Thursday, April 26, 2012

Political Leadership Under the Quantitative Regime of Higher Education

In my previous blog I argued that higher education has been dominated by the Quantitative Regime of Higher Education and it's mindless committment to measuring inputs and outputs expressed as numbers embedded within a "one-size-fits-all" system. In this blog I will describe the implications of the QRHE for political leadership.

In all societies, leadership is determined by a selective process. As I stated earlier, the principle selective tool of QRHE has been the multiple choice exam, which now serves as the primary qualifier for leadership and social status throughout the Western world. The overwhelming majority of QRHE leaders are persons who "earned" their status by demonstrating their ability to pick-out correct answers on  standardized multiple choice tests: ACTs, SATs, GREs, and MCATs. The primary selective instrument for political leadership is the LSAT. There are other multiple choice instruments that also determine future leadership status, such as IQ tests, honestly tests, drivers tests, civil service exams etc. So.....what kinds of leaders do we end up with when we select them based on multiple choice tests and the QRHE?

First of all, anyone that becomes a leader under the QRHE already has resources to pay the fees required to take these standardized tests and purchase study materials, including test-taking classes, and can afford to pay the tuition for those elite colleges and universities that base admission on standardized tests. Leaders selected based on the QRHE, obviously, have demonstrated the ability to sit still at a computer (or with a piece of paper and #2 pencil) and focus their attention on a single task for several hours. And, of course the willingness to memorize vast quantities of information that someone else deems valuable, tends to support orthodoxy. Anyone that "can't focus" or "won't focus" is diagnosed with a disease called ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and prescribed expensive drugs to cure that disease. Focused leaders also posess the acquired skill of being able to choose the ONE right answer out FIVE (or less) possible answers; a skill reinforced since childhood, by their parents and teachers.

From childhood, our leaders have been taught to memorize the correct answers and expect to be punished for not memorizing the correct answers. In the real world, this acquired skill is valuable when there are only 5 possible answers and only 1 correct answer. Thus, before the President can decide what to do about genocide in Syria or the development of nuclear bombs in Iran, he must take a multiple choice exam comprised of questions with 2-5 possible answers presented to him by his advisors. There is never a "none of the above" option. Why do American presidents ultimately support institutional orthodoxy? Because they have been acculturated to answer questions, but not ask questions. Consequently, much of their time, energy, and resources are expended answering the wrong questions.

Western economies expend resources training future leaders to answer the questions posed by others and  the ability to generate answers couched in meaningless numbers. The "best" students are rewarded for their diligence with hefty salaries serving as numerologists for the QRHE. The most coveted numbers generated by the QRHE are infinitely malleable numbers generated by politicians, which include unemployment rates, budgetary figures, public opinion polls, and election results. The ability to memorize vast quantities of information, misinformation, and disinformation and organize it into an entertaining speech is an indispensible political skill under the QRHE. Any speech that includes big numbers expressed on simple charts attracts votes. Of course, when almost everyone in the Western world is taught to believe these hollow numbers, politicians have little incentive to actually accomplish anything substantive. Political success, therefore, is based almost entirely on smoke and mirrors...the same smoke and mirrors that sustain standardized tests and the QRHE.         

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