Higher education may be the most damning domestic institution our country must battle against, as student loans crush college-educated workers and colleges seek to undermine traditional Western values by promoting communism, gender and racial “equity,” moral relativism, and other toxic ideas of the Left. There is a simple and overlooked tool that can be used to combat higher education’s influence: allow employers the ability to screen applicants using IQ and other cognitive tests.
The government is permitted to use IQ tests to determine eligibility for the military or for Social Security Disability benefits. Universities are permitted to use cognitive exams for admissions (although this has been falling out of favor for the progressive Left).
So, why are IQ tests de facto illegal for employers wishing to screen applicants?
IQ testing has long been one of the most politically sensitive and fraught issues essentially ignored by the intelligentsia and policymakers despite the fact that cognitive ability tests have been shown to be highly predictive of job performance across the spectrum. These tests are the most reliable and best studied in all of the social sciences.
Having a college degree is a ubiquitous screening requirement among white-collar and even many blue-collar employers. In today’s society, for many jobs, it is not necessarily important that you learned anything while obtaining your degree (most skills are learned on the job) but that you have a piece of paper that shows that you have been through the relevant screening process and are of a sufficient IQ to perform well in the job. According to Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, 36 percent of college students show “no significant gains in learning” after four years of college. In other words, these students spent significant time and money solely to “earn” a piece of paper. A four-year bachelor’s degree should not be a necessary rite of passage for entering adulthood.
During my time at Northwestern Law School, I was actively recruited by law firms and management consulting firms such as McKinsey. McKinsey recruits for associate positions from the top business schools but also searches for applicants among top law schools and Ph.D. programs. What did my legal education have to do with management consulting? Absolutely nothing. However, the fact that I was accepted into Northwestern Law School meant I had a high LSAT score (a test that can be studied for but is largely IQ-based), which is what McKinsey really wanted.
Why would companies like McKinsey want me to spend years racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt when they can hire me straight out of college, or better yet, high school?
College is obviously not an efficient screening mechanism. Why are we sending impressionable young minds to waste four prime years of their lives partying and becoming indoctrinated by leftist academia when there is a much more efficient screening process available?
Contrary to popular belief, IQ tests are not culturally biased and largely cannot be gamed by preparation. Compare this to admissions tests used for universities which, while there is undoubtedly a substantial IQ element, have spawned an entire industry of preparation techniques. Families of the elites sometimes pay $200 an hour for experienced SAT and ACT tutors who help their children game the test and achieve higher scores—an advantage far less accessible for lower- and middle-class families.
Income advantage is virtually nonexistent with IQ tests. By permitting employers to screen applicants using IQ tests instead of having to rely on college degrees to achieve the same effect, students from all classes of society will have an equal chance of achieving a high score and removing a substantial hindrance to upward social mobility, both in preparing adequately for college admissions tests and being able to afford elite institutions in the first place.
This is not a radical idea. The biggest tech companies and other prestigious institutions (such as the aforementioned McKinsey) have already spent their resources on developing their own cognitive ability tests for screening applicants that are just flexible enough to be allowed under current law.
While IQ tests are not de jure illegal, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the seminal 1971 case Griggs v. Duke Power Co. that IQ tests lead to an “adverse impact” on certain racial groups because of racial differences in IQ testing results and were therefore discriminatory under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Civil Rights Act of 1991 strengthened these protections. In effect, these such tests are legal only where it can be shown there is a business necessity in achieving a certain score on the test.
Tech companies have the resources to develop tests around these restrictions and have the legal prowess to fight off claims of discriminatory adverse impact. The average employer has neither of these, preventing IQ tests and similar cognitive ability tests from being used on a widespread basis throughout the country. A company such as McKinsey can reap the benefits of having both an initial degree credentialing sorting round and later an internally developed IQ test during the first round of interviews, all without the student having learned anything about business.
The Griggs case did not bar employers from demanding college degrees, even though there is an “adverse impact” there as well, effectively making colleges into monopolies. This caused college degrees to become legal substitutes for the kind of testing that employers have not been able to conduct since the 1970s. In turn, employers demanded college degrees for jobs that don’t require a college education, workers acquiesced to massive debts in order to show these capabilities, and colleges raised prices due to the high demand of people seeking job credentialing.
This all has direct implications for the student loan crisis and the college scam industry. If naturally bright students are able to demonstrate intelligence through a simple test rather than going to college, the number of students going to college will drop substantially, and elite universities will lose prestige. These drops in demand and degree value should incentivize schools to decrease tuition.
Of course, intelligence may not be the most important factor affecting job performance, but other factors that are arguably more important, such as work ethic or social skills, are difficult to test for and are certainly not attested to by a high GPA from a university in the age of rampant grade inflation. How can you tell if an employee will show up on time? If they can collaborate well with others? If they will stick with an unpleasant task to completion? Employers have little way of testing soft skills for themselves, but IQ tests are a cheap reliable way to measure one important factor.
It is true that other means of providing employment capabilities are still necessary to avoid a Gattaca-esque society in which IQ is the only factor considered, leaving behind students who are intelligent in other ways (IQ is just one famous broad measure of intelligence). However, the opportunities to show employment capabilities through other means are still available, and they always will be; employers should at least be able to consider natural intelligence as a factor affecting employment.
Democrats are currently fighting the correct problem with terrible solutions while Republicans simply ignore it. Student loan forgiveness will incentivize more students to go to college and tuition to increase. Legalizing the straightforward ability of employers to use IQ tests is one piece of the larger solution—setting up a culture where degrees are not deemed necessary for work opportunities. Otherwise, more and more of this $1.7 trillion (and quickly increasing) problem will fall on taxpayers to solve. This is a windfall for a higher education system that promotes attitudes and ideas that destabilize Western Civilization.
The higher education system needs reform and transparency, not more money. Democrats do not want to decrease the number of students as it relies heavily on woke college graduates for their political support and to continue pushing policies on the rest of the country.
The percentage of the U.S. population with a college degree was around six percent in 1950. Today, it is closer to 38 percent. While some increase over the past 70 years was warranted due to a shift in the labor market, a considerable chunk of the degreed population consists of people who should have been advancing a career or forming a family. Effectively, for the upper and upper-middle classes, childhood has been extended until 22. This is not conducive to a sound understanding of human flourishing.
Employers and workers would benefit greatly, while colleges and education lenders would lose. Therefore, we shouldn’t expect these institutions and the establishment to cooperate unless we proactively enact governmental legislation or the newly conservative Supreme Court rules to throw the overreaching concept of “adverse impact” into the progressive ash heap.