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The next American oligarchy

The above chart is from a report by the California Academic Senate suggesting that the university system of the state of California keep the SAT as part of their admissions process. The report is from April. Nevertheless, the UC system has temporarily suspended the SAT/ACT as a requirement. Eventually, they may phase it out permanently, or, develop their own test. The SAT/ACT are apparently allowed to be used optionally as part of one’s admissions profile.

If you read this weblog you know that I am very skeptical of this move. But that’s not super important. I just want to outline the reasons the UC did this, for historical purposes, and what it presages about the nature of American meritocracy (or lack thereof).

Coronavirus notwithstanding, the UC system faces some major headwinds:

– The likely collapse of wealthy Chinese demand for American degrees (due to worries about a new “Cold War”)
– The demographic shift as university-age cohorts begin to shrink in size, reducing domestic demand
– The UC, in particular, having a racial-ethnic problem, with an overrepresentation of people of Asian background

Getting rid of SAT/ACT at selective universities opens the door for more affluent students from out of state to shore up the finances of the system. And, applicants of Asian background tend to do quite well on standardized tests, despite their well known unpleasant personalities. So getting rid of these metrics will help in racial balancing.

The long-term impact thought is more interesting. The UC system as one of the main engines of California’s meritocracy will become a thing of the past, as it transforms into a spoils system, as well as a cash cow to service its employees.

Whenever I argue about tests and testing on the internet I’m struck by the historical ignorance exhibited by many skeptics and critics of testing. Believe it or not, wealthy and connected people do not need to do well on tests to get ahead in life. Historically, back to the early Chinese bureaucracy selection competitions, tests were a way to identify those with promise and talent without connections. Tests were imperfect, and benefited those with resources, but, the truly connected would have benefited from a system without tests because there was no chance for those without connections in a world of letters of introduction. The system is always rigged in favor of the privileged. It’s just that some systems are more rigged in favor of the privilege than others.

The type of people who think abolishing the SAT will further equity may have a point in a very narrow sense. It will make the aim of racial/ethnic balancing much easier in holistic admissions (really one will see the reemergence of separate pools). But if you offload admissions criteria to variables that are more subjectively interpreted, you will give admissions committees more power and discernment. The reality is that people generally favor those who resemble themselves in most ways that are not explicitly stated for diversity. For example, my friends in academia are very into “inclusion,” but invariably shocked when I suggest ideological and religious diversity as part of this. I don’t myself care about such diversity, but if you want to include “everyone” then shouldn’t that be on the table? (the reality is no one is ever going to put that on the table because most people either don’t care or, positively believe they should select people aligned with their own ideology and beliefs)

Standardized testing is a small piece of an overall system. That system is blind, harsh, and operates automatically. These blind automatic systems are going to benefit oddballs because oddballs lack conventional gifts and endowments. When a system allows for human judgment, people will select those whom it is expected they select. I assume that student bodies will become racially more diverse, but there will be minimal effect on class. Because the system will be less transparent, connections and lanes will matter more. Admissions will become an intense game of politics and angles that mid-20th century Americans could never have imagined.

The main path I see out of this rat race is if we de-emphasize higher education, especially elite education, as pathways to success. If you allow admissions committees to be more subjective and use their judgment, and the stakes remain as high or higher than today, there is no way they won’t select the people they prefer, rather than the best people.

Keep your patrons close. You’ll need them in the coming century.

34 thoughts on “The next American oligarchy

  1. Critics of the tests will point out that such tests have their own biases and flaws, but it’s a lot easier to fix a biased test than it is to fix a biased admissions officer.

  2. Hope this doesn’t harm your science and research. That’s the main concern I’d have. (Even beyond science for its own sake, the strength of science is the strength of your country, really, and the strength of the US is, in large part, the strength for liberal democratic systems through the world).

    Frankly agnostic about the power stuff; a bigger role for examinations in selecting leaders and civil servants doesn’t seem to do anything too good for governance or concentration of power. In the long historical case, the big countries that did that, China, Korea and Vietnam, seem not better governed, or more “modern”, than for’ex than the societies of Japan and Thailand one country over. And so on. Certainly didn’t do anything good for their domestic trade and merchant sectors or economic development generally.

    The potential for damage to science and research to me seems like a better grounds to defend the importance of testing. It’s not like anyone would defend examinations as a path to power as an alternative to popular election and public accountability. (You only have to look at our present day “literati” and high SAT score selected on twitter to witness opinions that are mostly some mix of conformity, fads, self serving bias and The Popularity Contest. Patrician “Old money”, less than ideal itself, quite possibly has the better set of instincts on policy and culture.)

  3. My youngest son just graduated from MIT this year. As troubled kid at home, he ran away from home at age 15. We never reported his missing to authority since I ran away from home at age 16 myself and still ended up at top university. Indeed, he ended up at MIT because of top SAT scores. Without standardized mental tests, he would be unlikely to be at top university. Well, we are people of northern Han origin.

  4. “For example, my friends in academia are very into “inclusion,” but invariably shocked when I suggest ideological and religious diversity as part of this.”

    Not just in academia. I once worked at an organization that loudly trumpeted its ethnic and cultural diversity — employees of all ethnic groups etc. Meanwhile I (a “white” guy) was the only one who didn’t celebrate Christmas.

  5. The table posted seems to indicate that neither GPA nor SAT scores are a good predictor of freshman performance. Why is it being used to support keeping the SAT? What am I missing?

    @IC — High SAT scores are “necessary but not sufficient” to get into a place like MIT (though they help). Undoubtedly your son had a compelling story outside of those high test scores to secure his admission.

  6. The main issue with US higher education is the same as with other areas (mortgages, health care) where the government subsidizes without tying the subsidy to the outcome.

    If the Universities ever had to “eat what they kill” based on the performance of their graduates, we would see many changes. Test based admissions, no more SJW majors…

  7. @Joe, they find their mixed model of HSGPA+SAT works better than either of course. The argument is about using SAT rather than purely HSGPA I think, and whether some other alternative might be better than either/both is beyond their scope? (As it’s not clear what this would be).

    On a tangent, there’s a good question there about whether SAT actually helps relative to GPA because it provides an independent source of information, or simply because it’s a measurement at a different point of time of the same information and reduces random error.

    This is the question of whether the SAT actually “measures potential” in the way it was said to do.

    If it’s just an extra data-point at another time-point that helps account for regression to the mean, but not with any special qualities, you might find you don’t really *need* the SAT, and you can potentially just introduce another measurement of academic ability at another time point to your model and get more or less the same thing.

    You might find that a “Letter of Recommendation” provides a third source of information at another time point, and so HSGPA+SAT+”Letter of Recommendation” works best at predicting.

    Something else to note as well: “One consequence of dropping test scores would be increased reliance on HSGPA in admissions. The STTF found that California high schools vary greatly in grading standards, and that grade inflation is part of why the predictive power of HSGPA has decreased since the last UC study. “. That introduces a bit of a question of whether SAT delays reform to HSGPA (because they can just add another variable rather than try to improve the primary variable).

    Then one final thing is suggests that the effectiveness of each model is dependent on sample composition. For all of Not 1st Gen, White and >$120K household income, seems like HSGPA>SAT Alone, and in the combined model, HSGPA does more of the work.

    So may be good if admissions have discretion, and can adjust weighting and de-emphasize SAT for the group it’s less predictive of (rich, native Whites), then re-emphasize it for Black, Hispanic, etc. students. Going by a one-size fits all, SAT-or-HSGPA standard for all admits might be less “fair” to one subgroup or another in predicting outcomes. It should be an equal threshold of course – same prediction value – but doesn’t necessarily have to to meet the same model for that equal threshold. If predicting outcomes = fairness.

  8. where I live, admissions has had a huge effect on the race and class of the enrolled but it is harder on the bottom line when you have so many “means based” students.
    as many have said before, why worry about the elite when ideology matters more? Larry Summers is elite and he shipped all of the lower test scorers’ jobs to China. Now he’s changed his mind:
    As Piketty says, elites used to Lord over us but at least they felt some responsibility towards the poor as far as patronage and purchasing goods produced by lower tier people who lived IN their country. Now it couldn’t be further from that scenario.
    Be smart, graduate, get into finance, graduate to politics…maybe start a war…get into lobbying, etc.
    I don’t agree with removing score based admissions but can you blame people? We’re back in the Gilded Age now. Unless elites start using their gifts to do something disinterested then I’m not really interested in their problems.
    I pre-ordered “Who Gets in and Why” like six months ago.

  9. Once more. I agree with you Razib, but I see the anti-test mania as being perfectly consistent with the democratic ethos described by Tocqueville 180 years ago. Not only that, but getting rid of the tests will allow the universities to control the number of Asians they accept, which will chiefly benefit well-to-do white people.

    I continue to believe that the only system that can be absolutely fair to everyone is a lottery.

  10. “I continue to believe that the only system that can be absolutely fair to everyone is a lottery.”

    The thing is, unlike social status, education is not a zero sum game, and with online learning technology the resources required to make education open to everyone are very low.

    Why not have exit testing, rather than entry testing.

    If you are serious about a degree as a credential of knowledge acquired, exist tests make sense. If you want an IQ test, then just do IQ tests.

    We already do this somewhat with regards to things like bar exams for lawyers.

    You could still preserve the networking, and signaling benefits of college by having exclusivity based on people who passed the exit tests.

    Pre-information age learning institutions feel quite dated to me.

  11. OK Sumit, Now I have to post my entire rant. This the first of four parts:

    Why Is College Admissions Such a Popular Topic for the Media?

    I think it is all about status anxiety. It is not enough to obtain high status for yourself, you must be able to pass it on to your children. You see, 300 years ago in Europe, status was conferred by inheriting lands and titles. That kind of status is easily given to your children.

    In modern America status is conferred by things like having a role in a movie, being an elected official, being a partner in a big law firm. Those are very hard to give to children. And that makes parents very anxious.

    The odds are that if you are in the right tail of talent, your kids will be closer to the mean (regression to the mean). Finding out that this is true is quite blow to the aspirations of the blessed.

    One status thing that parents can give kids is children is a tuition at an “elite” college. All the kid needs to do is gut it out for 4 years. The evidence is that everyone who is willing to make a minimal effort to play the part, gets a sheepskin in 4 years no matter what.

    So, yes the whole thing is upper class parents plagued by status anxiety trying to drag their children over the finish line. And the fight is entirely inside the upper class.

  12. Elite Colleges — What do they do?

    Many commenters, seem to be under the illusion that the highly rated colleges in this country have very smart students and who learn lots of really important stuff from the world famous professors at those schools. I think that is wrong.

    In all but a few cases (Cal Tech), the “elite” colleges are where the bright, but not necessarily extraordinary, children of the upper classes go to get indoctrinated into mores and crotchets of the ruling class. What is important is not reading any particular text or solving any particular mathematical equation. What is important is learning to be like the others, and not to be a bitter clinger, one of the deplorables, or what is even worse, some kind of a religious fanatic.

    Why are the colleges failing to be what they want us to think they are?

    First, the students are a very mixed bag.

    A. Athletes. The schools, even the Ivy League, recruit a lot of athletes. They need to field a lot of teams, not just football and basketball, but soccer, lacrosse, track, and rowing, I have been told by reliable sources that upwards of 40% of the incoming class at some ivy league schools are recruited athletes. Now, those kids are not dummies, but most of them are ordinarily bright kids with decent grades and board scores. The real secret here is that like the colleges, the high schools have been inflating grades like Macy’s inflates balloons for the Thanksgiving Day Parade. It is very common to hear about ordinary suburban high schools where 15% of the kids are “valedictorians”. And the College Board has been dumbing down the SAT to fit the crappy educations the high schools are giving the kids for years.

    B. Legacies. The schools know that Alumni whose children are rejected don’t donate. So they follow the golden rule: “money talks”. Again, the legacies are not dummies, but, see above about what their grades and board scores mean.

    C. Affirmative action. Ideally the schools would like one eighth of the incoming class to be black and one eighth Mexican. They can’t do that even when they count the basketball players and football players. So they need some ringers, like African immigrant kids who work like Asian immigrant kids, and the children of white upper class Mexicans from Mexico.

    D. Miscellaneous gets. Children of powerful politicians. Kids who have starred in Hollywood motion pictures. Children of really rich people who are not alums, but who will fork over now.

    The bottom line is that about a quarter of the class is left for kids who will raise the average SAT score. Just make sure that less than half of them are Asian. So that is about ten percent of the class for smart white kids — just make sure they don’t need scholarship money. That goes to the A categories.

    Second. The teaching is, if anything, even less to write home about. Ivy League professors are hired because of their research production. Teaching is, as far as they are concerned, a distraction. The really famous ones only teach a couple of graduate classes, which are focused on their research interests. The classroom experience for undergraduates is no better at Ivy U than it is at Kent State. Which is just fine as far as the students are concerned because class is just a distraction from their real interests which are binge drinking, dope smoking, and fornicating.

    What the kids graduate with is status. That is what their parents want to give them. The only fix is to pull the ‘elite” colleges down to earth.. It shouldn’t make any difference if you went to Harvard or 2 years at Plano CC followed by 2 more at UT-Arlington.

  13. Faults in the Admissions System

    What makes the situation even worse is that the admissions system for elite colleges is not objective, not transparent, and not fair.

    Admissions committees have neither the expertise nor the ability to conduct the kind of scrutiny that would expose cheating, nor the kinds that they claim to do and claim to want to do. It is all a charade. The problem is acute because of the increasing grip that elite colleges have on entry into the ruling class and media and financial elites.

    The only possible way out of this bind is to remove control of the process from the colleges. Many educated people believe that admissions should be controlled by a third party testing authority as it is in many other countries. Their intuition is that such a system would be acceptable to everyone.

    There are objective systems in Europe and East Asia, the kids take examinations such as the French Baccalauréat or the German Abitur. The tests are written essay type exams, and some of them are even oral. They are far harder to cheat on than the multiple choice parodies of examinations used in the US such as the SAT.

    Testing won’t work

    A testing system would make many large and powerful political groups very unhappy. It is clear to me that a sufficient portion of the public, no doubt concentrated in certain groups, has rejected the very idea that testing can be fair or efficient. That is what has motivated the U Cal System. Check out the reaction created by the latest round of admissions to NYC public magnet schools. Stuyvesant High School admitted 895 students for fall 2019. Only 7 of them are black. But only 22% are white. Two thirds are Asian. The Mayor is very unhappy.

    American parents are not prepared to find out that their precious snowflakes have skated through their inferior high schools without learning anything. And certain classes have not inculcated a love of learning among their children, nor have they called out the politicians and teachers unions who conspire against them.

    None of these people will accept the verdict of a test or system of tests. They will fall for the siren song of demagogues who claim that the system is based on sexism, intolerance, xenophobia, homophobia, islamophobia, racism, and bigotry.

    The only admission system I can think of that is objective, transparent, and fair is a random draw.

    A lottery would be fair to everyone. No one could claim that they were handicapped by their race or the fact that they were limited by circumstance to poorly run and financed public schools. No one would be advantaged by being able to afford exam tutors, admissions consultants, social justice expeditions to third world countries, alumni donations, or participation in private school only sports like rowing.

    People I have proposed this idea to have objected that the quality of those being educated would drop drastically.

    Compared to the social justice warriors they are graduating now? The joke is that the so-called elite selective schools provide for most students (especially, the legacies, athletes, and affirmative actions) no better education that most second string State Us (e.g. Kent State, Western Kentucky. Eastern Michigan, etc.).

    The engineering schools provide rigorous educations, but so do the engineering schools of the state universities. Besides, those programs are always self selective. Organic Chemistry has ended more medical careers than cocaine.

    So what would the impact of an admissions lottery be on this system. The biggest one I can see is on the rowing teams. Do you have any idea how few rowers there are outside of New England prep schools.

    As for the general intellectual level of the colleges. Meh. Yes, there would be a few non A category kids who were too stupid to get by. They can be pushed out pretty quickly, if the schools care, and I am not sure they do.

    BTW, another thing that we will need to do is impose wage and price controls on colleges, so that they do not use pricing to scare away non-rich children.

  14. Will Abolishing SAT/ACT Tests cause an Increase in Crime?

    Getting rid of testing will increase the number and amount of cash bribes paid to admissions officers. I believe that the recent scandal, exemplified by actress Lori Loughlin, who was sentenced a few days ago, is just the tip of the iceberg. Smoke emitted by a raging fire.

    For years I have said that there must be a way to payoff admissions people. It must be happening because there is too much demand, the system is too opaque, and the people who run it are low status (among their peers on college campuses) and not well paid.

    Why didn’t those people go through the door of legal bribery via a donation to the colleges endowment? Easy. They are, for the most part, HENRYs (High Earnings Not Rich Yet). It takes a lot of capital to be able to peel off a 7 figure donation, which is what it takes. Five or six figures they can handle.

    My SWAG is that most bribes are executed by “consultants”. The metric is a years tuition ~$60K. The “consultants” take $20K for services rendered. $40 K goes to the admissions staffer, who splits with the dean of admissions, who is running the game. I would think that the number of bribe spots is limited to 1% or 2% of the incoming class. But at these dollars, even if the admissions staff avoids the obvious problem of trying to fool the IRS by paying taxes on the money, it could be a very nice source of income to the soldiers, and a pot of gold for the capo.

    The Lori Loughlin scandal, revolved around bribing coaches and other peripheral players. They may have been ratted out to keep the game private.

  15. That’s the sucky part Walter. It doesn’t benefit affirmative action and legacy admits to go to schools like MIT and Stanford. They’re not taking advantage of the resources there.

  16. Walter, All good points.

    I will note that the tests can be and are gamed as well.

    When I was considering going to business school a few years back. A friend told me about these Chinese websites that share live current GMAT questions.

    They are called ‘JJ’ or ‘jijings’ there is some Chinese characters that you can search on DuckDuckGo or Wechat and find a ton of examples. Or just go to sites like chasedream if you don’t want to bother with wechat.

    The MBA seemed perfunctory for my interest in entrepreneurship to begin with. This rampant test cheating also turned me off any of the touted networking benefits.

    I decided to start my business instead of b-school and years later now couldn’t be happier with the decision.

    However my friend, that used the JJs to help with test prep, went to a good b-school, and also ended up doing well financially. Now works for a FAANG in a cushy job making a pretty high salary and is by all accounts also a good performer at work.

    I do think open education is the future. Not sure I can get behind a pure lottery system. But point taken regarding the systemic rot in elite institutions.

  17. First, I am an European who only knows US reality by reading and also some influence of movies and TV.

    Saying that, in these discussion about SAT/GRE, I think that is also relevant what the alternative is supposed to be – it is very different, I think, if SAT/GRE are replaced by “holistic methods” or by GPA (well, I don’t know exactly what GPA is, but I suppose that there is something with the high school grades, no?).

    “Holistic methods” almost surely will make acess to college more oligarchic and restricted to people with the “right profile”; but I imagine that reliance in high school grades will benefit specially the good students from bad schools (because teachers, even unconsciously, tend to “normalize” grades according to class or school average) – and the result will be perhaps something similar to the system that University of Texas explicitly uses.

    If this is good or not, it is another story.

  18. Interesting discussion here.

    I was fortunate to go to a highly ranked Canadian (public) university for my undergraduate degree, and then to a highly ranked private American university for graduate school. I was a TA for introductory undergraduate classes at both institutions.

    I can say that the amount of grade inflation, and to some extent coddling in general, that I saw at the undergraduate level at the American school was mind-boggling, and unlike anything I had seen at my Canadian alma mater. I would compare notes with my former classmates who were studying at other American graduate schools, and they told basically the same story.

    This was some time in the past (I’m getting old) but I can’t imagine that the situation has changed all that much.

  19. @Jatt_Scythian Why are you bracketing MIT and Stanford? Stanford is far better known for Katie Ledecky, Christian McCaffrey, and Tiger Woods, than it is for Larry Page and Sergey Brin, or even Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos.

    The program at MIT is perhaps not as hard edged as that of Cal Tech, but there are very few kids there for the typical undergraduate course of applied zymurgy and human reproductive biology by braille. Stanford is just a left coast version of HYP.

  20. Sumit: MBA programs teach a little spreadsheet jockeying, but mostly they are extended social bonding exercises — schmoozing and boozing and wineing and dining. Most of their grads go to consulting or banking. It is simply a waste of time for real businessmen to mess with.

    Miguel: As I said the SAT/ACT are not even vaguely in the same league as examinations like the French Baccalauréat or the German Abitur.

  21. I am not sure how old the commenters here are but I am in college and graduated from high school few years ago. At least in my experience, emphasis on academics/testing has been increasing in the last few years. I went to a middle-lower middle class high school. There doing well on the SAT was the bare minimum. Most academically inclined students also took 10-15 AP exams and multiple SAT Subject tests.

    While I mostly agree with Walter Sobchak’s point about elite universities, I disagree with image he paints of US high school standards being inferior to European equivalents. In fact I think US middle class education standards will become more like Asia’s. As more and more students take the AP and SAT Subject exams, the academic competition will get more cutthroat. You can also see the transition in high school social hierarchy as well. Increasingly the popular kids are not the idiot jocks but academically smart kids who also have other skills (music, drama, sports etc).

  22. Also you cannot compare Abitur to SAT. As far as I understand, in Germany (and in many other European countries) the students who are not academically inclined move on to apprenticeship and technical schools. Only the smart kids go on to take Abitur. So ofcourse, it’s going to be harder than SAT which is designed for all students. A better comparison would be AP exams.

  23. ” And, applicants of Asian background tend to do quite well on standardized tests, despite their well known unpleasant personalities.”

    I’m not sure, if this comment is meant to be sarcastic, Razib?
    Perhaps, back when you went to college (in the 90s?) a lot of Asians were duller than oatmeal because of tiger parenting. But in the younger cohorts there seems to be no evidence the average Asian american is more bland or boring than their becky or chad white counterpart. Hell Harvard, had to go into damage control when it was in revealed in that affirmative action lawsuit that they had to reduce the personality scores of Asians to control the number of them.

    It seems like income and wealth inequality in the US will continue to increase indefinitely, the rat race does seem to be getting worse.

    I’ve always wondered why there aren’t a huge flow of Americans to Canada, quality of life for the average person seems significantly better, and for poorer people a lot better. Anyone got an answer to that beyond American pride?

  24. @Night King: A combination of factors, in no particular order. (1) Americans tend to have a parochial view of the world, so Canada is not usually on the radar. (2) Canada is a small country, there are fewer employment opportunities, investors tend to be more risk-averse (they are used to investing in the resource sector) and salaries tend to be significantly lower, especially in professional and tech areas. Everyday cost-of-living in Toronto and Vancouver is very high relative to salaries. (3) People get scared off by the weather.

  25. @JoeQ
    “People get scared off by the weather”
    Pretty much this. Edmonton and Winnipeg are no treat 9 months of the year.

    @Night King
    That was Harvard’s own insinuation about Asian students. Razib was being sarcastic.

  26. The weather is a strange thing as a factor — I think it is more of an issue for people outside the Northeast and the northern part of the Midwest USA. The weather in Toronto is substantially the same as the weather in Chicago.

    IMO the salary thing, and the parochialism, are bigger factors.

  27. I remember a chart that Freddie DeBoer (who studies on this issue a lot…can’t wait to read his book in August) shared awhile back. Essentially, looking across a broad selection of all universities, from the Ivies to the least selective, there is an entirely linear relationship between how well a student tests upon entry and how well they test upon exit. That is to say, there is no statistical evidence to suggest that elite colleges (and by extension, elite professors) are actually any better at imparting knowledge than those of the lowest tier. Due to selection bias, they grab the best students, but measured quantitatively the average top student increases knowledge at an identical rate to someone below-average. Thus, similar to K-12 education, it really seems that good colleges are made by admitting good students, rather than the other way around.

    I’ve also read numerous studies in the past which have concluded if you look at college as “job training” (which you shouldn’t) in terms of gained productivity it really only replaces six months to two years of on-the-job training. Ergo, a college degree is almost completely about signaling a minimal amount of intelligence/persistence to employers. I would argue that this is a great swindle, because over time the number of jobs you can apprentice at has continually shrank. In the 19th century, it was possible to get a mail-order degree and clerk to become an engineer or a lawyer. Into the mid 20th century, you could get a job as a copy editor straight out of high school and become a journalist. Now there’s a freaking two-year degree for every blue-collar job which requires a bit more skill than say a janitor (x-ray tech, chef, etc) which basically allows employers to abscond any responsibility – or $$$ – towards training their own workforce. Worse still, it leaves it up to the individual to anticipate what “skills” the market will need, rather than the employers themselves.

    I’ve thought for around a decade the real collapse of the “college bubble” will happen when Silicon Valley manages to perfect a test (probably involving aspects of IQ and conscientiousness, but also other aspects) which can predict job productivity better than a resume. I read quite a good deal about this from 2013-2016 or so, but relatively little on this front more recently. Still, once there is a better way to anticipate who is a good worker than a degree, employers will stop using degrees to filter applicants, which will cause a general collapse in desire for college for those merely looking for a “job.”

  28. @Joe Q.
    Americans aren’t really moving to the Midwest or the Northeast either outside of NYC.

    I think a lot of trends in American society can be explained by Americans’ gradually increasing desire for warm climates.

  29. Now there’s a freaking two-year degree for every blue-collar job which requires a bit more skill than say a janitor (x-ray tech, chef, etc) which basically allows employers to abscond any responsibility – or $$$ – towards training their own workforce.

    It is relatively easy now to get a high school degree without acquiring much skill in the reading/writing/figuring department. And if your degree doesn’t certify you have acquired them by high school graduation, it doesn’t certify much about your ability to acquire skills on the job.

    And, of course, the returns to any on-the-job training go away as soon as the employee gets a job with someone else.

    I’ve thought for around a decade the real collapse of the “college bubble” will happen when Silicon Valley manages to perfect a test (probably involving aspects of IQ and conscientiousness, but also other aspects) which can predict job productivity better than a resume.

    If the test had a “disparate impact”, e.g., the white average was higher than the black average, whoever used the test could count on being sued. And maybe taking a significant PR hit.

  30. I heard the UC system was considering creating its own standardized test after scrapping the SAT requirement. No idea how this will pan out in the next few years.
    “The task force recommended that the university system keep the SAT and ACT for now while researching alternatives, such as going test-optional or developing UC’s own assessment.”

  31. It is Canada that is parochial. Razib must be polite within reason and cannot say it, so I will

    Canadians are also relatively listless compared to Americans

  32. @Difference Maker — After living in both countries, I can agree with you about the listlessness, but not about the parochialism. The USA is a big, populous, powerful, and geographically diverse country, with an exceptionally strong civic religion, so the parochialism is understandable — but nonetheless it’s there.

  33. The whole debate has some aspects sticking out to me:
    1st: Its about bringing your children and relatives into institutions and making good education available to them. If your group is underrepresented relative to their presence in the total population, your chances of participation drop. Even worse if you are the founder population of the state and contribute most of the money, but don’t get the education you want for your kids, both because of the people getting admission, as well as the content being taught.

    2nd: If one group is overrepresented, like people making up 5 percent of the total population but 40 percent of the academics, this means the whole education system being shifted towards their preferences and prejudices. If those are not yours, it can alienate you from the institution as a whole. Which gets even worse with the

    3rd: Scientific institutions and professionals have two roles to play these days. First they do actual research and educate people, the role science should primarily play in our society. But the 2nd is as important and today much more important, its about the ideological indoctrination of the youth and the apology of political and societal decision making.
    Like influential people from the oligarchy, big corporations, lobby and special interest groups have an interest and want to sell it to the public. What they do is they care, most of the time, s**t for the truth and real science, but just want to have “the arguments” from the science for what they wanted all along. So the politicians, interest groups and their media mercenaries search for the scientific professionals giving them the ammuniation for their cammpaigns.

    Now it gets really funny for two reasons:
    First, if you have foreign people dominating scientific institutions, they might not share your concerns and interests at all. Its like it is in all spheres of influence and power: Its not just about “xenophoby” or something like that, its about shared interests and attitudes and you don’t want to be controlled by people being too different.

    At the same time, the oligarchy needs spokespersons which can sell their messages. If you suddenly end up in a country which is primarily white European, Hispanic and black African with a scientific staff being almost exclusively East and South Asian, you have a marketing problem. Because this might widen the gap between the common people and the “science professionals” even more.

    Like if in Europe all Catholic priests are suddenly black Africans, not just single ones, but the vast majority, that’s making things strange, because it means that the institution becomes ethnic. So even for the American oligarchy its not good for the stability and trust in the institutions if not representative minorty groups become all too dominant in the scientific institutions. Primarily because of their role as preacher from the pulpit for the common people.

    That’s also one of the reasons why the American Oligarchy supported the large scale Afro-American scientific professional community and affirmative action. They wanted to corrupt Afro-American people by taking their best heads away, out of the depressed situation, making them part of the system and using them as spokespersons.

    By doing so they did damage both the Euro-American and Afro-American communities, which are now in far worse shape, both, than they were before. For the majority blacks in the USA the situation is now not better than it was in the 1950’s, before the individualist and multicultural turn. They made up individual solutions and hopes, while keeping the community interests down, with the Plutocracy and big corporations paying even less for the well-being of the state and society than they did in the 1950’s.

    But for this to work out, you need to take care of the more talented and ambitious parts of the group in question (Euro-Americans, Afro-Americans and Hispanics) and giving them a perspective in your system, using them to keep those in control which don’t participate, which don’t profit any longer. If you now have institutions full of people which don’t represent these constitutive ethnicities of your state and society, this can be never good.

    The most objective way to do it would be to introduce quota or even segregated institutions, but this would mean you introduce “racism” and communities again, which is all you don’t want, you want to deconstruct in the Capitalist society 2.0 with the help of Cultural Marxism. Therefore you have to find a dishonest way around this, need to play around with tests and admission requirements until you get at least somewhat closer to a reasonable quota which is representative.

    This is just the emergency braking before the situations gets unbearable. Not that “scientific institutions” and their reputation in the USA as a directed instrument of mind and opinion control is no problem already. We had these debates about how well represented large portions of society are and how far they are from any scientific standards of thought and recognition (Creationists, anyone?). Yet if you fill the whole institution with obviously non-regional people, it won’t make things any easier. Its a practical decision supported by a lot of groups. But because they can’t talk straight, because of political correctness and their own agenda (both Plutocrats and Cultural Marxists) they can’t come up with a straightforward solution with minimum quota for the regional people and tax payers.

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