We need a Gold Standard of Education
April 29th, 2012
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This article has been contributed by Paul Hakel of paulhakel.info
Today is a day of runaway grade inflation and a paper currency (degrees) which is declining in value. Education used to be backed by the intrinsic value of “skills” (like a gold standard) which would stand on their own merit, but today many employers are socializing the workforce by hiring those who have paper “degrees” over those who actually have talent – and the State is sponsoring this. The State’s sponsorship of a monopoly on jobs (certification) certainly is nothing new, as it was something that even Lysander Spooner in the 19th century was irate about – that one needed to have a bachelor’s degree and training to practice law. He argued that this effectively created a government-sponsored discrimination against the poor who could not afford the costlier degrees. Indeed, government certification severely hinders the free market and is a great threat to liberty. Why can’t employers make their own decisions about who to hire, and why can’t consumers choose for themselves what certification they accept as valid? Why can’t we allow independent certification agencies to assess the skills of a person? The government wants a monopoly over certification, education, and jobs – that’s why.
College students today could be infinitely smarter if there was severe deregulation of the “education industry”. Along with this centralized control of education and the accreditation system, schools end up having to severely limit a student’s ability to freely inquire in order to fulfill the requirements of the State. In turn, many classes which are difficult have the same amount of assigned credit points as harder classes, which destroys the incentive for students to challenge themselves. Won’t an employer hire a 4.0 GPA student who took simple classes vs. a 2.8 GPA student who took difficult classes? The problem of education is a headache that is never-ending.
Many curriculums, for example, are fixed and totally limit the knowledge and skills a student can obtain. Time is wasted pursuing “required classes” rather than useful skills. Many classes have lost their objective commitment to evaluating whether or not a student possesses a certain skill and instead evaluate a student based on if they have completed the assignment. The consequence of these socialized education choices is that students lack the freedom to develop their skills all while paying a high price for certification which is worth less than it could be if we had a free market.
With today’s technological advances, it is very surprising that education is so costly and that so little is achieved compared to what COULD be. Why does it sound like such a strange idea that at age 14 young people today could start earning their bachelor’s degree? We should have already mastered how to teach high school and to implement it at younger ages. And why are college degrees so costly today? A computer from 10 years ago compared to a brand new computer today costs so much less, because it is a product of a relatively freer market. Why aren’t the costs of education also declining? They would if we had freedom in education which would lead to innovative teaching methods and less time needed for instruction and less cost of materials for schooling.
If the certifications of the State were taken away and independent agencies and new schools allowed to pop up, the competition between old schools and new schools would actually strengthen the quality of education of existing universities, colleges, and other education establishments, as well as allow the new productive schools to flourish. The freedom for students to PASSIONATELY LOVE what they learn might again exist, rather than grade-slavery. We might have new grading methods that more resemble life: in life’s test, you can get a 200% or a -100%. Maybe if we had a free education system, we might be able to create such methods. Businesses certainly are like that, where you can have something go wrong and lose money and get a -100% on a test; or, you can sell something for double the price you intended to: a 200% success. But schools don’t like to allow you to get ahead or to fail miserably: you can usually get grades in the range of 60%-100%, below 60% being failure. Therefore, even the measurements of schooling are socialized, and yet it is amazing to me that all assignments often have a grade attached to them: how would you grade a person’s relationship with God, for instance? Some assignments don’t have numerical values, but are pass/fail or more complex than the simple grading paradigm that many schools use. In mathematics there are complex numbers and other strange mathematical symbols; perhaps I am advocating for a grading system more sophisticated in reflecting those realities.
Whatever grading system that’s used, the point is that many schools (and the education industry) are complete enemies of freedom, and they hardly make substantial changes or impacts on society outside of their already-defined parameters. We have a whole school-government-workplace complex which needs to be challenged. There are plenty of better or different ways of doing things, but we aren’t allowed to try them because of government regulation and misguided public sentiment that “college degrees are valuable in themselves”. No, what is valuable in itself is skill, and students would most be able to develop their skill if they had more freedom. Skill is as valuable as gold and both have something much more than paper does: objective value, unrelated to teacher opinion. We need more people to fight to free our schools and workplaces from the jaws of government destruction; let’s keep moving.
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Contributed by Paul Hakel of www.TheDailySheeple.com.
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