The Outstater

July 26, 2019

“I would say our country should be more fearful of white men across our country because they are actually causing most of the deaths within this country.” — Rep. Ilhan Omar quoted by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio

ARE COLLEGE ‘EDUCATED’ PERSONS IMPORTANT? That is in scare quotes because the meaning is to be questioned here; that and whether it actually is a good thing to have a lot of them in your community.

Your local economic development (eco-devo) chieftains will answer that to the affirmative — decidedly so. They regularly ask for more money so they can attract more of the “educated” to Indiana. And the state agencies advertise nationally to keep and attract such people to do work that, apparently, regular Hoosiers cannot manage.

To help the governor determine which of our communities is falling short in this regard, there is a study that ranks the number of “educated” residents in the larger Indiana cities.

Now, careful attention is needed here: The authors, apparently highly educated themselves, compare 150 U.S. metropolitan statistical areas across two key dimensions, including “Educational Attainment” and “Quality of Education and Attainment Gap.” Then they evaluated those dimensions using 11 relevant metrics and graded them on a 100-point scale and “using the square root of the population to calculate the population size in order to avoid overcompensating for minor differences across cities.” Finally, they determined each metro area’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order the sample.

If you can get through all of that, you will know that the Indianapolis-Carmel region (70th) is the smartest in Indiana, followed by the New Albany-Louisville region (94th) and finally the Fort Wayne region (104th).

Or will you? You might have noticed that “smartest” was deftly substituted for “educated” in our little summary. That of course is the unspoken assumption of the governor and his eco-devo friends. But what if they aren’t the same thing? Worse, what if they counted lawyers?

Moreover, the degrees themselves may have been cheapened, the grades inflated. Jeff Denning, an economist at Brigham Young University, has taken a close look at an abrupt increase this decade in college graduation rates.

“GPAs are going up, and as best we can tell, there’s not a good reason that they’re going up, in terms of student behavior or preparation or anything like that,” Denning says. He thinks that “standards for degree receipt” may have changed. College, in other words, may have gotten easier.

Earlier, three adjunct scholars of The Indiana Policy Review, Drs. Clarence Clarence Deitsch, James E. McClure and T. Norman Van Cott, found evidence of grade inflation here. The researchers, comparing grade distributions and GPAs in principles-level courses at a typical state university, found that we are no exception to the nationwide trend of more A’s and B’s, fewer D’s and F’s.

Some years earlier still, a researcher from Clemson University pointed out to me an unexpected data point in work he was doing on people coming and going among the states. Those communities with the most “educated” persons were on average and across the nation communities of egress rather than entry.

The professor didn’t offer an explanation, Perhaps “educated” persons gravitate to places already experiencing stasis or an exodus for unrelated reasons. Perhaps, though, the “educated” coming into a community overwhelm the local political process and affect policies that discourage growth — you know, like a women’s study, political science or ecology major getting appointed to a council’s budget committee.

Leaning on my personal experience only, there are few people fitting the ranking system’s broad definition of “educated” whom I find necessarily smarter either in a predictive or practical sense . . . just saying.

And I would like to think that the outspoken Somali-born congresswoman from Minneapolis is an extreme example of the modern “educated” person. But Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute says that an alarming number of recent college graduates share at least on a surface level the congresswoman’s opinions and sympathies.

Tucker Carlson of Fox News is asking pointed questions about the inordinately high number of sons and daughters of member of Congress and other ranking politicians who win admittance to Yale, Harvard and other elite schools with supposedly rigorous admission standards.

“Al Gore sent four. Imagine that: Four kids in a row to Harvard,” Tucker says. “What are the odds of that occurring in nature? Statistically, it’s about as likely as being hit by lightning every single day for a year.”

“Educated” in itself, then, is not a meaningful or even positive modifier for a healthy community. Indeed, it might be an inversely modifying one.

Instead, Indiana wants citizens (of any race and from any nation) who appreciate liberty and have learned the responsibilities that come with it — and, yes, look forward to summers with sweet corn salted and buttered on the cob.

— tcl


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