Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Going to College Is Selfish

Let's stop pretending education is a public good.

If you've always been a strong student, spending your time and money on education pays well. The evidence is overwhelming. Even after scrupulously correcting for ability bias—the brains, discipline, and other advantages you'd possess with or without school—formal education provides a big career boost. At an individual level, investing in your own education often compares favorably to not just corporate bonds, but long-run stock market returns.

Since individuals' investment in their own education is personally rewarding, you might infer that government investment in society's education would be socially rewarding. But this is a classic "fallacy of composition." If one person stands up at a concert, he sees better; it does not follow that if everyone stands up at a concert, everyone sees better. The same goes for education. Yes, schooling is selfishly lucrative—at least for strong students. On a societal level, however, it is shockingly wasteful for students weak and strong. Federal, state, and local government spends far too much money educating Americans.

The conventional case for government subsidies assumes that all of education's career gains come from building what economists call "human capital." A worker gets more education; his productivity and income go up. A nation gets more education; its productivity and income go up. If human capital is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, education is a path to individual and national prosperity: Education makes the pie bigger, so every worker can enjoy a bigger slice.

Unfortunately, human capital is far from the whole story. Most of the personal benefits of education arise not from improving on-the-job productivity, but from convincing employers that your on-the-job productivity is already good. Economists call this "signaling."

The truth is mixed, of course: Education as it actually exists blends crucial training in literacy and numeracy, which yields real skills, with thousands of hours of hoop-jumping to impress future employers. Selfishly speaking, this hoop-jumping pays. But socially speaking, it's a waste. Only one worker can look like the Best Worker in the Country, and only a quarter of workers can look like the Best 25 Percent.

When education isn't making the pie bigger, bigger slices for some necessarily mean smaller slices for others. As signaling's share of the value of education rises, education becomes an incinerator that burns society's money, time, and brains in a futile attempt to make everyone look better than average.

Solid Selfish Benefits, Modest Selfish Costs

At first glance, education's selfish financial benefits look enormous. High school grads outearn dropouts by 30 percent, and college grads outearn high school grads by 73 percent. But the true benefits are smaller than they look: High-ability people spend extra years in school, and the labor market independently rewards ability as well as education. As a result, some of what we call the "rewards of education" are disguised "rewards of ability." My best estimate is that just over half of the apparent premium is genuine.

Of course, that's just over half of a big number. But merely enrolling in school is no guarantee you'll capture it. About 25 percent of high school students fail to finish in four years; about 60 percent of full-time college students fail to finish in four years; and about half of advanced degree students never finish at all.

This is a vital caveat, because most of education's payoff comes from graduation—the so-called "sheepskin effect." If you spend three years in high school but then drop out, the labor market treats you only modestly better than someone who never started high school; if you spend three years in college and then drop out, the labor market treats you only slightly better than someone who never started college. Of course, the stronger your academic ability, the more likely you are to cross the finish line and win the prize.

What about education's costs? Despite common complaints about high tuition, it's the foregone earnings—the money students could have been making if they weren't in school—that dominate. Public K–12 is, of course, tuition-free. And while the price tag can be shockingly high at elite schools, the typical student at a public college pays far less than list price.

A Decent Deal for the Individual

Investors routinely measure assets' rate of return—how the investment's cost compares to its ultimate reward. What happens if we evaluate education in the same way?

TJoanna AndreassonJoanna Andreassonhe answer, to be brutally honest, hinges on your academic ability. Consider four archetypes. The Excellent Student, by definition, fits the profile of the typical master's degree holder; whether or not he actually has a master's degree, he has the same potential as the average person who earned one. The Good Student, similarly, fits the profile of a typical B.A. holder who does not continue on to graduate or professional school. The Fair Student fits the profile of the typical high school graduate who does not try college. And the Poor Student fits the profile of the typical high school dropout. Ideally, "fits the profile" is all-inclusive, covering cognitive ability, character, background, and every other trait.

Selfishly speaking, how does education measure up? High school provides a very good personal return. It's worthwhile for almost any student who wants a full-time career after graduation, and the decision to drop out is usually a mistake. Even Poor Students can reasonably expect handsome rewards.

College, by contrast, is only a solid deal for the academically inclined. When they start college, Excellent Students should foresee a 6.5 percent inflation-adjusted return—about as good as stocks. Good Students should foresee a return near 5 percent, or about as good as corporate bonds—not a no-brainer, but a sound investment nonetheless. Largely due to their high failure rate, however, Fair Students should expect a low 2.3 percent return on the same investment—and for Poor Students, the return is a paltry 1 percent.

Admittedly, even strong students often end up with subpar returns. Those who want to financially protect themselves should follow three simple rules: First, pick a "real" major. Science, technology, engineering, and math obviously count; so do economics, business, and even political science. Second, go to a respected public school. It probably won't charge list price, and even if it does, you'll get your money's worth. Third, toil full-time after graduation. Working irregularly after finishing college is like failing to harvest half the crops you plant. The same rules naturally boost returns for weaker students, too, but not enough to tip their scales in favor of college. They would still generally be better off investing their time and money elsewhere.

Low Social Benefits, High Social Costs

The selfish return to education hinges on compensation: How much pay do you forfeit while you're in school, and how much extra pay do you capture after you finish? The social return to education, in contrast, hinges on productivity: How much stuff does society forfeit while you're in school, and how much extra stuff does society capture after you finish?

Most researchers avoid the latter questions by casually making the extreme assumption that compensation and production are equal. Maybe education raises hard skills, maybe it raises soft skills. But it's all human capital, they say. After all, employers won't want you if you're paid more than you produce and can't get you if you're paid less than you produce.

If signaling is part of the story, in contrast, compensation and production are only equal on average. When your credentials match your ability, your productivity matches your pay. Otherwise, however, pay and productivity diverge. A Good Student with a B.A. earns what he produces. If the same student goes straight to work after high school, however, the market doesn't merely pay him less; it pays him less than he produces. Why? Because his lack of a college degree makes him look worse than he really is. If the Good Student gets an M.A., similarly, the market pays him more than he produces, because his credentials make him look better than he really is.

Thus, to calculate education's social value, you must know why education raises pay. If it's solely by raising worker productivity, society's gain equals the individual's gain. If part of the value of education comes from signaling, though, society gains less than the individual does. True, the economy is more productive—and society richer—when employers can tell which workers are good and which aren't. But once student rankings are out there, the social value ends. The pool of knowledge about worker quality would be essentially identical if everyone had one less credential.

So what's the true breakdown between human capital and signaling? A cautious path is to hand signaling full credit for the sheepskin effect—the benefits from graduating—but no more. This implies a signaling share of 38 percent for completing high school, 59 percent for a bachelor's degree, and 74 percent for a master's degree.

More plausibly, though, part of the ordinary year-to-year return on education (and not just the return from finally earning the diploma) comes from signaling as well. An extra semester in school may not say a lot about you, but it says something. Multiple approaches—curriculum tabulation, studies of credential inflation, and estimates of national returns—suggest that 80 percent is a reasonable estimate of signaling's total share.

At the same time, workers don't receive the full benefits of their education: When someone's income goes up, his taxes do as well—and his draw on government coffers goes down, since he's not eligible for as much assistance. From a social point of view, this tips the scales in education's favor.

But what about costs? Even economists who put no stock in signaling concede that education's social costs exceed its selfish costs, because students don't pay the full price of their education. Taxpayers fully subsidize K–12 schools, heavily subsidize public colleges, and partially subsidize private colleges. Sifting through the messy numbers, a reasonable bottom line is that one year of public education costs society $11,165 per high school student and $8,279 per four-year college student.

All this educational bean counting can admittedly come off as annoyingly narrow. Normal human beings take a more holistic approach, asking, "What kind of society do we want to live in—an educated society or an ignorant one?" If education fosters a dynamic, inclusive, secure, well-governed community, they suggest, shouldn't we do everything in our power to foster educational excellence?

Normal human beings score a solid point: We can and should investigate education's broad social implications. But that is a poor excuse for discarding what we already know. Evidence on education's social effects should supplement, not supplant, evidence on its narrow effects. In any case, looking at the big picture is no excuse for innumeracy. If education curtails murder, that is an argument in its favor. But we still need to ballpark (a) how much the extra education costs, and (b) how many murders it prevents. Instead of scorning bean counters, we should scrupulously count beans of every description.

One leading holistic argument goes like this: Heavy investment in education fertilizes society's creative potential by giving everyone the mental tools to innovate. Selfishly speaking, the quest for new ideas is quixotic; if you ever hit on the idea of a lifetime, copycats will probably gobble up most of your profits. Yet socially speaking, using education to spur innovation is hard-headed realism. If consistently investing 10 percent of national income in education elevates the annual economic growth rate from 1 percent to 2 percent, the social rate of return is itself a hefty 10 percent.

Selfishly speaking, educational hoop-jumping pays. But socially speaking, it's a waste.

Unfortunately, this stirring sermon is wishful thinking. Macroeconomists, to their dismay, have failed to find an unambiguous effect of education on economic growth. It's not clear that education increases countries' living standards at all, much less that education makes them increase at a faster rate. If you can't tell if your machine moves, you may safely assume it's not a perpetual motion machine. Researchers who specifically test whether schooling accelerates progress have little to show for their efforts. Individual benefits are real, of course, but gains for some are mostly offset by losses for others.

The argument that education benefits society by curtailing crime rests on firmer ground. About 65 percent of American inmates never earned a standard high school diploma. Around 15 percent of white male dropouts and 70 percent of black male dropouts spend some time in prison by their mid-30s. These rates are roughly two-thirds lower for men who finished high school and miniscule for college grads.

Still, as usual, there is less to schooling than meets the eye. Correcting for IQ and grades makes education look mildly less effective at preventing crime. The game changer, though, is personality: Future criminals, like future dropouts, are impulsive, aggressive, and defiant. When researchers correct for early antisocial attitudes and behavior, education's measured effect on crime plummets. An extra year of education cuts expected lifetime jail time by less than one week, and reduces the probability of serving any time behind bars by just one-half of one percentage point.

Yet there's a subtler reason to dial down estimates of education's pacifying power: signaling. Education can defuse individual criminality while having little impact on society's criminality. Hand one delinquent a high school diploma and he looks better to employers, relative to his peers. This boosts his legal income, making crime less attractive in comparison. But if you hand every delinquent a high school diploma, the credential loses its worth. It no longer boosts legal income, leaving crime as attractive as ever.

A Bad Deal for Society

Social returns hinge on the power of signaling. The higher signaling's share of the value of education, the lower education's social return. As you near pure signaling, the social return falls to zero and even goes negative—we're spending time and money on credentials that don't make us any more productive.

Let's explore the two signaling scenarios we touched on earlier. Recall that the cautious approach was to treat all sheepskin effects as signaling, but everything else as human capital.

In this scenario, social returns are mediocre to ruinous. Even Excellent Students should expect to yield society about 4 percent of its investment for high school, 2 percent for college, and –3 percent for a master's. As ability falls, so do returns: The corresponding figures for Fair Students are 3 percent, 0 percent, and –6 percent. (Male Poor Students are the only significant outlier here: The youthful crime rate among this cohort is so high that the marginal reformatory effect of high school remains socially rewarding.) These low returns are the rule even though education provides an array of good things to society as a whole. All the computations grant that education boosts worker productivity and workforce participation and that it cuts unemployment and crime. Nonetheless, the value of the combined benefits is meager.

And there's a problem with this cautious signaling scenario: It's actually too cautious. If we switch to my preferred estimate and assume signaling accounts for 80 percent of schooling's benefits instead of just the sheepskin effects, the results are beyond bleak. Social returns are low for every level of academic difficulty and every level of student ability. Sending Poor Students to high school yields a wretched 0.2 percent return, and every other educational investment is in the red.

To repeat, this does not mean schools don't improve their students. They do. But it's a long walk for a short drink. As a rule, society fails to earn back what it spends putting kids through high school, college, or beyond. At the current margin, education's numerous social benefits pale before its staggering social cost.

How can social returns be so low when selfish returns are often substantial? Because signaling is a redistributive game, serving individuals a larger piece of the pie without enlarging the whole. As a result, schooling is collectively harmful even when individually helpful. You might be tempted to ask, "How can there be too much schooling if schooling is lucrative?" But that's like asking, "How can there be too much air pollution if cars are convenient?" When your choices harm bystanders, what's best for you and what's best for mankind can diverge.

Most listeners are willing to accept that education is largely wasteful signaling. But when I suggest that we should waste less by cutting government spending on education, popular resistance kicks in. You would think conceding the wastefulness of education spending would automatically entail support for austerity, but it doesn't. The typical reaction is to confidently assert that education budgets should be redirected, not reduced.

Such confidence is misplaced. The discovery of wasteful spending does not magically reveal constructive alternatives. Prudence dictates a two-step response.

Step 1: Stop wasting the resources.

Step 2: Save those resources until you discover a good way to spend them.

Not wasting resources is simple and speedy. Don't just stand there; do it. Finding good ways to use resources is complex and slow. Don't just do it; think it through. Fortunately, you can apply saved resources anywhere. Time and money wasted on education could pave roads, cure cancer, subsidize childbearing, cut taxes, or pay down government debt before our fiscal day of reckoning arrives.

Most libertarians dream of a voucher system, where schools are private but funding is public. Yet to my mind, vouchers—and "school choice" more generally—are only a marginal improvement over the status quo. Since education is mostly signaling, the chief problem is high quantity, not low quality.

America's schools, like its sports stadiums, are white elephants. The main drawback of massive government investment isn't that the white elephants are poorly managed or uncompetitive; it's that they're far too numerous and lavish. Government should leave both industries to the free market, viewing mass bankruptcies not as market failures but as market corrections.

Photo Credit: Joanna Andreasson

Bryan Caplan is a professor of economics at George Mason University and blogger for EconLog. He is author of The Case Against Education: Why the Education System is a Waste of Time and Money (Princeton University Press).

Media Contact Reprint Requests

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Mark22||

    If consistently investing 10 percent of national income in education elevates the annual economic growth rate from 1 percent to 2 percent, the social rate of return is itself a hefty 10 percent.

    How about we start by stopping to use the language of private markets to public spending decisions? Government spending is never "investing", no matter who its benefits.

    Let's stop pretending education is a public good.

    I don't see anybody pretending it's "a public good"; in what way is it "nonexcludable and nonrivalrous"? A "public good" ("good" as in "goods and services") isn't the same as "good for the public" ("good" as in "opposite of bad").

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    The good in "public good" is not a reference to goods as in "goods and services".

    In economics there is the concept of external costs and benefits. They are external in that they accrue to people other than the ones participating in the activity that generates them. Many consider them a market failure because the market can't make those who generate external costs or those who benefit from external benefits pay for them.

    Generally when progressives speak of "public goods", they are referring to external benefits. The market will always under fund such external benefits, so the government must step in and fund them.

    And yes, many argue that education is a "public good" in this sense, that education benefits society as a whole.

  • Agammamon||

    Then they're using the term 'public good' wrong - what you are describing is called an 'externality' (in this case a positive one) while Mark22 is correct in his definiton of 'public good'.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    A quick google search for "public good" suggests that both definitions are valid.

  • Mark22||

    A quick google search for "public good" suggests that both definitions are valid.

    The first definition is for "a public good". The second definition is for "the public good". Education may be "for the public good" and "for the good of humanity", but it is not "a public good" or "a good of humanity".

  • Quixote||

    And let's not forget the direct menace to public safety--a clear evil rather than a good--posed by individuals who, on account of their education, know how to "twist language" and "stir up controversy." See the documentation of America's leading criminal "satire" case at:

    https://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

  • Flinch||

    A timely article with things that need discussion. It occurred to me years ago that the main reason a college education gets people a 'better job' is a function of more and more american businesses being run by the degreed: they have complicated their companies by erecting structures that effectively lock out non-college grads. Education itself is a prime example of this normalcy bias run amok: people with great life experience and knowledge are locked out from teaching because they don't have a degree. When I think of people such as Thomas Edison, where was his time best spent: experimenting, or developing a cv so he could talk about what might be done?
    As for addressing the hallucinations of the likes of Bernie Sanders and the vision of "free" college for everybody, what is a college to offer the masses: a four year course of remedial writing and math, or the abandonment of standards for the sake of federal dollars? I think we know where this goes. Must we turn a college education into toilet paper before we admit the requirements of too many employers are excessive? Fix our high schools, and... apprenticeships are still ok (believe it or not).

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Some of Thomas Edison's inventions were just sheer trial and error, and a more informed experimenter might have been better at weeding out the obvious. I don't know any details of his light bulbs, for instance. I do know that a lot of other people were working along the same lines; his first practical light bulb bore little resemblance to what ended up being manufactured). How much more efficient would his trials have been if someone with a scientific education had been in charge with the same energy and resources?

  • Longtobefree||

    Those 'with a scientific education' would have formed a government committee do evaluate the possibility of a light bulb, argued for years about who was best suited to chair the committee, applied for several federal grants, whined about not getting any grants, published 47 papers on how a light bulb might look, considered the impact of light bulbs on candle makers, and retired on generous pensions.
    All in a candle lit hall.

  • Greg F||

    How much more efficient would his trials have been if someone with a scientific education had been in charge with the same energy and resources?


    History says they were less efficient.

  • Vernon Depner||

    ...a more informed experimenter might have been better at weeding out the obvious.

    But the point is—they didn't.

  • SIV||

    Just think if Henry Ford had only been smarter and invested his talents in planned public transportation!

  • Brett Bellmore||

    I think you're missing a point: At that time a scientific education didn't have much to say about how to make a working light bulb, that wasn't almost immediately obvious. It really was, at that level of scientific knowledge, mostly a matter of doing a lot of trial and error.

    Not at all like the contrary case of Tesla inventing the polyphase electric motor, which really was a matter of education and brilliance.

    Take finding new drugs, particularly antibiotics. We're only now starting to get enough knowledge of biochemistry to engage in what they call "rational drug design"; It's even now mostly trial and error.

  • CE||

    There were thousands of engineers and scientists with scientific educations. All of them together came up with fewer patents than Edison.

  • Gorbag||

    You seem to think Edison actually invented the things that he has his name on... that's not how his lab worked.

  • markm23||

    Edison didn't "invent" the light bulb. Arguably, he perfected one form of the incandescent bulb in 1879, and invented the electric power company.

    Joseph Swan, an English engineer without a staff or a large laboratory to try thousands of variations, arrived at essentially the same technology as Edison, in the same year. But neither Swan nor anyone at Edison can claim to have originated the idea of electric lighting by electrically heating a filament to white hot in an evacuated glass bulb. In 1838, Belgian lithographer Marcellin Jobard invented an incandescent light bulb with a vacuum atmosphere using a carbon filament.I don't think he could achieve a good enough vacuum to keep the filament from burning up, and generating the electricity was a problem, too.

    Swan used a charred thread for the filament, and obtained a patent in 1860 - but the vacuum was still not good enough. He went back to work on it in 1875, lit a few houses in 1878, and publicly demonstrated an incandescent bulb early in 1879 - but in this one, the filament was a carbon cylinder, much too low resistance for a practical connection to the DC generators of the time. (With AC, he could have used a step-down transformer right in the socket, but no practical transformer existed yet.) He then returned to the charred-thread filament, gradually improving this. In 1881, Swan bulbs lit a theater in England. A few years later, he formed a company to sell electric lighting.

  • markm23||

    Edison began work in 1878 - it looks like he first filed a patent (which should have been rejected for prior art, but the patent office was blissfully unaware of technology on the other side of the Atlantic), and _then_ tried thousands of different materials for the filament, eventually settling on either a charred linen thread or a charred bamboo fiber as good enough to go into production. A few years later, he bought out Swan, who had meanwhile developed a process of extruding nitrocellulose threads to make better filaments. (There was prior art for this, in an attempt to make better cloth - see the history of Rayon.) But Edison's BIG accomplishment was the simultaneous creation of the electric company - you couldn't sell light bulbs without electricity, and you couldn't sell electricity without some use for it, so it took a big, well-financed organization to get started on anything but the smallest scale.

  • markm23||

    And of course, finally it was GE's development of the tungsten filament (invented in Hungary) that created the light bulbs that ruled in the 20th century. That was taking an obvious idea - use the highest-melting element - and setting a large development lab to work through all the practical difficulties of forming that hard and rather brittle metal into a fine wire, and making enough of that for millions of bulbs a year. At the same time, they were changing electric power generation and distribution over to AC - combining some of Tesla's ideas (although they found it impossible to work with Tesla), and various other inventions into a working whole, with a mathematical technique (representing AC quantities in complex numbers) that made circuit calculations practical.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    It's also interesting to compare Edison and the Wright Brothers. Their first "controlled flight" was a fraud in many ways; for instance, it could not take off under its own power, had to be catapulted; and that is fundamental to a flying machine in my definition. Their so-called scientific wind tunnel investigations were so cursory that they never investigated solid wings with a flat bottom and curved surface, but just assumed the curve itself generated lift, so they had to build biplanes to have any strength. This went hand-in-glove with wing warping for control, which literally was bending the flimsy wings instead of using hinged controls, and when Glenn Curtis used hinged controls to get around their patents, the resultant patent wars crippled aircraft development in the US. The government had to buy the patent to get any planes made for WW I. Meanwhile the Europeans were fumbling away like Edison and were far ahead of Americans by the time WW I started, just ten years later.

    It's a very interesting comparison. Would the Europeans have been flying around the same time and have made the same progress absent the Wright Brothers? Did their wind tunnel experiments influence anyone or any aspect of flying development? Is this an argument against "scientific" engineering as much as Edison's light bulb progress is an argument against just bu,bling around?

  • Radioactive||

    ",,,and that is fundamental to a flying machine in my definition." sooo I guess every one voted to accept your definition? methinks your hindsight is 20/20...

  • Brett Bellmore||

    The original Wright flyer used a sled landing gear instead of wheels, and so had a lot of friction on the ground. That's the only reason it couldn't take off under it's own power at first. It was perfectly capable of sustained flight once it got past that.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Good points. I would just like to bring ip a few items for consideration:

    1) because of the collapse of primary education (thank YOU public service unions) college has become a last ditch attempt to instill some degree of functional literacy in students. Widespread literacy IS a public good. There are, however, cheaper ways to intill it. Outlawing Teachers' Unions and giving their administration 12 hours to get out of the country springs to mind...

    2) a college degree has become a necessary ticket for employment because the more reliable ways of filering out work-shy bums, the incompetent, amd the trouble makers dur8ng the interview process have been made illegal. Before we can change the place higher education has taken as an employment filter, we need to give employers more latitude in weeding out the liabilities.

    3) while we may not grasp this on an instinctive level, most college students occupy a social niche roughly comperable to that of the children of the wealthy during the edwardian age. Colleges have historically been places to put the children of the upper classes until something useful could be found for them to do. The other traditional place for such children has been the military. But this gums up the military, and we're using them right now.

  • SQRLSY One||

    I like your point #2! IQ tests could be used to find qualified job candidates for jobs that require a well-functioning brain, but IQ tests are outlawed for us as peons, if we are peon business-owners or peon business-managers.

    As usual, though, Government Almighty makes special exceptions for itself. When Government Almighty hires enlisted soldiers-sailors-etc., Government Almighty gives them "aptitude tests" that businesses cannot use, and these "aptitude tests" are "de facto" IQ tests.

    Would Government Almighty please GTFO of my face, and NOT mind my business?!?!? THAT would help the "education inflation" problem!!!!

  • sharmota4zeb||

    The first intelligence tests were developed to sort WWI recruits into officers and regular fighters. They were mostly questions about upper case American life. Generals complained that the tests funneled useless people into officer training programs.

  • Radioactive||

    how else do you get all the idiots in the same room?

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Yes, #2 is an interesting aspect of government interference I had never heard of before. I come into libertarianism from the practical experiential side of having never seen government be competent at anything, and in fact messing up everything they touch. Only later did individual liberty as a philosophy come into the picture.

    Government screws up everything it touches one way or another, always requiring further government intervention to correct the previous government intervention. Slavery was a government madate. The 14th amendment was about the simplest and cleanest government fix of any I can think of, Slaughterhouse ruined it, Plessy vs Ferguson cemented its narrow-minded government endorsement of bigotry, then the 1960s civil rights acts swung in the opposite direction by eliminating freedom of association.

    In contrast, if governments had not mandated slavery and bigotry, it wouldn't have required a million dead and a century of mandated inequality to get to legal equality, and how many more years will it be before mandated bigotry disappears, with affirmative action, gay bakers, and other government control? All such government changes are massive instantaneous disruptions which mostly just breed resentment on both sides, for moving too fast and too slowly.

    If, instead, bigotry were legal but not mandated, society would change things much faster and more smoothly.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    RE: point 2

    During much of my industry career I spent a week or two each year as a campus recruiter. (The rest of the time I was an applied scientist and internal technical consultant.)

    I think we could usually filter out the under-achievers, and most often hired those who could and did excell. What can distort that process includes legal or policy requirements for things like "diversity" and when non-technical people get involved in making hiring decisions for technical staff.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Say, rather, when mouth-breathing morons involve themselves in anything more technical than finger painting.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    No, you need a masters degree to get a job finger painting. It is called art therapy. I met a guy with a masters degree in art therapy who made a living teaching crackheads to color picture books, because medicare compensated his company for every crackhead they provided therapy to.

  • chemjeff||

    2) a college degree has become a necessary ticket for employment because the more reliable ways of filering out work-shy bums, the incompetent, amd the trouble makers dur8ng the interview process have been made illegal.

    That's not really true. It's more like a college degree is a good-enough proxy for 'generally competent employee' for those unwilling or unable to put in the effort into really digging into a potential applicant's background.

  • SQRLSY One||

    "... for those unwilling or unable to put in the effort into really digging into a potential applicant's background."

    Meanwhile, Government Almighty FORBIDS to the employer, the quick and efficient method for sniffing out ONE of the biggest qualifiers for advanced-tech jobs these days, which would be an IQ test! Employers can't do that, because of "disparate impacts" against the intellect-challenged. Meanwhile, Government Almighty carves out a special exception for themselves, as they are SOOO wont to do...

    When Government Almighty hires enlisted soldiers-sailors-etc., Government Almighty gives them "aptitude tests" that businesses cannot use, and these "aptitude tests" are "de facto" otherwise-forbidden IQ tests.

  • mtrueman||

    "Meanwhile, Government Almighty FORBIDS to the employer, the quick and efficient method for sniffing out ONE of the biggest qualifiers for advanced-tech jobs these days, which would be an IQ test! "

    How do you know? Why would an IQ test be quicker and better than the employer spending the time to talk with the applicant about the job or anything else that comes up?

  • Greg F||

    Why would an IQ test be quicker and better than the employer spending the time to talk with the applicant about the job or anything else that comes up?


    When interviewing for technical positions talking with the applicant is not going to be very useful. Back in the day we had a written test that involved math and understanding theory. It required the applicant to work through problems that would demonstrate their ability to apply the theory and do the math to arrive at the correct solution.

  • EscherEnigma||

    When I was applying for my current job I did an aptitude test, gave my future boss samples of my course-work, and spent a few hours talking tech with my would-be co-workers.

    So I don't know what world you're living in, but employers certainly can test skills.

    And the problem with IQ tests is that while they're good at measuring retardation, they're shit at measuring "above average". Most folks that want to talk about IQ are misusing it horribly.

  • Radioactive||

    don't equate high IQ with good employee...most of the high IQ types can barely dress themselves everyday let alone get to work on time and actually produce something...

  • vek||

    1. You can do aptitude testing. I actually just was looking at this the other day for my business. That said, there are a bunch of BS restrictions on how and why you can use it, because discrimination and stuff! One of the main requirements is it has to be directly applicable to the job being done, so no math test for a janitor or whatever to ensure you are hiring an over qualified janitor, who will probably do better than a dumb janitor.

    2. As far as things go, IQ is actually VERY important for life success. A high IQ person born to crack heads in the trailer park is statistically more likely to make more money than a below average IQ person born to millionaires. So it is VERY important to outcomes.

    That said, a high IQ does not guarantee anything. Somebody can be high IQ, but have horrible work ethic, or horrible people skills. A low IQ person could have great work ethic, or people skills. HOWEVER there are some tasks where the low IQ person will simply never be capable of doing the work, no matter how hard they try. The high IQ person may be capable, but too lazy to go through the effort. There is a difference.

    In short, you can't run a modern high end graphics PC game from 2018 on a 2x86, no matter how much you want to, it just ain't gonna work. But you might also have problems running it on a brand new PC if the graphics card likes to sit around and get stoned instead of render pixels ;)

  • Longtobefree||

    Any college that accepts students needing any 'remedial' courses should be prohibited from receiving any federal funds, and from accepting any students that receive federal funds.
    This until all federal involvement in education is abolished in the name of reason.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Or require that the high schools which graduated them pay the remedial expense.

    Or void the diploma and require the high school to finish their education.

  • LarryA||

    Or void the diploma and require the high school to finish their education.

    Um, no. If a high school produces illiterate graduates, don't send them back into the flawed system and expect improvement. Shut the school down and start over with successful schools.

  • silver.||

    "Or void the diploma and require the high school to finish their education."

    My college is trying its hardest to lose accreditation, and this makes me anxious.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Actually, it might be a game changer if some colleges catered to high school drop outs. Those folks already demonstrated a willingness to forego a tax payer funded benefit in exchange for more freedom.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    It's the government's fault that high school graduates are illiterate and innumerate. Keeping such graduates out of college is simply punishing them for the malpractice of the public school teachers.

    We really should tell the teachers' unions they have 12 ours to get out of the country....

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    Keeping such graduates out of college is simply punishing them for the malpractice of the public school teachers.

    I'm not exactly certain how the children of inherently dysfunctional communities are the responsibility of teachers. While teachers' unions are certainly sclerotic, people are kidding themselves if they think charter or private schools are going to turn every student into an advanced scholar.

    Teachers, in the collective sense, aren't going to be able to overcome the general apathy and stupidity of our inner-city liberal populations.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    There was a time, before the Progressive Left attached themselves to the Black community like so many leeches, when poor black children going to impoverished schools in Jim Crow territory managed (on the whole) to graduate able to read and do basic math.

    Maybe that has changed for good, but I doubt it. Poor black kids going to private schools do a damn sight better than their public school counterparts.

    It probably isn't entirely due to the mouth breathers currently infesting the teaching profession....but they sure don't help.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    There was a time, before the Progressive Left attached themselves to the Black community like so many leeches, when poor black children going to impoverished schools in Jim Crow territory managed (on the whole) to graduate able to read and do basic math

    Not necessarily, but it's relative. Even at the poor rates they're at now, literacy rates are far better than they were during the pre-WW2 era. High school graduation rates were far lower as well. The difference is that we're now trying to cram all these graduates into college, and while they are more literate than their counterparts from 70-80 years ago, they're not college or even high school level literate.

  • mpercy||

    "While teachers' unions are certainly sclerotic, people are kidding themselves if they think charter or private schools are going to turn every student into an advanced scholar."

    I doubt anyone thinks a school or teacher of any sort can turn "every student into an advanced scholar."

    But charter schools and private schools in even the most dysfunctional neighborhoods attract the subset of students and parents who genuinely want an education. If nothing else, they weed out those on whom education dollars are simply wasted because they would rather be doing anything but being in school.

    Hopeful parents camp out overnight to be in line to apply.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    But charter schools and private schools in even the most dysfunctional neighborhoods attract the subset of students and parents who genuinely want an education. If nothing else, they weed out those on whom education dollars are simply wasted because they would rather be doing anything but being in school.

    The problem is that we have to figure out how to accommodate every kid, not just the ten percent that manage to get into these schools.

    The alternative is simply admitting that these schools should function as nothing more than juvenile holding pens where the kids spend a bit of time before beginning their prison sentences, which is essentially what they are now.

  • mpercy||

    Are there really people who have not come to terms with the fact that many schools are in fact nothing more than "holding pens where the kids spend a bit of time before beginning their prison sentences, which is essentially what they are now"?

    Not very kid can be accommodated. Hell, many many kids have zero interest in being accommodated; they seem to think learning anything is somehow beneath them. Why expend the money, time, and effort to try to force them to, especially when it endangers teachers and other students who want to learn?

  • mpercy||

    An offbeat but very interesting take on schools: http://www.ishmael.org/Educati.....ooling.cfm

    "Within our cultural matrix, every medium tells us that the schools exist to prepare children for a successful and fulfilling life in our civilization (and are therefore failing). This is beyond argument, beyond doubt, beyond question.

    "Granted that the schools do a poor job of preparing children for a successful and fulfilling life in our civilization, but what things do they do excellently well? Well, to begin with, they do a superb job of keeping young people out of the job market. Instead of becoming wage-earners at age twelve or fourteen, they remain consumers only--and they consume billions of dollars worth of merchandise, using money that their parents earn. Just imagine what would happen to our economy if overnight the high schools closed their doors. Instead of having fifty million active consumers out there, we would suddenly have fifty million unemployed youth. It would be nothing short of an economic catastrophe.

  • mpercy||

    "During the Great Depression it became urgently important to keep young people off the job market for as long as possible, and so it came to be understood that a twelfth-grade education was essential for every citizen. As before, it didn't much matter what was added to fill up the time, so long as it was marginally plausible. Let's have them learn how to analyze a poem, even if they never read another one in their whole adult life. Let's have them read a great classic novel, even if they never read another one in their whole adult life. Let's have them study world history, even if it all just goes in one ear and out the other. Let's have them study Euclidean geometry, even if two years later they couldn't prove a single theorem to save their lives. All these things and many, many more were of course justified on the basis that they would contribute to the success and rich fulfilment that these children would experience as adults. Except, of course, that it didn't. But no one wanted to know about that. No one would have dreamed of testing young people five years after graduation to find out how much of it they'd retained. No one would have dreamed of asking them how useful it had been to them in realistic terms or how much it had contributed to their success and fulfilment as humans. What would be the point of asking them to evaluate their education? What did they know about it, after all? They were just high-school graduates, not professional educators.

  • mpercy||

    "But the last thing we want our children to be able to do is to live independently of our society. We don't want our graduates to have a survival value of 100%, because this would make them free to opt out of our carefully constructed economic system and do whatever they please. We don't want them to do whatever they please, we want them to have exactly two choices (assuming they're not independently wealthy). Get a job or go to college. Either choice is good for us, because we need a constant supply of entry-level workers and we also need doctors, lawyers, physicists, mathematicians, psychologists, geologists, biologists, school teachers, and so on. The citizen's education accomplishes this almost without fail. Ninety-nine point nine percent of our high school graduates make one of these two choices.

    "And it should be noted that our high-school graduates are reliably entry-level workers. We want them to have to grab the lowest rung on the ladder. What sense would it make to give them skills that would make it possible for them to grab the second rung or the third rung? Those are the rungs their older brothers and sisters are reaching for. And if this year's graduates were reaching for the second or third rungs, who would be doing the work at the bottom? The business people who do the hiring constantly complain that graduates know absolutely nothing, have virtually no useful skills at all. But in truth how could it be otherwise?

  • mpercy||

    "So you see that our schools are not failing, they're just succeeding in ways we prefer not to see. Turning out graduates with no skills, with no survival value, and with no choice but to work or starve are not flaws of the system, they are features of the system. These are the things the system must do to keep things going on as they are.

  • ||

    The interesting lacuna is that Daniel Quinn agrees with Prof. Caplan that education is and ought to be preparation for economic life. Although Quin was educated partly in Austria in the 1950s, he has no European-type concept of education as preparation for (a) public civic life in a democracy and (b) private life, viz. whether or not to watch TV for the next 15,000 evenings of your life. I doubt this is what Jefferson had in mind.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Also consider the living conditions of the students. Urban politicians take such a huge cut from the local economy that many students do not have enough heat at home. This makes academic excellence difficult.

  • Radioactive||

    why are you giving them a head start?

  • chemjeff||

    There are two sides to the remedial instruction aspect of a college education.

    On one hand, the colleges make a lot of money off of these. You don't need full Ph.D. professors teaching these classes, non-Ph.D. adjuncts will do just fine since they are not really college-level courses, so the cost of instruction is low. So they can be a "net profit center" for a college.

    On the other hand, they are such a hassle from the faculty's point of view. Ask any instructor whether they would rather teach an advanced topic in their field to students who really want to learn, or a remedial topic in their field to students who don't really want to be there in the first place, and they will choose the former over the latter every day. They originate a great deal of the headaches and stress for the staff of any college. Plus, students who start at the remedial level tend not to continue on to graduation, and colleges are judged harshly on their retention metrics.

  • Cloudbuster||

    The argument that education benefits society by curtailing crime rests on firmer ground. About 65 percent of American inmates never earned a standard high school diploma. Around 15 percent of white male dropouts and 70 percent of black male dropouts spend some time in prison by their mid-30s. These rates are roughly two-thirds lower for men who finished high school and miniscule for college grads

    It is sloppy thinking to assume that the inmates are criminal because they dropped out rather than their criminality and poor academic achievement are both symptoms of something else.

  • Kyfho Myoba||

    85% of people in prison grew up without a father in their life.

    Of the 27 most recent mass shooters in the USA, 26 grew up without their biological father.

    Approximately 80% of the benefits [to children] of a two parent family come from the father alone.

    Feminism is cancer.

  • silver.||

    "Of the 27 most recent mass shooters in the USA, 26 grew up without their biological father."

    I generally agree with you that the shooters/single mother connection is ignored, but when searching for verification for this statistic, I couldn't really find a compelling source. Certainly it's not the 27 most recent mass shooters. They used some other benchmark... deadliest maybe? It was cherry-picked. I'm being a pedant about the source because it's such a controversial fact that it's being eviscerated by the mainstream.

    This OP/ED, although also not well-sourced, offers some additional background on the Sandy Hook and Parkland shooters, and does quote another, similar finding:

    "CNN once looked at the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history, noting that, of the seven killers under 30, only one had his biological father around his whole childhood."

    I've no idea when CNN did this examination, but don't give the naysayers leverage to dismiss your arguments on technicalities.

  • Radioactive||

    CNN once looked...at anything that didn't concur with their narrative? never happened...fake news...

  • Lester224||

    Free and low cost birth control. It's worth the investment. The "abstinence only" crowd is stupid.

  • Trainer||

    Publicly funded education is scam, a failed experiment that needs to end. Young children aren't allowed to develop properly because they are warehoused. The things that are really important for elementary school children can literally be taught with pencil and paper and few good books of literature and poetry but none of that is addressed in our current system. And then it's all down hill from there as the educational establishment tries to cover up the mistakes made in early childhood and elementary school. By the time children are at the age to really learn academics, they are so messed up and burned out that no amount of money we throw on them will matter even at the college level.

  • StackOfCoins||

    A public school is an expensive (for taxpayers) daycare for parents. I'm sure there are a handful of public schools that do a decent job, IN SPITE OF (not due to) their curricula and administration. I was fortunate to go to fairly nice ones; they still failed at instilling anything like a work ethic in me. That was something I had to arrive at myself, after my parents and school decided my test scores were enough to carry me (they weren't).

  • Trainer||

    I would say the teachers at those schools are doing a great job despite having to work at any public school. Schools don't do good jobs- they are just a tool for the people working in them.

  • Thinks4himself||

    Horace Greeley championed public education largely as a way to indoctrinate and control all of the immigrants that were flooding the country. It doesn't seem that public education as an institution has gotten very far past that mission.

    That said, the article misses the social value of indoctrination. Most cultures and countries indoctrinate as a way to standardize the stories. I'm not sure how I'd model it to incorporate into the economic framework the author uses to compare different categories of education consumer. I suppose he could compare it with an estimate of what it would take to have the government(s) indoctrinate each next generation of citizens. But evaluation would require an objective assessment of how well it's working.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Slightly off topic: Women in STEM fields.

    I'm talking with some engineers and there are other women at the table. Two women there had started out in civil engineering, but later changed majors. They said that in college, they had too much of a social life. It was sarcastic in tone, meant to rib the engineers at the table, but when pressed, they were serious, too.

    So, I'm thinking some of the disparity may be explained by the opportunity cost of social relationships. Women tend to be more social, for whatever reason, and so it costs them more to turn those relationships off and buckle down to study calculus, physics, statics, etc. In fact, the "nerdy" guys who commit themselves to do that may have fewer relationships to sacrifice for study. For instance, they may not have to forgo a girlfriend, who requires a lot of attention, so they'll have time to study--because they don't have a girlfriend.

    When STEM people leave college to join an engineering firm, etc. they may still have to sacrifice more in terms of social relationships for the first four years before they get their P.E. and make a name for themselves. Women may be more reluctant than men to sacrifice relationships throughout the whole process.

    I'm not saying this is the whole explanation (qualifying in nursing programs, which are dominated by women, can be every bit as taxing socially in terms of time), but I suspect that's part of the explanation for why so few women attempt and succeed in STEM fields.

  • silver.||

    Women's voices might be scarce in economics, but they are abundant and over-represented in most academic fields and graduate school overall.

    I don't know all the reasons, certainly your hypothesis is part of the answer, but (most) women just don't seem to like going into STEM. That your two associates changed majors is a good indicator that they felt comfortable trying it, but it just didn't fit for them personally. I don't buy the argument that the patriarchy, etc is the only reason women won't get STEM degrees. Veterinarians and nurses are STEM, and women dominate those fields.

  • Zeb||

    And in a place like Sweden, where lots has been done legally and socially to promote sex equality, you still see fields like engineering dominated by men and things like nursing dominated by women.
    Pretty soon most MDs will probably be women too.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Men who delay romance to invest in their future earning potential by earning a STEM degree can still expect to find romance later in life. Women in our society do not have this option, because a trophy wife is more respected than a gigilo.

  • Ken Shultz||

    There's also the biological clock.

  • Lester224||

    Women can do better in STEM by shaving their heads. Just don't be a sex object and you can succeed.

    https://ru-clip.com/video/jJFuAce9mZU/
    shaving-my-head-made-me-a-better-programmer.html

  • daveski99||

    I think the real problem is that colleges have loaded up on administration and fancy facilities. At an undergraduate level, especially the first two years most of the learning involves a teacher and a classroom, or even one big lecture hall with one teacher talking to 100 students. Why should this cost such an exorbitant amount? The professors, adjunct professors, graduate students that are lecturing are not the ones making a lot of money here. Where does it all go?

    In the early 80s, I was able to pay my own way with my Co-Op job while going to school. Try that today!

  • Ken Shultz||

    Administration costs have ballooned, and we know where the money came from for that.

    It came from government sponsored financial aid. It's just like with subprime home loans--make home loans available for more people, and OTBE home builders will build more and bigger homes. Make more money available to go to college, and the colleges will find a way to use that money.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "I was able to pay my own way with my Co-Op job while going to school. Try that today!"

    Only place I can think of is probably working in a casino and attending UNLV.

  • Eidde||

    Are you sure they'd let you be a cocktail waitress?

  • Ken Shultz||

    I've met guys there who worked their way through running a craps game, working as a poker dealer. or as a bartender. Those jobs are all plentiful in the casinos.

    They say UNLV tuition is cheap, too, because its underwritten by taxes on the gaming industry.

    I'm not sure there's another school like that where kids have both abundant relatively high paying local jobs to pay for tuition and where tuition is low enough that they can pay.

    That was just off the top of my head from people I've known. If you've got another candidate, please share.

  • Eidde||

    Oh, that sounds like a sweet deal, I'm sorry I didn't take your point seriously.

  • VinniUSMC||

    How can so many people not afford $2-3k a year for college? At least the first 2 years in a Community College. I went to Sacramento City College 2009-2010, and each full load (14-16 credit) semester cost around $400. A quick search now puts tuition at $1,104 annually and $1,792 for books/supplies.

    Who couldn't fund that, today, on any minimum wage job?

    Maybe people should stop expecting 4 years in an Ivy league school on minimum wage?

  • Ken Shultz||

    Statistically, your case is unusual.

    Most community college students never finish a four year degree.

    These guys are saying that only one in seven community college students transfer to a four year college and get a degree.

    http://hechingerreport.org/ how-often-do-community-college-students- who-get-transfer-get-bachelors-degrees/

  • EscherEnigma||

    You can work a casino floor before you're old enough to be a patron? Heh.

    Alternative snark: If I'd have been in Nevada when I graduated high school, I'd have probably been more serious about learning to count cards and paid for school by "working in a casino" too. Now I know too much math to gamble without it, and too well compensated to bother learning.

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    There are still a few (large) universities that offer co-op programs. They acknowledge the value in experiential learning. The problem is that this has to be considered an *add-on* for classroom education, not a replacement. Why? One reason: accreditation. The accreditation agencies run the show, and the government backs them by refusing to offer aid to anyone who attends an unaccredited institution. So, in effect, the government is mandating that higher ed adhere to a very specific formula.

    Let higher ed police itself, and get government out of it.

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    Does anybody here watch Stranger Things? If so, you need to quit, because the creators verbally abuse women on set and run a hostile work environment.

    #MeToo
    #Time'sUp

    Don't worry, though. There are still plenty of quality shows for you to enjoy. I recommend The Handmaid's Tale because it provides a terrifying illustration of the theocratic dystopia that Drumpf will establish if he serves two terms.

  • Eidde||

    I haven't seen *Stranger Things,* but I'm sure I've seen stranger things.

  • Vernon Depner||

    The Handmaid's Tale "provides a terrifying illustration of the theocratic dystopia" that exists RIGHT NOW for hundreds of millions of women in Islamic countries and Islamic enclaves in European countries.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    I heard that the masturbation scene in The Handmaid's Tale is hot.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    Do you ever find it interesting that the places where the sexual harassment problem is the worst are liberal bastions like Hollywood and the government?

  • Eidde||

    Already we're hearing the ads from colleges offering online education.

    At some point, this is going to seriously cut into the residential college model, and fewer people will be walking into the trap of excessive loans for insufficient payoff. Of course, residential programs will probably continue (for the moment) for hands-on practical stuff that cannot be separated from the study process (I mean, we want medical students to work under supervision with actual patients, don't we?). And there will probably have to be physical spaces where they proctor the exams.

    But even allowing for all this, there will still be plenty of room for cutting down on residential programs and having online programs where you study while working at a starter job (also good for going back to school mid-career).

    And if we get to the point where employers can administer aptitude tests without being slammed as racists, the need for a college degree for purely signalling purposes will be reduced.

    And all this is even before we get to the point of cleaning out the Augean stables of public education, where the traditional schools will probably continue as they are while private schools, home schools and charter schools gain in popularity.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Trump Lawyers Are Considering A Challenge To "60 Minutes" Airing Of A Stormy Daniels Interview
    Anderson Cooper interviewed the adult film performer and director on Thursday.

    Posted on March 11, 2018, at 12:50 p.m.

    buzzfeed

  • Sevo||

    You should seek help with your issues, turd.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Why do you hate Stormy Daniels?

  • Sevo||

    Why are you such a lying pile of shit?

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    Mr. Buttplug is one of the most valuable commenters here. He's always willing to share informative links to sites like Buzzfeed, RawStory, and listosaur.com. Sorry if that upsets you.

    And Drumpf is everybody's issue. He's ruining this country, and maybe even ruining the entire planet.

  • Weigel's Cock Ring||

    The "sad clown" has already sought help for his manic depression, and no doubt is on a massive cocktail of medications.

    It would be great if he would just give in to those suicidal impulses though.

  • Eidde||

    We're urging people to commit suicide now? Because of stuff they put on the Internet? Isn't that a bit excessive?

  • EscherEnigma||

    Isn't that a bit excessive?
    If so, the H&R comment section is frequently excessive.

  • LarryA||

    President Trump needs to Google "Streisand effect."

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Yeah, when she had a film career and when she ran for office, the media ignored her, but when she allegedly hooked up with Trump, the media loves her. This is how female empowerment works on the left.

  • Sevo||

    OT, but I have this recurring fantasy that we manage to find a totally unlimited source of energy, and while we're all jumping up and down about the wonderful future, the eco-whackos manage to get it outlawed:

    "Nuclear fusion on brink of being realised, say MIT scientists "
    [...]
    "Carbon-free fusion power could be 'on the grid in 15 years'"
    https://www.theguardian.com/
    environment/2018/mar/09/nuclear-fusion
    -on-brink-of-being-realised-say-mit-scientists

    (Yes, i have doubts regarding The Guardian as a source and have been disappointed many times regarding 'the energy source of the future', but the fantasy remains)

  • LarryA||

    The clean free abundant energy source of the future was invented in the 1950s, and is being suppressed. Only it's the evul profit-seeking corporations, not the noble environmental heroes.

    I get emails all the time, "Just click on this link for all the information."

    No, I haven't clicked.

  • Sevo||

    Gee, maybe it's one of those "100MPG Carburetors" you're missing out on!

  • Earth Skeptic||

    God, if there's any technology that should be closeted away its the carburetor!

  • Zeb||

    So, now we are going from fusion always being only 20 years away to always being 15 years away?

  • jelabarre||

    So, now we are going from fusion always being only 20 years away to always being 15 years away?

    Sure, only took 30 years to advance those 5 years...

  • jelabarre||

    OT, but I have this recurring fantasy that we manage to find a totally unlimited source of energy, and while we're all jumping up and down about the wonderful future, the eco-whackos manage to get it outlawed:

    *NOW* I know what the "Alone" aliens in Vividred Operation must have been; they were eco-warriors from an alternate dimension, making sure we couldn't use the Manifestation Engine. Actually, it's a fitting analogy.

  • chemjeff||

    I hope we are getting to a point in the not-so-distant future where education is far more personalized than it is currently. So a student chooses a course of study, perhaps starting in highschool age and proceeding into college, where if a student demonstrates competency in a series of objectives, then that student earns the degree for which he/she is pursuing, and it doesn't matter so much how the student chooses to meet the objectives, whether it is via traditional in-class instruction, online instruction, self-study, on-the-job training, vocational training, you name it. The role of a formal education establishment, then, would be to certify the competency of the student in meeting all the various objectives.

  • Eidde||

    "OK, we're dropping you in the middle of the Amazon rain forest. Here is your equipment: A turnip, a spork, and a stapler. Make it to the mouth of the river, and we have a guy there who will hand you your degree."

  • Vernon Depner||

    I would definitely hire that student.

  • jelabarre||

    I do remember the joke about the "basic competencies" test for the City of Boston: drop students off at some remote location of the Boston transit system, hand them a transit map and token, then tell them they pass if they can make it back home (or was it to the school). The ones that made it passed, the ones that didn't you no longer had to worry about.

  • silver.||

    i absolutely loathe formal education. i was dead in the middle of the class through public school because of graded homework accounting for 30+% of our grade. in community college i made straight As because the homework was optional because the professors assumed that we could be responsible for ensuring our own competency. then the college implemented a mandatory graded homework policy because so many parents were bitching that their kids were failing. they were failing because they never came to class or did the work, so the administrators wanted to be able to prove this with a paper trail of missed homework. same deal at my 4 year school, although my discipline had improved and the material was actually difficult enough to warrant extra practice by my junior year.

    on one hand, 99% of being an adult is doing shit we don't want to do, so homework trains you for that. on the other, the last job i got because i was programming as a hobby instead of doing homework. i had to write a page outlining my projects, and therefore i only got the job because i was referred and somebody technical was able to read though it. not viable for most applicants.

  • mtrueman||

    "i absolutely loathe formal education."

    Perhaps you never had a teacher who inspired you or challenged you or opened doors for you in any memorable way. Formal education makes this possible.

  • VinniUSMC||

    If formal education relies on having "a teacher who inspired you or challenged you or opened doors for you in any memorable way" then formal education has already failed.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    It's the lack of self responsibility. You have a responsibility to lean despite the quality of the teacher. There are many avenues to help you outside of the class room.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    It's the lack of self responsibility. You have a responsibility to lean despite the quality of the teacher. There are many avenues to help you outside of the class room.

  • mtrueman||

    Too bad you wasted your time. Academics is not for everyone.

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    "i absolutely loathe formal education."

    I did too. Until I got to graduate school, and realized that education meant more than just sitting in a room listening to someone talk to you. I actually began DOING, and I found that when I was DOING, I had questions that helped guide what I sought to learn in the classroom. It was then that I realized that classroom instruction was really only intended to be supplementary, not primary.

    This is something I should have known much earlier. Professional football, for example, is one area that grasps this. They go out on the practice field and do a lot of important work, but they also spend a lot of time in the classroom to study the opposition and learn what they need to practice. The key is that the classroom instruction interacts with the practice. Our current model of education does a poor job of creating that interaction in any meaningful way.

  • EscherEnigma||

    ... did you not have any labs until grad school?

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    "Labs" are not really doing. They're playing.

  • EscherEnigma||

    I understand the problem now.

    Your school sucked.

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    Perhaps I should have been clearer. Doing lab work (e.g. learning how to use equipment, reproducing experiments that have already been done before) is a different animal from actually doing novel investigations and discovery. It's absurd to compare labs in courses to doing, or at least assisting in, cutting edge research.

    Again, this is DOING vs. LEARNING ABOUT. "Learning about" should be serving a supporting role, and shouldn't be THE role itself. And that's the problem with the current model.

    Are there areas of opportunity for undergraduates? Certainly! I had three of my undergraduates gain authorship on my papers last year. But you typically won't find these opportunities in courses. I very often try to provide this opportunity to my undergraduates using the course structure, usually through independent study, co-op, etc. But it's hard.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    It is called a Montessori school.

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    US Conservative Activist Brittany Pettibone Is Being Held in London's Colnbrook Bypass Prison as Political Prisoner

    Her crime was attempting to interview British national Tommy Robinson, who apparently is disliked by the UK government. Her Austrian boyfriend Martin Sellner is also detained for attempting to give a speech about freedom of speech in Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park.

    Trump better take a break from his Twitter regimen to get on the horn with Frau May and ask her if her country's transformation into Airstrip One is complete.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Seems like the more power HR departments have over salaries and raises, the more credentilism trumps ability and productivity.

  • Vernon Depner||

    How could it be otherwise? What do HR specialists know about the requirements for success in the varied specialties in other departments? HR departments are nothing but compliance consultants—they exist for legal ass-covering, not because they have any special skill at selecting successful employees.

  • LarryA||

    HR departments have little independent power. Almost all their decisions are made in compliance with federal and state regulations.

  • SIV||

    Regulations require they give themselves bonuses?

  • mtrueman||

    "the more credentilism trumps ability and productivity."

    I have the perfect solution for that. A prospective employer may no longer question an applicant on their educational history. Taboo questions are nothing new. Questions like "Do you plan to get pregnant any time soon," or "Are you on the pill?" etc. Let the HR workers earn their living by giving applicants the chance to show their abilities with whatever demonstrations of strength the HR department can cook up.

  • Vernon Depner||

    Let's go all the way with this: Abolish HR departments. From now on, all hires must be selected by lottery.

  • mtrueman||

    What's wrong with HR departments? Finding the right person for the job is a valuable service.

  • Vernon Depner||

    Please read the thread before commenting.

  • jelabarre||

    What's wrong with HR departments? Finding the right person for the job is a valuable service.

    And what does "finding the right person" have to do AT ALL with the modern-day HR department?

  • mtrueman||

    "As signaling's share of the value of education rises, education becomes an incinerator that burns society's money, time, and brains in a futile attempt to make everyone look better than average."

    As waste goes, education is still a pretty good way to waste money. I don't know what the author proposes to waste this money on, but if it's anything like pyramid building, visits to nearby moons and planets, or just pouring money into endless war, I'll pass. I'm too busy applying for a grant to do post graduate study in some really emasculating field.

  • Dan S.||

    Shouldn't something be done to reduce "signaling's share of the value of education "?

  • Vernon Depner||

    Racist!

  • mtrueman||

    What have you got against signalling?

  • Tony||

    This is the stupidest thing I've ever read and I didn't even hardly read it.

  • vek||

    Sounds about right for you...

  • Jerryskids||

    Keep in mind there are three types of college degrees. If you're looking at ROI in economic terms, you're talking about trade school and I'd guess a 4-year degree is about as useful as a year or so of OJT. There's also the old-school liberal arts degree wherein an education is designed to make a well-rounded person knowledgeable about the world and culture around them. The third is bullshit busy work leading to a finely honed idiot.

    Any of the three serves as a credential for having a grasp of the concept of delayed gratification but the first indicates that you may actually know something about the subject at hand, the second indicates you may have the capacity to quickly pick up on the subject, the third indicates that you're a mindless drone who'll passively stand for having your head stuffed full of nonsense, doing whatever you're told to do without questioning whether it's useful or needful or wise. That third group makes fine bureaucrats, adhering to the form long after the function is forgotten.

  • Tony||

    Criticizing the status quo does not automatically promote your idiotic fairy tales to the rank of "solution."

    A free market for education. Just think about it for half a second and the innumerable problems with this concept will occur you.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    It's true that a free market probably won't be able to overcome the inherent dysfunctions of economically poor communities. But what we have going on right now isn't working, either.

  • Eidde||

    Powerful teacher unions who care more for job security for their members than for good education?

    Poor parents unable to get their kids out of bad schools?

    Social stratification as the wealthy go to good schools and the poor go to bad ones?

    Yeah, we need to think carefully before pursuing policies which lead to these results.

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    Corporations hate the idea of a free market for education because they'll no longer get free applicant screening and the caste system that the current model creates. A free market for education is a good idea, but only if it is accompanied by revocation of licensure requirements and eligibility. The combination of those two things will promote socioeconomic mobility far more effectively than the current model of schooling does.

  • vek||

    Vouchers are the answer to K-12. As for colleges, cutting all government funding to private colleges will help them reign in their costs. Community colleges and state universities, I dunno. They probably just need to have 3/4 of the admin staff fired, and they'd get back on track too. But K-12 is an easy one to improve a lot, and taxpayers don't need to be funding anyone going to fucking Harvard! If the CCs and SU wallowed along in mediocrity, it could be worse.

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    Most of the better state universities actually draw relatively little state money, so you could probably pull their funding (ie privatize them) and they'd remain afloat too. UC Berkeley for example gets only 9% of their total revenue from the state.

    Community colleges would suffer, but as has been pointed out already -- I think there's a new (online) model for doing what they do.

    The problem is you can't expect universities to pull out from the revenue stream voluntarily. You have to cut all of it or cut none of it. And we all know they're never going to cut public funding of schooling, so the best that we as libertarians can hope for is new innovations in education and training that would be vastly more efficient and reinvent the entire model. And the best way to accomplish that is by no longer making the current models government-mandated.

  • vek||

    Now that you mention it I do think I have read that before. And that's good. At least if tuition is funding most of it that's a good thing.

    There really does need to be a major shaking up in education. I think EVERYBODY from commies, to conservatives, to businesses, EVERYBODY realizes it. So it's likely some changes of some sort will get worked out. I still think more short duration courses in specific job skills that are needed in the economy today are the silver bullet more than anything else. Lots of people can't be outright programmers, but they can be trained in a 6 month period to do some limited thing within IT or whatever. These types of programs exist to some degree of course, but they need to be ramped up and expanded 1000 fold IMO.

  • ||

    Too many people have no business being anywhere near a college/university class.

  • Vernon Depner||

    If a university degree is to mean anything, standards must be high enough so that MOST people have no business there.

  • vek||

    Yup. The only exception to this might be if more short 1-2 year programs existed for specialty skills where they slam you in and out without any fluff. But universities don't really do that much of that kind of thing anyway.

  • TLBD||

    College is signalling, and I don't see any way in which it is better than apprenticeship or OJT, though it could be a good supplement if the time investment were cut to a fraction of what it currently is.

    The only way that college is better for the individual is that you get to network with other individuals who will all further the lie (with the help of gov force) that your 60k piece of paper is necessary to have your job, inflating your value due to a reduced labor pool.

    As for society, college in its current form is a shit deal. It creates massive inefficiencies in the market by excluding individuals that might be more productive and stymieing flexibility in career paths.

  • mtrueman||

    "As for society, college in its current form is a shit deal. "

    College has never been more popular. Attendance has never been higher.

    "The only way that college is better for the individual"

    There is not only one way that college is better. A student might prefer college if, for example, it employs a noted scholar whom the student has long wanted to study under. How is that signalling?

  • Vernon Depner||

    You have a vivid imagination.

  • jelabarre||

    College has never been more popular. ATTENDEES HAVE never been higher.

    There, fixed that for ya.

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    Agreed. But it should be noted that there isn't just college OR apprenticeship/OJT. Often, they're combined. For example, virtually all doctoral programs (including medical school) are modeled on apprenticeship and OJT. If we applied the doctoral program model to undergraduate education, then it would address most of your concerns. There are very few universities that do this now, and one of the reasons for this is that the accreditation agencies are pretty rigid in their requirements, and government will only provide aid to accredited universities. So, in effect, government is dictating educational policy through their funding eligibility policies, and THAT'S the problem.

    Get government out of higher ed and educational innovation will flourish. If you don't want to get government out of it, at least get them out of higher ed policy making.

  • EscherEnigma||

    There's literally nothing stopping employers from setting up a new apprenticeship/OJT program outside of traditional universities. They just don't want to since it's better (for them) to let potential employees and taxpayers to shoulder the education costs. Especially when they can go to universities and say "we need graduates with skill X" and the university will start incorporating that into their curriculum.

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    Well sure. If you run a university, you always have the choice to turn away the vast majority of your revenue so that you can do your own thing. But is that really a choice? States are faced with that dilemma all the time, when the federal government holds a stick with millions of dollars on it and states are expected to "choose" to take the free money or to do things their own way (e.g. USDOT). Controlling purse strings is a way to implement your agenda while giving people the illusion of choice.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Yes, that's the incentive for universities to cater to employer needs.

    But that's not the explanation for why employers, who supposedly are over-paying for educated employees due to signaling, continue to rely on the system when they most certainly could circumnavigate it if they wanted to.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Is going to college selfish? Sure.

    But last I checked, everybody acting in their own self-interest being the optimal way to efficiently allocate resources was a core tenet of "Free Market Capitalism" and libertarianism, so I'm not sure why I should care?

    Really, the only "problem" is that most folks looking at college aren't adequately prepared to make an informed decision. This is part of why first-generation college students (that is, children of parents that didn't graduate college) tend to do poorly compared to their peers who have college graduate parents, even accounting for other factors.

    And unfortunately, it's not like it's all that reasonable to delay "college age" until we can expect (most) possible students to have reasonable expectations and make informed decisions.

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    I agree with your premise but not your solution. The fact that they're unprepared is an indictment of everything that happened up to that point. It's not that kids are too young. It's that maturation in our society has become so delayed (due in part to the passive schooling model that currently exists). Further delay is a less efficient way of going about things than earlier preparation would be. The key to success in college is developing the tools for success early on, and one of the major tools for success is maturity.

  • EscherEnigma||

    I agree with your premise but not your solution


    Seeing as I didn't offer a solution, that's not surprising.

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    Your last sentence was the solution I was responding to. Sure, not much of a solution, but what you said is "reasonable" is very unreasonable in my view.

  • EscherEnigma||

    The sentence where I explicitly said it wasn't reasonable to delay "college age"?

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    Sorry. I misread your post.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Second thought: the whole "employee compensation isn't the same as employee worth/productivity" tangent reminds me of discussions of CEO compensation.

    And I suspect that even if you agree that certain kinds of employees are over-compensated compared to their "real worth", the answer is largely the same: the cost of "signaling" may be harmful, but interventions to reduce it are even more so.

  • Vernon Depner||

    Can't we at least refrain from intervening to to promote it?

  • EscherEnigma||

    Well, no.

    So long as dirty and difficult blue collar jobs are seen as "less than" white collar jobs with similar (or even less) compensation, education will be seen as a proxy for "worth".

    Simple fact is, the "signaling" aspect of a college education isn't due to any government policy. It's from society seeing witty, smart, educated folks that don't have to get their hands dirty as "better". And short of a serious social engineering government project, that isn't going to change.

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    Thank you for this compelling (but undoubtedly controversial) article. I share the opinion in the title that it is a selfish act, which is one of the reasons I never attended my own graduation. Celebrating a selfish act seems absurd to me. Using the tools you may have learned in college to create or discover something useful is worth celebrating. Acquiring the tools alone is not worth celebrating. It's like when somebody buys an expensive tool at Home Depot and his friends congratulate him. Buying the thing accomplished literally nothing.

  • Adler||

    Articles like this should usher in a new era of policy.

  • Empress Trudy||

    The idea that me paying for your college is a social good and therefore a moral imperative springs from the leftist impulse of redistribution and shared misery.

  • Ed Reid||

    Education in engineering, science, medicine, etc. have significant potential societal and personal value. Education in black studies, womens' studies, gender studies, etc have minimal societal and questionable personal value.

  • CE||

    Wait, political science is a real degree?

  • CE||

    One cost of college to society that most people never consider is taking millions of smart, energetic and possibly very productive young people and sending them to summer camp for 4 years.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    Does anyone know if the college dropouts average income includes Zuckerberg, Gates, Theil, and all the other noted richest people in the world that dropped out of college.

    I can't imagine that if you included them in the mix that dropping out wouldn't be the optimal strategy.

    Maybe that explains why Universities award honorary degrees.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    By that reasoning, purchasing a winning lottery ticket would constitute a sound retirement planning strategy.

    Get an education.

  • Butler T. Reynolds||

    "Second, go to a respected public school. It probably won't charge list price, and even if it does, you'll get your money's worth."

    I disagree with this a little bit for those looking for a bachelors degree in a STEM field.

    If I had a do-over, I would not attend a research university again. A research university is only useful if you want to be an academic or go in to research yourself. I think you'll find inferior instruction at such a place.

    At such schools professors are hired first for their research abilities, their teaching skills are lower on the list. You would think that their research experience would add to the teaching quality, but that was not my experience and has not been the experience of anyone I've spoken to about it.

    If you're a STEM major, I suspect that you get a little signaling boost at first if you graduate from a research school, but that boost disappears quickly.

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    I don't really agree with this. Most universities are hiring instructors to handle a great deal of the classroom teaching, leaving the research professors to handle the upper level courses and research teaching (i.e. the experiential learning component). This is valuable because 1) you potentially get a world-renowned expert in a field teaching you about that particular field; 2) successful research faculty almost invariably have significant connections in industry, which helps get students a foot in the door at companies and start-ups. I literally just received an email this morning from a friend of mine at a very well known pharma company asking if I had any students to recommend to him.

    Despite the many valid criticisms of the current state of higher ed, I don't think lack of opportunity is one of them.

  • TxJack 112||

    College would be a good investment if the focus were on teaching students what they need to know to succeed in the world. However, college has become an extension of high school where the focus is not education but indoctrination into the progressive ideology of social justice, centralized government and limits on personal freedom for the "greater good". This is why we have openly Marxist groups like Antifa. College is nothing more than a social justice training ground for progressives seeking to dismantle the Constitution and move toward a more totalitarian form of government.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Quit whining. And recognize that our strongest schools are liberal-libertarian institutions, while just about every campus conservatives control is a low-rank, censorship-shackled, nonsense-teaching goober factory.

    One side is going to continue to rely on strong private (Harvards, Yales, Berkeleys) and state universities and public schools, while the other side tends to choose homeschooling and backwater religious schools. The results will continue to be predictable.

    Carry on, clingers.

  • woahdogsnice||

    Why are teachers expected to teach you? Why is someone else responsible for your education? How are you being held back if you have the internet/libraries? No one wants to teach themselves. They cant? They literally can not? Why? Work ethic. If you want to gain an education, if you want a good job, you will get it if you want it bad enough. But that means you have to work for it. College is selfish for everyone who thinks that college is going to make them smart. Only you can make yourself smart. iQ might slow someone down from doing a topic or equation, but remembering the skill has little to nothing to do with iQ. How can a teacher be expected to instruct 30 students if none of them want to learn the material? If those 30 students go to college and receive non-STEM degrees, is it because their highschool teachers werent efficient at teaching math? Or is it that those students did not take advantage of increasing their logistic capabilities, and instead pursued a lifestyle different than one that involves learning new information? College is, an education you can buy.

  • woahdogsnice||

    There are humps in education that everyone must overcome. I find it hard to understand how someone can simply give up on something, and then claim they are unable to do that thing. Whats more, i dont understand how someone can blame a job for only hiring someone based on degree. A successful person would find away around this, IF they are actually qualified. People seem to forget that some of the most successful people alive today do not have college degrees. Nor do they have the highest "iQ." You have less than 100 years to learn every thing you can possibly take in to your brain; to have access to the commonly accessible education that society takes for granted - They take it for granted because they want an education to be pumped into their ear with a hose. It starts with how your raised. Not whether youre rich or poor. It starts with whether or not your going to get it on your own, or rely on other people to hold your hand and bring you there. Surely, teachers should be more qualified, but it isn't their fault that their own professors were also unsatisfactory. My last point is a possible solution, never lie to kids, and don't let them move on to the next step until they actually understand the first one.

  • rrjeffreyy||

    Absolutely agree. What is worth its only these college papers. I never developed with a letter and because of this there were constantly low marks. I had to get out of it forever somehow. Well, than one time I came across this resource - https://wowgrade.com/college-papers-for-sale and ordered a college paper for sale. I did not think that such a small amount of money could be used for such high-quality work. They directly saved me from this curse.