Free College is a REALLY Stupid Idea

No, it’s not really stupid because it’s socialist in nature. It is socialist in nature, and that is, itself, pretty stupid. However, even if we accepted the idea of socialism, the notion of free higher education is nothing short of stupid. It is also backward and is a great example of how the state and its many institutions and institutionalized practices keep society from properly evolving. If the state hadn’t morphed into a nanny government, the solution I’m about to propose would already have manifested, because it’s both obvious and logical; it’s literally the next step in social evolution, but instead everyone is looking to the government to solve a problem that the government honestly can’t solve.

To ask for free college is to basically be someone shortly after the automobile was invented, demanding that the government provide everyone with a horse-drawn cart. You’re asking for something that is mostly obsolete now and is going to become increasingly obsolete as we move into the future.

The Internet has changed everything. In fact, the World Wide Web will go down as the greatest invention in our species’ history, so overwhelming is its scope. We have not even begun to realize the full impact of the Internet, and this is one such example. It allows a person in the middle of nowhere in Mississippi to communicate through video chat instantly with someone in Siberia. The impact of something like that has not yet been felt, but future generations will take it for granted, and I firmly believe that it heralds the eventual end of war. “The Russians” are no longer some strange, foreign people–they are people we play video games with, that we are friends with on Twitter and Facebook. They are not boogeymen any longer; they are real people. It becomes a lot harder to let your government drop a bomb on someone’s city when you were talking to that someone last week during a chess match, you know?

This has only now started to become apparent, but it’s no surprise that millennials are among the loudest peace advocates everywhere in the world, from the United States to the Middle East to China. Succeeding generations will be even louder in their criticisms of war, because for the first time in human history, we don’t have to take our government’s word for it that “China is like totes 4 real raping and eating babies!!11one!!” because we actually know people in China. Earlier today, I played chess against someone from a country whose flag I didn’t even freaking recognize–but I’d recognize it if President Obama declared, “Yeah, we’re gonna drop some bombs on this place.”

“No!” I would say. “You can’t do that… A real person lives there…”

It’s a beautiful thing, the Internet, and we must protect it from all encroachments of government. There has never been a tool more powerful at our disposal. Under no circumstances should we allow any government to touch it. But none of this is my point–it’s just generally background because it’s true. In the year 2500, people will look back and identify the Internet as mankind’s most profound achievement, because an end to war will be just one of its many remarkable benefits.

Another is that it has placed the sum of human knowledge literally at our fingertips. I remarked recently:

I’m supposed to believe that the same people who can’t be bothered to take four seconds to click New Tab and look something up on Google before sharing it on Facebook when the sum of human knowledge is available for free at their fingertips will spend four years in college if it’s free? Yeah, okay.

There’s an important thing here that has to be addressed; we can’t just pretend like it’s not true. Anything you want to know is available on the Internet. No matter how obscure the knowledge is, and no matter how advanced it is, the information is out there, somewhere, on the Internet. And it’s free. If you have an Internet connection, anything that you want to learn about… can be learned… for free. Right now. “Free education” people want? You can’t get better free education than the Internet; you literally cannot.

College is a tremendous investment of time and energy. It is an investment of such magnitude that it makes a simple Google search insignificant. Let’s not be mistaken about this: there is strong overlap between people who want free higher education and people who can’t be bothered to look things up before sharing them on Facebook. I have no data to back this up, but considering how extraordinarily common it is that people share things without looking them up, it is virtually guaranteed that there is high overlap. People will gladly share posts about how three prominent Wikileaks administrators totally died under mysterious circumstances and it’s Hillary’s fault rather than looking it up and finding that the three people referenced all died of explicitly explained causes, two of which were cancer, for fuck’s sake. Yet they would… like totes 4 real… invest four years of their life into going to college.

If only it was free!

Now, all that said, the solution.

Colleges and universities are obsolete. Unless you’re seeking a Master’s degree or a Doctorate, there is nothing you can learn in a college or university that you cannot learn for free on the Internet. If you’re seeking a 6 or 8-year degree, then, yes, a good chunk of your work will involve original research, a dissertation, a thesis, and ultra-advanced learning that either isn’t readily available on the Internet or can’t be verified. Once we start getting the mathematics of quantum neutrino fields*, yeah, there’s a place for a university to fit in.

What we need is to adjust to the Internet and the new education paradigm that it has created. I would gladly go toe-to-toe with any political theorist or economist in the world. I would stake my self-education against their university-education any day of the week, and I say this for two reasons.

First, I’m probably smarter than they are. I don’t mean this as a statement of arrogance, but one of fact; as a MENSA member, the odds are in my favor. These are also fields that I have explored extensively, going through the whole process of the Dunning-Kruger Effect and coming out on the other side, educated. Plus, much of what modern “official” economists say is nothing more than scientific woo.

Second, while I was in college I took Macroeconomics I and Macroeconomics II as electives, and passed both with As and never even purchased my book for the classes. So I actually had the chance to stack my self-education against the system’s education, and I came out on top. I’ve written about changes in Supply curves having effects on equilibrium prices, after all. So I know from first-hand experience that motivated self-education is not only adequate; it’s probably preferable. Because it’s free, it’s definitely preferable.

It would be the height of stupidity to throw a bunch of money at the current education institution in order to prop up a system that is already obsolete. Intelligent people go where the knowledge is. Through the last several centuries, universities were “where the knowledge was.” So intelligent people who wanted to learn naturally went to universities. This is no longer the case. The universities surely still have knowledge, but they are not the exclusive holders of that knowledge anymore. Why on Earth would we even consider paying gigantic, extortionate, exorbitant fees and tuitions for knowledge that we can literally have for free already?

That’s… stupid.

It is. It’s supremely stupid. It’s short-sighted, simplistic, and stagnant. Short-sighted, simplistic, stagnant, and supremely stupid.

Are you familiar with CompTIA and its certifications? It has several: A+ certification, Security+ certification, Network+ certification… The list goes on. I’m not A+ or Network+ certified, because I don’t need to be. I was stupid and did waste the time going to college to get a degree that A+ and Network+ certifications are considered equivalent to. In fact, people really like the A+ certification; I’ve often been encouraged to get it anyway.

What is that, if not exactly what I’m proposing for other fields of study?

Rather than spending 4 years attending the University of Missisippi, study what you want to study, and then pop in there 5 or 6 Saturdays in a row, take the tests they deem appropriate. If you pass, they give you an Economics Certification equivalent to a BA. Already on college campuses, you can “comp” your way through several classes–I comped through Trig to take Calculus, after all. All we need is a system that allows you to comp the entire education program. What does it matter? If you have the knowledge, then you have the knowledge, regardless of whether you spent 4 years studying at home in your spare time, or 4 years studying at the university.

But that’s exactly it, isn’t it? The University of Mississippi would hate this. They could never charge $48,000 for you to take the tests and get your Economics 4 Certification. They’d probably not get away with charging $1,000 for that. CompTIA’s A+ exam is generally considered expensive, and it’s only $199 and you can typically get vouchers that knock off a huge portion of that.

Now we’re getting to the root of it.

Colleges and universities have a vested interest in keeping this certification thing down. How much money did ITT Tech lose to people who checked around for tech jobs and discovered that an A+ certification is generally considered equivalent to a 2 year degree, and sometimes a 4 year degree? Now start applying this to all fields. How many pharmacist assistants would skip college to simply get a certification, if they could get a Pharmacy 2 Certification for $600 by taking a test three weekends in a row? How much money would universities and colleges lose?

Millions. Billions, even.

Their tuition numbers would dwindle, with only people seeking Master’s and Doctorate’s degrees actually attending universities, and even they would comp through the first 4 years and get certifications instead. How would universities and colleges react? Why, they would lower their tuition fees, of course!

Because that’s what people do when Demand drops.

Stop asking the government to give you a horse-drawn carriage for free, and instead look into how you might acquire an automobile. These systems are not in place. We desperately need them, though. And they will rise, as free market solutions to the problem, just as CompTIA and its tech certifications rose as free market solutions. However, we’re all looking in the wrong place. Don’t demand that the government give you money so that you can prop up an obsolete system.

* Wanton burrito meals?

One thought on “Free College is a REALLY Stupid Idea

  1. Yep. I’ve been predicting for some time that at some point the economy will drive this change.

    It’s already the case in IT that you might be able to show up with a folder full of specific skills certifications and have a better shot at a job than the person who just shows up with a general comp-sci degree that the ink is still wet on. As time goes on and more certifications in more skills and fields are offered, they will simply become more attractive to employers and therefore to employees.

    One thing that stands in the way, of course, is licensing laws for some fields. And I expect to see heavy lobbying for more such laws both from industry groups (“keep my field artificially understaffed so I’m overpaid and have job security”) and from old-style colleges (“require underwater basket weavers to have degrees, not mere certifications, FOR THE CHILDREN”).

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