II - CLAUSE #1
2. THE PRAGMATIC TEACHER
To counter unemployment, the first and most elementary move that the State can do now is certainly to make the best possible use of our present resources. Let the State operate an efficient matchmaking system and we will have a better fit between the supply and demand of qualified manpower which will reflect on productivity and employment figures. When this is done, the next step will be to correct the discrepancies between supply and demand. What good is it to cry "wolf" if nobody heeds the call ?
If there is one thing we have learned in the last forty years, it is
that technological imperatives will eventually make sure that things get
done the best way they can be. So, we will not act on the demand side, creating
artificial jobs; we will let jobs be what they are until they disappear,
and act on the supply side: improve manpower through education and training.
Culture and professions
First, the State will get involved in education. When it does, we will
have to clarify the distinction between cultural and professional education;
this is important, because we have to draw the line clearly between the
matters of collective interest that the State will manage and what should
remain, at all cost, the responsibility of the individual. The Octopus will
get involved in professional education - which is a prerequisite
for optimal use of our human resources - but, simultaneously, it will prove
its good faith by keeping away from cultural choices in education,
thus withdrawing one of its tentacles from our private life.
What is "professional" and what is "cultural"? Is there a great divide somewhere, between the professional and the cultural? Are there any guidelines for the State to decide that History, for instance, is intrinsically cultural but carpentry professional? There are none. Every bit of knowledge we learn modifies our vision of the world, our culture and, conversely, there is hardly a bit of knowledge either that cannot potentially be put to some use. The anthropologist who learns masonry as a hobby extends his culture just as much as the mason who learns anthropology.
The only way to judge whether a program is professional or cultural is to know in which way it will be put to use. Use it as a wanted contribution to our common wealth and welfare and it becomes professional; keep it to yourself and it is culture.
We do not know what is cultural or professional..., but we can guess. When somebody learns something that cannot lead eventually into training, because he has neglected to learn some essential prerequisite, he is probably learning "for culture only"; if one learns statistical formulas but does not bother about basic notions like the Law of Probability, or methods to draw a significant sample, we can safely guess he is probably more interested in applying these formulas to Draw Poker than to qualify as a statistician. For practical purposes, we can guess quite accurately.
Suppose we guess right, then, what next? Next, it will be a necessary
condition of Clause #1 that the State will renounce direct or indirect involvement
in cultural education: let Alphas diverge! But it will be a necessary condition
also that it will take charge of professional education, and will intervene
to make sure that enough people are qualified to fulfil all the requirements
of production. This will mean, for the State, a new and very basic responsibility
for efficiency and justice at the entrant's selection level.
All of the "Best"
In the traditional system of education, we did not need real selection. We required so few thinkers, that it was not necessary to pick the best, but just to make sure that those who were picked to reach a lofty position were very good... and they were! It is the educational system as a whole that was used as a selection process, so that only the "fittest" could make it to the starting gate. When a mere five percent of the population could reach university level, those who made it to top level functions were usually so well endowed with native abilities that further testing, after the race was on, was rather for sport and to keep up the spirit.
No great need for specific dispatching either. Little of what anybody learned then, had to relate to his future professional activities. Get all sails up and let the winds of life carry the chosen few where they blow: those who made it... had it made. With education used as a selection process, we left behind, at school-level, a majority of the brilliant and energetic individuals in society and these were unfortunately denied access to the top occupations, but they were not really needed.
In an interdependent society that wants to optimize the use of its human resources, this policy would be a disaster. We cannot permit that somebody, who would have had the talent to become a great mathematician or a great scientist, should end up in a minor clerical position, because he flunked grammar at high school level or became sick and tired at fourteen with book learning. We will see to it not only that the "cream rise to the top", but that everybody be treated in fairness, according to his aptitudes and efforts, and that all the interdependent skills we need end up at the proper place. For this, we will test and select, frequently and in-depth.
Education, in the Age of Creativity, must be unlimited. Provided they make no false claims, schools and colleges, training centers, institutes, universities and others will all be allowed to diffuse learning at best they can. It should be all right, also, for the individual to evaluate himself and be satisfied with his progress; insofar as his personal development is concerned, that may be the end of it. When someone wants to qualify for a role in society, though, society must find out if this individual's efforts have produced concrete results. When it comes to a diploma to prove that knowledge has been acquired, only the State must have the authority to examine, to test and to give the seal of approval for professional use.
Docimology - (a recent word for the age-old effort to assess what it is that the students have really learnt, of all these things that we have been trying to teach them) - will become a key concept. Well-intentioned people who still contend that tests are not predictive are doing the same harm to the cause of justice in education to-day that naive creationists did to creationism - or even faith - a few decades ago, when they kept arguing that the universe had been created in six earthly days, about six thousand years ago. Docimology works; it does not try to prove that some people are more intelligent than others, but that some people are more apt than others to do certain things, and it works.
We will test and examine and certify, because we want all those who are the best at anything to be able to move in the right place, where they will do the best they can. How will we make sure that the right people get in the right place? We will not force anybody into greatness, but we will certainly try and seduce everybody into doing the best they can, making sure that they meet a minimum of obstacles.
Those who, obtaining high marks, will have shown their aptitudes for the skills for which there is a demand, will be invited to acquire the professional education they need to access the practice of these skills. The State will pay a salary, to a sufficient number of "the best", during their professional education, to make sure we meet our expected needs in each occupational category.
It will be, for the State, an orderly retreat from the field of culture
and it will not even look like one. Conforming to the principle of total
positive reinforcement and benevolence ("give or give more"),
the State will simply invite and in a way "bribe" people into
accepting its guidance in matters professional ... and will remain aloof
from everything else. This all-important distinction in education, between
the "cultural" and the "professional", will therefore
be settled in the most pragmatic fashion: cultural will be what people do
in their own free time and with which the State doesn't meddle except to
provide facilities; professional will be the education for which the State
pays the student a salary because it seems to correspond to our collective
The stand-by "second chance"
With all shoulders pushing at the wheel and almost no demand for unskilled labour, it is a foregone conclusion that an objective analysis of manpower requirements will suggest that a huge majority of people receive further education. How much of it should be professional education though, how much of it part-time, how much full-time, this we should not try to guess before the Matchmaker has done its homework. The figures will have to be those which will correspond to the requirements of our production system because, whether we like it or not, we court disaster whenever we stray away from this reality : professional education does not create jobs and, without a demand, it is only a waste of money and a breeder of disillusionment. We will select the best according to needs.
Whatever the figures, what about the others, those to whom the State will not offer a salary to go on learning? They will have two choices, the same as today, but with significant improvement either way. The first choice would be to try and outguess either the Pragmatic Teacher, gambling that one's own final results in school will be better than those of some who will have been selected..., or the Smart Matchmaker, gambling that the community's future needs for some skills will be greater than the projections.
If someone wants to outguess the Matchmaker or the Teacher, then by all means, let him do so! Paying the studies of some should not give the State a final say on what the others should, or should not learn on their own. The State will not pay a salary, but should still keep its facilities open to people who want to learn, on their own, something which the Matchmaker does not plan to use. Thus, the student who is not selected for a type of professional occupation could still take the gamble to attend "on a cultural basis" - that is without pay - and thus to obtain knowledge that might have eventual professional value.
As he takes that risk, an individual could get high marks and be invited to join the professional system... or could put himself in a privileged situation if a need should ever arise for more workers with this type of skills. There is no harm in students bucking the system and going their own way; to the contrary, it increases the safety margin of the human resources allocation system.
The other choice of the student who is not selected for further education he considers acceptable, would be to go directly on the labour market at the skill level that corresponds to the level of knowledge he has already acquired. This would be like today, but with a plus. He would not face the labor market alone anymore: the Matchmaker would take his hand.
This decision would not mean the end of his education either, nor the end of the line for his professional upgrading. Forever after, he would still be admissible to all entrance tests for all types of professional education and, with the working experience he would acquire, the maturity that would come with age, any worker could make it into professional education this year or the next, or the year after, indefinitely. This is the important point: from now on, although differences would persist, it would never be the end of the line for anybody.
It should never be the end of the line for anybody. This will become clearer yet, when we will rationalize the approach and desist from considering any diploma or degree as a necessary condition for admission to any type of professional education. Instead, we will look upon the State's entrance test to any professional education module as the embodiment of all the real prerequisites for this particular module. Within limits of the schools' capacity, we will admit to the modules all those who have the prerequisites and pay the best to attend.
This will mean that the way people have learned something will become
irrelevant, and that the only thing that will be considered will be the
fact that they do know. Insofar as professional education and the
labour market are concerned, going through school, college or university will simply be one of the available options. Learning institutions will have to compete against all other means of learning, be it programmed learning, radio and correspondence schools, television, interactive teaching... or just plain genius, know-how or experience.
The State will provide the facilities, will operate a selection system
and will pay an incentive salary to the students who appear to be the most
apt. With that the State will have met its responsibilities in professional
education. A major step forward, since to have "the best in the right
place" will mean great qualitative gains and more fairness.
A policy of candor
If we do not want the State to lose, though, as Teacher, the credibility it will have earned as Matchmaker, we had better be more candid right from the start about the real objectives and the limitations of professional education. We must stop pretending that professional education is always a glorious step out of poverty, or that cultural education is even likely to help one with his employment problems.
Starting from the very real premise that people with more education earn more, on the average, than those who have less, we have been hinting to Johnny Worker that if he would just go back to school he would find a job and make money. Nobody took the trouble to explain clearly to the population that an expert-marksman will bag no more game in a day than someone like me who can only shoot dice, if there is not even one last grouse left in the bushes.
As far as professional education is concerned, it was not emphasized that it could produce more wealth for both the individual and society... only if there was a demand for more production, if that production would require more professionally educated workers, and if there existed also a capacity to produce more, or at least a will to invest in this type of production and use this additional manpower. All conditions that were not automatically fulfilled by the mere fact that a hopeful student would push the door of a learning institution. Professional education simply does not create jobs
Worse when it comes to cultural education. Culture may lead to more creativeness, and creativeness may increase wealth, but this is a cumulative process that takes time and is unlikely to bring immediate results to each individual concerned. The individual with more culture is not likely to get much richer, and will get a job only insofar as he takes it away from somebody else; something that may very well happen, not because he can do the job at hand any better, but simply because, all things being equal, employers will probably - (and quite mistakenly) - prefer to hire somebody who has had more formal education.
It is a sick joke to offer cultural education as a way to improve the workers' lot on an industrial society's labour market. A joke on the employer who will not get a better servant for the machine, a joke on the victim himself who is unlikely to find a better job, a joke on society facing huge public spending on education on the assumption that usable skills will increase, although the only thing that is sure to increase is the basic educational prerequisite for trades and occupations. The craftsman with a college degree does not do the job any better. He simply has had to run faster and longer to remain in the same place, for some day all his peers will also have a college education, and the edge that cultural education will have given him temporarily on the labour market will simply disappear.
We had better be candid about education, which is an investment in the Creative society to come, not a short cut to the job framework. We have already found out, to the great dismay of the true believers in the "education-for-work" line, that what more college education would mostly increase would be the number of unemployed workers with a college degree.
Quantitatively, the State's venture in education will not create jobs. We will have moved simply one step closer to truth, to be hit in the face by some interesting facts of life... For instance, we will see that we already have a surplus of basic professional education, that there is well enough workers coming out of schools, and that this is another sector in which production must phase down to replacement level. Whatever the talents of newcomers coming out of formal schooling, there will not be more jobs for them. Unless they get proper training, of course...
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