It ain’t what you don’t know …

One of my favourite movies is a slightly obscure Western called the Long Riders, which I can recommend highly. It’s a pretty accurate history of the James-Younger gang which probably didn’t reach the fame it should have because of a lack of PR investment at the time it came out, but if you’re a fan of the western movie genre, it has a well-deserved cult status. Directed by Walter Hill, music by Ry Cooder and with four families of capable actors playing the Jameses, the Youngers, the Millers and the Fords, it’s difficult to cock that one up.

There’s a scene where they’re sharing out the proceeds of a bank robbery that’s gone wrong because one of the Millers lost their head, and while that’s being sorted out, Cole Younger and his kid brother are on horseback atop a hill standing watch over the others while they prepare the gang’s escape. His brother asks him, “Why are we on guard? You said the local posse won’t chase us this far”. “They won’t”, replies Cole, “but just once in a while, I’m wrong”.

Like Cole, I long ago realised I can get it wrong and as Samuel Langhorne Clemens observed; it ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble; it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. I initially got Trump wrong, considering him to be an almost buffoon candidate, but after watching him scythe through his opposition, I quickly realised he was going to win for several reasons I’ve gone into elsewhere.

Having had an interest in politics for most of my life, I have realistic expectations of the people in that area of endeavour. At end of day, they’re people just like us, which means they come with the same failings at times, and yet we seem to hold them to an impossibly higher standard, or at least the commentariat does.

Certainly, that’s a desirable thing for us, but you have to be realistic about these things. I’ve met more than a few people who after getting a rude awakening out of a youthful gullibility in aspirational political rhetoric, turn 180 degrees and they never thereafter trust another politician, to the extent that they take an almost perverse pride in never ever again turning up at a polling booth for the rest of their lives.

We all know how embittering a shattered first love can be, but by not voting, my feeling is if you’re no longer in the game, you’re irrelevant, so don’t whine to me about politicians or the state of politics. In democracies, once every four years or so, we get a chance to vote any politician out of office and back onto the working for a living roster, and boy do they know that. Every politician goes into overdrive around election time, so if you’re pissed off at your local one, by not turning up to vote for his opposition, you’re keeping him in his cushy sinecure.

Putting it bluntly, every elected politician knows they can get fired at periodic intervals.

Certainly, like anyone who had a youthful belief in what politics could achieve, I had my reality wake up call, but in the aftermath and upon reflection, took the position that there would always be some rotten apples in the barrel. You do have to look at each politician and make a value judgment on them, which can be difficult at times since 90% of the art of politics is saying all the right things to your constituency that they want to hear.

The rough rule of thumb I use is that if over a period of time their actions and voting patterns match up to their rhetoric, then I’m probably looking at a decent one. When they don’t match up and they’ve always got a quasi-plausible reason for time after time going back on their promises, my experience is I’m looking at a scoundrel.

On the occasions of note when I see a politician standing by his promises on an important issue, even though it’s costing him what’s called political capital, I know I’m looking at a man of integrity and more importantly, one with an overriding drive to not only represent those who voted for him, but a backbone dedication to give service not just to them, but to an idea of a greater good, perhaps their country, irrespective of the political damage to their career. Those are the ones you decide to keep tabs on.

Compromises have to be made by all politicians, but the great ones have lines which they’ll never cross, which is the essential difference between the scoundrels and the good ones. What’s in between those two extremes is an average person, and the usual to and fro between goodness and human frailty.

Many people tend to think that elected bodies are government in its entirety, but the reality is that they are analogous to the brain running a larger body; the executive organs of government. Law enforcement, the judiciary, the security services and the civil service or administrative departments of government such as the tax collectors.

The universally accepted principle is that these executive arms of government have to act in an apolitical manner otherwise chaos would ensue at every change of administration. Imagine if you will, the laws, their interpretation and their selective enforcement changing after every general election, and you can see why that would be. Without that principle in place, any sort of smooth continuity in governance would be impossible.

It’s a necessary rule but as always occurs, there are occasional abuses of it when a political influence is brought to bear on an executive organ of government to use it for purely political purposes. An example of this sort of abuse would be the Obama administration’s use of the IRS to target political opponents and their families for year after year onerous tax investigations of their returns.

Again, I take the view that also in the executive organs of government, there will be the occasional abuse done by the few bad apples. The people inside these departments are salaried employees who have little or no protection when leaned on by powerful political forces. The classic solution to this problem has always been to promote up the ranks and to the top, strong leaders who could protect their people from such abuses. The civil service mandarins. I won’t go into the details to any extent, but any political appointee who repeatedly insisted on trying to use the department he was put in charge of as a political cricket bat to attack opponents, soon found themselves playing on a sticky wicket.

I watched all Trump’s election speeches on Youtube all the way through because there was no choice; fake news was distorting so badly everything he said on pretty much every occasion. In passing, on one speaking event, too many people turned up, so he gave the same speech twice that night to a second tranche of supporters. Needless to say, that wasn’t reported on by the fake news harlots. By that stage, the only doubt I had about him was if a seventy year old body could take the stresses of being president of the US of A. That unexpected display of stamina dispelled any such concerns.

Watching him, I noticed he labelled situations and people. At a superficial level, he was handing out derisive nicknames, but a nickname that isn’t accurate simply never sticks. On the other hand, if it’s right on the button, it sticks, and he did so many button jobs on all his opponents in that fight, Willie Cicci, a button man himself, would have been envious of such ruthless dispatching of opponents.

On a more serious note, higher levels of cognition always involve the recognition and teasing out of patterns from the general blizzard of daily input. You know there’s something out there, a vague shape in the storm, but until you put a name on it and the discriminants that uniquely identify it, it hasn’t coalesced into a distinct thing. It’s still a part of the general blur.

But, when you label it and correctly categorise its identifying properties, with “correctly” meaning there’s a consensual acceptance by others of its general form, it becomes a real thing and more importantly, becomes a transferable concept, portable, a meme if you like. One of the labels he created and used all the way through the election process was the Washington swamp and the promise to drain it.

I’d written off that term and the whole idea as pure electioneering. It was just an oratorical device, a concept, to get the ignored and media despised elements of basic mom and dad middle America, who felt totally ignored and alienated by a distant Washington, on his side. You could see it playing so well with the people who turned up to hear him speak. It galvanised all that resentment of the forgotten people who hadn’t bothered to vote for years because it wasn’t a choice but a dilemma between virtually indistinguishable candidates of virtually indistinguishable parties, both of which had done absolutely nothing for them in living memory.

That was the second mistake I made about Trump.

What has become obvious to me with each passing day’s batch of fresh revelations, is that the swamp is a real thing. It’s not the few bad apples situation I’d originally taken it to be; it is actually a swamp. There does not appear to have been a single major organ of the executive branches of government that wasn’t deeply subverted, if not fully weaponised, by the Obama administration to spy on and attack any political opposition.

What’s worse is that it wasn’t some mid level bureaucrats who were compromised, but the very heads of departments like Comey at the FBI, Lynch at the DoJ and Brennan at the CIA. These were the leaders, the people who should have been setting some sort of example, yet who acted like they’d been pimped out onto the mean streets of Washington and leapt with alacrity to do their master’s bidding.

One thing leads to another, but in this situation it seems to lead to a lot of others. As one rock gets lifted, there’s a scurrying of even more dark creatures fleeing the light. They’re all lawyering up and cadging for deals. While I never had a particularly high regard for the FBI, I never thought I’d see the day when an ex-Deputy Director of it would be trying to wangle an immunity deal before he gave evidence to a congressional committee.

The corruption appears to be systemic, rampant and utterly shameless. The Attorney General of the United States, the highest law officer in the land, flies into a secluded part of an airport from Washington, has a half hour conversation with the husband of a woman currently the subject of an FBI investigation, and then flies back to Washington. In what twilight zone of jurisprudence is that not a gross breach of any tenuous notion of professional standards?

Even after the meeting is blown, she has the brass cheek to say Hillary’s case was never discussed, all they did was have a friendly chat about the grandchildren. Really? How nice. That’s a lot of trouble to go to just for a chat you could have had by simply picking up the phone. The fact that such a lame excuse was accepted by a bend over and grab your ankles news media speaks volumes. And by the way, news hounds, as far as I can find out, Loretta Lynch doesn’t have any grandchildren. I guess the dark art of checking out a story also died when journalism metastasized into liberal activism.

I mentioned earlier on about politicians essentially getting fired at election time, but when it comes to salaried government employees, it’s pretty much a sinecure. Once they’ve got through their provisional period, they’ve got it made. Nothing short of gross behaviour can get them fired, but given the level of corruption, that’s the only way forward to resurrect the reputations of these sullied departments of state.

Some harsh examples will have to be made, to not only restore the public’s trust in those organisations, but also to serve as a salutary warning to those working within them of the perils of allowing themselves to be used as political footballs. Nothing lasts forever, and that most certainly includes political protection for activities you should never have got up to in the first place. While your former masters are out of office and bringing home $50M book deals, you get to be the one left holding the shit end of the stick, and you soon learn nothing has a shorter half life than political loyalty.

The reality is there actually is a swamp and it’s full of denizens of a self-appointed deep state, but Trump is steadily draining it.


Related articles by Pointman:

How to get run over by the Trump juggernaut.

Politicians, thieves and those greedy pigs in between.

The deep state.

The loss of faith in the political class.

Click for a list of other articles.

19 Responses to “It ain’t what you don’t know …”
  1. John Garrett says:

    H. L. Mencken was fond of quoting Frederick the Great’s explanation of why he only gave military commissions to Junker:
    “Because they will not lie and they cannot be bought.”


  2. philjourdan says:

    “The fact that such a lame excuse was accepted by a bend over and grab your ankles news media speaks volumes.”

    The news media did not even REPORT the meeting. It was a cub reporter in the city where it happened that wondered why 2 big wigs were meeting on the tarmac!

    But we (in my small niche of America) got a strong whiff of the coming of Trump and the pent up desires of the “silent majority”. You said that politicians listened to their voters. But they have been failing there. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was such an individual. He was in a “safe” district, so never thought he had to fulfill his promises and indeed broke them regularly. I went so far as to write him a letter telling him I would never vote for him again (that did not mean I was going to vote for any opposition in the general election as they were decidedly worse). His response was a canned letter. I never did vote for him again, but voted twice in the primaries against him. And the second time, I even made a contribution for the first time in my life to a politician.

    And that was the last time Eric Cantor ran in a race. It was also the first time a sitting majority leader (in the US, the Majority leader is second to the Speaker of the House in power) had lost in a primary. His replacement has been very careful to follow up on his promises.

    Like you, I was not a Trump fan at the beginning. I liked what he was doing to the primaries, but was solidly behind Ted Cruz (who I still respect). It was only after he “trumped” 16 other candidates and then started doing to the democrats what they always do to Republicans, that I started to get behind him. Even convincing my mother (God rest her soul) that he may not be the conservative we wanted, but he was the candidate we wanted.

    Even then, I did not expect him to keep his promises. I expected him to be the typical politician (so I was actually wrong twice). He has won me over completely. He is no conservative, but since he made promises as a conservative, he was duty bound to keep them (in the business world, your word is your bond). It is with delicious irony that it is actually the democrats that are ensuring he will continue to govern as a conservative! Because they have made it impossible for him to appeal to the left in any way (he tried early in his tenure, but that only made the left more angry).

    Now we find out that You guys (UK) want to steal Trump away! –

    I can only tell you that you will have to wait. I hope you do resolve the Brexit Issue before Trump is available (in about 6 years), but if not, he will take care of it. He lives for those kind of challenges!

    I have had the rare joy of having 2 great presidents in my life time. First Reagan, and now Trump. Both as different as can be. But both the right man for the job when the country really needed it. You have had one great PM so far (well 2 if you were around in the 40s and 50s). it is time the UK got another great one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Margaret Smith says:

      “You have had one great PM so far (well 2 if you were around in the 40s and 50s). it is time the UK got another great one.”

      Oh how we long for another Churchill or Thatcher and so wish we had Trump (such envy we are suffering from because with our bland nobodies or mad lefties and a huge influx of enemies, our once-great country is lurching towards a complete finale!).

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Blackswan says:

    Trump would be well advised to take a closer look at the USA’s so-called ‘Five Eyes Agreement’ because he’s being systematically shafted by the other four parties involved … Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK.

    Alexander Downer, that so-called ‘diplomat’ who kicked off the Trump/Russia collusion scandal by participating in the Papadopoulos sting, himself a shameless Clinton shill, is now revealed to also be a ‘useful idiot’ for the Russians.

    Downer is no run-of-the-mill “diplomat”.

    He was a one-time leader of the conservative Liberal Party (while in Opposition) and then Foreign Minister in Govt ( = Secretary of State). It was then that he handed over $25 million taxpayer to the Clinton Crime Family.

    But today it’s revealed that he went one better than that … long before Hillary signed the Russian deal … Downer was responsible for similar contracts that shipped off tons of Australian uranium to the Russians, as did Canada, thereby cementing Putin’s dream of global dominance of the uranium supply.

    We can only be left to wonder if the Clintons got their ideas and Russian contacts through Downer.

    Aussie Alexander Downer from Spygate Involved in Sale of Australian Uranium to Same Russian Company that Purchased Uranium One

    And, just like crooked ex-Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Downer is being well-rewarded by the Globalist Elite for his perfidy.

    They ALL slither around the planet spreading their poison … a complete nest of vipers!

    Where’s a bloody hungry mongoose when you need one???

    Liked by 1 person

    • gallopingcamel says:

      Great comment! IMHO this is the week when Trump goes on offense given the Wolf indictment and the $84 million money laundering case against the Clinton campaign.

      Regardless of what happens at the NOKO summit today Trump’s approval is rising while the approval of the GOP fell dramatically thanks to Paul Ryan and other RINOs. If we can’t expel the “Never Trumpers” and RINOs from their “Leadership” positions the November mid-terms may yet be a triumph for the Democrats. The GOP brand is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and voter betrayal…….sick.

      On Thursday the IG report is scheduled for publication. Will it matter? Not unless it triggers a bunch of indictments. Anything less would be a “Nothingburger”.


  4. hoppers says:

    You’ve got to drain the Universities if you want to drain the swamp, or else the swamp just gets keeping topped up, generation after generation.


    • Blackswan says:

      As a listener/viewer of Stefan Molyneux, I’m intrigued by his insight into so many issues.

      One caller to his program sticks in my mind. She asked why, with his several degrees and his Doctorate, he wasn’t on the faculty of some prestigious University?

      He said “Why would I?” He said his current format had 500 MILLION hits, had 750K subscribers, he had a global reach, discussed varied topics of his choosing and no mandated curriculum, no tenure to safeguard with compromised values. He’s a free man to follow his own path, bringing his philosophy on politics, economics, social structure and history to a global audience a university professor could only dream about.

      That got my grey matter fizzing …

      What if…?

      What if 21st century technology made the hallowed ivy-covered halls of academia totally obsolete?

      What if a student didn’t have to leave his home and hearth to travel elsewhere to hear lectures in crammed auditoriums by jaded professors whose priority is solely to indoctrinate the next generation with the Marxist Manifesto? What if a student could gain all the knowledge he needed online, subscribe to any lecture he chose from any teacher anywhere in the world? Could gain accreditation that was valid everywhere? Could get a productive paying job while he/she worked their way through courses?

      And mostly importantly, embark on their life’s journey without being tens of thousands of dollars in student debt, without the treadmill of accruing interest; could marry young and start a family without being Debt Slaves from cradle to grave?

      Molyneux is a trail-blazer – and his many highly qualified and learned guest speakers are a delightful ray of sunshine in the humdrum of our everyday lives. It’s like being a fly-on-the-wall eavesdropping on grown-up discourse.

      My dream is not to “drain universities” … it’s to blow the bloody things up!!!!

      They are a spent force; destroyed by their own hubris and greed for elitist intellectual power.

      Maybe they weren’t so smart after all.

      Liked by 2 people

      • hoppers says:

        Hello Blackswan. Hope all is well in wonderful Tassie.

        Yes the good news is that the Universities are bankrupting themselves with their own stupidity.

        Will it happen quickly enough?


      • I’m going to need to spend the time catching up of Stefan Molyneux, by the look of it. I generally don’t spend the time on videos, since reading text its a lot faster and is easier to understand.

        For university, the big benefit is not the lectures or the teaching, but to be with a diverse group of people (the other students) who are bright and have different backgrounds and cultures. Getting the knowledge itself is easy on the net, and for a long time has been available in libraries, though of course a long time ago you pretty well had to go to the university to be able to use the libraries and also needed to learn Latin in order to be able to read the books. Much easier to get the knowledge now. It’s also much easier to work with a diverse group of people all over the world – I work with people in the US, the UK, the Philippines and Australia at the moment. The majority of them I haven’t met in person, wabut again it’s easy to set up a video conference which is almost as good. Not quite as good as sitting out in the open with a glass of wine or a beer and discussing random subjects, and chasing down rabbit-holes after odd thoughts, but close.

        The problem in getting employment is how people know you are actually competent enough for the job that is needed. The paper qualifications have been the way that is done for a long time, and whether someone who can do the job (and is thus in a position to know) says you are competent. For new jobs, such as computer prograwamming, there wasn’t a qualification when I started in computers. You proved you could do it by doing it. Once in the job, you could get various extra courses from the computer manufacturers, but they presumed that you actually knew the general underpinnings before starting. Much the same probably applied to the Wright brothers, who couldn’t have got a pilot’s licence at the start.

        These days, having those bits of paper saying you can do a certain job is pretty important. The HR people (new name for the Personnel department in an effort to raise it above gut-feelings) use them to fit the pigeonholes they’ve identified. We thus either need universities to bestow those pieces of paper or an open system that sets examinations and bestows them.

        It seems to me that trust in universities has been diminished as more of them appear. The top ones still however attract the best students, and being among such people should benefit all who attend. Getting rid of them may be throwing the baby away with the bathwater. Also to be noted is the Churchill quote that “if you’re not liberal when young, you haven’t got a heart; if you’re not conservative when you’re older, you haven’t got a brain”. We expect the students to tend towards equality of everybody and to be somewhat communistic – it goes with the age. Once it’s tempered with experience then they’ll realise that socialism fails for a normal population and only works in small groups for a limited time.

        Getting the knowledge is much easier these days. Proving you’ve got it still takes some organisation that can verify that. If you want the knowledge for its own sake, no problems, but if you want to use that knowledge to get a job then you’ll probably need some attestation.

        Having said that, I should note that none of my employers ever asked to see the degree certificate or the O-levels and A-levels. These days they probably would ask.


      • Blackswan says:

        Simon … Molyneux has also developed what we’d have recognised as ‘talk-back’ radio for the internet … people calling in with their ‘social’ problems, while he listens, draws them out with questions, then uses logic and reasoning to show them how to resolve their issues.

        That isn’t what gets my attention, so I move on.

        What I enjoy so much about his programs are his hour+-long interviews and discussions with equally thought-provoking and learned individuals. It’s like having the radio on in the background while you get on with doing other things. Actually watching two talking heads isn’t that interesting … LOL

        This video is memorable in its implications, and the parallels he draws are valid …

        While you’re right about the importance of social and intellectual interaction between students, there must be a better way to restructure how future generations go about it.
        I read a survey that suggested that 5 years after university, only 40% of graduates were actually working in the field they’d studied. To me, that implied an awful lot of time and money had been spent on misplaced youthful intent, while the Real World had drawn graduates in a different direction.

        A clean slate and fresh ideas to address the waste and expense of intellectual progress in this modern epoch wouldn’t go astray.


      • Blackswan says:

        G’day Hoppers … yes, Tasmania is still lovely thanks, though a tad chilly right now.

        We may think the education system is stuffed, but while it remains the country’s third largest export behind coal and iron ore, politicians will see to it that taxpayers continue to prop it up and cater to every hare-brained ‘diversity’ program they can dream up.

        “The total value to Australia of international education exports could be even higher than the latest $21.8 billion figure, which does not include education consultancy services, royalties from intellectual property or income from correspondence courses.”


      • hoppers says:

        Hello again Blackswan, Perth is also a tad chilly!

        I was referring to the US Universities, should have said. Read a stat somewhere that 30% were in crisis due to high fees/low enrollment.- I tend to focus on all things US, much more interesting geo-politicaly.

        I too like Stefan, we both programmed in the same platform back in the day, but if you want real hardcore philosophy, check out Jay Dyer at

        He does a lot of funny/stupid stuff, but he has reviewed all the Globalist books by Brezinski, Ateli, HG Wells, Miles Copeland and the like. A must listen on his youtube channel.

        When you understand the Globalists and their plans, you understand exactly why we are where we are


  5. Blackswan – the problem with education is whether we can design something that works better than a set of solutions that have evolved over time. A normal result of having a designed system is that it is applied to everyone and a monoculture is imposed – since the people in charge think that’s the best solution, that’s only to be expected. In general, though, a diverse system may not be optimal or even good for everyone, but the wider choice of methods of education means that if one system fails for one student, they can at least try another one that should work better. In a monopoly situation, that isn’t available. Though the nationwide monopoly may be statistically proven to produce a higher percentage of grade-A students, there will be students who could have been good who lose out because they needed a different method of teaching. As an example, I only realised later on that I don’t take in lectures well, but need to read the words in order to understand the ideas – that’s why now I read transcripts rather than watch videos of people talking. Other people (maybe most) may do better listening to a lecture.

    People learn in different ways. We thus need a diversity in the ways teaching is delivered. Some people will only learn from a teacher, while others may need discussions or (like me) good books.

    Maybe another worthwhile point is that streaming begins at around age 11 or so. Some of the subjects a student is good at may depend on the chance of having a good or bad teacher in that subject. History is boring if it’s memorising a sequence of dates (the way I was taught), but can be interesting if you find the reasons why those things happened. It is maybe hardly surprising that university graduates emerge from the hothouse and find a job that may not match their paper qualifications. What university should give the student is not a set of predigested knowledge to memorise, but the ability to go find the relevant information and make sense of it. What you should learn at university is how to learn on your own, rather than be taught. For me, after the degree in Physics, I ended up in computers, as did quite a few of my friends at university. That job didn’t really exist as a career option when I started university (the opinion at the time was that the UK would need around half a dozen computers in total).

    These days, on a pension, I’m back to trying to solve the paradoxes that bugged me as a student – the education wasn’t wasted after all.

    If the universities can instil into their students the abilities to research and learn on their own, and the ability to question the axioms on which the subject is based and find what needs to be changed, then they’ll have done a good job no matter what the subject is. Those people will be an asset for the companies they work for, and the money invested in their education will result in greater wealth for their country. Put simply, it’s a good investment. If instead they deliver students who have memorised a subset of the available textbooks or lectures and regard that as being absolutely true, then they’ll have failed.

    That’s maybe why Pointman’s words resonated – “it ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble; it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” Over my life I’ve seen a lot of instances where what I was taught as truth turned out to be wrong. In engineering, we can rely on the fact that what works today will work tomorrow, but on the other hand what is said to be impossible today may turn out to be possible tomorrow. Sometimes what stops progress is simply the belief that something can’t be done.

    You note that Oz earns $21.8B from education. I wonder how much of that is actually good value? I’ve read CVs and interviewed applicants. The CV might say they can do the job (electronic design) but faced with real-world schematics and questions on exactly how a circuit works the lack of deeper knowledge was exposed. I should note here that in electronics design the half-life of knowledge used to be around 18 months – half of what you know will need updating every year and a half or so. You need someone who has learnt how to learn, and preferably someone who can innovate too. Overall, I see future technical jobs having a somewhat-similar rate of change as technology advances, so the valuable people will be those that have learnt how to keep up with that rather than falling behind.

    Education may seem to be stuffed, but at least some students (enough?) will do well with what’s there. Any new method of education needs to be added in parallel, and then see how well it does relative to the system we think is failing. Reducing the diversity of options would IMHO be a mistake – may succeed, but may screw up a whole generation. You won’t find out for years which way it’s going.


    • gallopingcamel says:

      Universities are mostly about credentials which means they validate talent that you had before you attended the university. This is called “Signalling” which employers value when making hiring decisions.

      If you doubt me, imagine a student who suffered an automobile accident on the day before his final exams. His knowledge would be the same as his peers who jumped through the same hoops and completed their “finals”. Yet the “Sheepskin Effect” ensures that unlucky student will earn 35% in his lifetime than those who passed the final exams.

      Bryan Caplan in his book “The Case Against Education” quantifies this effect.


      • GC – I don’t doubt that you are right. What I’m pointing out is that *someone* needs to validate that talent. If the universities don’t do it, or don’t do it well, then employing someone to do a particular job requires that the employer spends a while doing their own validation. Large companies can (and do) afford this, but small companies may not be able to do that well.

        You have spent a lot of time on educating people and setting up schools. I suspect you’ve spent care on getting the right people as teachers and leaders. Did the qualifications of those people have a lot of weight, or was it based on the results they’d produced in previous jobs? If their students don’t do as well as you expect, do you make sure those teachers leave the job?

        It’s tricky to think of a replacement for universities that hasn’t got the chance of being overall worse than the current system. It’s taken maybe 30 years for the Open University degrees in the UK to achieve a somewhat-similar footing to the normal university degrees. Maybe mainly because the residential university degrees have suffered an amount of degradation.

        Fragmentation of the degree-awarding bodies and examination boards would mean that the employers wouldn’t know what the qualifications were worth. If nobody knows what they are worth, they are maybe not worth having either.

        A while back, Harvard put their courses online. You still needed to go there for the examinations and pay for the tutoring, though. Khan Academy do a pretty good job of explaining things, but AFAIK don’t set exams. Getting the knowledge itself is much easier and cheaper, but proving you have it remains a problem.


      • gallopingcamel says:

        @Simon Derricutt,
        As mentioned earlier in this thread I was impressed by Bryan Caplan’s “The Case Against Education”. My knowledge of education is based on real world experience running six schools with a total of 250 staff yet Caplan’s view from his “Ivory Tower” fits well with what I have learned over the past 20 years.

        For example Bryan points out that from a nation’s point of view, vocational education is a better investment than a college degree.

        In the hope that Bryan has some ideas for improving education through vocational education, language immersion, virtual school technology or whatever I contacted him with the idea that I would set up a school to test his ideas.

        Bryan’s reply was not encouraging…….probably my timing was bad as he may have been up to his oxters (armpits) in papers that needed to be graded. I will wait a couple of weeks and try again!


  6. Blackswan – the video decimated my working time today but was definitely worth the watch. The parallels with today are too close for comfort, especially since I live in Europe. I don’t know whether we can dodge that bullet, though. Maybe with the rise of automation, and less need of the perpetual growth in order to support the old, and the advent of much cheaper power? Much the same as having slaves, except somewhat more ethical.


  7. gallopingcamel says:

    @Simon Derricut,
    “A while back, Harvard put their courses online. You still needed to go there for the examinations and pay for the tutoring, though. Khan Academy do a pretty good job of explaining things, but AFAIK don’t set exams. Getting the knowledge itself is much easier and cheaper, but proving you have it remains a problem.”

    You have summed up the problem pretty well. Two students with equal mastery of a field of study interview for the same job…… studied at the on-line Harvard and the other attended the stone built Harvard. Nine times out of ten the on-line candidate will be rejected.


    • GC – in some ways, the student who has been taking the online degree while holding a job down at the same time has demonstrated their dedication to getting the knowledge. It’s far harder spending evenings and weekends studying than it is to do it as a full-time job. Since in most jobs you’ll want someone who does the task efficiently rather than someone who is brilliant, the online degree may be worth more to the employer if they realised it.

      Though an increase in vocational training would be a good idea (finding a plumber when needed is quite a large problem) it seems to me that, going forward, a nation will do better with more engineers and inventors. Manufacturing will be automated, after all, but you need people who can design the automation, so programming and mechanical design are both needed. By the nature of things, the best programmers will be in industry, so it’s debatable just how well programming will be taught.

      Meantime one young man I know of is currently taking a degree in Plymouth University in… Surf Studies. Not sure what sort of a job that leads to.

      Good luck with Bryan Caplan. If you set up a new school, it adds to the diversity of choices available and it could produce some outstanding students.


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