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Thread: Bryan Caplan - The Case Against Education

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    Bryan Caplan - The Case Against Education

    As I have been considering this issue (personally I view much of the current education system a waste of time and money) this is one of the names that has publicly spoken out about this issue. It would be great if we as nation reformed an antiquated higher education system that takes to long, costs too much and does little to add to a person's productivity in the workforce or life. Curious on where others stand on this and what can be done to make our current system work better for our country. Here are a couple of links:

    bryan caplan the case against education - Bing video

    How Could a Professor Make ‘The Case Against Education'? — The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal

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    Re: Bryan Caplan - The Case Against Education

    Quote Originally Posted by Cynical View Post
    As I have been considering this issue (personally I view much of the current education system a waste of time and money) this is one of the names that has publicly spoken out about this issue. It would be great if we as nation reformed an antiquated higher education system that takes to long, costs too much and does little to add to a person's productivity in the workforce or life. Curious on where others stand on this and what can be done to make our current system work better for our country. Here are a couple of links:

    bryan caplan the case against education - Bing video

    How Could a Professor Make ‘The Case Against Education'? — The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal
    MR. Caplan is confusing vocational training with education. The idea that schools, colleges and universities exist solely to train workers is wrong. They do not. The training of workers is the brief of vocational training institutions. The training of citizens with knowledge and academic skills and the training of professionals with skills, knowledge and expertise is not vocational training. The idea that economists should feel they can invade and colonise higher educational institutions and plant the "Bottom Line" flag of ownership on campuses in order to maximise the productivity of business is abhorrent to me. Life is not just about the making of money and the maximisation of profits through efficiencies imposed by econometrics-trained bean counters. A Socrates, a Thomas Paine or an Andy Warhol are not the products of vocational training and are certainly not efficient contributors to the bottom lines of others. But they are vitally important to a healthy state, a complete nation and a real and vibrant society. Not everything should be yoked to serving the leviathan of business and the all-consuming pursuit of happiness/property/greed. We need thinkers and critics as much as we need creative engineers and compliant workers with marketable skills.

    In the video, Mr. Caplan uses the example of diamonds. He cites perfect diamonds as valuable when they are not. Industrial diamonds which are man-made are perfect and cheap due to their great supply. What makes natural diamonds valuable is not their perfection but their flaws, which make them verifiably rare and thus valuable. Caplan has diamonds backwards and he has education backwards too. Education is not about signalling, except to economists who are like-minded to Mr. Caplan and to some human resource departments. Education is about building better human beings who push forward the human condition to a better place. Greedy folks with their noses fixed to ledgers or computer spread-sheets do not enrich the human race, they enrich themselves and their stock holders. It is not all about the Benjamins and if you believe it is, then you never read Benjamin Franklin.

    Cheers.
    Evilroddy.
    Last edited by Evilroddy; 11-29-19 at 01:44 AM.
    "At the heart of quantum mechanics is a rule that sometimes governs politicians or CEOs - as long as no one is watching, anything goes.”
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    Re: Bryan Caplan - The Case Against Education

    Quote Originally Posted by Cynical View Post
    As I have been considering this issue (personally I view much of the current education system a waste of time and money) this is one of the names that has publicly spoken out about this issue. It would be great if we as nation reformed an antiquated higher education system that takes to long, costs too much and does little to add to a person's productivity in the workforce or life. Curious on where others stand on this and what can be done to make our current system work better for our country. Here are a couple of links:

    bryan caplan the case against education - Bing video

    How Could a Professor Make ‘The Case Against Education'? — The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal
    I would be fine if we shifted to a system designed more like England's. My bigger problem is with America's educational system is that it is largely designed for administrative efficiency which is part of the reason everything is becoming overly standardized.

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    Re: Bryan Caplan - The Case Against Education

    Quote Originally Posted by Evilroddy View Post
    Not everything should be yoked to serving the leviathan of business and the all-consuming pursuit of happiness/property/greed.
    Many people in the United States attended higher education for acquiring general knowledge in a way that is consonant with the comment you made. Hardly anyone who studies philosophy or political science is interested in pursuing this as a career. It's not a surprise since most jobs involving these fields would be research positions and would require a graduate degree. If you want an exception, it might come as a shock that large institutional investors and many other players in finance are very interested in geopolitical risks. I actually had a friend who declined a job offer doing exactly that. He preferred studying for a master's in management. Regardless, my experience talking with people outside the business school where I studied economics as an undergrad is that they're interested in learning about something: art, languages, politics, philosophy, etc. What they get out of their college education should be something like a good overview of classic works in fields they liked. Being able to synthesize properly and clearly complicated ideas, or being able to express yourself precisely are extremely useful skills. I'd go as far as saying that the whole point behind the classical liberal arts curriculum is to broaden your perspective and give you very general analytical skills. That's not useless for the people involved, nor is it useless for society. Of course, this argument relies on the assumption that the education in question is indeed well rounded. This means that you should be exposed and be brought to understand more conservative points of view as well as more liberal ones. If you spend or spent all your time reveling in far-left ideological masturbation, then I'd say the education was useless to you and a nuisance to society. I'd say the same if it was far-right ideological masturbation, but we all know that doesn't exist in today's American universities.

    Now, there is another side to this coin: how do you finance all of that? Because it's all nice and well to sweat and toil for years to learn about interesting ideas, but it's not free. It costs fees, books, transportation and years of foregone experience and revenues. If you want to ask the government to chip in, you cannot really ask Joe Average who didn't go to college to shut up when he says he thinks a liberal degree is useless. He's the one paying and it's not obvious to him how the taxes the government takes out of his pockets to put toward educating someone else will bring benefits either to him or to society more broadly. Moreover, anyone could be worried about the student: someday, they will have to work for a living, they probably financed a big chunk of their college education with a student loan and not all of them will be able to use their degrees for professional advancement.


    Personally, if I had any advice to give people who feel like they absolutely need to study liberal arts, it would be to think seriously about the financial aspect of this idea. Ultimately, all you need to study liberal arts are (i) some course structure and assigned material because it's sometimes hard to draw a big picture without expertise, (ii) people with whom to talk about it and from whom you can receive feedback. There are plenty of courses online for that and many forums where you can chat people about it. In a sufficiently densely populated area, you might be able to organize meetings face to face. It's not the options we lack here, just the imagination.

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    Re: Bryan Caplan - The Case Against Education

    Quote Originally Posted by Evilroddy View Post
    Education is not about signalling, except to economists who are like-minded to Mr. Caplan and to some human resource departments.
    That idea comes from a paper published in the 1970s by Michel Spence. The idea is that some people are more productive than others for reasons unrelated to education, but employers cannot easily tell people apart based on that intrinsic productivity. For example, some people might be smarter, better under pressure, or more conscientious. We all have some idea of what this means, but you understand the problem: all those things might matter to an employer, but they're hard to measure and less skilled people clearly have an incentive to lie. That is what we call a signaling game and there is an outcome of that game where people are perfectly sorted by productivity. To make it simple, if there are two types (high skill and low skill), the high skill guy will study just long enough to deter the low skill guy from imitating him, but not so long it actually makes the gains in higher wage be pointless because of increased studying time.

    The key prediction of that model? There should be DISCRETE bumps across degrees. Even accounting for time spent studying, income should take a bump upward when you complete your last course versus that of someone who didn't. And that actually is true in the data -- the degree itself is worth something, on top of the number of courses or years you spent studying. The signaling aspect of education is intuitive (we all know it's different on a resume to write you're 99% done versus being 100% done) and very real in the data, even if you can make the case it's not the whole story. Moreover, the Spence signaling idea says nothing about ACQUIRING SKILLS. In principle, as long as the degree is hard to get, getting the degree is a good way to set yourself apart from the rest. If the content matters, it's a whole different story -- i.e., signaling is the wrong concept in that case.

    Quote Originally Posted by Evilroddy View Post
    Education is about building better human beings who push forward the human condition to a better place. Greedy folks with their noses fixed to ledgers or computer spread-sheets do not enrich the human race, they enrich themselves and their stockholders. It is not all about the Benjamins and if you believe it is, then you never read Benjamin Franklin.

    Cheers.
    Evilroddy.
    Let me take issue with your use of "greed" to qualify the work of a business clerk sorting through what presumably is some accounting data. That's quite the hyperbole. It's not greedy to look after your own interests or those of your shareholders. Greed requires a form of excess in this department and, clearly, it cannot be made to apply across the board. You disparage people who are necessary to make commerce function in the same place you extoll the virtues of reading Benjamin Franklin, himself a businessman. And to say that they do not enrich humankind requires a very peculiar definition of those benefits. The answer this narrow-minded comment lies in the work of Adam Smith. It's one of his most famous quotes, actually, about a butcher and a baker.

    The people who mop floors enrich humankind, just as the people who are glued to their spreadsheets tend to enrich humankind. It's not because you get a paycheck out of it, even perhaps a fat paycheck, that it's suddenly not valuable.

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    Re: Bryan Caplan - The Case Against Education

    You are aware that the reason most students go to college and are willing to endure another 4 years (they already have had 13 years prior to college) of sitting in classrooms is because of the hope of getting a good paying "white collar" job with a fancy title.

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    Re: Bryan Caplan - The Case Against Education

    Quote Originally Posted by Drawdown View Post
    I would be fine if we shifted to a system designed more like England's. My bigger problem is with America's educational system is that it is largely designed for administrative efficiency which is part of the reason everything is becoming overly standardized.
    First and foremost higher education is designed to make a profit and to suck as much money out of the American people as possible (yes I have become very cynical towards higher education). Caplan is correct in noting that most students retain very little of the book knowledge and don't use most of what they learn in any practical way or work related setting from their four years in college. Furthermore, as he notes, they show very little in regard to increased critical thinking. And those facts will never change since only a tiny fraction of people have the interest or ability to become a well rounded scholar.

    I don't know what England's system is like so I cannot comment on it but our country and our people would be better served by a more practical approach to higher education that focused more on workplace related skills and knowledge.

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    Re: Bryan Caplan - The Case Against Education

    Quote Originally Posted by TheEconomist View Post
    Personally, if I had any advice to give people who feel like they absolutely need to study liberal arts, it would be to think seriously about the financial aspect of this idea. Ultimately, all you need to study liberal arts are (i) some course structure and assigned material because it's sometimes hard to draw a big picture without expertise, (ii) people with whom to talk about it and from whom you can receive feedback. There are plenty of courses online for that and many forums where you can chat people about it. In a sufficiently densely populated area, you might be able to organize meetings face to face. It's not the options we lack here, just the imagination.
    Exactly, nobody needs to sit in a classroom to learn any liberal arts type of knowledge, and as you noted we sure as hell don't need tax dollars to go into such an endeavor. Is a person really going to learn more or better history sitting in a classroom than they would by reading it in a book? If a person wants to study a topic like that they are free to do so and we don't need tax dollars for that.

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    Re: Bryan Caplan - The Case Against Education

    Quote Originally Posted by Cynical View Post
    First and foremost higher education is designed to make a profit and to suck as much money out of the American people as possible (yes I have become very cynical towards higher education). Caplan is correct in noting that most students retain very little of the book knowledge and don't use most of what they learn in any practical way or work related setting from their four years in college. Furthermore, as he notes, they show very little in regard to increased critical thinking. And those facts will never change since only a tiny fraction of people have the interest or ability to become a well rounded scholar.

    I don't know what England's system is like so I cannot comment on it but our country and our people would be better served by a more practical approach to higher education that focused more on workplace related skills and knowledge.
    People get out of college what they put into. Workplace related skills can be attained through work-study, internships, part-time jobs, etc if people pursue those. There is only so many skills you can teach in a classroom when people are still having knowledge layered on top. I suppose practical things like how to unclog a paper shredder may come in handy, but I am not sure how you would fit that into a classroom setting.

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    Re: Bryan Caplan - The Case Against Education

    Quick question:

    If you plan to get into the broadcasting field as on air talent in news, should you (A) go to a broadcasting school?
    Or should you (B) pick up proficiency in something else?
    Are you better off than you were four years ago?
    (I'll give you a minute to take off your mask so you can answer.)
    Quote Originally Posted by Wayne Jr View Post
    I'm willing to let you die and keep all my liberties, tho. We are not a team.

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