Thursday, August 14, 2008
An Argument against College Education
Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute writes a piece in the Wall Street Journal that makes some pretty good arguments against the use of the Bachelor's degree as a sort of union card for employment.
Finding a better way should be easy. The BA acquired its current inflated status by accident. Advanced skills for people with brains really did get more valuable over the course of the 20th century, but the acquisition of those skills got conflated with the existing system of colleges, which had evolved the BA for completely different purposes.For the most part, I agree with Murray, although I initially felt strong reservations. A solid education should go well beyond simply training someone for a single specific occupation.
The solution is not better degrees, but no degrees. Young people entering the job market should have a known, trusted measure of their qualifications they can carry into job interviews. That measure should express what they know, not where they learned it or how long it took them. They need a certification, not a degree.
I thought something along the lines of, "Isn't that (i.e., the general training of an adult mind) what college is for?"
Well. Yes and no. But the right way to look at this would be to ask, "Isn't that what a good education is for?"
Murray is right. College is a waste of time for most people. But they end up having to attend college to prove themselves -- as well as to make up for the deficiencies of their earlier education -- because of the dismal state of our largely socialized educational system, which is unfortunately dominated by (and entrenches) the Progressive philosophy of education. (And follow that link for a good discussion, if I say so myself, of the flip side of focusing too much on preparation for a particular job, which is a possible hazard owing to how Murray's approach would be interpreted in today's intellectual milieu.)
Ideally, our educational system would be free from government control, which would isolate failures in extent and time, as well as create incentives for schools to excel in the business of preparing children for adulthood. Also, the best schools within such a system would apply an objective theory of epistemology to the problems peculiar to their business. In such a system, most people would be fine without college and better off than most who attend it are today.
It isn't a matter of REclaiming anything....
At Slate is one of those aggravating partially-correct articles one runs across from time to time. Linda Hirshman rightly notes that the left needs to stand up for the morality of abortion -- only to wrongly prescribe altruism as the moral basis for doing so and, worse still, fail to challenge the mystical basis of opposition to abortion.
The 2008 platform, just announced, says instead, "The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right." [bold added, link dropped]Rights -- like abortion -- pertain to an individual's freedom to act upon one's rational judgement so long as the rights of others remain inviolate. There can be, for the same reason, no "right" (as the Democratic platform implies) to take someone else's property by government force -- even if excused by the desire to use it to implement those choices.
Failing to respect one right, like property, while attempting to uphold another, like the control of one's own person, is to undercut the correct part of one's own position. Conservatives used to make a similar error when they stood for economic freedom, while undercutting that stand by supporting the draft. What difference does having money make if one's life can be put at risk at the whim of the state?
Of course, the crucial objection to abortion, which the Democrats have apparently completely evaded, is that a fetus is allegedly a human life. Every such assertion is based on the mystical belief that fetuses have a supernatural soul. This assertion is left unchallenged. (Is this the Democrats' way of appeasing the religious voters they are starting to court?)
One's politics is based on one's morality, true. But morality is based, in turn, on metaphysics and epistemology. If one does not challenge the idea that the universe is a whim of some supernatural being or the alleged means of "knowing" this by faith, one will find oneself beginning to compromise with one's enemies and eventually capitulating.
The Democrats don't need to reclaim the moral high ground on abortion. They need to find it on a map and get there.
The Cost of Bad Government
Detroit's government is so bad that a house and its lot for a dollar are a fool's bargain:
Scrappers tore out the copper plumbing, the furnace and the light fixtures, taking everything of value, including the kitchen sink.The article states shortly afterward that the bank lost $10,000 in the deal!
"It about doesn't make sense to put the family out," [neighbor Carl] Upshaw said. "Once people are gone, you're gonna lose the house in this neighborhood."
Tuesday, the home was wide open. Doors leading into the kitchen and the basement were missing, and the front windows had been smashed. Weeds grew chest-high, and charred remains marked a spot where the garage recently burned.
Put on the market in January for $1,100, the house had no lookers other than the squatters who sometimes stayed there at night. Facing $4,000 in back taxes and a large unpaid water bill, the bank that owned the property lowered the price to $1.
A proper government protects individual rights. This means, it stops criminals and does not engage in criminal behavior, such as taxation, itself. Set aside for the moment the federal government's role in the subprime lending crisis. Detroit's government is operating almost completely in reverse, and its cost is clearly evident. Read the whole thing.
"Fairness" under any other name would be just as wrong.
The Business and Media Institute warns that a return of the "Fairness" Doctrine would likely affect the Internet, and that it might return under another name.
I am glad they have pointed these things out. Now if only they would take a moral stand for freedom of the press and property rights!
A recent study by the Media Research Center’s Culture & Media Institute argues that the three main points in support of the Fairness Doctrine -- scarcity of the media, corporate censorship of liberal viewpoints, and public interest -- are myths. [link dropped]Scarcity of media is no excuse for government interference with property rights. Crying "Censorship!" when private property owners select their own content is a disingenuous way for leftists to claim the right to commandeer private property to spread their own views. And there is no such thing as "public interest"!
Yes, repealing the "Fairness" Doctrine put many leftist excuses for it to the lie, but so what? The "Fairness" Doctrine, as a violation of the rights to freedom of speech and to property, is morally wrong and contrary to the proper purpose of government. That is why it should be opposed, no matter what its proponents choose to call it in the future.
Apparently, this book of chemistry experiments for kids has been banned by the nanny state for safety reasons! But you can still download it. For now.
How to Buy a New Car
I'm not in the market for a new car, but I've been thinking about cars lately, so this video caught my eye at Boing Boing. The executive summary is as follows:
- Use two full weekends.
- Sell your old car, rather than trading it in.
- Get competitive bids for the final (drive off the lot) price.
- Walk out when the deal changes.
- Don't buy any extras.
This post was composed in advance and scheduled for publication at 5:00 A.M. on August 14, 2008.