In my educational system, there is one simple rule: you can't attain an education level higher than that of your parents. If they have A levels, you get A levels. If they have a high school diploma, you must stop after high school and take a simple college course or pursue an intermediate-level vocation. If they only have vocational education, you won't be able to go to grammar school or university, no matter how bright you are. No exceptions. Even if you have an IQ of 200.

My question is:

  • What would be the effects of this limitation? Would there only be disadvantages or would there be some advantages too?

Also, education is completely free. Those who are entitled to do A-levels and pursue an academic career are sent to boarding schools operated by the state but comparable in standard and quality to Eton or Salem. Regardless of their intelligence - the only thing that matters is the education level of one's parents.

If you are unlucky and you are smart but your parents are dumb factory workers, you are sent to a 9-year secondary school where teachers deliberately try to lower your intelligence and aspirations. If you are caught studying something not on the curriculum or reading classical literature in your free time, you are punished. You are taught to obey and submit to the rule of the elite while you are prepared for a simple, manual job.

I imagine that inequality would be more severe as educational discrimination would now not only be tolerated but prescribed by law. Social mobility would come be minuscule. Intelligence levels would be passed on through the generations, leading to further stratification as workers will be taught to be dumb. An advantage would be that careers will be basically set upon birth and that there would be no over-qualification or shortage of people wishing to do manual, repetitive labor commonly associated with low qualifications. There will be no professors driving taxis or PhD's cleaning toilets.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't see how you've arrived at any of your "advantages". $\endgroup$ – wetcircuit Jun 9 '17 at 16:10
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    $\begingroup$ Are you aware that your system is degenerative? You will eventually have children of academics who don't want to study, so you get fewer and fewer academics, to the point where you don't have enough well-educated people for your society, and need to import them. $\endgroup$ – Burki Jun 9 '17 at 16:14
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    $\begingroup$ This is a nightmare scenario. Entertaining the advantages of it feels like entertaining the advantages of serfdom or slavery. $\endgroup$ – Ross Jun 9 '17 at 16:15
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    $\begingroup$ What happens when the parents' education levels differ? If you mother has a PhD, but your father only a masters, or if there's a wider gap? $\endgroup$ – Werrf Jun 9 '17 at 16:24
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    $\begingroup$ Are you assuming that there are no other cultures on your world? Because this is self correcting. Eventually, other cultures will outperform this one and run it into the ground. $\endgroup$ – ShadoCat Jun 9 '17 at 18:09

No social mobility

You've basically set up a caste system, in which it is possible to drop to lower castes but impossible to climb to a higher one.

The upper echelons will be filled with those who have a complete formal education, and they'll be the ones setting the rules. Below them are the less educated, all the way down.

The Degradation of Education

Essentially, education is going to become totally irrelevant. Under a system like this, those at the top are not going to want their children to fail, so they'll actually end up modifying education to fit the students rather than to reflect reality. Formal education will become rigid and formalised, just a set of rote principles to be memorised.


The thing is, you can't really run a technological society like that (I'm assuming it's a technological society, from the structure proposed). People would learn on the job, as apprentices, or they'd learn but not get certifications, just 'letters of recommendation' from their teachers.

The growth of education in the real world has been for practical reasons as much as for social ones. It became more important for workers to understand what they were doing, and mindless manual labour has become less and less important. That means that whatever the social construct behind it, if you have a technological society there will always been a fundamental need for a real education system. If the formal system is not accessible to those who need it, they'll create their own informal system, separate from the formal one.

Long term

In fact, and I'm just realising this as I type, you've set up a perfect situation for the formation of Morlocks and Eloi. You'd have one group with a very practical but informal and unstructured education, and another group with an education in more and more irrelevant 'classics' in theoretical charge.

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    $\begingroup$ The lower "we don't need no book learnin" crowd will eventually massively outnumber the few upper class. We only need to look at history to know how that turns out. $\endgroup$ – ShadoCat Jun 9 '17 at 18:08

In a world with modern technology, this system would fail very quickly. Today, most jobs require advanced education (some kind of college degree), and what is more important, education requirements are only getting higher. So, for economy to operate, we need more and more people with college degree.

Your system, as other commenter had mentioned, is degenerative. No one is allowed to outperform their parents, but in reality, many children will underperform. This will result in most people not having much education and civilization as we know it collapsing.

In medieval setting, on the other hand, this system may work for a long time, simply because education was luxury and not a necessity.

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    $\begingroup$ On top of that, lower income families typically have more children so the population of uneducated individuals would grow much faster. $\endgroup$ – Firelight Jun 9 '17 at 16:52

this system was widely used in the past in several countries, when attending school was related to paying tuition fees.

This created a vicious loop with very few exceptions:

  • If you attend school you have a better job
  • If you have a better job you gain more money
  • If you gain more money your offspring can attend school

resulting in rich classes having a barrier to social promotion.

No advantages in it.

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    $\begingroup$ Unless you count keeping the right sort of people in power as an advantage. And "the right sort" traditionally do see it that way. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Jun 9 '17 at 16:23
  • $\begingroup$ Not precisely this system... Those with less money could... Possibly get into a higher level?? $\endgroup$ – Malady Jun 9 '17 at 19:40

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