One of the worst ideas to have come down the pike has been that of the wisdom of crowds. What is most surprising is that this idea emanates from a liberal perspective, one that is often associated with faith in science. The idea is that somehow, crowds have some innate wisdom that individuals lack. Now how this is so none of those advocates seems to be able to explain. It is the reverse, crowds are stupid in reality. Or to put it a bit more precisely, individuals, when in crowds or large assemblages of other individuals, lose their identity to the point of becoming anonymous and thus can act against their training in life and act in a most irrational manner. Lord Acton put truth to that when he said,”If a thousand people say a stupid thing, it is still a stupid thing.” If a million individuals say that two plus two equals five, it is still a stupid thing for two plus two will never equal five no matter how many individuals proclaim otherwise. There is no wisdom in crowds, only stupidity.
But the latest stupidity is the circulation of a petition to sign if you favor forgiving student loan debt. Of course the idea of even providing student loans on demand and for such extreme debt is an extremely stupid idea. That rates right up there with every child should attend college or university as a right. There was a time when attending higher education and completing a degree was a very efficient way of securing your future. Of course not all college or university graduates could be assured of great opportunities for advancement in life. That degree in Russian Literature or Liberal studies or the History of Religion was not going to be the path to a middle class career and standard of living. Such education may be all very well for personal growth and edification but have little to do with finding suitable employment. And in a population of 330 million turning out a half million graduates in English and Literature is an over production of possible teachers, editors, magazine writers, and novelists. But our education system, echoing the past advice of generations retired and those people, for whom higher education is the new mantra, the current generation blithely goes forth. Our higher education systems ave greatly enlarged themselves so as to accommodate the incoming hordes seeking high paying careers based on the degrees of their choosing.
Back when higher education was the province of the wealthy and upper classes, higher education was seen less as a preparation for career employment with high salaries and secure employment. The university served to make those personal network contacts. Most work was still based on an apprenticeship system. One was hired for one’s character and the ability to follow directions, and lastly, to learn. A classics graduate with an ability for mathematics might find himself a job through that personal network or association. Then same the apprenticeship of learning a job or even a series of jobs. But today the educational institutions seem to believe that their graduates should be given careers in high paying industries simply by virtue of their holding a degree. What our educational system has been teaching is a sense of entitlement. And that includes the granting of student loans without the least ability to repay. But more than that, the educational system has grown extremely fat off the student loan system. Look at the ration of instructor to administrator and other employees in the higher educational system. The number of professors, assistant and associate professors, non student instructors, and others who actively teach any course work, is greatly outnumbered by clerks, secretaries or office workers, program administrators, outreach workers and administrators, and many more make work jobs, all sucking off the student loan nipple.
Back in the sixties and seventies, the public college and university tuitions were low enough that I could work my way through school. The junior or community college was cheaper still. I worked outside construction, often with ten hours a week of overtime and took classes at night and on Saturdays. It only took me three years to get through two years of school and my AA. Of course the university book racket hadn’t taken hold then and I could buy my books new. Then some idiot came up with the idea of student loans issued by banks and guaranteed by the federal government. One of those crowd sourced ideas that always goes horribly wrong. price creep in tuitions started and when the ultimate crowd stupidity took place, college and university students protesting the need for courses they though unnecessary and ultimately demanding that coursework be made easier, well, that really was the death knell quality education. Funny thing was, over in the sciences the dumbing down never happened. Seems you can’t bullshit science like you can sociology. You still have to learn maths to do science. But you can be as ignorant as you wish about science when learning English or becoming a teacher. There’s another dumb idea. We use to have Teacher’s Colleges where one went to become a primary or secondary school teacher. Many university and colleges had departments of education that turned out public school teachers of a generally higher caliber since the entrance standards were higher. If you were a high school athlete who lacked academic preparation and yet wanted to play college sports you went to a State Teacher’s College and majored in physical education. You then graduated and looked for a job as a gym teacher.
Well, the education departments still provide a second rate education. Don’t believe me? Look at any college catalogue and see the various common core courses offered. The education department has its own English and math programs that are not accepted by the other departments. And yes, they are dumbed down. A graduate with a degree in education may teach history but his or her knowledge on that subject is may a fourth of that of a graduate with a BA in History. Most of our public school teachers don’t merit the high pay for such low educational attainments. Of course they get a reduction on tuition. If you want to become a teacher you take the education department’s courses which typically cost two thirds that of the regular course work a the undergraduate level. And if you teach in public schools, much of your federal student loans will be forgiven.
So what about all this other student debt? Well, back in the late sixties and seventies one could avoid the draft by attending college. If you didn’t have the money then you took out the student loans with the local bank. Then later on after graduating you might decide to file bankruptcy and get ride of that loan hanging over your life. The bank did’t care, the federal government paid the bank for the loss. And because there was more money for education with these student loans that meant there was a greater demand for university and college services, namely degrees. Now note that after World War Two, the college and university systems faced the same growth because returning veterans took advantage of the GI Bill and started attending upper education in droves. This drove the expansion of these institutions in the late forties and into the early fifties. But the GI benefits were limited to veterans and then extended to all individuals who served in the military during peacetime. This represented a small percentage of the population. Our student loan program now represents a very large population of students. And the loan program has been extended into areas that the old GI Bill would never have funded. Those vocational schools that could qualify to be in the GI Bill program were few in number and generally very reputable. We no longer have vocational schools, we have for profit colleges and universities that offer technical training and almost all of them, regardless of their academic reputations and acceptance by business and industry quality to take student loans as payment for their services.
But there is the other part of this mess we have yet to contemplate. All those student loans are bought and sold on the market. There are a number of student loan servicers, meaning that they have the right to collect that debt on behalf of the owner of that debt. You didn’t know that, did you? How many public pension funds own student debt through Sallie Mae? That is the government agency that sells student debt in tranches to buyers such as pension plans, insurance companies, banks, and many other financial entities. The government only guarantees the debt. Everyone else owns it. So the ultimate irony is that by trying to force forgiveness of this debt so many freely contracted for their benefit, the tax payer will have to pick up the tab. The debt will not be forgiven so much as it will be transferred from one group to another. That other group will include all those who had contracted that debt. It will never go away. Mom and dad will hand off some of their debt to their parents, neighbors, and their own children. I must have missed something about this wisdom of crowds. Tell me again why this is a wise action we should take? Perhaps the best action would be to eliminate all student loans. The watch the cost of tuition and books fall like a rock. Demand an increase in admittance standards. Oh, but most of those who are no longer necessary to the system will lose their jobs. That’s ok, they are parasites anyway. And what do parasites do? They eventually kill the host. Of course if you didn’t take science classes then you don’t know that concept. So much for our educational system’s ability to teach critical thinking.