Modern education is about selection more than enhancement, with educational qualifications mainly serving to “signal” or quantify a person’s hereditary psychological attributes. On average, a modern college or university education enhances neither skills nor behaviors, nor does it inculcate useful knowledge.
In practice, higher education mostly functions as an extremely slow, inefficient, and imprecise form of psychometric testing that measures intelligence and evaluates personality. It would therefore be easy to construct a modern educational system that was both more efficient and more effective than the current one.
Since the modern educational system in general, and higher education in particular, are vastly over-expanded, it is likely that sooner or later this situation will prove unsustainable. Not least because the education system has been, for about a century, based-on the expectation of continual expansion in personnel, resources, years of education, and inflation of qualifications.
Therefore, when the crash comes it will be catastrophic. I would guess the system will shrink to about a tenth of its present size -- back to what it was a century ago.
When a full account has been taken of IQ and personality, and when the presumed effects of chance have also been subtracted, then there is not much variation of outcomes left over for educational differences to explain. Educational and career outcomes are mostly a combination of genetic destiny and luck.
Of course, there will be some systemic effect of educational differences, but the effect is likely to be very much smaller than generally assumed, and even the direction of the education effect may be hard to detect when other more powerful factors are operative.
The fact that systematic differences in educational attainment within a society are mostly due to heredity is a stunning conclusion in a contemporary context. The whole educational system in modern societies is operating under false pretences.
Those aspects of modern education that are not psychometric are neglected and misdirected. In particular, the factual content of education is neglected -- yet factual content is probably much more important and makes a much larger long-term difference to life than do variations in educational methods. The information we learn as children may stay with us for the rest of our lives.
If psychometric estimates of IQ and personality were available for each person, then it would be easy to construct a modern educational system that was both more efficient and more effective than the current one. However, any such change would result in a massive downsizing of the educational system -- with substantial and permanent loss of jobs and status for educational professionals of all types including teachers, professors, administrators, managers, and politicians.
This impact of psychometric knowledge on educational professionals is likely to be a key underlying reason why IQ (especially) has become a taboo subject and why the basic facts of IQ have been so effectively obfuscated.
The most-selective and research-oriented universities are at the forefront of modern IQ resistance. At the same time, more functionally orientated institutions, such as the United States military, have for many decades quietly been using IQ as a tool to assist with selection and training allocations.
The vulnerability of the elite institutions to IQ knowledge is because most of the assumed advantages of an expensive elite education can be ascribed to their historic ability to select the top stratum of IQ (and also the most desirable personality types). The stability and predictive power of these traits means that the elite students are therefore pre-determined (on average) to be highly successful.
Consequently the most elite institutions and their graduates have in the past few decades, both via academic publications and in the mass media, thoroughly obscured the basic and validated facts about IQ.
We now have a situation where the high predictive powers of IQ and personality, and the stable and hereditary nature of these traits, are routinely concealed, confused or even dishonestly denied by some of the most prestigious and best-educated members of modern society.
Academics at the most expensive, elite, intelligence-screening universities tend to be hyper-skeptical of psychometric testing, precisely because they do not want to be undercut by cheaper, faster, more-reliable IQ and personality evaluations. But sooner or later, the modern elite will be overcome and replaced, or will destroy themselves.
I advocate a substantial reduction in the average amount of formal education and the proportion of the population attending higher education institutions.
This is necessary because present higher education serves very little positive function but wastes vast economic resources -- including the opportunity costs of alternative uses of millions of man-years of the most productive individuals.
At a personal level, higher education probably does more harm than good to lifestyle skills, damages morality, and inculcates numerous falsehoods and distortions -- fuelling the spiteful, conceited, and silly characteristic of the modern college graduate, which is known under the label of political correctness.
Instead of the present system, at the age of about sixteen each person could leave school with a set of fact-based examination results demonstrating their level of competence in a core knowledge curriculum; and with usefully precise and valid psychometric measurements of their general intelligence (IQ) and personality (especially their age ranked degree of Conscientiousness).
Most people would then begin on-the-job training or apprenticeship -- as in traditional societies.
Higher education should focus on elite professionals and a small amount of pure, vocationally-driven scholarship -- a few percent of the age group cohort going on to higher education has been found optimal in most societies, and it would vary between populations and civilizations.
In summary, modern societies are currently vastly over-provided with about ten times more higher education than they need, and this education has the wrong emphasis. In particular, the job of sorting people by their general aptitude could be done more accurately, cheaply, and quickly by using psychometrics to measure IQ and Conscientiousness. This would free-up time and energy for early training in key skills such as reading, writing, and mathematics; and to focus on a core knowledge curriculum.
However, for reasons related to self-interest, the intellectual class does not want people to know the basic facts about IQ. And since this class provides the information upon which the rest of society depends for their understanding, it is in an excellent position to keep the public in the dark about heritable intelligence.
Lacking the necessary knowledge of IQ and its effects, people are not able to understand the education system and what it actually does.
(From the web magazine Alternative Right - http://www.alternativeright.com/main/blogs/hbd-human-biodiversity/the-iq-allergy. Published 14 Sep 2010.)
Do you know a source for the annual % of school-leavers going to university from, say, 1950 onwards? (Ideally, I'd like to see the English and Scottish figures tabulated or plotted separately.)
Bruce perhaps you already know but I'll tell you in case you don't and are interested. The British army also use IQ tests. If I recall correctly it is called the British Army Battery Test or BARB for short.
When a subject completes the test a list of jobs to which he may apply is produced. I think the average score is 40 and this will result in a list of jobs comprising about half an A4 page (I think). A score of about 100% will produce a little over a page of jobs (I think).
Have a go of the test yourself to see what you get. It is quite simple.
Excellent post by the way.
I have believed for quite a while now that a students school leaving results should be accompanied by their IQ score. I have also believe for a while now that keeping second level students in school till 18 is daft (as is the number of hours spent in school - 9 to 4 in Southern Ireland plus masses of homework).
I agree that most students should leave school in their mid-teens and I believe from their they should do on-the-job training or do short courses to acquire job specific knowledge.
The present system is a waste of money and time.
Relatedly, I would like kill the belief of employers that experience and knowledge "is everything" - really intelligence is more important in many cases (they seem to think otherwise).
@dearieme - no I don't know of a single source. Robert Anderson's British Universities Past and Present (2006) contains most of what you want to know, but spread out through the book and with incosistent denominators.
@aliialiacensent - yes, I had a look at some of the British Army tests a couple of years ago. What I saw did not norm the test against a random national sample to give an IQ measure, however.
I'm sure that my IQ was measured by my schools several times during my childhood (i.e. I can recall doing what were obviously IQ tests - including an '11 plus' type exam used for 'streaming' in High School; although I attended a non-selective Comprehensive school).
But neither I nor my parents were ever told the results, and I would guess they are long-since lost.
That kind of with-holding of important information is pretty typical of the UK education system - both then and now.
Bruce, did you ever hear the phrase: "the child is the father of the man"?
In essence I suppose it means, the core of a child's behaviour does not change as he ages - we should promote this idea.
The phrase was a title (or perhaps subtitle) of a paper on personality development.
IQ tests are straightforward enough, but designing a cheat-proof personality test seems like a tall order. I've taken a few Big Five personality tests before, and they've always relied on Likert-scale responses to statements like "I see myself as someone who does a thorough job" or "I tend to be disorganized." If your goal is to get an accurate assessment of your personality, you'll try to answer honestly -- but if your goal is to improve your prospects in the job market by scoring as high as possible in Conscientiousness, it's pretty obvious what the "right" answers are. As far as I know, the only way to test conscientiousness is to actually have the person do difficult work over an extended period of time; there are no shortcuts.
As for your point that modern education is basically psychometric in nature, I agree. When people are impressed that someone went to Harvard, their reaction is always "Wow, he must be really smart if he managed to get into Harvard" -- never "Wow, he must have learned so much there!"
@wmjas - yes - personality self-ratings are not 'tests' - but personality evaluation is not difficult, given a sufficient period of behavioural observations, because personality is a trait in which the rank orderings of people do not change much as they get older.
i.e. the most and least conscientious at age 12 are likely to be the most and least conscientious at age 30 - although nearly every individual's C. will have increased substantially during the 18 year interval.
So honest and competent school teachers and employers can generate usefully predictive personality rankings.
I discuss this at:
“If psychometric estimates of IQ and personality were available for each person, then it would be easy to construct a modern educational system that was both more efficient and more effective than the current one.”
“Academics at the most expensive, elite, intelligence-screening universities tend to be hyper-skeptical of psychometric testing, precisely because they do not want to be undercut by cheaper, faster, more-reliable IQ and personality evaluations. But sooner or later, the modern elite will be overcome and replaced, or will destroy themselves.”
“and with usefully precise and valid psychometric measurements of their general intelligence (IQ) and personality (especially their age ranked degree of Conscientiousness).”
“In particular, the job of sorting people by their general aptitude could be done more accurately, cheaply, and quickly by using psychometrics to measure IQ and Conscientiousness.”
Out of curiosity what would you propose would be the best field/college major or career for someone of moderate high IQ (around 130 or maybe more) and a (Big 5) personality profile of low extraversion, low conscientiousness, low neuroticism, low agreeability and high openness?
I ask because I am a current Australian university student who has bounced around from one degree to another and want to settle on a field/occupation that would be a good fit for someone of my personality and IQ profile. I have tried to look for information related to this but as you mentioned in your post, the knowledge of sorting people by IQ and personality into specific fields/careers isn’t widely accessible.
If it’s any help, I have bounced from commerce to arts to engineering to maths and law degrees. I am currently doing a double degree in law and maths but find that law is much easier for me to maintain a high grade point average than maths, which I believe is the result of maths more heavily selecting for conscientiousness than law does. (Law exams are open book and the exam questions are more about applying knowledge to novel situations as opposed to maths where exams are closed book with no formula sheets (sometimes even no calculators) and the questions generally revolve around applying what you’ve learnt to types of problems you would have already encountered in seminars/tutorials. As such, the best way to perform well in maths is to drill/grind your way through previous problems and basically memorise how to answer them which plays to my weakness of low conscientiousness, whereas law seems to be more about understanding fundamentals and applying them to entirely new situations, which would naturally play to my strengths –high IQ, high openness, low neuroticism and high psychoticism and hence creativity (psychoticism is correlated with low agreeableness and low conscientiousness), rather than my weaknesses- low conscientiousness, low extraversion.
Put simply, do you know of any fields/majors or careers that would play to my strengths listed above of high IQ, high openness, low neuroticism and high psychoticism and hence creativity (psychoticism is correlated with low agreeableness and low conscientiousness), rather than my weaknesses of low conscientiousness, low extraversion.
To give you an idea of my IQ, throughout high school I participated in national Science and English competitions and would always score in the 95th percentile or greater, and I tested my IQ online at this site http://www.iqcomparisonsite.com/ and scored a 156, (although I am aware that online testing of IQ is fraught with issues as to validity, I provided the link so that if you want you can check the test out yourself. From what I read on the web site, the test seems fairly legitimate/representative.)
I realise you are a very busy man and most likely won’t have the time to address my question(s) but any help of yours, an expert on this matter, would be very, very greatly appreciated.
@Chris - I really don't know what to suggest.
You may have to do whatever interests you and accept a low income. Or you may be able to do something which you don't enjoy but which pays more per hour, and work part time.
Probably (like me) you will have to try a few different jobs (in a few different places) until you find a suitable one.
But it is worth remembering that, for most people, marriage and family are far more fulfilling than work. That should come first.
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