Not Quite Getting The Joke: Firemen And "Human Capital"
Print Friendly and PDF

Here's an article from Inside Higher Ed about the growing demands for firefighters to have college or even advanced degrees. 

The commenters at Marginal Revolution don't get what's going on: hiring and promoting firemen revolves around the never-ending lawsuits involving discrimination or reverse discrimination: Ricci, Vulcan Society, etc. This fact shouldn't be mysterious, because these lawsuits have been going on for 40 years. Big city newspapers have frontpage stories about these fireman and cop lawsuits several times per year. 

Now, courts have gone back and forth on the disparate impact in hiring and promoting of testing knowledge of firefighting techniques. In Ricci, the Supreme Court said the city can't change the rules after the game has been played. But, but Judge Garaufnis's ruling in Vulcan Society in New York was super-fundamentalist about disparate impact. 

In contrast to judges' uncertainty about employers' direct testing of relevant knowledge, courts over the decades have shown enormous deference to employers requiring college degrees. 

What we've seen over and over is that white guys, especially ones from fireman families, study firefighting much harder on average. As Emily Bazelon complained in Slate about Frank Ricci and other white New Haven firemen:

"As one Hispanic quoted anonymously by the New Haven Independent put it, the test favored 'fire buffs'—guys who read fire-suppression manuals on their downtime …"


That's just not fair!

But, now think about making degrees mandatory from the point of view of white firemen: So, if us white guys like studying firefighting so much, we can either do it on our own for a test (legally suspect) or go to the local JuCo and get an associate's diploma in firefighting (legally A-OK). And us white guys who want to be fire lieutenants can take a lot of U. of Phoenix courses and get a B.S. in Fire. And us white guys who want to be Fire Chiefs can get a Fire Masters.

Is the Obama Administration going to take on the Higher Education Industrial Complex? That's their base.

That's how we do everything else in America, so why not fire departments, too?

Print Friendly and PDF