The Myth of Egalitarian Higher Education

Many modern higher education advocates suggest that it’s educational opportunities (not inherent genetic differences in intelligence) that cause some members of our society to succeed more than others.  This, however, is downplaying the role genetics plays in intelligence.  I believe intelligent people will find a way to financially succeed even without higher education.  Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are two such famous examples, but there are countless others.

At the root of it, many higher education advocates think that everyone should go to college because it will make society more egalitarian.  Plato would have disagreed; he realized that not everyone is cut out to be a philosopher king.  What’s important to note is that many of these higher education advocates usually have some sort of financial incentive to purport such egalitarian non-sense.

Does formal higher education really make people intelligent?  Many people contributing to the dialogue surrounding higher education seem to believe the answer is ‘yes’, but I believe this is incorrect.  Egalitarians desperately want to try to attribute differences in intelligence to factors like education and not genetics.  However, the importance of genetics in determining one’s intelligence is too often downplayed.

Consider the following question: Is Johnny, an intelligent Harvard graduate, intelligent because Harvard made him intelligent or is he intelligent because he chose to go to Harvard?  Those who believe that Harvard made him intelligent are committing the popular post hoc logical fallacy.

Despite all the egalitarian rhetoric, some people are in fact more intelligent than others and where (or if) they got their college degree has nothing to do with it. Intelligent people aren’t necessarily intelligent because a school made them that way. Intelligent people usually go to great schools precisely because they are intelligent. People who aren’t interested in learning won’t magically become intelligent or lifelong learners just because they pay $100,000 for an “education”.  Rather, they’ll just be financially poorer for it.

email

6 Comments on “The Myth of Egalitarian Higher Education”

  1. Lockon_stratos says:

    I don’t believe you.  While I do not believe higher education is right for everyone.  I do not subscribe to a belief that intelligence is something inherent.  I think for human beings intelligence follows a bell curve.  We may have Bill Gates and Steve Jobs far into the tail but the vast majority are not that different.  What higher education should aim to do is to match this chunk of people into the intellectual pursuit of their interest.

    • Greg Linster says:

      @bf8015c961aef8433abc8393cd6f59f3:disqus First off, thanks for the comment.

      That you don’t believe me doesn’t logically discredit the validity of anything I wrote.  You say that you don’t believe intelligence is something inherent, yet I provided anecdotal examples that prove otherwise.  As such, I must ask: Do you have any empirical evidence that supports your belief that human intelligence follows a Gaussian distribution?

      Also, I have yet to read Bryan Caplan’s new book, Selfish Reasons To Have More Kids, but from what I know, the shocking lesson from the latest twin and adoption research is that upbringing (and things like formal education) are much less important than genetics in the long run.

      Furthermore, according to the renowned economist, Alex Tabarrok, “there are many more people with an IQ of 170 or more than would be predicted by the normal distribution, thus the IQ distribution appears to have fat tails”.

  2. Greg Linster says:

    @bf8015c961aef8433abc8393cd6f59f3:disqus  First off, thanks for the comment.

    That you don’t believe me doesn’t logically discredit the validity of anything I wrote.  You say that you don’t believe intelligence is something inherent, yet I provided anecdotal examples that prove otherwise.  As such, I must ask: Do you have any empirical evidence that supports your belief that intelligence follows a Gaussian distribution?

    Also, I have yet to read Bryan Caplan’s new book, Selfish Reasons To Have More Kids
    , but from what I know, the shocking lesson from the latest twin and adoption research is that upbringing (and things like formal education) are much less important than genetics in the long run.

  3. Zander Spray says:

    Regardless of the importance of genetics in determining intelligence, wouldn’t you agree that education is about more than critical thinking skills? Understanding of history, culture, and the mistakes that are made In society are extremely important. Or do you think that we should focus on vocational training? (is it possible to have a smarter mob?) wow, that parenthetical sounded terrible…

    • Greg Linster says:

      @075948135ec698b077beb9874e953e46:disqus Sure, I agree that education is about more than just critical thinking skills.  And I also think you’re spot on about the educational importance of history, culture, and mistakes in society.  However, I also think that the purpose of higher education has become grossly distorted.

      Of course, this brings up a whole host of other issues, but this leads into one of my main points, which is that I think higher education has become largely a credentials arms race.  I think the reason is because our society sends the message that higher education is correlated entirely with financial success (and we downplay the raw intelligence of most individuals who succeed financially).  As we know, this misleading statistic probably lures some people to go into deep debt for school that otherwise wouldn’t.

  4. […] really ought to provide us. I’ve shared some of my thoughts on education before: here, here, and here. Education is not immune to economic analysis, but, before running a cost-benefit […]


Leave a Reply