For decades, it's been a common ideal that our universities are one of our last great bastions of learning. An ivory tower that sits above the plains of corruption and falsehood.
However, according to a recent article entitled Death by Degrees by n+1 magazine, this dream has long since ended by the violent bell of the alarm clock of greed.
It doesn't take the most perfect eyesight to garner a fairly accurate detail of the professional world that exists today. Our employment world requires prospectives to have degrees after degrees, certificates along with degrees, certificates of degrees, degrees showing that you have certificates, and, for those fortunate few, a super ultra degree certificate degree.
Over the centuries [since 605 AD], as China’s scholar–bureaucrats grew more powerful, their metrics of assessment became increasingly intricate. Those who passed were stratified into nine grades, and each grade was further divided into two degrees. Exam performance corresponded exactly to salary, denominated in piculs of rice; the top brass received more than seventeen times as much rice as the lowest tier. But the true rewards of exam success were considerably higher: besides the steady salary, bribe collection made it very good to be a bureaucrat.
Does this sound familiar? I hope not because there was a 20-or-so year rebellion that cost 20 million lives over it.
Unfortunately, this is how the United States, and almost all other industrial countries work these days. We are the modern meritocracy.
It's how we get to that merited status that is the problem I'm wanting to discuss. Let's use a profession that is near and dear to my heart: medicine.
We, as United States citizens, are constantly being bombarded with the idea that we have the best doctors and the best medical practitioners in the world. Comparing the USMLE scores of US medical school students vs international medical students, we consistently see how knowledgeable US students are (their pass rate of the USMLE is quite a bit higher than that of the international). And we frequently hear this fact used as a justification for being opposed to universal healthcare, etc etc, doctors need money to pay back the student loans they took out in order to be awesome, etc etc etc.
But are our doctors too knowledgeable? Four years of undergraduate study (the medical schools only require a handful of classes that someone could finish in maybe a year and a half, but there are course prerequisites, and then many medical schools also want a applicant to have a bachelors degree in anything), four years of medical school, then a few more years of residency (where doctors hone their professional skills in the real world setting).
Today, we take it for granted that practicing medicine or law requires years of costly credentialing in unrelated fields. In the law, the impact of all this “training” is clear: it supports a legal system that is overly complicated and outrageously expensive, both for high-flying corporate clients who routinely overpay and for small-time criminal defendants who, in the overwhelming majority of cases, can’t afford to secure representation at all (and must surrender their fate to local prosecutors, who often send them to prison). But just as a million-dollar medical training isn’t necessary to perform an abortion, routine legal matters could easily, and cheaply, be handled by noninitiates.
Whether you agree or disagree with this comment, it is already happening. As many doctors struggle to get into residencies that offer substantial salaries (one of the reasons is so they can pay back the ~$300K worth of student loans), the residencies that are becoming critically understaffed are beginning to be populated by nurse practitioners and physician assistants (family medicine, pediatrics).
And guess what? They're doing just fine. They may not know an extreme level of detail behind your sore throat, but it doesn't take 8 years of schooling to know when to do a throat swab and prescribe penicillin?
(So, physicians, don't complain that they want to be called doctors. They're doing the job you abandoned.)
Explain, again, why over 10 years of the best years of people's lives were sucked into schooling and a debt they may forever be saddled with was necessary?
Medicine is not the only example of this multi-tiered behemoth in becoming certified. Insert almost any profession here:_____. Physicists, chemists, engineers, architects, etc, how many years did you have to go to school, only to find out that you needed more school for what you wanted to do, and then side-school for certification, and other nickel-and-diming schools?
It's got to stop. We have to reach a point where we need to say, "Okay, that person knows what they're doing, and if they don't, we can train it on the job." Requiring extra credentialing reaches a point of absurdity, and universities taking advantage of this merit inflation is criminal to their supposed idealism.
I encourage everyone this morning to read the article linked above - they tackle the issue much better than I could hope to.
Thanks for reading and remember, I'm always watching.