Conrad Black: Too many BAs. Too many lawyers. Not enough real work

Much of the advanced world is now creaking and groaning under the difficulty of finding useful employment or at least activity for the core of the population of traditional working age. For the first time, technological advances are increasing unemployment more than employment, and traditional business is generally less labour intensive with each innovation. The surge to service industry and other white collar occupations has been pronounced for decades. The trend was accompanied by a pandemic of socioeconomic snobbery that made it unseemly to have what was once called a blue-collar job. As mentioned in my piece here last week about some of the vagaries of contemporary education, the percentage of people with a university degree has skyrocketed, but the utility of the degree has deteriorated. When I gained a B.A. about 50 years ago, it was a virtual guaranty of employability, though I did not use it for that, and continued at university for some years, while beginning my newspaper career.

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  • Thomas Henderson

    Picture says a thousand words. How far the fall has been.

    Entitlement (demanding and embittered vulgar woman) vs. Responsibility (depression era father and soldier looking to earn his daily bread).

    Mr. Black is correct. How do we reconcile idle entitlement with ever widening redundancies?

    Won’t be pretty.

    Don’t need foreigners either.

  • dapto

    I had them in my business to, the ones who have a degree and have no work ethic and wonder why there never called after their first day.

  • simus1

    “Everybody must go to university” did more damage to society than anything else in the last fifty years. It kept a lot of vulnerable people from “growing up” in the real world where developing immunity to academic bullshitters is a very valuable vaccination for a satisfying life.

    • Watchman

      [sorry – long comment ahead]
      It’s a result of people not understanding the difference between cause and effect and correlation. In the past, it was noted there was a correlation between tertiary graduates and success in careers. There was such a correlation.

      The next stage was where governments and the people went wrong: they attributed success as an effect of the cause of being awarded a Bachelor’s degree. They reasoned that if more of their citizens graduated, the more successful people you would have entering the market and the more productive the country would be.

      The universities were keen for more students because more students meant more money and more prestige, and so chose not to tell the government of their faulty reasoning. At this time, governments were looking at other successful countries and noticing that these countries had high levels of tertiary education, and this reinforced their perception that more people with degrees meant better productivity and innovation.

      The governments were also trying to remain in power and being democracies (or variations of such), were both promising more places in universities and for a better economy once these people graduated and started working in the real world. Automation and foreign manufacture was also frightening the governments because they were smart enough to see a looming post-secondary school unemployment problem.

      And the big thing they didn’t realise or simply ignored is that the people who went to university were already the best students in that society. They passed their courses and graduated simply because they were the best people selectively allowed to enrol in university. Accordingly once they graduated, they were still the smartest or hardest working and so did do well in their postgraduate careers. These students weren’t random students picked out of the whole student population: they were the best.

      So when the government started funding more places in university they thought that making more places available for students to enrol would lead to more smarter, hard-working graduates and also keep more students off the unemployment lists. Unfortunately all the best students were already in university, (or out working in businesses), so inevitably they had to start taking less smart or hard-working students. Some of these students did step up to the plate and outperform their prior life, but in general you got worse students enrolled. As a result of this, you either had to allow more students to fail, since even with the best students a sizeable proportion would fail, and adding worse students meant that, in theory, most of these students would fail and be forced to drop out.

      All of the students, the university, the government and the citizens didn’t like that news that adding more lower quality students would not increase the number eventually graduating with the original level of quality education. So the universities did two things: they dropped the standards for existing degrees and courses, and they brought in tertiary studies that had low standards for passing from their inception. I don’t know whether they deliberately and maliciously did this but they did do this.

      Governments, students, and the general population was delighted at first (and are still mostly enamoured with the idea) that many more people were graduating with tertiary qualifications. The problem is that employers were finding that the graduates were not being prepared for work, and that the quality of their learning was sadly lacking compared to years previously. In effect, less brilliant students were masquerading as brilliant students by being allowed to graduate with lowered standards of learning, or they had been not taught anything useful.

      As a result, deprecation of degrees resulted and became the equivalent of a high school degree had many years previously. In order for even a modestly intelligent and skilled person to get a job, many businesses were requiring Bachelor’s degrees just to be considered for a job. I have seen jobs advertised that demanded a Bachelor’s degree to do little more than photocopying paper. As a result, all students felt that they needed to go to university to get any job and career, putting even more pressure on universities and governments to provide more places in universities.

      • simus1

        Indeed. Very well said.
        Yet there is the additional perversity of government controlled and rationed slots in medical schools to ensure “no oversupply of doctors shall occur”. Years ago an initiative surfaced to permit a few additional students fully paying their own way to attend with little prospect of ever practicing in Canada. The left reacted as you would expect and it died a quick death.

        • Watchman

          And then what happens is that the millions of graduates from subcontinental India look towards the West as the ultimate prize for status and wealth as engineers, software experts, and doctors. If these doctor graduates are able to pass the countries local exams (few countries accept medical qualifications at face value), they then start competing with the locally carefully restricted numbers of doctors. As a result of a perceived oversupply that threatens incomes, the doctors’ unions call for even more restrictions of graduates or those entering specialist fields, making it even harder for a local citizen to get into medicine.

          Culturally it is also a problem. Indian subcontinent doctors almost always are the upper caste people and believe themselves above everyone around them, because in India they generally are. As a result, many patients see these doctors as assured and confident in their diagnoses – but sometimes overly so. When they are contradicted by nurses or people they believe are underneath them they often get very angry regardless of whether this contradiction is correct.

          I see the changes happening in every Western country where medicine is being taken over by culturally problematic Indian doctors. This is robbing India of some of its best doctors, and further contributing to the disparity of productivity between the West and India. The same argument also applies to software and engineering.

      • canminuteman

        It works like that all the way down. I have a son in grade 7 and another in grade 9. They are both smart kids and are not even challenged at school. I was talking to my son’s high school shop teacher about their curriculum and discovered that the machine shop class project I did in grade nine is now the grade twelve project. In grade nine wood shop I made a mahogany coffee table that my parents still use, my son made a lap joint out of a couple
        of pieces of 2 by 4. My high school was like a graduate degree compared to what it is now.

        And politicians keep thinking we are the best educated generation ever.

  • just_one_Sewer Rat_guy

    “Where’s my fucking job?”

    Well, if you actually LOOKED for one, instead of EXPECTING one to be given to you, you may actually have one. Might not be the one you want, but it’s a job nonetheless, and a stepping stone to furthering your career.

    • Watchman

      One more graduate expecting to be employed initially as Managing Director and be promoted upwards from there. /sarc

      • just_one_Sewer Rat_guy

        Ahhh.. The ol’ hop out of 27 years of school, right into a six figure job right away… Because it’s 2017 and you owe me, and because I have a pussy. I wonder how that’s working out for her?

        • Watchman

          I think she’d have made a better income spending that wasted time in the gym, plastic surgery, clothing and makeup and going for the ‘trophy wife’ career.

          • just_one_Sewer Rat_guy

            Is there enough plastic in the world for that??

          • Blacksmith

            Heck she could probably be more successful if did the first part and spent her evening on a street corner………

    • Watchman

      Have a look at similar behaviour from the man in red expecting Peter Schiff to write him a check on the spot to fund his business:
      https://www.youtube.com/embed/ahMGoB01qiA?start=1348&end=1635&version=3

    • Blacksmith

      But she went to university, she shouldn’t have to work her way through the system like the rest of us slugs!

  • ontario john

    But what about those great programs on whiny indian studies and feminist issues??

    And don’t forget the ground breaking course on Beyonce!

  • Bataviawillem

    I have 2 questions with that photo.
    1. A degree in what?
    2. Do you thinks that that language attracts employers.

  • Hard Little Machine

    Degree in what? Job doing what?