Monday, June 02, 2014
Theodore Dalrymple, "When Eggheads Go Sour
," Taki's Magazine
(June 1, 2014):
Governments like expanding the numbers of the educated because it is the kind of goal they can set themselves and are more or less certain of reaching. All you have to do is pass a law saying children must attend school for such and such a length of time, and in the case of tertiary education, to lower standards of entry to university and of graduation therefrom. Furthermore, governments can present the expanded numbers as a triumph of their own policy and evidence of their own benevolence, for everyone knows that, if education is a good thing, the more of it the better.
That this results in a bad fit between the education that the young receive and what they will be called upon to do in adult life concerns governments far less. When graduates, however, discover that they will be lucky if they can get an ill-paying job that they would have been able to do by the age of sixteen at the latest, they are likely to be disillusioned and angry; they will feel that they have been deprived of something that they were promised. No group is more dangerous than the disgruntled literate, and if jobs cannot be invented for them, some of them will invent jobs of their own, among them saving the world by means of an idiotic general idea. What in youth is called idealism is more often resentment.
[T]here is now often little connection between the market in education and the market in employment. The economic value of a university degree has correspondingly declined (of its intellectual or cultural value I dare not speak, for the vast majority of students now regard their education merely as a means to an end, and not as an end in itself), and it has become obvious to more and more students that the main purpose of their tertiary education is to lower the rate of youth unemployment for the propaganda benefit of government. In many countries, worse still, students are now being made to pay, by means of indebtedness, for their own unemployment. But while the economic value of a degree has declined, it is something they cannot do without, for without it they have no chance even of a job for which they would have been overqualified a few decades ago. Thus they are on a treadmill from which they cannot alight.
Hat tip: Jim K.