February 13, 2018


New Book's "Case Against Education" Is a Persuasive One (Logan Albright
Feb. 12th, 2018, FEE)

We know that more educated people tend to make more money, and it's easy to use that statistic as a defense of the education system, but Caplan's thesis is that a significant portion of the salary bonus for graduates comes not from increased ability. Instead, it is the result of what he calls "signaling." In other words, having a degree demonstrates to employers that you know how to follow orders, work hard, and finish what you've started, all valuable skills in the workplace. People with lower levels of education may well have these skills too, but a degree provides a convenient way for employers to separate the wheat from the chaff in a competitive labor market.

Viewed in this light, the idle musings of politicians for universal college enrollment actually constitute a nightmare scenario. In a world where everyone has a bachelor's degree, employers will look for graduate degrees to determine who is really willing to go the extra mile and work the hardest. Everyone will have to put in more time, money, and effort towards obtaining more educational credentials, only to end up exactly where they were before the well-intentioned degree inflation took place.

It's an arms race where everybody loses, and there's no reason it will stop at college degrees. The same do-gooders who made it possible for everyone to have a bachelor's degree will soon want to give everyone a Ph.D. Children used to start school at six years old. Then kindergarten kicked in at five. Then pre-K at four. Pretty soon, babies just out of the womb could be shuttled into formal education programs in the hope of getting a leg up on the increasingly stiff competition. And remember that this competition is not about who knows the most or can do the best job, it's simply about who has the most impressive credentials.

What are the implications of this observation? Caplan argues that the education system fails to actually teach anything very useful and that we, therefore, shouldn't pour billions of taxpayer dollars into it. As a society, it's a waste of money. It's also a huge waste of time to have children spend so many years in school when they could be doing something more productive.

The apparent paradox is this: while education may pay for an individual student, if everyone consumed less education, society would be no worse off either in terms of useful skills or premium wages. 

Posted by at February 13, 2018 3:54 AM