Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Charles Murray in the NY Times


Sunday’s New York Times (surprisingly) included an op-ed piece by Charles Murray in which he made his case against the use of the BA as a mere screening device for employers. It’s a very high-cost and inefficient way for the majority of students who are not really interested in the liberal arts to indicate their trainability.

My only issue with the piece is that Murray suggests that Obama make it a centerpiece of his education speeches to say that people should be appraised on their knowledge and abilities, not on where they learned them. Sure, it would be nice if the president used the bully pulpit that way, but real change will only come, I submit, if the business community decides that change would be desirable. It isn’t the president or Congress that’s responsible for demanding college credentials for jobs that most high-school kids could readily learn to do. The business community does this, and I suspect that within said community, the culprit is mostly Human Resources (HR) types.

After publishing my “Overselling” paper in 2006, I received an e-mail from a man in a financial-services business who lamented that his firm would only consider college grads for a host of jobs that didn’t call for any specific academic training. He said that he had complained to no effect that this HR-imposed rule screened out a lot of people who could have been capable and reliable employees. So while it wouldn’t hurt to have presidential leadership on this (and if it happens, I’ll eat my keyboard), progress will have to come from business leaders.


Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

Subscribe to National Review