This is all John Wilder's fault.
Yes, the John Wilder. (I love that meme-joke. It still cracks me up. And God bless his parents for the set-up.)
As in, gone and written another good piece. Homework prep: RTWT. It's not that long today. (Bonus: in fairness, what it lacks in length, it makes up for with bikinis, as usual.) But there's another side to that coin - perhaps even a whole sackful of other coins - and a few other codocils, addendums, caveats, etc. etc.
Did you read the OP referenced?
Now we reference a quote therein, one with which many of you are familiar:
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.
Specialization is for insects. - Robert Heinlein
Classic Heinlein, from a writer who is, for any rational person, canonical, whether we're talking about Starship Troopers, Tunnel In The Sky, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, or any dozen other cherished sci-fi classics.
But let's talk turkey here:
Heinlein, in that quote, was full of sh*t. And he knew it.
The quote sounds great, sure. And we can agree with the sentiment, to any degree. Hell, we've referenced the same quote on this very blog. But it's still a load of codswallop and bullsh..., er, rose fertilizer. As we will demonstrate.
Any human being should be able to change a diaper
Okay, granted. Last I looked, no degree needed, to this day.
Plan an invasion
So, how'd that work out for the amphibious "genius" anyones from Sandhurst who planned Gallipoli? And followed it up with the Dieppe soiree? And monkey-f**ked the American plan at Sicily in WWII, very nearly snatching defeat from what could have been a decisive victory? And would have rogered Normandy, given half a chance? Turns out, anybody can not plan an invasion. The Marines had been perfecting such things for twenty years before WWII. Actually, more like 160 years, but still. And clueless Navy newbs would have made the same hash of Guadalcanal as the Brits did at Gallipoli, had it not been for some old-breed tough bastards. It was a near thing. Did the Army learn anything? Not until they'd mucked it up a time or three themselves. Read up on how Operation Torch went in North Africa. And then Anzio. So maybe expecting people to have a wee familiarity with the concept, over years and decades, isn't something every human being is going to have time to bone up on. Majors and colonels plan invasions. Guys with from 12-30 years moving through an up-or-out promotion system, besides being weeded out rather ruthlessly by bullets, bombs, shrapnel, and various other nastiness.
Butcher a hog
Look up the life expectancy and disease rate from improperly handled and prepared pork prior to 1930 or so. We'll wait for you.
Conn a ship
Not "sail a sailboat", nor steer a stinkpot runabout on the Inland Waterway, but "conn a ship". Every human being, Lt. Heinlein (U.S. Naval Academy, class of 1918)?? Says the man with a bachelor of science from the U.S. - and the world's - premier institution of seamanship, for the greatest navy in world history, after 4 hard years graduating 20th out of 243 midshipmen. Renaissance man speak with forked tongue.
How many ships routinely go down now that there are regs governing who can conn one, compared to past times? And ask the sailors on the McCain and Fitzgerald what happens when "diversity is our strength" retardation and shoddy watchstanding practice lets "anybody" conn a ship. And shout it loud, because Arlington cemetery is a long way off.
Design a building
Been to Pisa, Italy? Too far back in time? Okay; anybody seen what happened to the "Future Is Female" walkway at Florida International U.?
Write a sonnet
Turn your radio to any modern music station. Shakespeare it ain't. Case closed.
How much is your home state in the hole financially, both now and in the near future? What's the national deficit, just this year? How about the national debt? What's the average debt load of the average American, this minute? The amount of savings held in the bank by the average person? Yet again, case closed.
Build a wall
Set a bone
IIRC, practicing medicine without a license has been illegal in 50 states since at least 1900, even before Heinlein was born. Just saying.
Comfort the dying
Like diapering babies, no licensure or cert required, since ever.
And if you've watched and waited behind people at the drive-thru, you already know they're not Mensa members, college graduates, or certified by anyone, not even the Florida Clown College.
No certification required. Common sense is another thing entirely.
Anyone who has ever herded cats or kindergarteners knows this is no great human accomplishment. And no certification required, nor necessary.
No certification nor degree required to operate at this level (nor will any be attained either), but we note with some humor that it takes Ph.D.s from MIT, CalTech, etc. to achieve the first landing of an interplanetary probe not on the surface of Mars, but actually 58 feet into it, because they couldn't remember meters per second is not the same velocity as feet per second. "Secant! Tangent! Cosine! Sine! 3.14159! Q! E! D! Gooooooo Tech!"
Analyze a problem
Most people can do that. The brighter ones actually do it well. The rest get stuck on the first four letters of that, and can't get their heads out. In any case, yet again, no certification required.
Program a computer
Uh huh. I bailed out of computer science my freshman year and never looked back, and haven't programmed anything since Hammurabi and Lunar Lander, in BASIC, with punch tape. Say, how's that whole "learn to code, bro" plan been working out for the Geek Squad since the 1980s? I wouldn't know, I've been working 8 days a week, and all I know how to do is turn the damned thing on and click on the screen icons.
Cook A Tasty Meal
No degree, been doing that since I was 14, ever since Mom's "so you won't starve to death as a bachelor" lessons as a barely teen. Only need a cert to do it for money, and given the number of times I've gotten the Food Court Two-Step at the food court, the standards for that are still too lax.
Rifle expert, first six times I tried it. AFAIK, "One shot, one kill" is about as efficient as one can get (unless folks fortuitously stand three deep in a straight line). Cert? Not required, but I did get a sheepskin from MCRD, Class of '84. And it's nothing anyone can't master any weekend with a 10/22 at an Appleseed Shoot. Given who taught plebes weapons handling at Annapolis, this is not news to Heinlein either, since NLT than 1925 A.D. or so.
I live in hope.
And BTW, the average honeybee is by turns an environmental engineer, building subcontractor, security guard, obstetrician, childcare worker, reconnaissance pilot, news reporter, and agriculture worker, all in one lifespan, and all while serving as a Minuteman kamikaze pilot in the Bee National Guard for life. So even insects don't specialize, and all this was known to Heinlein then, as it is to us now.
So it's pretty clear, Heinlein knew he was talking out his own ass, fluently, even when that little ditty was still wet ink. And, to be fair, his point was that everyone should be good at all those things, not just do them. Which, looking at them all, is more a life-long bucket list than anything, because it'll take that long to check all those boxes, and some will never happen.
Gifted amateurs like Isambard K. Brunel are all well and good, for 200 years ago. We had That Guy locally, where I grew up. His name was William Mulholland. He emigrated to America from Ireland, and started out as a literal ditch-digger for the city of Los Angeles, scraping mud out of the irrigation canals that supplied the bustling metropolis of 10,000 with all the water that could be gotten from the muddy semi-annual creek known as the Los Angeles River. He was an uneducated, unlettered, self-taught civil engineer who worked his way up to chief engineer of the city from scratch, just because he could figure things out. He had worked his way up to chief engineer when he and a former L.A. mayor took a horse-and-buggy trip up the backside of the Sierra Range near the turn of the last century, and bought up land, in order to legally secure rights to water for what the city planners hoped would someday grow to 100,000 residents. Mulholland thought they were fools, and expected several millions. No points for guessing which side got that correct. He then devised a plan that no one had done, to move water uphill over several mountain ranges, hundreds of miles, in giant iron pipes and through-mountain tunnels, which, by the way, no one in the history of Ever had done before. It succeeded spectacularly, because although the water had to go uphill at times, Mulholland, despite lack of any formal surveying training or engineering pedigree, sussed out that it then went downhill even further, creating a giant siphon, and actually generated power rather than needing it, by the time the water got to L.A. It's literally half the reason L.A. ever came into existence as anything but a sleepy cow town backwater in the first place, and he figured it out, with nothing but common sense and a high school diploma, and it opened in 1913.
What undid him? That same lack of a college diploma or engineering pedigree or certifications.
He was working on another project, still large and in charge, and he placed an earthen dam in one of the canyons north of Los Angeles. What he didn't know was that the rock there was a terrible location for a dam. Which hydraulics, geology, and physics all demonstrated rather rudely one night in 1928, when the whole thing collapsed, killing at least 431 people (they've found bodies up to as recently as 1994) in the ensuing flood, ending Mulholland's career, and he died a broken man.
Specialization is what happens in stable societies, because that's what works. It's not bad, nor lazy. Nor inherently good. It just is.
Want to see a society where everyone can do everything? Go to any country from Trashcanistan to Shitholia, and observe their mud hut architecture, and their shit-flavored combination village well/swimming hole/washing machine/sewer. Let us know the average infant mortality and life expectancy thereabouts, and ponder the perennial question of why tsunamis and earthquakes lead to a great post-event mud hut housing boom. And why is it, do you think, that most modern cities seem to be located on a mound 50-300' deep thick, made up of the debris, garbage, and sh*t from the previous inhabitants?
Countries and societies where anyone can do anything are called primitive for a reason. This is why advanced societies brought the wheel to sub-Saharan Africa, and metal, horses, and the concept of livestock to the Americas.
Specialization and certification have been a thing since medieval guilds, a thousand years hence, exactly as fascinatingly and engrossingly laid out even in modern novels. The castles and cathedrals that awe-inspiringly stand to this day were built by master masons. The ones you don't see, because they were tried by amateurs and jackholes, aren't there.
Done right [pro-level caveat, right there] certifications and pedigrees keep the riff-raff out. Ask a generation of altar boys and scouts (referenced in JW's last post before this one) what happened when anyone could become a priest or scoutmaster. Before people like Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton turned nursing into an actual profession, it was about as reputable as acting, being composed almost entirely of good-for-nothing unmarriageable spinsters too dumb to cook and too lazy to do laundry, and washed up old syphilitic whores. (Really; you could look it up). Nowadays, with college degrees and background checks, we've almost gotten rid of all the spinsters!
I have no illusions about certifications and credentials. They have and will always be misused and abused. In 1910, anyone could buy and fly a plane. In the 1950s and '60s, passenger airplanes going down in flames was a regular occurrence. At times, multiple ones in the same week. Nowadays, with everything about the airline business from mechanics to builders to pilots to controllers vetted and regulated up the wazoo, major commercial aviation has killed nearly no one on an American carrier since 9/11. We've gone years (2009-2018) with zero deaths on major commercial carriers, while passengers and flights have expanded a thousand-fold and more over early years.
Yet, exactly as I've told hundreds to thousands of nursing students, my license or anyone else's only guarantees that on any given day, there's an 80% chance the holder won't kill someone outright through egregious stupidity or ignorance. That's all it demonstrates, and all it's meant to. The guy who graduated last in his medical school class is still called "doctor".
But the obvious psychopaths, sociopaths, idiots, and absolute morons are almost entirely weeded out. That's what specialization gets you.
That leaves only entertainment, journalism, the practice of law, and work in government to absorb those folks, and of those, only lawyers have to jump through any hoops. For the rest, most interviews are done on kneepads or couches, which explains most of what rises to the top in those fields.
In short, we're not forcing the right occupations to jump through the right hoops.
If every entertainer, journalist, and government worker (including politicians) was required to do, say, 4 years' honorable service in an armed branch of the military (thus excluding most of the Air Farce and Notional Guard - sorry guys) and get at least a 75% Fresh rating from their peers in every unit they ever served in to be qualified, think back and see how many of the current crop of douchenozzles in those trades would instead be frothing lattes at Starbuck's, or shovelling sh*t for the local septic company, instead of picking your pockets and shilling for open communism 24/7/365.
Everyone should, indeed, not just do many things, but do them as well as the professionals, to the extent such is possible, but everyone should be a specialist at something far exceeding their general abilities. That's where the money is, that's where society advances by leaps and bounds, and that's where we are most fully ourselves. You don't have to be as good as the experts in everything, but there damned sure ought to be something you can point to, that puts you in the upper ranks, even among peers.
To not be that, is to be a mediocrity among humans, which not only ought to be criminal, it's exactly what most criminals are, and where they rank.
Don't be a mediocrity among men.
Specialization is for everyone.