, are compared to only European youth whose aptitude leads them to science-math…

      I should also remind, as stated earlier, ALL European youth can continue beyond
      secondary level, and are expected to…imagine my surprise finding ALL German youth KNEW what they were pursuing beyond secondary….try that with American youth…

  3. paul

    Richard Kline’s comment seems to tie perfectly with the Duke of Cork’s rather more lyrical diagnoses.
    Tim mason is correct, the education = better money is a classic case of composition fallacy.
    I’m all for a free liberal education, but that has been replaced with a debt based certification of compliance/desperation.

    1. Jim Haygood

      Yep, our Ricardo Kline was on a roll with this bit:

      By 1650, Hispania was an intellectually backward, economically pallid backwater, living off imperial rents and colonial slavery. That is what ‘decline’ really looks like in the historical record, folks: ultra-conservative, think-not empires run for the benefit of a tiny, parasitic elite.

      Sounds like the G7 today, don’t it? But eventually la gente strike back:



  4. Lepercaun

    The bookend to this information is how many people with college educations get their jobs/careers through Connection rather than Merit. That is, the well-educated sons and daughters of the Elite need degrees for their “jobs”. Another category, are political patronage jobs at the municipal, state and federal levels which may require degree(s) and Connection.

    Having the above information in hand, one might then be able to get a more true analysis of the value of degree(s). Without Connection, the value of a degree in many cases is severely diminished.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I’d disagree. I didn’t get my jobs through any connections. Indeed, the point of an MBA is that it is to a significant degree an employment agency. You do well in school and the recruiters want you if you are remotely presentable. Nothing to connections about it. I suspect that’s true of the better law schools too.

      I’m not saying it doesn’t make a difference. but back in the day at Goldman, we’d give interviews to people who were kids of important clients as a courtesy, knowing they’d never get hired. I mean, if you won’t bend the rules for the child of a CLIENT who pays the firm a lot of money, do you think a mere social contact will give you much leverage?

      I think it’s more like buying IBM. No one is going to criticize you if you hire a kid who is good looking, pleasant, and went to a fancy school (if that job normally hires kids from fancy schools). And hiring someone not from a fancy school (if that is what normally gets hired into that sort of job) would raise eyebrows. They’d better work out or you have a lot of explaining to do.

      Put it another way: what sort of connections can kids really make that would make a difference? Their parents will already pull strings for them. All kids are scrambling these days to “network”, but tell me who they meet in college who can help them. Other kids who are also on the make? Their profs who in most cases don’t have all that many contacts in the real economy? I mean, you might get lucky enough to be the roomie or best friend of someone who is connected in a field you are interested in, but I think this is less operative than you want to believe.

      The big thing I learned (and I was sort of dense about it as a kid) is your college connections pay off much much later. You and your peer group move up together through life. Those connections will be useful in 5-10 years as they become more powerfully placed, but in getting a job or right after college? Hard to see that.

      1. ambrit

        What about that , what I’d consider large, pool of jobs that don’t require much real talent in specific skills, such as mid level management. ‘Networking’ would seem to be a sufficient skill set to qualify for that. Also, aren’t a lot of these jobs really unnecessary?
        I’d posit that the real value of college ‘networking’ lies in the parents and other members of the kinship group of the person one ‘networks’ with. This is a real case of knowledge being power.
        Finally, I’d suggest that your personal career, what I’ve gleaned from reading here, at least, is the exception that proves the rule.

        1. patricia

          I agree about the importance of kinship, and it has been increasing exponentially.

          For eg, I passed through a ratings article in BI and found this comment alongside U of Mich photo: “Generally, a first rate student from UMichigan is equivalent to an ivy first rater, but the networking factor is not as good.”

          Competence is a given, but since more of UofM students’ families aren’t in the upper echelon, job prospects are poorer. That, in turn, puts more pressure on beauty and social adeptness to get beyond the first two interviews. This has always been so, of course, but now it also strikes at those in the top, particularly as professional jobs have become sharply fewer.

          It’s a very different world from 10 years ago.


      2. diptherio

        Anecdotal evidence supports what you say about the importance of fancy schools. I hadn’t even considered it, really, until of friend of mine moved to Boston and discovered that back East, if you went to a state school you may as well not even bother applying for any job you might actually like to have. Intelligence, charisma, handsomeness; none of it seemed to matter once the interviewer saw that U of M on the resume.

        Y’all got some serious psychological issues to deal with out there on the right coast. I’m guessing it’s some sort of communal insecurity complex….

      3. JohnnyGL

        “The big thing I learned (and I was sort of dense about it as a kid) is your college connections pay off much much later. You and your peer group move up together through life. Those connections will be useful in 5-10 years as they become more powerfully placed, but in getting a job or right after college? Hard to see that.”

        — Yves, that’s actually a good point. The same is also true of former coworkers that you manage to keep in touch with. I suppose the real value on emphasizing networking skills at the undergrad level is more about teaching kids to make an effort to maintain their ‘alumni network’, not just from college, but from former jobs, as they start their careers. There’s a decent chance of a return on an investment like that.

      4. jake chase

        I am afraid the number of jobs you are talking about when you discuss yourself is so small as to be meaningless from a societal standpoint. There will always be opportunity for a small number of high performers who fit the current corporate dating fashion. Perhaps your success was more attributable than you think to being an attractive woman at just the right time? Steven A. Smith is undoubtedly intelligent, but do you believe he became the face of ESPN by being the smartest guy they could find? Is his success an open sesame to twenty million Black kids who live for basketball? Not bloody likely!

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I was not attractive when interviewing for jobs from Bschool. Unlike most women, I looked best in my late 40s. And most women at Bschool weren’t prizes. We all looked better a few years out, when we had more $ to spend on getting better haircuts and other improvements in grooming.

      5. Jimmy

        I’m seeing that education these days kind of works like sports programs. Thousands get some form of education, very few actually shine. Children of wealthy families will do fine regardless of innate talent, intelligence, interest, hard work. (Think “W”). I suspect the real functional “education” is taking place TV to parent to student – TV to peer – peer to peer. Schools are not going to convince kids to put down video games or iphones. Learning the latest app’s has little or nothing to do with critical thinking. Few programmers – many consumers…Many will go to school few will get the peach jobs. Jack London didn’t need (institutional) higher education – Neither did Bill Gates….and the first thing our local governments close when they are running short of cash is libraries…

      6. harry

        “I’m not saying it doesn’t make a difference. but back in the day at Goldman, we’d give interviews to people who were kids of important clients as a courtesy, knowing they’d never get hired. I mean, if you won’t bend the rules for the child of a CLIENT who pays the firm a lot of money, do you think a mere social contact will give you much leverage?”

        Oh but they did get hired didnt they? I know of at least one rather dim (but good looking) graduate of Trinity Cambridge who had his homework done by a friend of mine. He was hired by GS. Im sure it had nothing to do with the fact that his mum was a cabinet minister and his dad an MP.

        Of course, perhaps I am doing him an injustice. Perhaps one should take into account the cleverness implicit in avoiding doing his own essays.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Trinity Cambridge? If he was THAS dull, how did he even get in? Goldman hearts Oxbridge, as does McKinsey. And Churchill had his assignments done by others as (gasp) Sandhurst, and he barely got in!

          And was this an analyst job (the one right out of college) or a real job? They didn’t in my day, but now are more inclined to take a few kids of the very well placed in those jobs. But it’s only 2 years. Creates good will and does not hurt the gene pool of the firm.

          And you did not read what I said. These courtesy interviewees in my day did NOT get hired.

          1. Harry

            We had some less smart kids. Their parents tended to be quite prominent.

            And Im no spring chicken. The story I tell dates from 1989. Of course, usual caveats apply – all my comments are for what little they are worth.

      7. nonclassical

        truly great insider perspective-thanks for sharing…not at all like Harvard (sister taught there)-ALL connections…

      8. Moneta

        I would say that my definition of networking differs from yours. It’s not as much the connections I made but the information I got out of the cohort by osmosis.

        Mine is a family of scientists. I studied in math, rubbing elbows with actuaries which led me into a lucrative career in portfolio management.

        Had I studied in other sciences, chances are I would have stayed in the world of scientists who generally view life quite differently than financiers.

    2. JTFaraday

      That only works if your name is Jamie Galbraith.

      If your name is Jamie Galbraith, then you can pend your entire career pontificating about public policy without actually having to do it.

        1. JTFaraday

          Well, if the only thing in which you’re interested is the St. Montaigne in the library gentleman scholar, then you should not expect anything from US fedgov.

          Given your nonstop caterwauling about Robomney’s Great Betrayal of New Deal paternalism, I rather doubt that’s the case.

    1. jake chase

      1. Office and Administrative Support? That’s answering the telephone, running the fax machine, stapling the pages, filing them, finding them after you’ve misfiled them ….

  5. PaulArt

    It might be better to ask, why do Engineering jobs go to India and China? The answer is that millions more Engineers are graduated there at lower cost in these countries. There are tons more Engineering colleges and Medical schools than here. This is also the reason why preventive medical care is cheap in India. As for education there is nothing akin to parasitic academic K-Street lobbies bribing Senators and Congresspersons in Washington making sure that students are forever in debt peonage. There is close to a perfect free market especially in India when it comes to colleges. The good ones thrive and the bad ones go belly-up. In the great USofA the Fat Cats have shown everyone how to create lobbies instead of Unions and reduce everything to profit motive. USA is fast becoming the new Russia of crony capitalism heaven. The only difference is we are oh so subtle and sophisticated. Our crony capitalism works a little differently through the K-Street route.

  6. Chromex

    Additionally, the entire process of “education” needs to be examined. Generally, professors are hired for the research and writing they can give the University and no one gives any thought to teaching critical thinking. Thus to say the lack of a degree means Americans are dumber may be correlated but not get at the cause. I have known a lot of phds that were incapable of critical thinking and professors are NOY encouraged to teach it.
    Thus, to me spending ore money on education ( at the lower levels its more heavy-handed socialization and propaganda) does not make sense unless we all look at what it produces.

    1. Jimmy

      I agree – now who is actually making the choices and what is their motivation? I kind of suspect a system where the folks who really care only use their influence to eliminate some education and otherwise they’re fine with whatever the system does. I suspect it’s a subtle manipulation where teachers or administrators with the wrong attitude just don’t get jobs. Problem solved. What if schools began teaching students to question whether a war-based economy was necessary? to question whether a global government was necessary? a consumer based economy was necessary? Socialization seems huge – critical thinking seems to be discouraged..

  7. Malmo

    Personality, apperance, and connections are extremly important components for most employment. If you possess all three along with a degree you are golden. These critera are still in play even for jobs that require highly skilled technical proficiency. To illustrate, my wife is a senior environmental chemist with the world’s largest waste water treatment facilty. She has two lab techs (bottle washers) who are Phd’s, one from the U of Chicago. Both are socially awkward. They are in positions that merely require a high school diploma. They were in these positions before the economic meltdown and have civil service protection or they’d likely be out the door, otherwise their degrees are essentially useless in isolation. If you have a couple days I can give you dozens more examples. My main point here is that college isn’t nearly enough and probably never was for steady, meaningful employment. It, college, might be necessary to get a job but it’s far from sufficient to keep it.

    1. A Real Black Person

      Those qualifications are very subjective. They don’t indicate a scarcity but an abundance of candidates to choose from.

  8. Jim A

    Well the saying in the 50s was that many women were working on their MRS degree. While society as a whole may not have seen great benefits from large numbers of future housewives getting degrees, as individuals they benefited because they were more likely to secure a college educated husbund. Similarly, even though society may not see much benefit to the proliferation of college degrees, they still give job seekers a leg up in the job market, even in retail.

  9. petridish

    A little of that much-ballyhooed CRITICAL THINKING is called for here. Forty years ago it was well understood that everyone was not “college material.” Acquiring a degree was not just a matter of purchasing it with ridiculous globs of easy student loan money and doing the time. Colleges and universities set rigorous standards which defined degree holders’ achievements and ethics. While still relatively expensive, costs were reasonable. “Working your way through school” was not only possible, but further powerful evidence of ability and commitment. Graduation under these circumstances deserved and demanded respect and recognition.

    During this time, the most ridiculed degree holders were “rich kids” whose parents had so much money that the schools were bribed to keep them enrolled even though they were clearly incompetent. Does anyone remember the Walton family heir who was outed as having paid (albeit POORLY) an “underprivileged” student to write her college papers for her? It was quite a scandal.

    Enter the era of “a college ‘education’ for all.” It was predicted at the time that such a policy would devalue everyone’s degree and what do you know? I’m tempted to say that it’s ironic that the more expensive a college degree becomes the less it’s worth, but it’s not really ironic at all–it’s intuitively obvious…

    The status quo in this country is currently so dysfunctional that even a marginally educated public would present a serious threat to its continuation. A way had to be found to convince the public that they ARE educated and, considering that this is consumerist America, what better way to accomplish this than to sell them a worthless college degree at an enormous price?

    1. Aquifer

      Of course there is another side – as exemplified in The Wizard of OZ’ Scarecrow – you can’t possibly be “smart” if you don’t have that magic piece of paper ….

      IMO, we, as a society, have all bought into that – I remember years ago working in an ER when there were still LPNs, who were rather looked down upon by the RNs (and those were the days when many RNs were themselves “diploma” RNs, not BSs). There were two LPNs who were sharp as tacks and i remember thinking i would have given a whole passel of RNs for a few more like those 2 …

      We talk about a “meritocracy” but live anything but – it MUCH too often isn’t what you know but whom you know and whether you have your “papers” …. And i think this has become so widely accepted that that is why our diploma mills are accepted, with merely a shrug, for what they are. But ITSM there will be no real impetus for change until we, as a culture, really do value merit over credentials – there is an “elitism” that permeates society at all levels that still, IMO, hasn’t been sufficiently acknowledged, let alone dealt with …

  10. Middle Seaman

    My feeling is that the discussion has missed some major points. We are moving away from a balanced economy to a service economy. Serving in a restaurant requires mostly simple skills. Such skills do pay much. As Wicks-Lim said in passing, weak unions and disorganized workforce lower even these wages. In addition, it’s now customary for employers/owners to expect high ROI. A great way to get there is low wages. Inequality is, therefore, a social force that lowers wages.

    You cannot bypass engineers if you produce products. You can lower engineers’ wages, but to compete you want better engineers. That raises wages. Now, we produce very little. We simply don’t use skills derived by education.

    Universities are in a double bind. The president and the 50 VPs get very high salaries. Capable professors are in high demand and are well paid. The result is expensive education. Lowering inequality will allow universities to lower president’s salary and get rid of 25 VPs. Most of the education in typical college doesn’t result in special skills. Most liberal arts are expensive with very low skill return. Engineering, economics, law and medicine result in high skills. Liberal education has to change; no one talks about it within universities.

    1. diptherio

      I agree with most of what you say, but I disagree with the statement that schooling in economics results in some set of skills, unlike other liberal arts. Having received a BA in Econ (with honors), I quickly discovered that the number of jobs that require an Econ BA is nil, and that having said BA made it more difficult to get the jobs I had been working while in school. My econ training has resulted in my understanding the crappy reasoning that underlies much of what passes for economic thought. I can now pontificate on matters economic for, literally, hours on end. I can explain to you in great detail why Milton Friedman is a total piece of shit; but as for actual skills? Well, I know how to paint houses, play the flute and cook some mean Indian food…

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        I agree with Cripes below that economics does not confer any skills. My father the engineer (who was generally very hands off) forbade me from majoring in economics because it wouldn’t teach me how to write or think.

        However, at least in my day, if you wanted a job straight out of college, you were seen as somehow being serious if you majored in economics. I got into every grad school I applied to (law and economics) but no one would hire me and I was told a couple of times if I’d majored in economics, I would have been seen differently.

    2. cripes

      A degree in economics results in high skills? Wow. And all this time I thought it was mainly good for giving blowjobs to Wall street “job creators.”

      Oh, maybe you meant “skillz.”

      Apologies to Bill Black, Dean Baker, Michael Hudson, et al.

    3. patricia

      MS wrote: “Most liberal arts are expensive with very low skill return. Engineering, economics, law and medicine result in high skills. Liberal education has to change; no one talks about it within universities.”

      The idea of a liberal arts education has never been about “skills”, as such, but meant to teach students to recognize and understand the issues of humanity and the larger world/universe. How to think, evaluate, learn to live within and push boundaries, to find where the worthwhile lies, and the reasons for compassion and clarity. It was meant to be foundations for well-rounded individuals, better functioning communities, and a healthy culture and world.

      That it has long been waning shows everywhere in our intellectually- and ethically-challenged society. Even education in the supposedly more skills-oriented fields of engineering, economics (ach!), law, and medicine has become increasingly narrow/shallow.

      Fundamentally, it is citizens’ ignorance and ethical laissez-faire that has allowed greedy people to grab power and then let them run rampant. It takes long patient effort to become educated. By devaluing and giving up that job, we have betrayed ourselves and everything around us. The only other way to gain this knowledge is when circumstance forces it at pain of death via disease, starvation, fascism, or whatever other of the four horses come along. And that learning will inevitably be crooked and imbalanced.

      Skills are a vital part of education, but they are the simpler part and need to be set into the larger framework.

      FWIW, as you well know, the university system has also become corrupted by money. That is seen, too, in that, generally, the capable professors aren’t those with highest demand/wage–if by “capable” you mean those who best pass on to the next generation the knowledge needed.

      I’m not picking on you, MS–just (mis)using your comment as an excuse for a harangue :-}

      1. patricia

        One last bit: It seems to me that the demise of religion has left a hole in our social fabric, where ethics, character, situation used to be taught. The force of religion has now become a rigid legalism combined with anti-rationalism soaking in what remains of the softness of our circumstances, and is dangerously ignorant and often falls into hatefulness.

        The knowledge should have been picked up via educational paths, but wasn’t, allowing the gaping hole to be filled by idiotic voices such as Ayn Rand. To the detriment of all.

      2. jrs

        Agreed with all except I don’t believe the education system is corrupted only by money (although yes large corporations give funding), or corrupted only by student loans etc.. I think the education system in a society where most employment is precariat and low wage with a small technocratic class will by necessity be corrupt, will by necessity become primarily a means to secure that technocrat status. Truly valuing education, thoughtfulness, liberal arts, can’t survive such a society, period. It’s way too dog eat dog, watch your back, to value those types of things.

      3. jake chase

        The liberal arts education you describe was designed for rich men’s sons marking time before succeeding to sinecures in the family enterprise, or coming into a deferred inheritance. In today’s world, it attracts dreamers hoping to write important novels, and if that fails to catch on writing criticism, or network comedy, or boring undergraduates in endless lectures, or harrassing the public from a secure post in government. Anybody still hoping for a better world needs to pay more attention to George Carlin.

  11. DomiDF

    The pricing of education out of the middle class reach seems to me to reflect the market power of traditional universities: they are guarding the access to high paying jobs, just like medieval castles guarded access to critical trade routes, and like medieval rulers there are levying their tolls and holding the middle class to ransom. As evidence I would hold for instance the increase in the share of administrative costs or of infrastructure costs: surely one can deliver quality education without a state of the art fitness center or a robot-operated library? What is also shocking is the prominence of college sports and while college sports teams may (or may not) be generating net financial resources they are consuming non financial resources and detracting from the education mission of universities. I am not aware of any country outside of the US where you can get into higher education based on your physical rather than intellectual abilities. From a foreigner’s perspective, this one of the strangest and most exotic features of American society.

    Like most the financial system, universities have turned into institutions intent on confiscating wealth rather than creating it. Through their contribution to the rise of inequality, the dumbing down of American society and the loss of good jobs, they are to me the unsung villains of the current crisis. That said, I don’t find the comparison between the US now and the Iberian Peninsula in the XIV-XVth centuries illuminating. For all the assaults on our freedoms we are still living in a more liberal society now (pfew). Also access to universities in XIV-XVth century Spain (or XIXth century Britain!) was based more on religious and class affiliation than on money, compared to now. In today’s universities, if you can afford it, you can have access to any number of politically and culturally diverse courses. A more likely outcome seems to me that universities, having priced themselves out of the market are going to slowly become irrelevant. With so much fat built into their costs, there is room for new market entrants to offer decent degrees at a lower cost, for instance through a mixture of internet-based learning and traditional campus-based teaching. Texas is talking about putting together a $10,000 four year degree. Count on the traditional educational establishment to block any meaningful competition so this could be a slow process, with continued high societal costs. Of course a bit of public intervention, for instance through beefing up community colleges, would help, but your country’s politics are so dysfunctional that it seems very unlikely to be forthcoming.

    1. jake chase

      I am afraid you will find that $10,000 four year degree not worth the paper they send you in the mail for completing it. College really seems to make sense only for the children of those who succeeded financially in the previous generation without it. As for children of the rich, they have always been largely irrelevant, except for those reprieved from dopy oblivion and handed one ceremonial role after another, whether in business or in government, its all the same.

  12. Rob Levine

    Short story: Local education deformers in Minnesota insist that everyone in Minnesota is going to need a college education in the future to get a job. MinnCan and their allies (McKinesy, etc) say 70% of Minnesota jobs in the future will require some post-secondary education which is almost always taken to mean college…

    These figures are based on a single study (I looked it up in the McKinsey paper that these predictions are based on). I called up the author of the study and spoke for some time with her. Bottom line: There is a *big* difference between what the local corporate shills say is post-secondary education and what the study says.

    When I mentioned to the author that many service jobs require no post-secondary education she said I was wrong. For example, she said, even janitors require some “post-secondary” education to learn what chemicals to use on the floor, or whatever, even if it is two hours. So there you go…

    1. jake chase

      How much did she get for the study, and is there any more of that kind of work available? I have nine years of higher education (and three degrees), but have been unable to find a job since 1976, when I gave up looking.

    2. Hypothetical_Taxpayer

      “For example, she said, even janitors require some “post-secondary” education to learn what chemicals to use on the floor, or whatever, even if it is two hours. So there you go…”

      HA! The spin goes like this:

      Colleges see huge opportunity in MN for Chemical Engineers. Lifetime earnings estimated at $7 million (inflation adjusted), well worth the investment of $150,000 in a 4 year degree.

      How the janitor position gets filled:

      Mega corporation complains that they can’t find skilled chemical engineers in MN and they need H1B visas. Threaten to only mop offshore floors. Congress increases H1B limit. Corporation fills janitor position with Indian chemical engineer at $8/hr.

      MN congressman recites meme that it’s small business that are the job creators in the US, and something must be done to stimulate them – because figuring out why large corporations are not job creators is none of anybody’s business.

      Congress passes Small Business Stimulus and Jumpstart Bill. Small business hires undocumented Mexican janitor and pays in cash under the table.

      1. Hypothetical_Taxpayer

        McKinesy analyst gets contract to do research paper proving that small business creates the vast majority of yobs in America.

        It’s True!, It’s True! And now well documented, too!

        BLS Birth-Death Model cited in references.

  13. j

    Yet engineering jobs don’t pay enough to reward the cost of getting that degree.

    i am a 29 year old engineer living in a low wage state, and i make $100k+. most of my friends do as well. there are a TON of engineering jobs around here. the difference between $60k a year and $100k+ a year is that you have to be good. really good. i routinely turn down offers to work elsewhere (for more money) because i like my career path where i’m at. the jobs are there. you just have to tackle the hard projects to get your name out, and work your butt off.

    we are in the process of rapidly making Americans less well educated.

    i disagree with this from the standpoint that anyone who can read can become well educated. college is 90% reading. anyone who can go to the library can pick up the books required to make you “well rounded” (such a BS term), and the books required on how to tackle a given subject/discipline.

    while i admit that not going to college can make it hard to find a job, i disagree that it is needed to make you well educated. EFFORT is what makes people well educated, not college (i know a lot of idiots who have their degrees). if you buy into the notion that you need to go to college to be more educated, then you are believing the BS that colleges are selling.

    1. jake chase

      “Effort is what makes people well educated”. That says it all. They should carve it on the pediment of every library, every high school, every college.

    2. Neo-Realist

      Exceptions to the College is 90% reading rule—Sometimes you will get an instructor who thinks the textbook for the course is total crap, decides not to use and tells the class that all the notes will come from my mouth/lectures. If the instructor is a crappy communicator of knowledge and or has serious accent issues, and this person happens to be the only instructor for this course that you need for a particular major, you’re up sh*t creek.

      I understand this is more of an exception, but they happen from time to time in the undergrad experience.

    3. alex

      j says: i am a 29 year old engineer living in a low wage state, and i make $100k+.

      What state?
      What type of engineering?

  14. Ninutsa Orjonikidze

    My feeling some major points is ignored through the discussion, and I would like to add my point of view. I feel that world’s economy is going wrong. Too many jobs are outsourced to the less developed countries, like India, Chain etc. While the new jobs are not created in UK, USA, Eurozone. Manufacturing is moved to Asia, now it is a new trend to outsource accounting, and law activates, in LCD. While, students spend a lot of money and time for getting education, for the hope of better future, CEOs of large corporations are coming up with numbers ways how to avoid high wages.

    1. Aquifer

      You are absolutely correct and have summarized the problem in a nutshell –

      Methinks although we give a lot of lip service to the idea that most of our problems arise from allowing the greedy to triumph, we too often get distracted and forget to focus in on the main pathology of out time and culture – and you have re-focused it here …

  15. energyecon

    Saying “engineer” in a rather generic fashion is not very helpful, I see everyday new grad engineering students walk into jobs that easily provide a positive ROI for their investment in that degree… now that is variations of petroleum engineer, but the industry is currently woefully short of new grads (a problem of our own making) and will be in this situation for the foreseeable future.

  16. From Mexico

    Since the advent of the Renaissance, there have been four hegemonic empires of global reach to ascend from Western Civilization. The first three of these—-the Spanish, the Dutch, and the British—-rose and fell in quick succession. The fourth, the American, has now also become so corrupt and decadent that it too, I believe, is probably experiencing its final death throes.

    As Richard Kline alludes to, Spain was indeed the last bastion of the old feudal order. The Spanish King, Carlos I, who was also to become Holy Roman Emperor (as Carlos V) in 1519, put Spain at the head of the mission against the infidel and the Islamic threat and assumed the role of last defender of the Church and the faith. On the other hand, Holland, England, and the United States embraced the new Modernist order, which was nominally a clean break with the old Feudal order. It was also supposed to be a clean break with the Roman faith which lent moral and intellectual sanction to the old Feudal order. The new God of Modernity was not to be the God of Christianity, but the new God of science.

    In a Postmodernist era, however, many have come to question whether the break from the old Feudal order and its underlying ideology was as clean as billed. Robert Nelson, for instance, concludes in Economics as Religion that the Enlightenment “represented a return to natural-law conceptions in every realm.” Chicago economics (neoclassical economics), he asserts, is nothing more than “a modern and secular form of natural-law theology.”

    Nelson is joined by a chorus of other skeptics, including the ethicist Stephen Toulmin (author of Cosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda of Modernity), the philosopher Michael Allen Gillespie (author of The Theological Origins of Modernity and Nihilism before Nietzsche), the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (author of The Irony of American History), and the moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt (author of The Happiness Hypothesis).

    In order to illustrate this challenge to Modernity, let me take Kline’s comment and subject it to a postmodernist critique. Take the following passage from Kline’s comment, for instance:

    By 1650, Hispania was an intellectually backward, economically pallid backwater, living off imperial rents and colonial slavery. That happened when racist, ultra-conservative, aristocratically choked Castile conquered the rest, expelled or ‘converted’ those different (when not massacring them outright), eliminated any but the most rigidly orthodox education, neutered (and rapidly snuffed) such quasi-democratic institutions as had sprung up, and founded a military conquest state off whose extractions overseas the domestic state lived wildly beyond its means in a zombie-like fashion with utter disregard of the domestic economy.

    This is an iteration of a myth that is known as the “Black Legend.” The myth was invented by Dutch and English polemicists who were vying for moral one-upmanship with the Spanish empire. However, it is a throwback to the realist ontology and syllogistic logic inherent in the Catholic Church’s natural-law theology in every way.

    1. craazyman

      you’ve been hitting the books south!

      It’ hard to get to the bottom of this stuff, it just keeps going like the infinite universe, from word to word to word. soembody comes up with a bunch of words and then you say “whoa, that’s it!”, like a song by Adele.

      Personally speaking, I doubt 1 job in 50 needs a college education. Never has. Maybe doctors and lawyers and engineers. That’s about it. Also NFL players since college is the sifting process.

      Nothing I’ve seen in the investment business needs a college eduction, except the looting through derivative mathematics. The education there is needed to qualify to perform the destruction, not the repair. It’s like Sandy, which I frankly underestimated. You need the credentials to be able to wreak the destruction.

      What is a college education anyway? You don’t need it to do the jobs, but you need it to get them. It’s a class system, no pun intended.

      1. jake chase

        And you better not appear too educated, or too intelligent, because they routinely reject people for that, too. It’s about fitting pegs into holes.

        1. From Mexico

          I also addressed the issue of the rampant anti-inellectualism that exists in America in another comment, but it also disappeared into cyberworld.

        2. diptherio

          You seem like the type to speak your mind, jake; never a good trait in an employee. Everybody’s gotta kiss somebody’s ass, it’s what makes the world go round, donchaknow?

      2. From Mexico

        hi craazyman,

        There was actually a lot more to that comment, but it is well nigh impossible to wind oneself through all the censorship software built into this web platform. Maybe it will show up later.

        1. Lambert Strether

          Re the whinge on “censorship” (so-called): If you want NC commmunity threads immediately infested with spammers and trolls of every description (which we spend a good deal of time back stage shooting down) then we will be perfectly happy to turn off the software that protects the site and keeps the threads readable algorithmically.

          Alternatively, if you want a human to monitor all comment threads in real time — and it takes a human to discern all legitimate comments — then I suggest you write NC a big fat check and we’ll get somebody to do it. The PayPal buttons are to your right.

  17. From Mexico


    Kline asserts that a “rascist, ultra-conservative, aristocratically choked Castile conquered the rest, expelled or ‘converted’ those different (when not massacring them outright).” If we look at the historical record, however, it is not easy to see that Spain’s English or Dutch contemporaries were morally superior to the Spanish. And in fact, I think just the opposite could be argued. The Calvinists, after all, as well as many other late-Puritan sects, were not known for their tolerance or open-mindedness. And as far as I know, the debate that occurred in Spain in 1551 and 1552, and described here by Alfonso Maestre Sánchez, was totally unique for the time:

    “All the people of the world are men: The great debate between Fray Bartolomé de las Casas (1474-1566) and Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda (1490-1573)”

    As the historian J.H. Elliot wrote in Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America 1492-1830:

    Both the convocation of the Valladolid debate, and the legislation that followed it, testify to the Spanish crown’s commitment to ensuring ‘justice’ for indigenous subject populations—-a commitment for which, in its continuity and strength, it is not easy to find parallels in the history of other colonial empires.

    It should come as little surprise that the same natural-law arguments—-the placing of entire groups of people into boxes and then using sweeping generalizations to stigmatize the entire group—-that Ginés de Sepúlveda used against the Indians are identical to those that the English and Dutch used against the Spanish in the Black Legend, or that are used today to demonize and stigmatize Arabs and Muslims in the United States.

    After the debate, the Spanish authorities banned Ginés de Sepúlveda’s published tracts, which fit the modern-day definition of racist in every way, and the policy implemented in Spain’s colonies, at least officially, was that of “the two republics.”

    The outcome that resulted from this official ideology was starkly different from the outcome that resulted from “the only good Indian is a dead Indian” ideology that dominated England’s Atlantic colony. In Spanish America, the outcome was miscegenation and mestizaje with the native population. In British America, the outcome was isolation and extermination of the native population. The English and Americans were thus the inventors of an ideology that the Nazis would later carry to its logical conclusion. As Arudhati Roy put it:

    The Nazis had a phrase for superfluous people —überzähligen Essern,
    superfluous eaters.

    “The struggle for lebensraum,” Friedrich Ratzel said, after closely observing the struggle between native Indians and their European colonizers in North America, “is an annihilating struggle”. Annihilation doesn’t necessarily mean the physical extermination of people—by bludgeoning, beating, burning, bayoneting, gassing, bombing, or shooting them. (Except sometimes. Particularly when they try to put up a fight. Because then they become Terrorists.) Historically, the most efficient form of genocide has been to displace people from their homes, herd them together, and block their access to food and water. Under these conditions, they die without obvious violence and often in far greater numbers. This was how the Herero people were exterminated by the German General Adolf Lebrecht von Trotha in Southwest Africa in October 1904. “The Nazis gave the Jews a star on their coats and crowded them into ‘reserves,’” Sven Lindqvist writes, “just as the Indians, the Hereros, the Bushmen, the Amandebele, and all the other children of the stars had been crowded together.
    They died on their own when food supply to the reserves was cut off.”

    1. different clue

      Actually, a lot of Jews died on their own when they were bunched up together and shot, or died on their own from being slavelabored while underfed in labor camps, or died on their own from breathing poison gas in gas chambers.

      Just as a lot of Tutsis died on their own from being hacked with axes and machetes.

  18. pws

    The constant cry of “We need more engineers, scientists, etc” is just a game.

    See, the goal is to continue to raise the H-1B cap. If anyone admits that we actually produce more than enough engineers and scientists, then the justification for raising the H-1B cap goes away, and we start paying domestic engineers and scientists competitive wages. Can’t have that.

    The H-1B system, meanwhile has been employed to lower the value of domestic engineering and scientific degrees, meaning that smart people (which you have to be to successfully become an engineer or a scientist) look at other fields where their math skills can earn them much more money.

    This is why one of my electrical engineer friends is pursuing an advanced degree in finance.

    Why be part of the solution when there is money to be made being part of the problem?

    1. Jack Bray

      Exactly. With over 30 years work experience, and a master’s engineering degree, I could not agree more. A few weeks back, while cleaning out the attic, I came across numerous recruiting brochures from the late 70’s/early 80’s when American company top management believed “our future depends on hiring the best technical staff possible”. Now that boardrooms are dominated by marketing and finance types, the engineers and techies are a “cost of doing business” and treated as such (minimized and outsourced). Sad. H1B visas are all about keeping salaries low.

  19. From Mexico

    And the above doesn’t even touch on the anti-intellectualism that runs through American history like a thread.

    As Richard Hofstadter concludes in Anti-Intellectu​alism in American Life, while Americans value experts and professionals, that is, the smart people we can use for practical, political, and mercantile ends, we are nonetheless wary of “disinterested intelligence, generalizing power, free speculation, fresh observation, creative novelty, radical criticism.”

    Tocqueville was quick to pick up on this phenomenon in American culture. He wrote in Democracy in America:

    I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America. The majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them.

    Much the same could be said about American business, says Hofstadter, which has always tended to glorify “know-how,” while revealing “a contempt for the reflective mind, for culture, and for the past.” What matters to business is utility, the most obvious forms of “practical intelligence,” coupled with a passion for some “forward step in progress.” History is seen as little more than “a museum of confusion, corruption and exploitation.” As corporate America swelled in the twentieth century, its values also grew increasingly crass:

    The more thoroughly business dominated American society, the less it felt the need to justify its existence by reference to values outside its own domain. In earlier days it had looked for sanction in the claim that the vigorous pursuit of trade served God, and later that it served character and culture. Although this argument did not disappear, it grew less conspicuous in the business rationale. As business became the dominant motif in American life and as a vast material empire rose in the New World, business increasingly looked for legitimation in a purely material and internal criterion — the wealth it produced. American business, once defended on the ground that it produced a high standard of culture, was now defended mainly on the ground that it produced a high standard of living.

    Hannah Arendt writes in On Revolution that the result of the ‘American’ aversion from conceptual thought has been that the interpretation of American history has

    succumbed to theories whose roots lay elsewhere, until in our own century this country has shown a deplorable inclination to succumb to and to magnify almost every fad and humbug which the disintegration not of the West but of the European political and social fabric after the First World War has brought into intellectual promience. The strange magnification and, sometimes, distortion of a host of pseudo-scientific nonsense—-particularly in the social and psychological sciences—-may be due to the fact that these theories, once they had crossed the Atlantic, lost their basis of reality and with it all limitations through common sense. But the reason America has shown such ready receptivity to far-fetched ideas and grotesque notions may simply be that the human mind stands in need of concepts if it is to function at all; hence it will accept almost anything whenever its foremost task, the comprehensive understanding of reality and the coming to terms with it, is in danger of being compromised.

    1. jrs

      “we are nonetheless wary of “disinterested intelligence, generalizing power, free speculation, fresh observation, creative novelty, radical criticism.”

      I suspect that every culture is this way to some degree. Sure some cultures are better educations, but radicalism, the unconventional, the novel, is what they all put a break on. It’s perhaps a very role of culture, to put a break on this.

    2. Aquifer

      The Market Model of Life – Cardinal Virtues = Productivity, Efficiency … “irregardless” of what one is producing; First Commandments = Increase Revenue, Decrease Overhead; Prime Tool = “science” (which has its own religion ….)

      One could write, and no doubt several have, the catechism outlining the dogma of this theology …

      We are a very religious nation, don’t let anyone convince one otherwise …

  20. Siggy

    Actually, this disparity between required educational achievement and actual necessity on the job is all a part of the intelligent design of the universe. Or; one could assert that it’s God’s Will!

  21. Engineer

    Yves – as someone who usually appreciates your writing, I must say that the first para is completely and utterly wrong. Growth in jobs may be in the service sector, and there are certainly a lot of useless “degree seeking” these days (both on the part of students and employers), but an engineering job is probably still the best job around – as long as you are good.

    Let’s look at some salary data instead of just your anecdotes:


    On average, scientists and engineers consistently make more than liberal arts graduates. And it’s not just this survey, that’s true on every salary survey I’ve seen. (Sure there are the occasional exceptions but we’re talking averages here.) Now you can make a lot more money as a doctor, MBA or a lawyer, but considering that most people in this country don’t actually go to grad school, a science or engineering degree still seems like the smartest choice. Go for cutting edge fields where emerging economies are lagging – clean tech, biotech, etc. India has nothing going on biotech. I was in the field – call me in five years when a research paper is published by some Indian institution. It’s not easy but you have to continue to stay relevant.

  22. Klassy!

    The pundit class seems to believe that the time we are living in is sui generis; to them it is as if no other people at any other point in history dealt with rapid technological change.
    Perhaps they need more education.

  23. Tom

    I am not college educated but, that has not kept me from learning. In my experience, I find that many management level and above (typical entry requires a college degree) have gone through the motions of their education but, failed in follow through.
    I don’t blame those folks but, expect them to be self critical enough to admit their own failures. This would free them to truly advance and become productive… sort of like an AA program.
    Education has devolved into a system of swallowing information in a non-critical way and then regurgitating same to pass or gain a certificate. I point mainly to ‘business degrees’ and associated service degrees – they seem more like butler training exercises than anything else. I find that front line, real world, bottom to top aware and, product or service core business knowledge is entirely missing or short circuited via the entitlement/’educated’ gap expectations of degree attainment. Business mantra to become ‘lean and mean’ – sharpen that pencil, wring all the blood from the stone, decrees chaos, quantify and standardize operations in quest to maximize profit and, ensure stability in the profit numbers has been overused to the great detriment of a businesses true capability for sustained innovation and competitive advantage – dynamic progress.
    Management should be a tool that opens the fields of endeavour, progress, creativity, risk taking to it’s workers…shall I dare say chaos, dare I say management must seek to destroy it’s own place of importance within the structure. A flatter organization perhaps but, one more focused on a mission and long term growth, buy-in from top to bottom and entirely more common advancement and compensation fairness.
    – supply chain workers close down port and back-up shipping costing billions – I read that as management lacking the basic realization of how critically important their workers are and, how management is looking at the wrong objects of concern in their work. These educated people are looking at what their education has taught them to look at instead of applying what they have learned to the structure at hand.
    Twinkies production and capital improvements were entirely overlooked by management when restructuring out of it’s first bankruptcy – leading to a second… what did management do? they were looking to extract as much personal wealth out of a viable enterprise to the detriment of the enterprise — they never once exercised original thinking, critical analysis, internal expertise, application of common sense, capital improvements or trusted the capabilities of it’s own workforce because they utterly failed to look at what counts in a real business that produces a service or good that others will purchase. – hell they did not even have to upgrade or improve a product because, obviously, that would have required a dynamic they were incapable of realizing.
    If the above examples are what business educations are producing then, I say, this type of education is de-coupled from the real world. Is education now just a conjectured hurdle that is to be endured and passed without the need for critical thinking education, without learning how to apply the learning, without learning how to continuously learn oneself.
    Show me a company that complains about not enough qualified workers available to choose from and, I will show you a company with incompetent management. Seems that the education of these business managers has failed….managers are taught how to collect and present information but apparently, their education has failed to give them the tools to run a business outside of the financial industry.

    The great sore spot in our modern commercial life is found on the speculative side. Under present laws, which foster and encourage speculation, business life is largely a gamble, and to “get something for nothing” is too often considered the keynote to “success”. The great fortunes of today are nearly all speculative fortunes; and the ambitious young man just starting out in life thinks far less of producing or rendering service than he does of “putting it over” on the other fellow. This may seem a broad statement to some: but thirty years of business life in the heart of American commercial activity convinces me that it is absolutely true.
    If, however, the speculative incentive in modern commercial life were eliminated, and no man could become rich or successful unless he gave “value received” and rendered service for service, then indeed a profound change would have been brought in our whole commercial system, and it would be a change which no honest man would regret.- John Moody, Wall Street Publisher, and President of Moody’s Investors’ Service. Dated 1924

    1. jake chase

      The essence of business is speculation on money created by banks. It is as different from industry as marriage is from philandering. It is essentially founded on the sabotage of industry in persuit of private gain. Veblen explained all this in 1904.

      1. Lambert Strether

        That makes Coolidge’s statement that “The business of America is business” both more meta and more profound than I had thought.

        “I do not choose to run in 1928.” Coolidge was good on timing, too….

          1. different clue

            It has been many years since I read the book Unforgiven by Charles Walters Jr., but I remember somewhere in there a reference to Coolidge vetoing the McNary-Haugen farm bill with the very precise understanding of thereby setting off the Great Depression which Senators McCary and Haugen hoped to head off with that bill. According to Walters’s interpretation of events, Coolidge declined to run in 1928 in order to avoid blame for the coming Depression which he very clearly understood he was working to make more likely through such measures as vetoing McNary-Haugen.

        1. Aquifer

          Course then there was that statement that John Adams was supposed to have made, when asked why he did politics – I do politics so my son can do business so my grandson can do art

          So when can we get to the art?

    2. Aquifer

      Did you see the article in Links today on “Insourcing” jobs back into the US? It hinted that perhaps what you are expounding on is occurring to more and more folks – if true, i find it encouraging ….

  24. rich

    Lloyd Blankfein is the Face of Class Warfare

    Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein came to Capitol Hill this week to call for cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. As Congress and the White House are negotiating a year-end deficit deal, Blankfein sought to “lower people’s expectations” about their retirement and health care. He spoke with all the sympathy for someone struggling to get by on $14,000-a-year retirement that you’d expect from a Wall Street banker paid $16 million last year. “Think about the arrogance of these guys on Wall Street who were bailed out by the middle class of this country when their greed and recklessness nearly destroyed the financial system and now they come to Capitol Hill to lecture Congress and the American people about the need to cut programs for working families,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said in a Senate floor speech.


    Lloyd Blankfein was paid $16.1 million in 2011, a 14 percent increase while earnings fell 47 percent »

    During the financial crisis, Goldman Sachs received a total of $814 billion in virtually zero interest loans from the Federal Reserve and a $10 billion bailout from the U.S. Treasury »

    Goldman Sachs received a $278 million refund from the IRS in 2008, even though it earned a profit of $2.3 billion that year »


      1. SubjectivObject

        For the contemporary televised [tele-mesmerized] audience, the originating archtype is Star Trek. All the superior intellect [or so seeming] aliens had big bald heads. Aand, truth be told, Blankfiend is an alien too [see Mars Attacks].

      2. Max424

        I shave my dome, and I assure you, it is not a testosterone thing (hmm …?… no, it’s not).

        I use the razor electric on the noodle because I no longer want to be an adverb (trust me, balding is adverb, when it is happening to you. Shit can happen fast up there. My hairline’s been practically racing backwards over the decades).

        Now I’m just an adjective, which is the way I like it. I’m shorn.

        Not bald. Call me bald, and I’ll kill ya.

        1. Max424

          Unlike the herder Blankfein, I’m shorn like a sheep because I just want to fit in.

          With my fellow sheep-serfs. Now, to fully understand the hyphenated word I coined, I’m thinking about re-plodding through Tolstoy, to get the serf thing down.

    1. different clue

      He is only the visible face of class warfare. Who are the ultimate paymasters and beneficiaries? Who is the secret skull within the public face?

  25. briansays

    the educational industrial complex that depends on the continued dollars of student loans to offer worthless, therapeutic classes don’t care

    and they are members of public unions

    and they vote democratic

    1. A Real Black Person

      The problem with teaching is that most teachers are seen as sinecures, which, of course, is true at the college level. There’s no accountability there.

      1. hb

        actually, if by ‘sinecure’ you mean ‘tenured’, there aren’t that many sinecures out there anymore. Most classes are taught by untenured PhDs & graduate assistants.

        1. A Real Black Person

          No, by sinecure, I mean the teachers and the university colleges take money but absolve themselves of any responsibility as to whether the students are actually better off after said education or training. Actual training and preparation is beneath them but they currently charge an arm and a leg.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I think maybe it’s time for teacherless learning.

      Let the students grope in the dark like knowledge pursuers in the real world. Give them a general theme (even this could be too much directing) and let them pose their own questions. Spontaneous (self-combusting, if you will) learn through trial-and-error.

  26. A Real Black Person

    By college, I mean at the university level. Community colleges make an effort to serve the outside world.

  27. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Everyone a college grad – who’ll burgerflip?

    That used to be a Zen koan I came up with to help center the mind when I tried zazen.

    It seems to be actually relavent to this post.

    When college education has nothing to do with enriching the mind, but is concerned with meeting the production quota of debt-enslaved labor for the 0.01% to keep their system, their machine going, it’s to their benefit to have as many college grads as they can in order to lower their labor cost (via increased supply).

    It matters not to them that the excess (when we are all college educated) might have to going into dishwashing, trashhauling, office cleaning, etc.

    But if college education is about enriching the mind, then the job question is unfortunate, but besides the point. We still would like to see everyone’s mind enriched.

    1. jrs

      Can you enrich minds by bribery though? By the bargain: “if you get this education, you will earn more (or at least not be dirt poor which in this country means being left to die!), and by the way we’ll try to cram some mind enrichment in there as well”. Is that really how one goes about building the smart thoughtful society we all want?

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Sad, isn’t it that being college educated often means better able to to join and contribute to the system, the machine that has produced the dirtpoor who are being left to die.

    2. Roland

      Even if everyone was walking around with a title of “PhD,” somebody would still have to clean the toilets.

      If the toilet-scrubbers all had PhD’s, would we still be entitled to pay them less than the PhD’s who weren’t scrubbing toilets?

  28. jsmith

    Right, as some have pointed out here, aren’t we putting the cart before horse?

    The demise of the secondary education system is a trailing symptom of the failure of capitalism in general.

    Sure, we can debate the particulars of the crises in education, the environment, energy, etc etc etc but until a majority of people realize that capitalism is the driving force behind all of these crises then aren’t we just wasting time?

    Wait, jsmith, but wouldn’t that prohibit the elite from manipulating society and dividing it along the lines similar to the ones evidenced in this thread:

    educated versus uneducated
    middle class versus poor
    “hard-working” versus “lazy”
    my experience versus your experience
    “effort” versus “sloth”


  29. KFritz

    Here’s an NYT OpEd on one facet of the job market. An interesting assemblage of facts and undocumented assertions, delivered from the POV of “I’m an AUTHORITY on this subject, so listen to me!”

  30. Kokuanani

    ***”I’ve had engineers regularly say in comments that the only way to do well with an engineering degree is to then get a law degree and become a patent/intellectual property attorney.”***

    You ought to advise those engineers/would-be-patent-attorneys to hop on over to the Inside the Law School Scam blog, to learn

    * the level of debt with which one will be burdened upon exiting law school
    * the paucity of legal jobs, even within patent/IP fields

    If engineers are so smart, they ought to be able to figure this out. There’s no excuse for not doing so.

  31. Lee

    “You can’t pound a nail over the internet.” From “Shop Class as Soul Craft” by Matthew Crawford.

    A growing number of more highly skilled professions, for example engineering, architecture, x-ray and MRI interpretation MDs, that do not require one’s physical presence to be performed, can be and are being globally shopped.

    My twenty-something son, no fan of classroom schooling, went to a technical school to become a certified electrician rather than attend college. He’s got a modest paying job with prospects for advancement. He may never get rich but he may also never go hungry– absent social collapse brought about by environmental catastrophes, which he believes will occur in his lifetime. Sadly, I can offer few convincing arguments to counter this bleak prognostic.

    I keep pestering him to go back to school and get a degree in electrical engineering with a minor in environmental studies. Maybe I should shut up and let him be.

  32. josap

    You may not need a degree to do the job, you do need a degree to have HR notice your resume.

    Jobs have gone, and will continue to go, to the group requiring the lowest wages. Just a fact. No amount of education in the US will change that fact.

  33. Gil Gamesh

    College education here is a commodity..no surprise, what isn’t in our debased culture. It’s value is ROI, a stepping stone to a “good” job and higher standard of living. And given the expense, most funders of college have to think that way. Higher education, as a subsidized revenue stream, is part and parcel of the American post-industrial “bubble” economy, which Marxist historian Robert Brenner argues is the only game in a mature capitalist town. Refute him if you dare.

    People should attend college to acquire the tools that allow them to be citizens. More citizens in the system, challenging the reactionaries that run it, would be an obvious socila good. So, an enlightened society, a democracy, would provide free university education to Americans so desiring. A no brainer. So, it will never happen in the United States of Dismal and Getting Worse Every Die Until It Dies In Its Own Rot.

    No citizens. Brain dead attachments for Finance Capitalism, the Warfare-Welfare State, and Moveon.org.

    1. Klassy!

      More informed citizens is not the goal of higher education. It’s a sorting mechanism. I would wish that primary education would provide you with the tools to be a more informed citizen.
      The fact that this economist was featured on a non mainstream news outlet tells you all you need to know. It is not like the BLS data is impenenatrable or not available to everyone. Her message does not serve the corporate state. And most in the mainstream media know that that is who they serve and they tailor their message accordingly. That much of our populace can’t see through that is the problem.

      1. different clue

        How are most people supposed to see through that if they don’t have the X-Ray Specs to see through it with?

        “Put the damn glasses on!”

        What glasses? Where?

    2. jrs

      “People should attend college to acquire the tools that allow them to be citizens. More citizens in the system, challenging the reactionaries that run it, would be an obvious socila good. So, an enlightened society, a democracy, would provide free university education to Americans so desiring. A no brainer.”

      I’m a big supporter of state funded colleges, so I have nothing wrong with cheap education (mabye I have a problem with completely free), more affordable education is a better system, but I doubt it will acheive the goal you want. People are not going to go to college in order to “acquire the tools to be citizens” because it’s not their motive. You can try to jam some in, some might stick. But those values are simply not values valued in this society, period, so it’s hard to ever imagine them being almost anyone’s driving force. Money is. Money is the value that’s valued.

    3. hemlock martini

      Back when we were terrified of imaginary commies and not imaginary terrorists, they used to teach you to recognize propaganda in grade school. Once they showed how it’s done, it was obvious that all the propaganda actually came from corporations and not commies. So they had to roll that up. The corporate animus against liberal arts, which you get in purest form from vocationally-trained junior corporate staff, is real and rational. A functioning bullshit detector is maladaptive in the corporate world (It’s also maladaptive in graduate vocatio-, I mean professional education.) The habits of mind you describe are not wanted for desk jobs. Practical reason or intellectually rigorous ethics are poison. But if you can swallow your gorge, a capacity for critical thought helps you work the system and escape with your integrity mostly intact. Boy, do they hate that.

  34. TC

    “It’s hard to see how this situation gets turned around without tackling out-of-control higher education costs head on.”

    Which is not to mention out-of-control quackademics with all the spine of jellyfish producing a culture of sophists who tolerate that sea of subversive slime that is U.S. party politics.

    As for the contemporary boom in chaimbermaids, I’m betting DSK is one happy man…

  35. A Real Black Person

    Access to college education was expanded because of the Space Race. This expansion produced produced many STEM professionals that helped the U.S. military and later U.S. companies. Anyone who’s arguing that anyone should go to school for four more years “for enrichment” and thinks a non-technical degree has any social value is part of the problem because they are parroting exactly what the colleges are saying as they jack up tuition.

    1. Aquifer

      Have to disagree – methinks a non-technical degree has a great deal of social value, which is precisely why, OTOH the Humanities are, in fact, being starved out by TPTB for whom STEM is the “gold standard” and, OTOH society as a whole should provide that sort of education to its citizens – technical degrees should be funded by the businesses that need and profit from them …

      STEM training is useful and necessary indeed, but it is also limiting and stunting –

      It is no accident, ISTM, that the predominant economic models of our time – Capitalism/Communism are both materialist philosophies, reinforcing and, in turn, reinforced by STEM …

  36. Hugh

    There are several issues here. The primary purpose of education from a societal standpoint is to create an informed citizenry.

    Historically, and my take, the subset of higher education was about providing a liberal arts education and supplying the professionals needed to keep public institutions functioning. These two goals were complementary, not separate or considered at odds with each other. Except for teaching colleges, universities were creatures of America’s landed aristocracy. This changed over time. Industrialization introduced the need for other categories of professionals. The GI bill led to the rapid expansion of university education and its democratization. It also led in the last 40 years to increasingly defining university education in terms of its commercial value. At the same time, universities were becoming more and more corporatized. In part, this was because of their increased size. State universities with student populations of 30,000-40,000 became common. They took on the attributes of large corporations because they were large corporations. But also because they began partnering more with commercial corporations and selling themselves as gateways to corporate jobs. Higher education has sought to maintain this increasingly illusory line between its educational mission however that is currently defined and its near total commercialization.

    The problem is that the sales pitch “Go to college, get a good job” is no longer true, and is now seen by many as not true. The sh*t hit the fan in the 1990s and 2000s. University costs consistently outpaced inflation, often by several times. This was true even as the quality of the education declined. Auditorium sized classes became more common. Even in smaller classes, most of the teaching ended up being done by poorly paid, overworked grad students. Regular faculty couldn’t be bothered. They were too busy doing “research”. If they were going for tenure, teaching counted for little in the process. If they were tenured, again they couldn’t be bothered for anything less than senior or grad level courses or those auditorium style monstrosities.

    Then came the 2000s. The heady job creation of the 1990s ended. There was a recession followed by a boom followed by a bust and Japanification. The result was that for the 2000s there was zero net job creation for the decade, and due to offshoring the quality in the mix of jobs was decidedly inferior (for all education levels). For universities, this change has been jarring. “Go to college, get a good job” has been replaced with “Go to college, be in debt for life.” Unsurprisingly, it does not sell as well. The question now is if it needs to. Higher education is returning to its aristocratic roots. The masses are shut out of it or faced with life long debt. Only the rich can afford it, and they need it less for education and more for social networking.

    As for elementary and secondary education, property based, that is local, financing of education made sense as the country was developing. It got basic education out to the masses even in the rural hinterlands. But with the closing of the frontier at the turn of the twentieth century and the increasing urbanization of the country, property based financing increases inequalities between districts and often within districts. On top of this, we now have a whole, and largely unnecessary, credentialing process for teachers. The academization of teaching has rendered it highly ideological. Every 5 to 10 years, there is a new educational -ism which becomes the doctrinal norm until it is in turn displaced by whatever comes next in the series.

    In some sense, this is how No Child Left Behind with its inflexible unrealistic testing and teacher evaluations started out. But it quickly got identified as a profit/looting opportunity. Now we have via charter schools the privatization of what is, or was, one of the most fundamentally public enterprises of our republic. It doesn’t matter that charter schools are no better and often worse than even a highly dysfunctional, underfunded public system. It doesn’t matter that one size fits all testing and teacher evaluations don’t fit a society shot through with massive, and increasing, inequality. It doesn’t matter because this has ceased to be about education and is now only about ideology and its potential for commercial exploitation.

    This is the real state of American education, at least what I see of it. We live in a kleptocracy. Did any of us think, given these circumstances, that education would escape being controlled by our elites and being looted by their rich sponsors?

    1. jake chase

      Your description sounds remarkably like what happened with home ownership and mortgages. I think you could make a similar analysis to marriage and child rearing. Of course, there is no reason why corporate predators should leave any aspect of American life exempt from plundering, and they haven’t.

    2. A Real Black Person

      You said a lot of things I like. But I really think the problem is not a parasitic elite. The parasitic elite is only a symptom of a large number of people for which there is no use for, by society. Education is no different that the military or the prison system (The War on Drugs)in that regard. Education is just another subconscious reaction to an increasingly expendable population. What I’m getting at, is that increasing unemployment, higher inequality, a large prison population, and deteriorating working conditions are complex responses to increasing scarcity of resources.

      Today’s feast and yesterday’s feasts will lead to many tomorrows of scarcity and famine.

      1. Hugh

        I would say that people are our greatest resource. But we live in a society (run by and for the rich and elites) which is burning through them, their skills, knowledge, and goodwill at a rate that dwarfs what it is doing to fossil fuels and the biosphere.

        1. different clue

          I learned to dislike being viewed as a “resource” instead of as a person. I remember really resenting President Bill Clinton’s little line somewhere about “being responsible and playing by the rules”. To me it meant being responsible to rich people and playing by their “increase my profit and wealth” rules. I decided I didn’t want to be a good little sheep for the rich people to shear. I wanted to be a bad little sheep when I grew up, and grow used rusty brillo instead of wool.

          I will only do but so much of that now that I’m older. I like living on $34,000/year at my $34,000/year job. I won’t go back to being a $4,000/year dishwasher just to grow rusty used brillo instead of wool. The only finger I lift nowadays towards being a bad little sheep is not pursuing higher-paying jobs and also being a little bit picky choosy about spending money on social class neutrals or even friendlies instead of spending it on social class enemies . . . in those situations where I have a choice that doesn’t involve going homeless and hungry.

  37. Jim

    Way back in 1991 Christopher Lasch wrote in “The True and Only Heaven” that:

    “At every level of American society, it was becoming harder and harder for people to find work that self-respecting men and women could throw themselves into with enthusiasm. The degradation of work represented the most fundamental sense in which institutions no longer commanded public confidence. It was the most important source of the “crisis of authority.” so widely deplored but so little understood. The authority conferred by a calling with all of its moral and spiritual overtones could hardly flourish in a society which the practice of a calling had given way to a particularly vicious kind of careerism.”

    1. Paul Tioxon

      There was also a great writer named Paul Goodman. I read his book: “GROWING UP ABSURD” in the ’70s. What struck me most was the what he had to say about the crap that was being handed out as a profession with a great paycheck, status and all that goes with that sweet smell of American success. You can see the clamor of grasping lower class pre-WWII America, that was born in a barn, now working in a sky scraper. We were astronauts of upward mobility by the tens of millions. It is clearly delineated in Don Draper’s character in the TV show MAD MEN, who has to steal an identity to escape into a better life.

      Paul Goodman wrote that what we launched ourselves into was work that was hardly worth the title of career or profession. As if making a bigger bag of potato chips or selling a no doc mortgage required anything remotely valuable, skillful, intelligent, useful or even worthy of manhood by any social definition. We were given roles stripped of dignity, humanity, self respect and with more money, even ethics, morality and the ever precious rule of law went out the window. All this importance attributed to the granting of a degree to serve such trivial and diminished roles in the greatest, wealthiest and most powerful nation in history? Absurd!


  38. rob

    I see the problem with higher education is just like everything else.
    We have an “academic industrial complex”.This is nothing new. It is just that now, them putting out the same gruel for the masses, isn’t good enough. and it is painfully obvious.
    Education, is what the student takes from it, and luck is as,if not more important,in terms of what can be wrought from it.Luck of connection,timing,location,occupation,etc…
    From where I sit,People’s education doesn’t say anything about them as a person…job description is really just a tool to have the life you want.I know electrical engineers, who don’t really engineer anything, they are glorified factory quality control workers.I know engineers, who can’t change a spark plug…they may know HOW, to change a spark plug…theoretically… but they can’t really do it.I know doctors, who can’t do anything for themselves,they pay everyone to do it..and why should they, their payscale allows them to not have a clue as to the daily upkeep of their lives,they can afford to have everyone do everything for them…
    Our society worked because everyone had some job to do.now the elitism that the academic industrial complex has marketed to all the generations living,has caused a disruption in the natural interdependence of living people in a society.Those with lettering think too much of themselves, despite the fact that many don’t really know anything technical.I want a harvard trained vascular surgeon to operate on me using the latest techniques,if I need that service…but someone who “went” to harvard to study economics, or marketing… what a useless cog outside of that world .
    The reason the academic industrial complex was allowed, is that the propaganda quotient of their “teaching”,has allowed every other industrial complex to flourish. Education is to impart the technical expertise of the owners of the world, onto those who will run the show for them.There is no desire to allow the people to be able to think critically,and affect their destiny as a people,or make the world better for all,or act in anyway that might jeopardize the power structure of that owner class…the academic industrial complex serves the owner class. at the expense of all the other classes.the power of the academics to control the upward migration is like that of britian,where the goal is to keep the status quo….what they have sold is the “feeling” of those who are educated and payed well that they are masters of their own universe…..so as to create an atmosphere that those self important snobs will administer over the less well educated…and if there were ever a class revolt, those puppet rich will take the brunt. this is what the feudal periods have shown. the need for “cut-outs” in society.I suppose it is a good gig if you can get it….till the bottom falls out
    Whereas, in my world, education should be a tool for all of us to work together ,without looting nature, and keeping an economy sustainable, and on going, so as to further our collective,physical,mental and spiritual developement…
    What I find ironic, is that the people most “concerned” with education, are usually not the smartest people in the room.Although they may have the most degrees. Like people who are most outwardly concerned with social status, are not those who have money,but those in the process of making it.
    But, though I am seldom impressed by the intelligence of people who went to scool a lot, I must say, I would have to tell my child that she must go to school. maybe a good state school. because even though there is no real gift an education can offer, it does get a job that pays better. the reasons society use to pretend the academic complex is selling a real bag of goods,may be false assumptions and bogus paradigms,but the numbers on the paycheck are bigger…and after all, when the society is as big a failure as ours is turning out to be, we must all play the games and do what we must for us and ours…..at least until we can turn this rotten manure barge around and start a compost heap like nature intended.

    1. Aquifer

      Ah, so you would tell your daughter to go to a good “state school” even though for yourself you would want a Harvard trained surgeon ….

      Do you see a little problem here?

      1. reslez

        I have no reason to believe Harvard trained surgeons are better than skilled surgeons of equal experience from state schools. In fact, I would be more likely to suspect the Harvard surgeon is coasting on her resume instead of actual skill.

  39. diptherio

    Wick’s-Lim’s final words: “we need a stronger labor movement.”

    Imho, we need a transition to a co-op economy. In a worker owned business, being the janitor isn’t such a bad thing. Wages don’t get cut (unless absolutely necessary) and jobs don’t get outsourced. Return the full proceeds of labor to the laborers themselves and a good number of our economic problems would go away.

  40. harvey

    I was the first person in my family to get a university education. My daughter’s partner now will be the first person in his family to be university educated.

    Education for our families has been seen as a way into the middle classes and a better life. What happens if that hope is extinguished?

    I am now seeing commentators deriding university education, and advising kids to become tradesmen. But the tradesmen I know are not necessarily doing well economically. I wonder what the motivations of these commentators are, and where they source their opinions.

    To me the really scary thing is the gradual overall disappearance of all jobs. Manufacturing jobs have been offshored, IT jobs are being offshored, and menial jobs which are computer based have been offshored (call centre staff). The engineering drawings for my new house were sent by my engineer to China to be done.

    So where does this leave home grown engineers ? The swallowing of our jobs by technology might make college education mostly redundant in another generation. Then what ?

    1. different clue

      The only way I can think of to long-term address the mass-jobicide problem you describe is to abolish Free Trade and restore Protectionism and retake our highjacked jobs-in-exile. That would require the election of a Congress and a President devoted to that cause. Such a Congress and President would abrogate every Free Trade Agreement we have, pull the US out of the WTO, etc.

      We would then have to expect “the rest of the world” to treat us exactly the way the Big Powers treated the infant Bolshevik Regime in Russia during the Russian Civil War. We would have to be prepared for a War of Total Economic Siege and Starvation against us designed to break our Protectionism in One Country approach and drag us back into the Free Trade System.

      In the narrower scope, I doubt most of the people saying
      “don’t be a fool, borrow zero for school” are really trying to clear the field for their own children. (Unless of course they are not saying that same thing to their own children).

  41. will nadauld

    I attended college after working for a few years in “un skilled” positions. One thing that was beyond comprehension for me was the traditional students complete oblivion to current events. When you ask a group of 150 students if they know what cap and trade means and not one student has even heard the term, something is wrong.
    Most college educated people I know are 30 somethings losing their jobs and starting small businesses of the manual labor variety. Some are doing quite well at it. The freshly minted college grads are doing the jobs that the high school age kids used to do, and the “unskilled” young mechanics,plumbers, etc, are doing pretty well. It will take a few years for the used to be white collar guys who are now doing manual things have the licenses and skills to bring down the wages of the trades people.

  42. Ep3

    Wow, lots of comments.
    2 things yves. First personal experience. I got my bachelors when I was 30 in 2007 and the push was that you couldn’t do as much with it, that you really should go on and get your masters, because you were short changing yourself in the long run (major – accounting). Then, when it came to the job market, experience has been the limiter to jobs and pay. Oh and don’t forget that if I applied for a wal mart job, as a cashier, I would be immediately disqualified because I wouldn’t consider it a long term commitment and I would look to advance. In other words, overqualified.
    Second, Yves, I follow space exploration quite regularly. And everyone knows its expensive as well as difficult to do and takes years to perform a mission. And so it’s always on the chopping block for spending. Yet how many engineers were hired in the 1960s just to goto the moon? What I am saying is that we could employ thousands of engineers on space exploration. But those would be high paying, quasi govt jobs. And we all know that technology from space spills over to the public. So we could dump billions into space and it would benefit our entire society. Yet, we don’t want middle class citizens. We want a .01% of ultra elite rich people and the rest of us dirt poor.

  43. Eric Szvoboda

    I reciently had a conversation with a friend that got a degree in political science but now is working in the internet marketing industry. He says that the education was great to learn to think and then he was able to get into anything he wanted to do.

  44. S Brennan

    Let’s also try to remember that the cost to being an engineer in the US are higher than in China…everybody knows that American Engineers have a much higher cost management structure to support, but…

    Since I am an Engineer and I work with Chinese counterparts to rectify issues with their designs I think I can shed a light one area that is not EVER talked about…SOFTWARE TOOLS….

    In Asia, but particularly China, almost all firms work with pirated software. CAD & FEA programs that cost tens of thousands upfront and many thousands per year in licensing fees are universally pirated.

    So before one cent in salary is paid either a US or Chinese Engineer, the Chinese guy is about 17,000.00 USD/year cheaper than the US Engineer who must shoulder the burden of parasitical software licensing agreements that are laughed at in Asian countries.

    This arrangement also hurts younger US Engineers when competing with H1-B’s (and an alphabet soup of other programs) for the few jobs available stateside, because the their foreign competition can work with these tools for free, while US engineers are force to pay to play (if they can), consequently, a foreign engineer can board a flight and swoop in to take a scarce job because of up to date skills garnered in ways that would be illegal in the US.

    Also there is the intern crap that is on the rise nowadays…free, or minimum wage work for highly skilled work in order to “gain experience” which is highly unfair, to a group of graduates who unlike many other degrees have marketable skills upon graduation.

    Then there is the overt age discrimination of people approaching 40 years of age. If you walk into many US Engineering firms, you will notice an absence of anybody much older than their early 30’s. In order to discriminate effectively, whith out coming right out and saying they are breaking the law, HR dept’s will ask for résumé with 3-5 or 3-7 years of experience. Do you know any other professions where the top age is so prescribed? You don’t want to be laid off for being too old after receiving a full wage for a few short years…best to find a stable profession, after all, we are talking about the top 1% scholastically…find a profession that treats it members with a modicum of respect.

    That is why as an engineer, I do my best to chase young people away from the profession…you don’t want to be working the Home Depot check-out lane because you are over the hill at the ripe age of 40…the guy who scanned my stuff today has being doing it for five years and curses the day he took up engineering….I don’t blame him.

    You are a smart woman Yves, that is why I read you, but this is area where you have to be in the game to understand how Hobsian it really is.

  45. Roland

    It’s not a matter of what education is required to DO the job.

    What matters is what credentials are needed to GET the job.

    In a marketplace where so many job-seekers possess post-secondary credentials, actual job requirements become moot.

    We’re in a Great Credentials Arms Race, in which job seekers engage in a competitive bidding war against one another, often borrowing vast sums in order to amass the credentials needed to buy some sort of respectable social position.

    Since so many Americans (and Canadians) retain the mistaken belief that they’re supposed to be members of a “middle class,” it’s not hard to understand why they’ll go deep into debt in the effort to retain their social status and self-respect.

    This problem isn’t confined to youth. Large numbers of middle-aged people, lacking secure employment, are forced to return to the education sector at heavy cost, in order to add to their credentials.

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