In praise of credentialism

That’s the title of my latest piece in Inside Story. The crucial para

The term “credentialism” is used in many different ways, some of them contradictory, but the implication is consistent: too many young people are getting too much formal education, at too high a level. This implication was spelt out recently by Dean Ashenden, who contends that “education has not just grown to meet the expanding needs of the post-industrial economy, but has exploded like an airbag.” The claim that young people are getting too much education, and the supporting critique of credentialism, is pernicious and false.

34 thoughts on “In praise of credentialism

  1. Back in the day they saw these things differently. Oscar Wilde’s tombstone, for example, reads
    Oscar Wilde, author of Salome and other beautiful works, was born at Westland Row, Dublin, in October 1854. He was educated at Porton Royal School, Esk, and Trinity College Dublin, where he obtained a scholarship and won the Berkeley Gold Medal for Greek in 1874. Sometime Demy of Magdalen College Oxford, he gained a first-class degree in Classical Moderations in 1876, a first class degree in Literae Humanitores, and the Newdigate Prize for English Vere in 1878. He died fortified by the sacraments of the church on November 30, 1900, at the Hotel d’Alsace.
    That’s seven words for the works and 57 for the education, including two medals. have you written your epitaph yet, John? If you do it on this model you can have it cut now and will only have to leave your heirs with the task of filling in the final date.

  2. @John Quiggin “So, what has changed in the educational system, that your child has learned this stuff in high school, while they didn’t?”

    I suspect it is the fact that while kids were exposed to this stuff 10 years ago, now it is embedded into the day-to-day of high school life.

    By the time my child finishes high school, he would have had his own laptop for 7 years (including using the key programs required of most non-specialist white collar jobs) and would have been leaning programming for six years. That is not unusual for many high schools. But I’m sure it would have been pretty unusual even 5 years ago.

  3. Going by the empirical evidence, employers are looking for someone they can exploit by paying extremely low, often illegally low, wages to and place in insecure, temporary work with unfair and unsafe conditions.

    I can’t say I was surprised by the 7-11 worker exploitation revelations. I know numerous folk who get paid less than the award rate and/or do not get paid superannuation. The employers themselves would argue that their competitors do the same and they’d go bust if they paid full entitlements.

  4. @Jim

    This still doesn’t work. Recent graduates have also had their own laptops and have been using them for the same purposes.

    Turning more directly to evidence that can be observed at a university, your claim would imply that first-years (recent high school grads) should have better computer skills than PhD students (recent uni graduates). I don’t find this to be the case at all.

  5. @HED PE

    A few thoughts here, although I am going off topic.

    If everyone pays very poor wages (say below what would be called a “living wage”) then (a) workers cannot live in the long term without supplementary welfare and (b) since wages spent are someone else’s income then low wages lead to low consumption (lack of demand) and the whole economy spirals into recession. It’s Econ 101.

  6. “A PhD is no substitute for native intellect.”

    The frequency with which graduates misinterpret this meme is evidence of its truth.

  7. As someone with an MA, I regard higher education as a valuable enrichment in life.
    But as an MA, circumstances forced me to spend a large part of my career in secondary schools. Believe me, huge numbers of youngsters have neither the interest nor the aptitude for higher education. What should be their career future?

  8. I taught in high schools for 31 years and found many students with the interest and aptitude for higher education! What depressed me was what they did with their qualifications. I taught Economics and Business Studies. My ex-students who got high marks in Business Studies, with one notable exception (he became one of Australia’s most well known comedians), went into marketing for the money. My ex-students who got high HSC marks in Economics and then got first class honours degrees went into the finance industry, again for the money. So sad.
    By the way I actually did programming at UNSW and what they learn in high schools is not programming its software applications. The RAM studies and the ROM studies needed to be a real programmer are now the most sort after university skills. They are essential for Cyber security.

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