The Education Conundrum

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Published on The Doomstead Diner on August 21, 2016


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A few weeks ago we saw a NEW Collapse Problem crop up, which is that apparently we have a GLUT of Lawyers! (this article has been on ice for a while due to other pressing collapse issues needing attentinon at Sunday Brunch) Similar to Chinese over-capacity in Steel production, here in the FSoA we graduate too many Lawyers!  These folks are graduating with upwards of $200K in Goobermint Insured Debt, and at least half the time they can't find a job as a Lawyer and end up pitching Cappucinos at Starbucks after graduation.  Even with a $15/hr Minimum Wage, you're not going to pay off a $200K debt in any reasonable period of time.

The NYT wrote about this problem, focusing down on one particular mid-level Law Skule which has been trying to survive over the last decade or so, though sadly for them the number of suckers applying for spots in their classes has been steadily decreasing here.

“People are not being helped by going to these schools,” Kyle McEntee, executive director of the advocacy group Law School Transparency, said of Valparaiso and other low-tier law schools. “The debt is really high, bar passage rates are horrendous, employment is horrendous.”

Bad Newz of course for a lot of folks currently graduating from Law Skule, and Charles Hugh Smith over on Of Two Minds covered this problem with a GREAT SOLUTION!  Shut down more Law Skules and get rid of the over-supply of Lawyers!

The only solution for the surplus of workers with law degrees is a massive, permanent reduction in the issuance of new law graduates.

CHS further informs us in this article that it's not just too many Lawyers we are graduating, we also are graduating too many Ph.D.s, M.D.s, D.D.S.s etc.  We just don't have enough well paying JOBS for all these well educated people, so CLEARLY in CHS's Humble Opinion, the only solution for this is to shut down these schools and get rid of the glut!

Except…wait a minute…

Education-FAILING REPORT CARD-2Just about everyone in the MSM and the Blogosphere too says that our big problem is how our Education system has failed and how we can't compete with the Chinese because we don't have enough Smart and Well Trained people who can fill jobs in the High Tech world!

Which one is it here?  Do we have TOO MANY well educated people or TOO FEW educated people?

You can quite obviously drop this down a level to the Baccalaureate Degree.  Why are we graduating so many people with a BA when they don't need it for any jobs that are available for them to take?  I mean really, you don't need a degree in Petroleum Engineering to concoct a Frappucino at Starbucks, right?  You don't need an IT degree to flip burgers at Mickey's Ds either!  These however are the GROWING employment “opportunities” in the society, while those nice high paying jobs as Corporate Lawyers and Energy Industry Shills are ever decreasing here.  So by Charles Hugh Smith logic, obviously what we need to do here is shut down more Colleges also! But why stop there?  Face it, you don't need a High School diploma either to Wash Cars or Cut Lawns or serve the tables at Red Robin or Fridays or stock the shelves at Walmart.  Hell, you don't even need to know how to add or subtract!  The POS terminal does that for you!  About all you really need to know is how to read and how to sign your W-2 form for the IRS.  Otherwise you basically fulfill a Robotic Function in the society, which of course is ALSO replaceable by actual ROBOTS!

So now with the cost of Minimum Wage workers rising, of course the SOLUTION to this one is to substitute real Robots for the low skill set workers, which of course further depletes the number of jobs available even for Elementary School Graduates!  Why bother going to Skule AT ALL?  Just fuck it, it is clearly a WASTE OF TIME!

Not just a waste of time, but a waste of money too! WTF are we all paying HUGE TAXES to keep these fucking Elementary, Middle and High Skules open?  The WASTE is incredible!  Bloated Administrations, massive Pension obligations, this is just a total MONEY SINK!  The damn Teachers and their Unions allow sub-standard teachers to keep teaching also!

So quite obviously here under the Charles Hugh Smith Memorial Economic Recovery Program, what we need to do is get rid of all the schools and all the teachers!  Shrink it down, let the Supply match the Demand! LOL.  The “Free Market” should determine who gets an education and who does not!

Of course, I am stretching this one out to its logical conclusion and doing some exaggeration, and even a dimwit Capitalista Libertarian like CHS would unlikely be in favor of eliminating all schools down through HS level.  Although not sure on that one, perhaps he would support that idea, as long as for pay Private Schools were made available for those who could afford them.

This IS though the fundamental argument that is being pitched out.  We have too many schools graduating too many people with advanced degrees, and we don't NEED them!  So therefore, we should eliminate the schools in order to reduce the number of graduates in order to meet the actual demand for such graduates.  Just like the Chinese should shutter over capacity in Steel and Coal Mining.

If you accept this idea as TRUE, then just how exactly is it that there is any social mobility whatsoever left in the society?  If you shut down Law Schools and Med Schools and Dental Schools in order to reduce the number of graduates from these institutions, then HTF do people enter those professions, since they are Gate-Kept and require a degree from such an institution to practice? In addition, if there is truly a “glut” of such folks, then WTF are their salaries so high?  My lawyer billed out at something like $400/hr for his work on my WC case, which thankfully I did not have to pay but the losing Insurance Company had to pay, which also of course was very gratifying for me and profitable for my lawyer. LOL.  My Neurosurgeon charged something like $1000 every time I stepped through his office door, whether I saw him or not, and with the exception of one time for about 10 minutes in the office I never did.  He only showed up for a reasonable period of time of like 3 hours when he carved up my neck during the surgery, although I didn't see him then either since the Anaesthesiologist had me knocked out cold.  I did not see him ever afterward either, just Nurses and apprentice Doctors on the neurosurgical ward. For this 3 hour period, I got charged around $150K, or $50K/hr.  Even accounting for the Neurosurgeon, his Assistant, the Anaesthesiologist, 2 Nurses & 2 Technicians, HTF do you come up with a bill like that for 3 hours on the table?  Somebody is padding the bill, that is how.

If there truly were too many people graduating Med Skule with Neurosurgery degrees, Neurosurgeons would not be able to charge anywhere near such outrageous fees.  If there truly were too many people graduating from Dental Skules, dentists couldn't charge their outrageous fees either.

Unlike the Lawyers though, the Dentists caught on to this trend a lot earlier and began shutting down Dental Skules in the 90s, at least according to CHS.  So an artificial scarcity is maintained in order to keep the salaries up.  Unfortunately for the Dentists though, fewer people all the time can afford their charges, and so more people like me head for Mexico to get Dental Work done, at about 20 cents on the dollar there. lol.  In Alaska, a Dentist will charge $300 to yank a tooth out of your mouth.  Down in Mexico, an equally well trained Dentist will do the same thing for $25.  This is a good deal less than 20 cents on the dollar, but for stuff like implants it is higher so I averaged it out. lol.

The Doctors are not doing much better here, their internship system is in complete dissaray, and Ph.Ds even in the science and tech fields are not doing too good.  So why do people continue to go into these programs and work up huge debt bills they are unlikely to ever be able to pay off, until 25 years down the line the debt supposedly will be “forgiven”?

Two main reasons.

First off the myth still exists that Education is the ticket out from a low paid job and into the Upper Middle Class or even the Upper Class of the society.  Although your chances are SLIM these days of landing one of these high paying jobs even with the education, without the education the chances are NONE.  So you essentially roll the dice with a $200K gamble that you will be one of the lucky few who gets one of the few plum jobs still left out there. Practically speaking however, those jobs are going only to graduates from Top Tier Universities like Harvard, Yale, MIT, Princeton, Columbia etc.  If you went to Indiana State University, you are pretty much SOL unless you were Valedictorian, and there can be only one of those in a graduating class.  The cost for those top tier universities also have gone through the roof, so you don't even have to go to grad skule to work up a $200K bill.  Tuition, Room & Board at Harvard is now over $60K.  That's $240K for a 4 year undergraduate degree.  You really want one of those top Wall Street jobs, it's another $159K for a 2 year MBA, ringing up a Grand Total of right around $400K.  You better land a job at Goldman pretty quick here!  I'm not even sure you can do this entirely on loans, I think you are capped at $200K.  So this Career Path is pretty much only for kids from already rich parents who can pay the freight out of pocket.  Say good-by Social Mobility!

The second main reason the Students are taking out these loans is because it delays going out into a workforce where there aren't even decent full time jobs, and the loans provide them money to live on during the 4 years they are studying….something.  I'm sure by now many of them realize that when they finally do walk out the University Door their Sheepskin won't do a damn thing to help their job chances, but at least they get 4 years to learn something or party or both.

So, clearly here the model is failing, and the process of shutting down professional schools is beginning, and smaller private colleges are also shutting down.  The Public Universities are still getting funded by taxation, but even their Tuitions have ratcheted up so you'll walk out of one of them with a decent size debt also.  Bernie Sanders promised a FREE College Education for everyone, but precisely how he would have funded this is an open question.  Bernie is not getting elected anyhow, so it's doubtful we see this solution anytime too soon.

With public universities themselves requiring students take on a lot of debt, more of them will decide to forgo college, resulting in smaller numbers of students, further stressing the University budgets.  More professors will be laid off to close the budget gap, and fewer spots for newly graduated Ph.D.s will be available, leading to a still larger glut of the “over-educated” on the unemployment lines.  This is a typical Deflationary Spiral.

So what is the Model for the future here?

Well, if Politicians would admit the current model is failing, we might have a chance here, but of course they will not admit that.  The myth that a College Education is the ticket to a high paying career needs to be maintained.  Besides that the Banks also need students to keep taking out loans so they stay afloat, with the assumption here that Da Goobermint will eventually Bail Out all the delinquent loans.  So they'll keep feeding the Zombie as long as they can.

In reality, the entire education system past Elementary School should be scrapped.  Once they have learned the 3Rs, students should be given Internships, beginning with learning how to grow food with permaculture, hydroponics and aquaculture. Then an internship in building shelters from avilable materials and scavenging and repurposing old equipment.  Then an internship in food handling and preservation and butchering animals. Then an internship in Stone Tool Knapping for the future when all the old metal tools have rusted away. After that they can do an internship in Medicinal Herbs and basic First Aid including setting broken bones and treating gunshot wounds, which there are bound to be a lot of until the ammo runs out.  Then they can do an internship in basic dentistry, how to do tooth extractions and how to mend broken teeth and make appliances like bridges and dentures.

Each of these internships could be 1-2 years in length, working under the tutelage of a current expert in the various fields, or as close to an expert as you can find anyhow.  So if you start at Age 13 after graduating from the 6th Grade, here is your SUN☼ Foundation Internship Education Plan: 1- Food Production- 2 years- Age 13-15
2- Shelter Building- 1 Year- Age 15-16
3- Scavenging and Mechanics- 1 year- Age 16-17
4- Food Handling & Preservation- 1 year Age 17-18
5- Stone Tool Knapping- 1 year Age 18-19
6- Medicinal Herbs and Basic Medicine: 2 years Age 19-21
7- Basic Dentistry: 2 years Age 21-23

Upon completing all the Apprenticeships, everyone will have basic training in all necessary tasks for the society.  Obviously, not everyone is equal in ability and some will be stronger in some areas than others, and they may specialize in an area over time if they happen to be good at it, moving upward to Journeyman and Master.  However, everyone is taught the basics and the final Graduation around Age 23 is a good age to then start a Family of your own to continue the cycle.

Apprenticeships are all Unpaid, you just get your Room & Board.  All the Masters are also Unpaid by the Students, training new practitioners for all specialty areas is a requirement in order to practice.  Ideally this would run under a Potlatch Gift Economy with no money in the society at all, but it could also be run using a LETS currency system.

Because this is a practical solution which addresses the actual needs we will have moving into the future, you can be sure it will not be implemented until after the current economic and education models completely crash.

However, we will be Waiting in the Wings at SUN☼ with this model ready to implement when the time comes to Build a Better Tomorrow.



The University as a Giant Rube Goldberg Machine

Off the keyboard of Ugo Bardi

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Published on Resource Crisis on June 8, 2015

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Discuss this article at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner


I am not sure I like to be considered a "Collapse Pundit" (as I was recently defined). Surely, however, sometimes I have this horrible sensation that everything is collapsing around me. The world's universities may be a good example of this generalized unwinding of everything. Universities are becoming top-heavy, giant Rube Goldberg machines producing useless paper and bewildered students. (image above, from Wikipedia)


Last week, I invited a colleague from the University of Moscow to give a talk at my university, speaking on the geopolitical factors involved in gas pipelines. Not that I expected a crowd coming, but the results were worse than anything I could have imagined. The whole audience at the talk was a grand total of four people (including myself).

I understand that people are busy, that this is exam time for the students, that the talk was not publicized as much as it deserved, and maybe there were other reasons. Yet, this event gave me a chilling sensation. Thousands of students, tens of faculty members, a subject widely discussed in the news and one that, you would think, it should generate at least some interest in a faculty which has "International Cooperation" among its stated subjects of teaching and study. And yet, almost none of them could spare a single hour for this talk.

I was mulling this thing over and then I saw the post published just a few days ago by my friend and colleague George Mobus in his blog "Question Everything" He nails the problem exactly; read that post and you'll understand the situation of universities. Maybe somewhere things go a little better, and maybe somewhere else things are worse. Yet, universities everywhere seem to have become little more than giant Rube Goldberg machines. We study, we teach, we examine students, we fill out forms, we publish papers, but the whole thing is acquiring more and more an aura of unreality. What are doing here, exactly?

To the already excellent synthesis made by George in his blog, I may add that universities could be considered as small scale models of the whole civilization in which they are embedded: they suffer from the same problems. Not only resources are diminishing, but at the same time, the whole structure is becoming top-heavy, burdened by layer after layer of bureaucracy.

It is what Joseph Tainter called the "diminishing returns of complexity" in his classic study "The Collapse of Complex Societies." The cause of societal collapse is not just the lack of resources, but also the appearance of parasitic structures that weigh on society. In my interpretation of the "Seneca Effect" I termed these parasitic structures "pollution," but you may see "bureaucracy" as a form of pollution. The result is this classic curve, from Tainter's book.


No matter how you call this, it is exactly what's happening to universities. Largely, it is a self-imposed disaster, but unavoidable nevertheless.

Higher Education Financialism

Off the Keyboard of RE

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In order to resolve the BALLOONING problem of Student Debt Default, TPTB are rewriting the laws regarding how Student Loans are to be paid back, and how long it takes to finally get your debt accumulated for learning worthless information wiped off the books.

Based on the latest set of revivions to the Student Loan laws, there is now absolutely ZERO reason not to take out the biggest loans you possibly can get guaranteed by Da Goobermint to go to school and drink beer and bang coeds for as long as you possibly can.

In one fell swoop this solves the problem of Youth Unemployment and further Money Creation thru irredeemable debt. Da Goobermint nor Private Industry can figure out how to provide decent jobs for HS Grads, so instead they will now offer further loans you don’t have to pay back if you don’t get a job upon Graduation, if in fact you actually ever Graduate.

You can go get your BA, your Masters, your Ph.D, your MBA, your JD…that works up to around 16 years in Academia! Just keep taking out more Loans! Evenif you only get a job flipping burgers at Mickey Ds at the end of it (all those sheepskins will be REQUIRED for applying for the job of flipping burgers), most you gotta pay every month is $100 for 20 years, then you are Free & Clear!

Is this stupid or what? Of course it is, just provide the damn education for FREE, it would be cheaper that way. LOL. It doesn’t put more fictitious money on the Bank Balance sheets though if you do it that way.

The Higher Education meme has been the fallback principle since the beginning of the Industrial Era.  Back when the FSofA first got settled, if you actually “schooled” past around 3rd Grade level and learned to Read and Write, that was a LOT.  Many if not most people were illiterate, but if they had a patch of land to farm they did OK and could feed themselves and family.

Industrialization though brought all sorta new “Jobs”for people to do, which took not just knowing how to read and write, but Industry Specific Knowledge, which most often was Science and Math related.  To get any of these Juicy Jobs, you hadda have quite a bit more than just knowing how to read and write and add sums.

So began the Warehousing and Sifting of the population through the High Schools, where in the early years you could learn Trades as well as Prepping for College and entry into the Upper Class, if you had the Brians to make the grade in such a track.  In my era, the College Track was a highly limited one, and in NYC sieved into a few schools like Stuyvesant and Bronx High School of Science. Overall, while Industrial Jobs were still available here in the FSofA, Warehousing through HS and teaching some trades in them worked pretty good.

Come the Late 70s early 80s though, those good paying jobs on the production line of GM began getting offshored to Asia, so now EVEYBODY in HS hadda go on the “College Track” for a good paying job in IT, except of course first off you only need so many drone programmers and second off plenty-o-Chindians are capable of writing decent code also.  The Capital flows toward any area the Labor is Cheapest, always in a Globalized economy.

The only high paying jobs that cannot be offshored really are the Gate kept professions in Law and Medicine, basically high end service economy jobs.  So in the current economy, if you at least have smarts enough to make it thru a Nursing Program, you might still find a decent paying job.  Chindians can’t dress Bed Sores over an Internet Medical Help Line.

In the decaying Industrial Economy, the “Jobs” such as they were are rapidly going to the Great Beyond.  The excess population here in the FSofA is being encouraged to stay in school for ever longer periods of time in Warehousing, in theory learning great skills which will lead to High paying Jobs when they get out, but by the time they actually GRADUATE (if ever), those jobs won’t be there.

It is falling apart as  model already, and this latest Kludge is just a means to prevent the TBTF Banks from having to write down the student loans they currently hold on their books.  Right now, the fact that in 20 years an unpayable student loan will have to be written off doesn’t matter, they can trade the paper as though it actually has some real value.

For J6P here, or at least his kids, this is the Bailout you all have been waiting for.  Take the Loans, you’ll never have to pay them back.  It is IRREDEEMABLE DEBT.  Go to school, stay in school as long as you can.  Accumulate Sheepskins, ad as you accumulate, apply for some obs they qualify you for.  At some point in the process, perhaps you are one of the Lucky Ones who actually GETS a job the Sheepskin qualifies you for!  If not, no worries, the massive debt you accumulate here only has to be paid off on at $100/mo for the next 20 years if you manage to get a minimum wage job flipping burgers anyhow, and will be discharged after that.  sooner too if you get a Goobermint Job, only 10 years there!
It is all  just hilarious. Sadly, I probably can’t get any of the latest loans and will have to pay for my Nursing Ticket out of Pocket Change, but if you are broke right now and out of a job, APPLY TODAY to the University program of your choice and take out the Loans up the Ying-Yang!

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