Psychological Testing over Degrees?

I generally don't get into policy and practice topics such as education, but considering I recently wrote on recruiting, this really struck a chord. "Bosses rely on psychological tests over degrees to find the best staff". Some of the key quotes:

Academic degrees are no longer seen as a reliable indication of students' numerical and reasoning skills, the survey of more than 200 firms found.

Instead, employers are turning to socalled psychometric tests to assess candidates' ability to think logically and work under pressure, as well as measure how mature they are.


The trend for employers to rely more heavily on their own selection processes suggests they have "less faith in the ability of degree classes to accurately mirror the graduate competences that matter," the report added.

Hat tip: Vox Day

In the technology fields, degrees aren't normally high on the criteria list. I've always considered this to be due to the fast pace of technology, the tendency for professors to lose touch, and the relative newness of our field. I think all of those continue to hold true, but what about other fields? How could those degrees lose value?

My first instinct is that these kids are just lazy these days – wow, do I sound old 😉 – which may be true but doesn't reflect on the degree itself. Hopefully those students wouldn't make it to graduation anyway… unless…

Next, what about grade inflation and/or social promotion? When I was in school, I remember a few people who were basically illiterate. I couldn't figure out how they got past junior high, let alone made it across the stage in high school. Combine this with adminstrations who want to promote certain ideas over criteria and you end up with a huge problem.

My alma mater – Rose-Hulman – has consistently ranked #1 in US News & World Report for Undergraduate Engineering programs. It's a tough school that one doesn't just attend on a whim… But my sophomore year, I met a number of Freshmen that weren't accepted to their local state colleges and yet managed to get into Rose. Within a couple terms, all but one were gone. They couldn't handle things at that level… and that's not an insult at all. I used to play soccer but people encouraging me to try out for the World Cup would be "irresponsible" not "nice". By not challenging these students and giving them accurate feedback, their teachers set them up for failure. Many of these students could have had success in numerous other scenarios and built more advanced skills for more advanced education but instead they walked away with a huge failure and $30k in debt. By what standards can that be considered "good"?

Next, the parents share some blame for this behavior. Both from the perspective of not knowing what their kids can actually do but also from the perspective of probably fighting the couple teachers trying to enact some standards. "I can't believe Johnny got a D! He's only gotten A's for years, you must be wrong!" Well, that may be true, but Johnny could still be a moron.

Finally, what if the educators simply don't know/understand what is relevant? This could be because their knowledge and experience is out of date or they could simply be ignorant of their field. When I first moved to the DC Metro area, I wanted to do something to give back. So I went to the nearest high school and volunteered to assist in the tech work (construction, painting, etc) for their theatre program. It was a fantastic experience, but I hit a major problem. Since I wasn't a parent, I had to apply to be a Teachers' Aide. The requirements included one class of algebra in college, so I sent a copy of my Rose transcript which included Calculus, etc. Unfortunately, since none of them had "algebra" in the title, they didn't count. I was actually asked "how did you get a degree without taking any math?"

So in closing… I understand the pain of these companies. I have seen some of the things that pass as "acceptable" and "good" in education and frankly it makes me sick. I think the current system and standards are doing the vast majority of students a disservice and daming them to catastrophic failure later on. Unfortunately, short of razing the educational establishment and installing competent leaders with more sense than politeness, I don't see how this one can be fixed any time soon.