Recent news of the Japanese government directing its public universities to stop offering social sciences and humanities courses raises some pretty important questions over the future of higher education in the age of fiscal deficits, automation, and e-learning ahead.
An entirely predictable debate followed, with skeptical conservatives (and I daresay most Unz readers) saying good riddance, and liberals screeching about how humanities are just as important as STEM for maintaining functional, civilized societies. Both make some good points but the largest issues, as always, seem to be systemically sidelined: Psychometrics, and to a lesser extent, the new possibilities opened up by technology.
(1) Here is the famous graphic produced by Linda Gottfredson. Probably only about 25% of the population can truly benefit from a university education, STEM or otherwise. All conversations must start from here.
(2) For the lower IQ segments who like sciency stuff, “hands on” or apprenticeships are best. Germany has a very well developed system in this respect, with the result that a very large percentage of its workforce (relative to other First World countries) continues to find gainful employment in its manufacturing industries.
(3) I do think that Humanities and Social Sciences subjects can be quite useful, not least to inform and deepen work in STEM subjects themselves (e.g. gene-culture evolution)! And specialists in Economics, Linguistics, and various foreign cultures, etc. are very important for any state. But to achieve true competence in any of these areas you really need first rate human capital. There are greatly diminishing returns to funding proper university study of any of these subjects on as far as <115 IQ people are concerned.
But the benefits of studying any of these subjects extend beyond the merely functional, economic sense. A society in which even a plumber could venture some cogent thoughts on the collapse of the Roman Empire or the relative merits of Hobbes vs. Locke is a better and more cultured society and that has value of its own. Today there are plenty of online learning resources (e.g. Coursera, Udemy, etc) that they could be encouraged to take advantage of and even subsidized to do because ultimately they are only a tiny fraction of the cost of conventional university educations and will have little effect on the budget.
(4) Then there are the “fluff” subjects, like Anthropology, Sociology, African-American Studies, Women’s Studies, etc. Generally speaking, they are hopelessly politicized and produce negative value added, an unholy mixture of Marxist and postmodernist dreck. Some can and must be salvaged, while only the most overtly unscientific and grievance-based should be abolished entirely (e.g. African-American Studies, Women’s Studies). This “purging” process could be organized in the elite universities, and then once cleaned up should be left free to roll back into the middling universities alongside the H&SS group.
(5) Here is a summary:
|Elite Universities (IQ >120)||Y||Y||Y|
|Middling Universities (IQ 105-120)||Y||Y||X|
|Polytechs/Community Colleges (IQ 90-105)||Apprenticeships||Online||X|
|No tertiary education (IQ <90)||“Hands On”||Online||X|
(6) There is a lot of specifically American angst over subsidized or free university funding, which is standard in Europe.
But it actually makes a lot of sense from both progressive and “reactionary” perspectives.
From the progressive perspective, having more human capital and more culture is good. There will be more of it if higher education is subsidized.
From the “reactionary” perspective, you want higher IQ people starting families at earlier ages and having more children. This is difficult to do if you’re saddled with student debts. Subsidizing university education will remove that problem.
Of course, subsidized education can be quite expensive. (Though nowhere near as expensive as modern healthcare or even pointless wars in the Middle East). But remember that I am suggesting limiting university educations to the top 25% of the population or so. The “STEM-orientated” people who are below that threshold will generally be better served by getting apprenticeships or hands on training (cheaper), while “H&SS-orientated” people now have the option of satiating their curiosity through online learning (MUCH cheaper). Ultimately I am not a ruthless conservative, I believe society should fund people to achieve their full potential. It’s just that this funding isn’t very well distributed now.
It is my impression that universities are becoming fossils in general, being made obsolete by technological advances and only clinging on because getting a paper degree still remains social convention. To be very frank, I am not even sure that the sort of things being taught in most undergraduate courses still needs to be done at brick and mortar establishments. Most humanities and social science courses consist of lectures for crying out loud. Just get some charismatic professor – he doesn’t even have to be the best in his field – to produce lectures with the requisite materials and post is on the Internet (for some people who prefer textual to in-person learning this reliance on lectures is actually harmful). The only thing that actually needs to be funded fully is exam-taking for certification purposes.
But barring truly radical changes, I think the previous suggestions would still be of general social benefit.