Tag Archives: University

Crippling the Priesthood

Here is another, long term strategy for the Trumpenkrieg.

The right has two main enemies: the press and academia, together with the bureaucracy they form what we call the Cathedral. Academia creates liberal doctrine and indoctrinates the young into it. The press promulgates doctrine. The bureaucracy implements it. The bureaucracy, while a problem, follows the lead of the press and the academy.

The press is immolating itself. It is being outflanked by non-traditional media enabled by modern technologies and is squandering what’s left of its legitimacy rapidly. We should help it along its course, but its self-destruction is nigh inevitable. The main question is rebuilding something favourable to western civilization in its place.

On the other hand the academy is going strong and continually grows stronger. It’s primary strength is that a diploma is necessary for a “good” job. The destruction of the traditional economy is leaving many in a situation of Yale or jail. For ever-more Americans the choice is increasingly either college or destitution. So most young Americans choose to load themselves in debt for their anti-poverty paper.

I’ve stated before, we should end federal student loans, and I stand by that, but that is a minor measure that still leaves the system intact. Another measure to strike against the university is to end disparate impact. Sailer has been writing about how disparate impact prevents direct meritocratic hiring, forcing employers to rely on indirect signals, such as a degree, for years now. Ending disparate impact would alleviate some of the economic necessity of a college degree.

But, I’m going to present a strategy even more direct. One that would almost immediately cripple the academy’s stranglehold over meritocratic signalling. I will say beforehand, that this would require significant resources and extensive coordination. Ideally, this could function as a start-up if someone had enough access to VC and could get buy-in from at least one industry to start, but realistically, this would probably have to be a government project (so if any of you have a line to Bannon or someone else who might be interested, send this idea along; take credit if you want, the idea is simple and not particularly novel, its implementation would be the heavy work).

The idea is simply a Knowledge and Skills Signaling Organization or KASSO for short. Essentially, the KASSO would be a single window supplier of certifications for occupational knowledge and skills.

KASSO would work with various industrial and occupational organizations to develop a battery of certification tests, both academic and practical, for each industry/occupation, the completion of which would demonstrate a certain level of competence in the tested competency. Upon successful completion of certification tests, the testee would be given a certificate of competence, which would he could present to employers.

For an example of how this would work, let’s look at programming. Programming already has a large spread of certifications, but KASSO would centralize and standardize these certifications. It would start by consulting with major Silicon Valley firms and other firms with large programming departments, about what particular skills requirements they would require for their various programming occupations. It may also talk to other industry players, such as programming languages organizations, language developers, or conferences, but it would primarily be aimed at what the employers wanted.

Working with these groups, it would develop a series of tests that would show competence, in these. For example, you could have a C++ 1, C++ 2, and C++ 3 for basic C++ knowledge for grunt-work programmers, mid-level programmers, and expert programmers, respectively. Each test would be a rigourous, complete and supervised. The C++ 1 test could, for example, be a combination of developing a few simple programs or routines, doing some basic debugging, and answering some basic theoretical questions. While the C++ 3 certification could be developing a complex program from scratch and a difficult debugging problem based on a real-life example.

The length and involvement of these tests would depend on the requirements thereof. The C++ 1, may only be a 3-hour test, while the C++ 3, may be three 8-hour days or even a 24-hour marathon.

Upon successful completion of the C++ 1 test, the testee would then be provided with his C++ 1 certificate, which he could present to his employer who would know that this testee was qualified for C++ work and to what degree he was qualified. What competences and what level of competence each degree represented would be easily available and clearly explained on KASSO’ website.

Of course, adding more gradations of skills would also be a possibility. You could have, for example, C++ 1 – Standard, Silver and Gold, depending on the level of competency shown.

Cheating would be possibility, so the strictest anti-cheating measures would be put in place to ensure the integrity of the process. Each testing class would be kept small, say a half-dozen testees. Each test would be monitored by two KASSO testers at all times. To prevent memorization, each test would actually be one of a half-dozen similar and equally challenging, but different, tests administered in a quasi-random order. There would also be a cool-down period for unsuccessful testees; say 4 months before they could attempt the test again. Insofar as possible, the tests would be as practical as possible so that cheating required as much competence in the subject matter as successful completion.

KASSO would pay for itself, or even be a for-profit organization. If each student had to pay, say $500 per a test, they could take a half-dozen different certifications for a fraction of a years worth of tuition, yet KASSO would still be raking in cash. Or, more likely, different tests would have different costs: C++ 1 may only cost $100, while C++ 3 may cost $2000. For those taking multiple related certification, there could be a discount program. Say, $5000 for testing in C++ 3, VB 3, and Java 3.

This same thing would be done for each in-demand language. There might be a set of certifications for those showing competence in language independent parts of programming. Whatever industry expresses a desire for. There might be a broader Programmer certification for those who’ve been certified in a certain range of programming languages and theory.

For each skill domain, industry, and/or occupational group there’d a similar set of tests and certifications, drawn from the needs of the various industries and organizations hiring people with those skills.

In addition, to such specialized certificates, such as programming, KASSO would offer more generalized certifications. A small battery of tests, similar to a GED, similar to a high school certification. Another, more larger and more difficult general test, that would be generally equivalent to the knowledge gained from a generalized humanities bachelor. A series of general tests could be equivalent to a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, with a minor in Political Science. A series of tests could be the equivalent of a business degree. And so forth.

You could even apply tests to softer skills. Although, these tests may be harder to plan and implement, you could have certifications in salesmanship or public speaking.

These were all general examples, the details would have to be developed by experts, but the essential idea of KASSO is to create a self-funding organization providing a set of well-known, broadly-accepted, reliable certifications. Employers would know exactly what certified students had demonstrated competence in, while (future) employees would know which certifications would be needed to get the job they wanted.

There are a number of potential pitfalls. The main problem would be starting this up and getting buy-in from employers. Now, for the federal government a solution might be converting the useless education department to developing KASSO.

Another problem that would come from a government implementation of KASSO is political considerations intervening in what should be an impersonal and objective certification program. To combat this, the government should make it an independent, arms-length institution mostly outside the the ability for politicians or bureaucrats to interfere. Possibly even privatize it after it gets off the ground.

Anybody implementing KASSO may also have to be wary of disparate impact, but with enough will this could be worked around.

But beyond these pitfalls, KASSO would have numerous benefits. First, it would allow another route to competence signaling beyond college or even beyond high school. It would allow the self-taught, the self-motivated, and prodigies to receive certification without having to rely on formal schooling. It would reduce tuition debt slavery, as people could get certification relatively inexpensively through KASSO. It would reduce certification time as people taught themselves on their own schedule, so young people could enter the workforce earlier. Once heavily adopted, it would provide a standard set of certifications for human resources departments to look for and for (future) employees to pursue. It would help poor people lift themselves from poverty; they could get “better” jobs by studying on their own schedule and getting certifications. It would break the back of academia. It would prevent the waste of time and resources of dropouts, as it’s a lot easier to waste a day and $500 failing a test than a year and $10,000 failing your first year at university.

* All numbers and examples are rather arbitrary and undeveloped. They are there for illustrations sake; this is a broad outline, the experts would have to develop the real details.

Women, STEM, and D&D

Yesterday, I briefly mentioned the topic of women in the math and sciences.

It’s well known that post-secondary education is predominantly female. It is also well known that this is not true of STEM fields, where women are a minority.

Some chock this up to differences in intelligence or that women aren’t gifted at math. It’s not differences in overall intelligence, as the difference in average intelligence between men and women has always been small, and might even have reversed in the last few years. Even so, men have always held generally have held a small advantage in spatial reasoning and mathematical reasoning, but these differences are not great enough to account for the massive disparities in math-based subjects.

Greater male variability may explain some of it. High-level mathematics requires high intelligence, and due to greater variability there are a greater number of high-intelligence males than females (just as there are greater number of low-intelligence males), but as we can see from IQ by intended major, even those intending to enter the hard sciences have an average IQ of only about 110. Even factoring in variability, a requirement for an IQ of 110 should not lead to such large disparities in the STEM field, but fewer women pursue STEM fields at this point.

Feminists will argue that it’s all about discrimination and whatnot, but with the predominance of females throughout the rest of universities and the large number of programs dedicated to attracting women to STEM its hard to see how any can argue this with a straight face.

Not to mention, that females are well-represented in the physical and life sciences. Is there somehow less discrimination in the life and physical sciences than the harder sciences? Unlikely.

Notice instead that the STEM fields women are involved in are the less math oriented sciences. Across the board, women avoid fields that require lots of math.

So the problem is mathematics, but it is unlikely due to differences in intelligence and the explanation of discrimination is ludicrous.

So the answer: in general, women simply don’t like math. Shocking, I know.

Now, this is the point where feminists cry sexism, women do like math  (say the female gender and polisci students).

Now, you know from personal experience women don’t like math; ask most women, and they’ll readily admit they don’t like math. The available data seems to support the assertion women just plain don’t like it, but proving that women generally don’t like math  is difficult. You can’t really see into women’s minds to show they don’t like math and anecdotes that all your female friends don’t like math is no more proof positive of a statistical trend than the one female friend you have who loves math is proof negative.

So, how can we know?

The answer is simple: Dungeons and Dragons.


See, the thing is, most guys don’t like math either. Only a small minority of men, and an even smaller minority of women, enjoy math. These men are generally referred to as nerds.

(When I say nerd, I don’t mean the recent trend of “LOL, I watched Dr. Who once, I’m such a nerd” hipster teenagers. I mean the actual nerds, the guys who will spend their Saturday nights imagining themselves swinging around +2 Swords of Shining Light or who will actually go outside and throw around lightning bolts.)

These nerds are the ones who dominate the STEM fields.

Why they’re (or more accurately we’re, as I’m a bit of a nerd myself) like that I don’t know, but I kinda like Half-Sigma’s idea that nerds are simply men with a very mild form of Asperger’s, something also kind of touched on by Susan Pinker.

But that’s beside the point, which is that nerds dominate the STEM field, because they are an abnormal sort of people who actually like math.


So, how does that help us prove that women dislike math?

Simple, look at D&D.

D&D, for the uninitiated, is essentially what happens when you combine Tolkien, tactical wargames, improvisational theatre, and mathematics. Nerds get together and each creates a character, which is essentially a large block of statistics and math made of options from a large, complicated rule book. He then gives this block of math some personality (sometimes the personality comes before the math, but most nerds know which usually comes first). One nerd, the GM, gets the especially complicated job of creating a world out of blocks of statistics and math. The nerds then takes their blocks of math which interact with (and kill) the GM’s blocks of math, so their blocks of math can grow larger numbers to defeat more powerful blocks of math. Along the way there is some roleplaying: which is essentially improvisational theatre concerning the blocks of math.

D&D is essentially what people who enjoy math do for fun. It’s making math a game.


It’s a simple fact that few women play D&D, it is largely the domain of males. The game is open for all to play and most players would love to have more females players who share their hobby.

Yet, women don’t play.

You go to any improvisational theatre group, there’s tons of women, women like theatre. Women also like Tolkien, and fantasy in general for that matter. So, why don’t they like D&D?


Most women, and most men, don’t like math, so making a game of complex math is not something they would consider fun.

If women, on average, liked math as much as men, they would be as involved in D&D as much men. There is no discrimination or institutional barriers preventing them from enjoying D&D, all it requires for entry is $20 for the rulebook. You don’t even really need that as most GM’s would be happy to lend you their copy if you join their game.

They are not though.


It doesn’t have to be D&D. In the above D&D can be replaced by complex board games, science fiction, Magic cards, war games, or pretty much any nerdy math-based activity. No matter what the math-oriented hobby, men vastly outnumber women.

Women simply don’t see the enjoyment in spending free time doing math. Most men don’t either, but the minority of men who do is larger than the minority of women who do.


That’s why there’s a STEM gap.

The minority of females who are nerds is smaller than the minority of men who are nerds.

So, next time a feminist says that there’s a STEM gap and it’s caused by sexism, ask her if she plays D&D and how many of her female friends do?


Edit – Post-Script – 3/08 2012:

Seems this got posted at Reddit under the misleading title “Apparently, ladies don’t like D&D because they can’t Math.”, leading to a larger influx of people than my little corner of the internet has had before. It also seems a lot of them are confused by what I have said. I can’t answer every post individually and I do not have a Reddit account, so here’s a little post-script that will count as a reply to everyone.

1: My argument was not women can not do math (and, hence, play D&D). In fact, I specifically ruled out intelligence and mathematical capabilities in the fourth paragraph. My argument was not even that women do not enjoy math at all (and, hence, D&D). My argument was that nobody enjoys math (and, hence, D&D), except a small group of abnormal people (often referred to as nerds) and that more of these abnormal people are male than female. So, before y’all get your knickers in a knot: PLEASE READ WHAT I ACTUALLY WROTE BEFORE WHINING ABOUT WHAT I DID NOT SAY.

2: A number of people are focusing solely on D&D. As I said, you can apply this argument to the nerdy, math-based hobbies from board games to war games to RPG’s to hobby programming to whatever: anything where interaction is largely defined by basic mathematics. D&D was the specific example used, but do not get

3: If you are a women that either plays D&D, board games, video games, or enjoys math, that is wonderful. I wish more women did, I’d like to share my hobbies with others. But because you personally, and a couple of girls you know, enjoy them does not statistics make. I always thought that the preponderance of males in D&D and other such nerdy hobbies was a well-accepted, so I didn’t bother posting any proof. So here’s the proof: males are about 80% of games as per a WotC survey, so yes, more males play D&D. (The data is old, but this does not seem like something that is measured very often and I doubt it’s changed too significantly).

4: I noted the relationship between D&D (and nerdy hobbies) and STEM. This is not an absolute, just a relationship. In particular, I am not STEM myself, so generalizing me to STEM as a whole is silly. I do enjoy the low-level maths of economics and games as a hobby though.

5: Addition, subtraction, and the statistical blocks that make up characters and the (often violent) relationships between them are math. I didn’t say they were complex math, so I’m not sure where the comments about there being no math come from.

6: Yes, I make some typos; I write as a hobby with no editor. If you’re that anally retentive about typos in a blog post, well…

7: I have never had a beard, let alone a neck-beard. I’m not sure what the point of personalizing counter-arguments to a non-personal argument and insulting some random jackass on the internet is, but I hope the venting was stress-relieving.

Tuition Bubble

Here’s the New York Times running only a bit behind in reporting on the tuition bubble. I thought this would be a decent time to weigh in on the issue.

the average debt in 2011 was $23,300, with 10 percent owing more than $54,000 and 3 percent more than $100,000

To be honest, this is not that bad. $23k is a lot, but livable, even 54k is not insurmountable, but for the 3%, $100k is a serious commitment. In some areas equivalent to a mortgage on a starter home.

The problem though, is that these are ok only if there is employment for those taking the loans. The NYT doesn’t cover this in this article, but the real problem is half of these people graduating are not going to have jobs or will be underemployed.

$23k in debt is doable if you make $40k a year, even $120k ($900/month according to the article) is doable if you make $60k a year coming out of university and live frugally for a few years.

But, if you are unemployed or working part-time as a barrista, there is no way to keep payments up on much more than a few thousand dollars worth of debt and still be able to advance in life.


The NYT misses that the tuition bubble is not a bubble because tuition costs are high; an expensive degree can be an excellent investment for both the lender and borrower if it increases future earnings.

The whole article is off-base as high tuition costs are irrelevant if the economic benefits of the degree match or exceed the cost of the degree.

The tuition bubble is a bubble because a lot of these degrees are worthless.

So why are they worthless? Part of it is simply the transition to post-scarcity, even highly educated and skilled people may simply be replaced by machines. Some of it is because these degrees teach no useful skills, such as Master of Puppetry, an awesome album but a crappy degree. But there is another, even more fundamental, problem that the NYT ignores almost completely.


The main problem is touched upon later on in the piece, but only very obliquely:

the main job of the admissions staff, after all, is to admit students

An off-hand reference in the second half of a sentence at the bottom of a paragraph is all the NYT devotes to the  crux of the tuition bubble.


Huh? Isn’t admissions staff’s job to admit students?

No, the admissions staff’s job is to screen out students for whom university (or college) is not appropriate.


Doesn’t admissions already do this?

No. It doesn’t. 68% of high school graduates go to college.

Thank about that for a second.

The average graduate is going to college

Remember back to your high school graduation; think about your average classmate.

The guy who wasn’t particularly bright or particularly stupid.

Do you think he would benefit from spending 4 years learning political theory or reading Rousseau?

Do you think it would benefit anyone else that he “learned” this?


The evidence says he doesn’t.

One-third of those entering college drop-out.

They pay the expense of a couple years of college and do not even get the dubious benefits of a degree.

The college system is taking advantage of these people who shouldn’t be in college.


One-third of college students are dropping out, at the same time, grade inflation is running rampant.

College is becoming increasingly easy, yet still a third of students still can’t hack it.

The admissions people are failing their job. One-third of people entering university are not capable of completing even the dumbed-down modern university curriculum.

Think about how many more would not be capable of completing college if standards were similar to those 50 years ago.


Look at this post from Adacious Epigone on IQ by intended major from a few years ago.

Look at education, public admin, business, psychology, legal professions, health professionals, etc.

The average incoming student for all of these is only around average intelligence. About half of them are of below average intelligence.

This is why there is a tuition bubble.


It used to be that a college degree meant you were a cut above the rest; that you were a competent, intelligent individual.

Now all a college degree shows is that you are able to stomach a university’s bullshit for a few years and are not a complete dullard.

That’s why your degree is worthless.

It doesn’t signal you’re a superior intellect with a strong knowledge of your specialty.

All it shows is that you’re not completely incompetent and are able to parrot BS back to the BS’ers. How much is not being completely incompetent worth to an employer?

Even a high GPA doesn’t mean much. With grade inflation everybody’s GPA is fairly high, how can an employer trust that you actually earned yours?


As an aside, look at public admin and social services: 96.3.

Do you want to know one reason why your government doesn’t work very well? The people in public admin are being educated to run the government. Do not think that these are not going to be the front-line clerks at the DMV, or even their supervisors; these are actually the people who are going to university to learn how to create public policy. They are the ones who will be creating government policy and regulations that will control your life.

Most of them are of  below average intelligence.

Think about that for a minute. Please don’t weep.

Of course, the average business major is not much better, barely scraping by at 101. 2.

And we wonder why the US economy is stagnating?

Teachers are at 99.3. Half of all teachers are of below average intelligence. Here’s where you can start weeping for the future.

Your kid is likely being taught by someone of average or below average intelligence.

If you’re reading a post about the economics of post-secondary education on a blog for leisure (like say, this post you’re reading right now), it’s highly likely the large majority of these teachers, bureaucrats, and businessmen running things and teaching your children are much more stupid than you.

Aren’t you feeling comforted?


Thankfully the drop-out rate is so high. I’d hate to think what the school system and government would be like if a third of these sup-par students didn’t fail to finish their degrees.


So, after all that, you’re probably understanding why the tuition bubble exists.

It exists because too many people are getting a degree.

Everybody wants to enter the road to the professional, white-collar, middle-class, which is what university is thought of as now.

But not everybody is capable of being a white-collar professional.

Of course, modern liberal dogma can’t admit that some people are just not capable of being white-collar professionals, after all, we are all equal. The Bible (or Stephen Gould, depending on your religious beliefs) and the Constitution (or your sociology professor, depending on your political beliefs)  say so.

So those in charge, those who would read the NYT, can not and will not prevent those who shouldn’t be going to college from going to college.

Instead, they’ll encourage them to go. They’ll give these marginal students huge, government-backed loans they’ll never be able to pay back. They’ll lower academic standards as far as they can go, then lower a them a bit more, destroying any academic, economic, or signalling value of your degree in the process.

Doing otherwise would expose their ideology for the lie it is and their ideology takes precedence over the good of these marginal students, not to mention the other students whose degrees are made worthless.

So, as these marginal students flood colleges, demand for college education increases, so tuition goes up.

The academic value of the degree erodes, as grade inflation and lowered academic standards become necessary to keep these people in college, and maybe (hopefully) let them graduate.

The economic values of these degrees plummets. Your degree no longer signals competence, knowledge, and intelligence to an employer; all it signals is a lack of incompetence. Why should he pay well for that? Why should he hire the marginally competent at all?

Thus a bubble. Paying more and more for less and less.

One thing though, bubbles can’t last forever. Reality always wins in the end.

Eventually, the post-secondary education system will run into reality.


Economists do not predict a collapse of the student loan system, which would, in essence, mean wholesale default.

NYT’s economists never fail to be amusing. I wonder if this was Krugman or Friedman, maybe both?

Those who are blinded by ideology will run full tilt into the wall of reality. They will then act surprised.


With more than $1 trillion in student loans outstanding in this country

$1 trillion, that’s almost 7% of GDP. If a large percentage of these loans default, this will be a major economic catastrophe. It may be possible for the US government to forgive them, but that will be a significant increase in national debt.

Students are likely stuck with this debt.


So what can we do?

Short answer: nothing.

Long answer: That’s a question for another post.


One last note:

Leaders of the for-profit industry defended themselves

I’m usually a staunch defender of the free market, but in this case, all I can say is:

Fuck them.

The for-profit college industry is a brood of blood-sucking parasites taking advantage of students who should never set foot near a college for their own benefit, and the student loans programs in a disgusting display of parasitic corporate welfare. May their whole industry rot.