Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

Ne Plus Ultra

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It’s Saturday morning, and the word is that we’re likely to see a little more snow over the course of the morning.

It is, however, not snowing now–but it did, yesterday, a lot.

I’ve heard estimated totals for this part of the state of between eighteen and twenty-two inches.  I’m not going to go out into the yard with a yardstick to make sure.

I will say that I tried to get out onto the porch this morning to size things up just by looking at them, and the screen door was so impeded by snow I could move it, and had to get Greg up to push it out for me.

He wasn’t pleased, and he’s going to be even less pleased by all the shoveling that’s going to be going on a bit later.

I should buy a snow blower, I know.  I think about it every year, but I never seem to do it.

I just want to note that we don’t ever seem to be able to get beyond schools when we talk about education on this blog.

What I was trying to say was this:

1) Forget about schools.  Let’s by pass them altogether.

2) Let’s have employers hire and fire on the basis of competitive examinations ALONE.

3) If you want to send your kid to school to prepare for those examinations, fine.  If you want to homeschool him, fine.  If you want to send him to the library and let him do it on his own, fine.

4) The big point is this–a high school diploma or a college degree will count for NOTHING.  It will NOT be a credential that gets you a job, or that indicates your skill level in anything.

5) The tests will NOT be devised by government entities of any kind.

6) Instead, individual employers will work up their own tests–taking what advice they want–that will be tailored to their being able to identify candidates with the skills they need.

7) I expect that what will happen is what has happened with E. D. Hirsch’s Cultural Literacy project–the individual tests and curricula will circulate, and employers and other entities will adopt the ones that work the best for them.

8) What happens to hiring and firing teachers, or to the curricula of specific schools, or government education policy, will be entirely irrelevant.

No committees or bureaucracies will be necessary, and that’s a good thing–because no committees or bureaucracies will be able to devise a successful method of skills evaluation.

They’re coming at it from the wrong end.

They’re always coming at it from the wrong end.

We’ve all gotten so used to the idea that Schools Are Where We Learn Things that we’ve forgotten that for most of history, they weren’t.

Let’s get rid of schools as the places that certify skills and knowledge–they’re completely useless at it.

We can, of course, still retain them as places we want to send our children for other reasons.

But I bet none of them will cost $50,000 a year or require a mountain of debt to attend, and we can ditch the college loan system entirely.

I’m going to go organize the shoveling.


Written by janeh

February 9th, 2013 at 11:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

9 Responses to 'Ne Plus Ultra'

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  1. I hope you’re stocked up on hot cocoa. That much shovelling will require serious fuel.

    Education: with you most of the way. As long as I’m expected to pay for a public school, I still want a disinterested outsider or outsiders checking to make sure they deliver. And I’m a bit miffed that the schools, which actually used to be pretty good about whether a student had or had not mastered 8th Grade material or rated a high school diploma, are clearly unreliable now. Well, that ship has sailed.

    Given the schools can’t be trusted, I expect you’re right. There will be a period of glorious anarchy, after which there will be a largely accepted set of test scores–SAT, GSAT and ASVAB would be my guess. (SAT and GSAT for white collar. For mechanical, you’d get some variant of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, probably supplemented by trustworthy certificates for particular skills, the way some high school graduates are now also Microsoft Certified Software Engineers or have an A Plus Certificate in Computer Repair.)

    Does this mean we can go back to what properly constitutes the LAE? And what happened to the person who used to own the Blog and who told me I shouldn’t be allowed to teach military history at university level because I’d never studied dance?


    9 Feb 13 at 2:03 pm

  2. 1) I never said what you had to study to teach in a university.

    but more importantly

    2) I never said anything about dance.

    Dance is NOT part of the LAE as I understand it.

    Neither is art.

    Neither is creative writing.

    I wouldn’t have those taught in universities at all.

    I would teach and require art HISTORY, but that’s a very different kind of thing.


    9 Feb 13 at 2:33 pm

  3. Any volunteers to go through five years of Blog posts? I have a distinct recollection of being run out of the university on a rail over dance and not art, but I can’t recall whether it was just proof I wasn’t educated or proof I shouldn’t have a PhD–which, in fairness I don’t, but not for lack of fine arts credits, which weren’t required.

    I’m getting old. Exchanges from four or five years ago are much more recent than they used to be–but five year old arguments aren’t as much worth pursuing as they used to be, either. I’ll let it drop if I’m not expected to concede.

    And I would entirely agree that the university is better suited to preserve and study art than to create it.


    9 Feb 13 at 5:21 pm

  4. Well, I’m not going to go through years of posts either,but on the subject of dance I will insist.

    I remember the first time dance was brought up on this blog. YOU brought it up.

    And I responded at the time that I had no use for any arsty be creative crap in the LAE.

    The LAE is a course of intellectuall history. That has nothing to do with writing poetry pr tripping about en pointe.

    But dance in particular is a sore point, because I have always,from childhood considered it a lot of precious pretensious idiocy. I felt that way the first time I was taken to a ballet. I think I was ten.

    You will note that I want students to know art history and to read classoc poetry and novels, I never say a single word about even learning ABOUT dance.

    It’s at best a very minor art form and of no real importance in the history of ideas.


    9 Feb 13 at 6:00 pm

  5. I don’t trust my aging memory enough to comment on art history vs dance. But I assume that LAE means a Liberal Arts Education so I will not have to tell you what science and engineering students would think about a requires History of Art course! let alone Dance.

    I’ve been thinking of what we do want the schools to teach. The traditional 3Rs come to mind. But given smart phones and tablet computers which have calculators and software that will read aloud and take dictation, I wonder how long those will be considered necessary.


    9 Feb 13 at 7:21 pm

  6. Completely off topic:

    I was reading about the blizzard in the Christian Science Monitor. The story referred to a nine state New England region. I always thought New England was Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

    That makes 6, What am I missing?


    9 Feb 13 at 7:59 pm

  7. Just FYI, IT (information technology) already, in practice, works pretty much along the lines suggested. Colleges offer “Computer Science” degrees. However useful that body of knowledge might be to someone who hopes to eventually be designing computers, in the work-a-day world the stuff is pretty much irrelevant, except perhaps for proof of general intelligence and perseverance. What you have to have to obtain work, or get relatively quickly after being hired, are ‘certifications’. These may be provided by particular manufacturers, e.g., CISCO, and for computers, DELL and HP, or vendor neutral, such as COMP TIA A+ or Network + .

    The job ads generally emphasize the certifications. IF they need to thin the resume pile, they may tack on a BS in computer science.

    Of course, as I noted in on the last blog, if they just want to save money and hire a basically indentured H1 visa holder, they’ll right the job ad so narrowly with so many requirements that no one can meet it – except, somehow, the guy from India who’ll work for half the wage someone with US student debt could afford. (note: a tactic I’ve heard of is demanding a credit check, which a freshly minted college grad will fail — because of the student loan debt pulling down his/her score. The immigrant, of course, has no such problem as other nations don’t do that to their students.)

  8. Hmmm. Do let me rain on everyone’s parade by pointing out why this will happen much more slowly than the state of formal education would suggest.

    You have a 1,000 employee firm. You need to hire 100 people for your expansion. You pay well, so there are lots of applicants, and you have a test which pretty well predicts job performance. What happens, in modern-day America, when 70% of Asian-American applicants qualify on that test, but 35% of African-American applicants? Answer: either (a)you get sued for more than the value of the firm, (b) you have to go all the way to the Supreme Court and might not win, (c) you chuck your perfectly valid test out the window and hire on the basis of high school diplomas, or (d) you do your expansion in Asia. (Multiple right answers are possible.)

    In military history, we make mock of representats en mission and political commisars–political amateurs who cost their countries dearly by second-guessing military professionals. But in America, we never suggest that an entire bureaucracy dedicated to finding bigotry in hiring and promotions whether it’s there to be found or not might just affect the functioning of the economy. LIke to guess what they’ll say in 50 or 100 years?


    10 Feb 13 at 5:57 pm

  9. jd, the Intertubes seems to agree with you on New England states. Six, not 9. However, having traveled extensively over the whole region and having lived in Massachusetts for 3 years, I’d be tempted to include New York (also named after a spot in England) and Pennsylvania, due to their common character and geography with the rest of NE. I’d be hard pressed, though, to name a ninth state. All the other nearby states have their own distinct commonalities with the South, or the Midwest.

    Perhaps the ninth is one of the 58 that Obama referred to. ;)


    10 Feb 13 at 9:16 pm

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