How Many Cab Drivers Need a Ph.D?

Most jobs don’t require someone with a college degree. Yet politicians are always calling for more federal subsidies to send everyone, no matter how dumb, to college. Bill Clinton proposed that every high-school graduate in America should go either to college or community college.

The result of sending ever-increasing numbers of young people to college is that entry-level jobs that were once held by high-school dropouts are now held by people with college degrees or even master’s degrees. In Sunday’s Washington Post, Jennifer Krimm writes about how she has been unable to find a job despite an “Ivy League education in government and international relations,” and a White House internship and a stint as a Fulbright Scholar in the Middle East. She’s now hoping to be hired at Borders as a cashier, or if that fails, to work at Starbucks or McDonald’s.

Sending ever-increasing numbers of people to college harms the mental development of people who are too dumb to really benefit from college. Instead of working in a productive job and learning from real life experience, they instead waste time partying in college and learning to parrot their liberal professors’ political propaganda. Then many of them end up dropping out of college anyway.

I learned this firsthand working in 1988 for the political polling firm of Cooper & Secrest Associates, which does polls for Democratic candidates. I administered polls to randomly selected people from all walks of life, and before taking down their responses, asked what amount of education they had.

The dumbest responses came not from people without any college, but from college dropouts. They were just as ignorant about politics as high school dropouts, and could seldom give the name of their Congressman or the attorney general. Members of skilled trades, like electricians and plumbers, were far more informed than college dropouts about politics and who represented them in Congress, even though they had never been to college.

Worse, college dropouts parroted back what I told them. I could change the way they answered a question simply by asking it in a biased way; if I asked them essentially the same question two different ways, biased one way or the opposite way, I got two different answers. They could never tell that a question was loaded or had a spin on it, and were very manipulable. (I was working for a Democratic polling firm, not a neutral polling firm; part of our job was to see how people could be induced to change their mind by changing the way a question was worded, or changing the way an issue was framed).

What they had learned from their years in college was apparently to parrot back whatever they had been told. If you are smart, you can succeed in college by genuinely mastering a subject. But if you are dumb, that is quite difficult to do, and it is far easier just to mindlessly parrot whatever your professor says.

By contrast, small businesspeople could immediately see when I asked a question in a biased way, and would often point that out. They could think critically, which is a skill that comes from real-life experience, not the introductory liberal arts classes that college dropouts tend to take.

To a lesser extent, even high school graduates with useful skills, like plumbers and electricians, were also resistant to biased or leading questions, since they would usually give the same answer to a question, regardless of whether I asked it in a biased way.

College dropouts were also more likely than anyone (except for liberal arts graduate students) to use empty ideological buzzwords like “diversity” and “multiculturalism” in response to open-ended questions. Apparently, it is easier to acquire an ideology than to acquire true knowledge or independent thinking. Perhaps that is why politicians are so eager to send mentally limited high -school graduates to college.