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Griggs v. Duke Power

In a 1971 Supreme Court Case (Griggs v. Duke Power), the court found that:

On the record before us, neither the high school completion requirement nor the general intelligence test is shown to bear a demonstrable relationship to successful performance of the jobs for which it was used.

Civil rights advocates and progressives celebrate such a finding by the court as a victory against discrimination by employers who previously tried to screen out employees using entrance exams and other methods to determine quality. I want to emphasize that first sentence again. The court does not see that a high school degree affects performance for the job market later on!

Why do I point this out? Progressives cannot have it both ways. They often celebrate the “achievement” of American public schooling as democratizing access to the labor market and economic opportunity. But how can they celebrate that achievement and at the same time delebrate the Griggs decision which says that a high school education is not important? You simply cannot hold both positions and keep a straight face.

Furthermore, now that the current band of socialists is in power, we are seeing movement toward a policy of putting everyone into college for at least a year. Under what economic condition would this make sense? If education serves as an effective signaling device, then simply acquiring education does not make workers any more able to complete any particular jobs (i.e. it does not improve productivity) – any resources dedicated to education are socially wasteful (except for the public sector unions that rely on them). Sending people to college for just one year would then be a waste. But if you think that college serves more than a simple signaling role, then what is it about ONE year of college that is important? Is the economic literature saying that the returns to a college education are substantial just for a single year of college? My reading of it is a no.

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