Ruling class legitimacy is built on academic prestige, but it’s fading fast

Ruling class legitimacy is built on academic prestige, but it’s fading fast. By John Carter.

How it used to work, in theory:

The ruling class ultimately derives its assumed right to rule from the prestige of academic institutions. The idea is that the smartest kids are admitted to the best schools, where they’re taught by the top minds in the sciences, philosophy, law, medicine, and the arts. They therefore possess both the highest degree of natural aptitude, and have been provided with the best possible training, meaning that they are naturally the most suited to take society’s reins.

As a result, the most powerful institutions recruit primarily from these top universities, meaning that the top universities are the gatekeepers to power. Once one has obtained a degree from the right school, and as long as one does not rock the boat too much, the doors to the halls of power open, and the money follows.

It was corrupted immediately:

What universities really sell isn’t an education: it’s the credential. The more cynical students will note that C’s and D’s get degrees, a frank statement that they can cruise through their undergraduate years doing the bare minimum and squeak out the door with a piece of paper that will be every bit as valuable as the document bestowed upon their more talented and diligent classmates. Sure, employers might ask for their transcripts; but in practice they rarely do. …

Yes, credentials really are needed:

When you walk into a doctor’s office, you don’t want to spend three hours grilling him on his knowledge of molecular biology and skeletal anatomy; you want to assume he knows his stuff, so you can get on with the business of figuring out whether or why you’re sick and what to do about it. The credential outsources professional quality control to a third party, making it easier for both of you to conduct business.

There are real consequences to not having a credentialing system. In South America, for instance, the skilled trades as such don’t really exist. There’s no formalized system of trade schools, apprenticeships, and so on that any prospective tradesman is required to complete before they can hang out their shingle as a practitioner. A tradesman’s qualifications are the tools he shows up with. He may know his business and he may not, but you’ve got no real way of knowing. The result is that the jury-rigged infrastructure in South America is notoriously unreliable.

There are similar consequences to a credentialing system breaking down. We’re living through it now.

Woke made it worse:

At some point over the last generation, the ruling class shifted its emphasis from competence to ideological loyalty.

Some degree of indoctrination was always a factor, of course, but until recently the idea was to take the smartest recruits you could find, and then make them loyal. That was the purpose of the Rhodes scholarships, for instance. It was widely understood that while you needed your leadership cadre to be team players, it was absolutely crucial that they also be good at what they do. In practice, that meant sacrificing a certain degree of unity of purpose, because smart, ruthless people also tend to be independent-minded and outspoken. Still, whatever amount of friction that was caused by the ruling class sometimes operating at cross-purposes with itself was more than compensated for by the competitive advantages of a truly meritorious elite.

Indoctrination is churning out ignorant fools:

It doesn’t work that way anymore. Now, entrance into the top schools depends far less on grades, which is to say far less on ability, and more far on ideological purity. The ruling class has prioritized loyalty above all else.

This shift in priorities compromises the educational system at a very basic level. Classroom instruction is now much less about teaching students how to think and how to do things, and far more concerned with ensuring they become appropriately enthusiastic about what they’re supposed to feel. This is true at every level in the system, right on through post-graduate education.

Since those being advanced through the system are being evaluated not on their intellectual ability so much as their emotional docility, the overall level of competence declines. Dull minds have a harder time mastering difficult material; therefore, the rigour of the curriculum is reduced.

The result is the incompetocracy: a ruling class exhibiting near perfect unity of rigidly disciplined ideological purpose, able to move in synch with one another like a school of hungry piranhas, but composed of unimpressive cretins who are individually incapable of doing whatever task is assigned to them.

Look at Biden’s train wreck of a regime. These people all attended the best schools. I wrote that last sentence without actually knowing, I just assumed it was probably true, but sure enough: the new press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, went to a Long Island prep school, and has a master’s degree from Columbia. Despite that, she’s barely able to string enough coherent words together to form a half-convincing deception. The mumbling non-entity of a Secretary of State Antony Blinken is a Harvard man, which is no defense against being regularly humiliated by his international counterparts. Treasury Secretary Yellen attended Brown and got her PhD from Yale, which does nothing at all to stop shortages and inflation from nuking the economy. Attorney-General Merrick Garland has a law degree from Harvard, and presides over a steady dissolution in the rule of law. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo is a Rhodes Scholar. And so on and so forth. They’re an impressively credentialed group of people, but the country is rotting like a dead raccoon on the highway. …

Incompetocracy blossoms:

Academics from outside North America who teach their first courses at an American university are appalled at the level of remedial education required by freshmen; exchange students are amused, as they can spend their first year or two on cruise control, having already learned the curriculum in high school. Employers are disgusted with the very basic things that graduates don’t know, to the point where many question whether a university degree even means anything, while others actively prefer not to hire university graduates.

Doctors who don’t know medicine. Teachers who are barely literate. Lawyers who don’t understand basic principles of jurisprudence. Scientists who seem to be ignorant of basic things in their own fields, who get outmaneuvered by schizo anons shitposting their statistical analyses on Twitter.

A generation of diluted educational standards, of premising entry into the ruling class on the basis of ideological purity rather than ability and mastery, has produced a society in which everything is breaking down. …

The new way is coming:

Since the universities don’t sell education, but credentials, we need a new system of credentialing.

Education is the easy part. We’ve already got that covered. With the internet, it’s never been easier to learn….

The problem is that there’s no proof of work. How does an autodidact reassure a potential employer or customer that they know what they’re doing?  …

One very obvious answer is standardized testing. … Instead of having one big test at the end of school, tests could be provided on a subject-by-subject basis: Algebra I, Algebra II, Algebra and Geometry, Single-variable Calculus, Multi-variable Calculus, and so on. Students could take the test whenever they feel ready, after studying the material in whichever fashion they feel most comfortable, whether alone, or with the assistance of a tutor, or at a more traditional school.

Rather than having the tests be written at an appointed time and physical location, the tests could be taken at home, with screen-sharing and cameras ensuring no cheating was taking place. …

There’s no reason that such a system should require an expensive, unwieldy government bureaucracy to support. In fact it’s best if it’s done outside of the state. The system would support itself with user fees. …

For employers, it would remove a great deal of ambiguity: rather than shrugging their shoulders and hoping that a diploma from Wherever U meant something, they could review a potential employee’s educational records in detail, gaining immediate knowledge of what they know, how well they know it, and how that compares to other applicants. …

The main objection I can see to this suggestion is that not every subject is open to standardized testing. That’s true: how do you evaluate a philosophy essay in a standardized fashion?

The Internet is changing everything about how information is distributed.