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Monday, November 28, 2011

The Last Illusion: Education

Recently a lot of mainstream articles have been correctly identifying the problems in the world today:

Blacks and hispanics get worse outcomes in school, and as a result, get lower paying jobs, or no jobs, in the workforce.

Low-skilled workers are being outcompeted by computers/machines/Chinese/Indians and as a result we are facing record unemployment rates.

The gap between the rich and the poor just keeps on widening as the rich get richer by making use of the productivity of machines while the poor lose their jobs to said machines and make no money at all.

The African birth rate is unsustainable.

Men who can't find productive employment can't find any marriage prospects, which has led to a drastic decline in the birth rate of the developed world.

Virtually everyone now *gets* these things. They have diagnosed the illness -- from 1900 to 1990, the number of hours worked by mankind halved as machinery took over the load. This did not result in massive unemployment because we had not yet reached that historical moment in the trend. Instead it meant everyone was able to relax more and take longer vacations, shorter workweeks, we were able to exclude elderly and children from the work force, attend college indefinitely, etc. However, since 1990, this trend has continued and no doubt accelerated. There are now machines like Watson which can compete evenly with doctors and lawyers at their 'skilled' jobs. Machines can see the world around them and safely drive on our streets. How long before all the forklift and trucking and taxi jobs are gone?

Recently an article appeared saying that an old coal plant was finally being shut down and replaced by a new natural gas plant. The old coal plant employed around 200 people. The new gas plant, a modern marvel, employed exactly one, an engineer who overlooked the whole facility and called for backup help if anything broke. What if we did that countrywide?

The truth is machines are only going to keep improving in efficiency. Moore's law dictates that much. It's a miracle employment lasted this long, and in the background, it really hasn't. We're already working only half as hard as we did a century ago. And since 2000, not a single job has been net created in America. As many people have been fired as hired, even though the population of the USA, in that time, has shot up by some 30 million. This means that we actually have been losing workforce continuously, as in a natural system employment would rise in line with population, not stay completely neutral as population rose dramatically. Like I said, this horrible reality has been masked, but the mask is now off.

We now know that not only is massive unemployment a reality, but that it isn't going away. In fact, it's getting worse, when measured accurately -- minimum wage is now only 2/3 of what it used to be, when adjusted for inflation, workforce participation rates are at record lows, etc. The mainstream newspapers and magazines are all willing to admit this much, they also admit it has to do with free trade and machines. If that's the case, why hasn't the mainstream media called for systemic, radical change in our society? If a doctor sees a patient, sees that he's bleeding to death, correctly diagnoses that he's been shot and that's why he's bleeding out, why would a doctor just sort of stand by and watch, saying, 'there's nothing I can do?' Isn't it obvious what needs to be done? Isn't it obvious we need a blood transfusion plus immediate surgery? Or, in the nation's case, isn't it obvious we need public health care and a citizen's dividend, such that even the unemployed can have health insurance and a minimum living wage?

Apparently, no. Even when the answer is staring us right in the face, even when it's completely crystal clear what the problem is, and that the problem exists, it is not crystal clear to these mainstream commentators what to do about it. They all stop short of offering true reform, true change, true solutions to our problems. Instead they invoke a single magic word, the silver bullet, the panacea, that they promise will cure all our ills in a jiffy: Education.

Blacks and Hispanics aren't performing well enough in school? We need education reform. That will 'close the gap' in a jiffy.

Low skilled workers can't find jobs? Just make them high skilled workers with extra education! Problem solved.

Africans are too poor and have too many kids? Women's education will solve that in no time. Just get the women in school and all cultural or biological differences will melt away.

The birthrate in Japan and Europe is around one half what it needs to be just to not go extinct? Well, men just need to man up and keep up with women by going to college and grad school, getting decent provider wages, buying a decent $500,000 house while paying down a $100,000 student loan, and make a nest fit for a bride like any good male songbird does.

There's inequality in America? The poor haven't made any progress wage-wise since the '70's? Just make everyone as rich as Bill Gates by giving them all Harvard educations. That will cure our inequality in a flash.

It's like some sort of mandatory sentence or paragraph at the end of every mainstream article, sort of like Cato's 'Carthago Delenda Est!'

Just get everyone a graduate degree!

A graduate degree in every pot!

The problem with this idea is it doesn't work, it won't work, it can't work, and it is ludicrous to believe it could work for even a split second. So why has the entire 'thinking' class come to the universal conclusion that education is the solution?

Has basic reality become so divorced from these talking heads that they actually believe the stupid nonsense they're saying?

First off, 'education' has no actual productive use. Colleges don't teach people actual job skills that they could use to actually make something or do something if they were hired. Education is a zero-sum game. It serves simply to sift out the weak from the strong, so that companies can hire the strong with a high assurance that their job training of their new prospect will succeed and he'll be an asset to the company. Even doctors and lawyers, who spend 10 years in 'higher education,' must first serve as low-paid interns where they actually learn all the actual details of their jobs. The degree is just a ticket to the internship, the internship is the source of all their job skills later in life. If there were a magic radar that could discover these doctors' and lawyers' potential without the ten years of higher education and just hire them immediately as interns, said interns would be just as successful at learning on the job. Oh wait, THERE IS A MAGIC RADAR THAT DOES JUST THAT. IT'S CALLED AN IQ TEST! But never mind that, it's illegal to hire people on the basis of IQ tests in America, so let's instead make everyone go $100,000 into debt and waste ten years of their lives just to produce the exact same result, no more or less trustworthy a signal, than a 5-minute IQ test would've produced for free.

Higher education is a joke. It doesn't teach anything useful, it just serves as a very long, very expensive test of two basic traits: IQ and pain tolerance. The IQ part goes into understanding whatever nonsense is being thrown at you that you will never, ever use on your job, whether it's feminist theory or the history of Russia or organic chemistry ((Because surgeons really need to know how molecules bind to sew up a patient's bleeding artery, right?)) However, there is a correlation between IQ and the ability to learn, which can be applied to Russian history in college, and on the job training at work, so the nonsense is an effective IQ test an does achieve the result of discovering whether people are suited for a job later in life.

At the same time, college is one of the most stressful environments people are ever put into. If they manage to go through all of those sleepless nights and turn in their dozen papers after reading a dozen books in a couple weeks, then they'll probably be willing to work hard on the job as well. If they punctually attend their college classes, that's a good hint they won't sleep through work and leave you stranded. If they actually humiliate themselves enough to write about why gays were essential to the Enlightenment and how Chinese fireworks are the basis of the modern world yada yada yada then they'll probably be willing to put cover sheets on your T-3 report while sitting in a tiny cubicle day after day, too, without killing everyone around them.

College is an excellent torture lab. If anyone can get through college, after all the shit they throw at you, then they can handle work too, however shitty that work is. Nothing is as bad as college. And remember, in college, you pay them, but at work, they pay you. The corresponding benefit-to-cost ratio is ridiculously slanted towards the workplace. If employers could test to see if you wanted the job by just cutting off your right hand, or by locking you in a cold room for three sleepless days and nights, I'm sure they'd prefer to do a cheap and fast test like that -- but since such measures are frowned upon, 10 year college torture labs will do.

Nothing you learn in college will ever be applied to any job you get. However, the degree does tell employers two important things -- you'll eat shit for them and you're smart enough to get the job done. Every year employers need a certain amount of labor to keep their machines (their capital goods) humming. They skim the top pickings off the college crop, the people who ate the most shit and learned the most nonsense, and leave the rest to go hang, unemployed AND saddled with massive student loan debt, laughing all the way to the bank. It's a wonderful system for them. But it's clearly insane for everyone else. In the past, we had a perfectly good system that gave everyone job security and job skills -- it was called the master-apprentice system, where people from a young age were hired and immediately set about learning the trade of their employer. They didn't get much pay, but they got some, plus room and board. They certainly didn't go into $100,000 of debt while learning about Eskimo mythology.

Whatever happened to the master-apprentice system? Why can't we just go back to that? When did we buckle in to the employer's demands and just hand the whole world over to them? Why don't the 99% ever flex their muscles and vote in their own self interest? Answer: They're too stupid to even realize how badly off they are, under the current system, and they're too stupid to imagine anything better. Smart people realize how to game the system and join the 1%. They have no incentive to tell the dumb 99% that it's possible to change the system entirely -- how would they join the 1% then?

But I digress. The real problem isn't that education is a giant scam, even though it is. The real problem is that it's a ZERO-SUM scam. If everyone got a graduate degree, how would employers figure out who to hire? They only have so many open job slots, and they want to hire the best people for the job -- the people with the most IQ and the highest pain tolerance. They still aren't interested in anyone else. Even if 10 million people have the necessary skills to do the job they have to offer, they could always make a higher profit by hiring the single most qualified person for the job and leaving the rest to go hang. These employers don't have 'infinite' jobs available. They are limited by the needs of their capital goods. If a modern natural gas plant only requires one engineer to power 100,000 homes, then the energy sector can only hire 1,000 or so engineers in all of America to power all of America. Even if 10 million people get a degree in 'natural gas power plant oversight,' only 1,000 people will get the job, because there are only 1,000 natural gas power plant jobs in the USA.

Educating a workforce to do work that isn't even available is just as useless as not educating them at all. The market signals whether there is a need for certain jobs or not, by raising wages in said field. If wages are going up in a sector, that indicates the employers are desperate to attract employees and bending over backwards to get them. You can be sure they aren't raising wages out of a humanitarian love of mankind. Guess what? Wages aren't going up ANYWHERE. That sort of goes hand in hand with my statistic -- we haven't created any new jobs since 2000.

The rich aren't getting richer because people are paying them higher wages, they're getting richer because their capital is becoming ever-more-valuable. They are making all of their money through capital gains. (Which, conveniently for them, is taxed at a much lower rate than income, the money peons make, go figure.) Wages, straight out 'here's your weekly paycheck and health care benefits,' are in fact dropping since 2007, across the board. People are just lucky they have a job, any job -- no one is in a position to demand a raise. That's how employers like it, and that's how the situation is going to stay -- forever. If wages do start to rise in any field, say, nursing, they'll just holler about it to congress and get 10 million visas for 10 million Filipinos to come over here and become nurses at half price, and the wages will go back down again. Do you think the rich are dumb? They haven't let wages go up since 1970, they're not going to start now.

If we did need a more highly educated workforce and there really were jobs going unfilled that employers desperately wanted to hire people in, we would see increased wages competing for workers. Since we don't, these jobs don't exist. It is a myth that there are 'infinite jobs' available for anyone with a good education. In fact, phd's, the most educated of the educated, only 1/3 of the time have a job in the field they were educated in. The rest wasted 10 years on a piece of paper that didn't teach them anything of use for any job they were in. All it did is, again, signal that they were smart and pain tolerant and thus signal to employers they were better than Joe Schmoe at flipping burgers.

If you dim that signal by handing everyone a bachelors degree, employers will just demand a graduate degree from anyone looking to get a job. If you give everyone a graduate degree, they'll demand pure phd's to get a job. If you give everyone a phd, they'll demand some 4th new degree that takes even more money and time to earn. They aren't interested in what you learn in school, they're only interested in separating the wheat from the chaff. Suppose everyone made a herculean effort and got a degree, what would employers do? They'd be facing a lottery situation when making hires. That would be crazy, and so they wouldn't allow it. They'll up the standards to whatever it takes until they can hire the top 1% again like they wanted from the start. The qualifications for a job are that you outcompete everyone else -- it isn't that you cross some dumb threshold of knowledge in your field and become competent to do the work. It's a zero-sum, dog-eat-dog world. There is no such thing as a 'knowledge economy.' There's only a 'more knowledgable than thou' economy. We are gazelles and cheetahs take the hindmost. It doesn't matter if even the slowest gazelle is running at 50 miles per hour. The point is you're the slowest and now you're dead. Sucks, huh?

But even this is too optimistic. The truth is, not only is education a farce, and not only would the one purpose of education be abrogated if we gave everyone an equally good education (which is to separate the weak from the strong), but it's impossible to educate the 'weak' as well as the 'strong.' It is impossible to drum calculus and continued fractions and chaos theory into someone with 100 IQ. They could go to school for twenty years -- they wouldn't learn it. They can't learn it. It's simply beyond their comprehension. People have physical, real barriers to learning which effort cannot overcome. It's called stupidity. Only 1 in a thousand people can learn the junk college has to offer. It's utterly fruitless for anyone else to attend in the first place. The reason why blacks and hispanics do poorly in school isn't racism, and it isn't a poor home environment, and it isn't lack of funds, and it isn't bad teachers. It's just physical reality. Their brains aren't equipped to even pass high school. Their high school degrees are affirmative action fakes -- a black or hispanic senior in high school has something like an 8th grade reading level of a white. That's for the blacks and hispanics who stay in school, around half drop out before then, realizing it's utterly hopeless and they just don't get it anymore.

Why would they? How many ancient greeks or romans studied conics and calculus under Pythagoras or Euclid? Do you think every last Tom, Dick, and Harry was enrolled in the freaking Lyceum? But high schoolers, much less college kids, are today expected to know stuff greeks could never dream of. We have to do math functions only mathematicians will ever use, like derivatives and integrals and matrices and imaginary numbers, while also learning three hundred chemical formulas and how potassium bonds with nitrogen by rote, while also learning the difference between bosons and fermions and ionic bonds vs. covalent bonds in atoms, while also learning the history of the whole world including every last name of every Chinese, Aztec, and Mali dynasty, while also learning how electricity flows through a circuit diagram, while also learning -- I mean, really? How many adults could pass a high school test on any subject? Seriously?

Our heads are crammed full of arcane facts covering any imaginable subject -- except anything that might actually be useful, like what constitutes a good life and the difference between right and wrong -- and that's before we enter college, where they expect you to read books like candy and then do some cutting edge graduate assistant research to help win a nobel prize in some laboratory. It's insane. The expectations are too high. I recall that some society trained their warriors to also be poets, and demanded everyone be good warrior-poets. But what do we call today's education system, which demands everyone be physicist-chemist-artist-musician-historian-economist-philosopher-biologist-mathematicians? Warrior poets are a kind of neat concept, though I have no idea how the two are related, but really? We need to become masters in ten different fields, all too hard for most brains to ever comprehend?

There is simply no way we can 'close the gap,' between the one in a thousand people who actually enjoy this sort of challenging material, and the 999 who hate it and can't understand it and are driven to tears by it as they study sleeplessly night after night in the vain hopes of memorizing enough to scrape by with a C.

We aren't doing anyone any favors by giving them 'more' education. God save us from more education. We're already more educated than Thomas Jefferson ever dreamed of being, and yet he managed to somehow write a Constitution and serve as our president for two terms without knowing about electron clouds. ((How can anyone go through life without being able to draw a diagram of electrons distributed by their energy levels in concentric rings???))

We could do everyone a massive favor by giving them less education. Less schooling, less homework, less pressure, less material, less everything. We could do much more with less for our average and below average folks, you know, the 90% of real humans we expect miracles from in an utterly cruel and pitiless manner under the current school whip. It's called tracking -- give everyone an IQ test, and then teach them according to their means. For people who aren't very bright, don't waste time teaching them about the Ming Dynasty, apprentice them out to some job they could learn like auto mechanic and let them go. Please, just let them free! I'm like Moses here. Let the prisoners of our education system free where they can go be productive again in the real world!

Better yet, don't even waste your time finding them a job and just give them money. There are no more jobs for anyone but that one natural gas power plant engineer. Machines do everything else today. Jobs are just welfare already. So let's just cut to the chase and give everyone welfare from the start.

If we could get it through to the mainstream columnists that A) if you gave everyone equal educations, that would defeat the point, and there would still be no new hires. B) it's impossible to give people of unequal IQ's equal educations, then this last illusion holding us back from the real tides of real reform would finally be shattered.

We are sitting here on the crux of change. People want change. Presidents promise change. Mainstream columnists keep saying we need 'change.' No one thinks the status quo can continue for much longer. No one thinks these unemployment rates are sustainable. But everyone is caught by this will o' the wisp of 'education, education, education.' This magic bullet that serves as a miraculous cure is foundering our ship of state and it's sinking our country into oblivion.

Education isn't the solution, it's a joke. It's part of the problem. The solution is the citizen's dividend. It has ALWAYS been the solution, and it ALWAYS will be. But people would rather believe in 'education,' this mystical empowering force which, without any track record, is supposed to save everyone if we just 'work harder,' than the citizen's dividend, which rewards laziness. People would rather see the whole nation burn if they can believe in their moral universe that 'hard work' is rewarded and 'laziness' is the sole cause of unemployment. It's like an obsession to them. If you deny the worth of education, that's like denying God, because the implication is that hard workers and lazy people are equally unemployed and unemployable and that it's impossible to save one group without saving the other. Since they would rather play Zeus and smite the sinners with unemployment, they have no interest in saving the 90% of Americans who are up a creek without a paddle and facing economic Armageddon. They are more motivated by hate -- "We have to punish the free riders, the parasites, the leeches!" Than love, "We need to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, and cure the sick."

Education = I'm full of hate and I want you to die.

Citizen's Dividend = I'm full of love and I want a system that works for everyone.

It's a simple choice. Almost all politics, all policy debates, all national dilemmas are. We can either be good or evil. The problem is the mainstream has decided to be evil.

The solution to that, the conscious decision of the entire American people to embrace a lie, the illusion that all we need is more education, even when it's patently absurd, just so that they can continue to be evil, ie, so that they can continue to hate the weak and the helpless and hurt them even more with more immigrants, more machines, more outsourcing, more inflation, more unemployment, more spending cuts, more insults (parasites! leeches!) with a clean conscience, guilt-free, is beyond me.

There is no solution when an entire country embraces Satan, Evil, the Big Lie. All you can do then is watch your country die.

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