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Daniel

Is the education system largely a waste of time and money?

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A few weeks ago, I read a book by a libertarian economist, Bryan Caplan, called The Case Education.  Caplan’s diagnosis is that despite the trillion dollars a year in public spending on education, the education system, for the most part, from elementary school through university, does not teach students anything useful, or even how to think and reason well as some people claim. And even subjects that appear to be useful, actually are not.  For instance, despite the fact that pretty much all students are required to take two years of a foreign language in high school or even middle school, less than one percent of people who competently speak a second language did so by virtue of formal instruction. (I took more than four years of Spanish and got good grades, but I cannot speak or write Spanish). Even students who major in vaunted STEM fields in college do not actually use something like 80 to 90 percent of what they actually learned in college in whatever job they end up with.  Caplan argues, pretty persuasively, that the education system is primarily about signaling to employers a student’s intelligence, conscientiousness and conformity.  That is, a degree in political science from Harvard might not show that the person actually learned anything useful for four years and for the quarter million dollars in tuition, but it shows the person is smart enough to get into Harvard and conscientious enough not to spend all their time playing video games and getting high.  I don’t really agree with his cure, a complete separation between state and education, but perhaps one day when we accept what’s really going on instead of regurgitating platitudes about education, we might be able to think of other ideas that are less drastic but produce better results for society,

And just a real life example, my brother called me up a little while ago to ask my input on a homework assignment my 14 year old niece had about the Constituion.  Basically fact patterns followed up by a question that requires maybe a two or three sentence written response.  I’m a practicing attorney who studied Constituional law in law school as all law students are required to do.  The questions were nonsensical for the most part, and I really had no idea how to answer them.  This assignment — and I assume most of the class — will not make my niece or anyone else in her class a more informed citizen.  If anything they’ll fill them with a false sense of confidence that they actually know things when they really don’t.  

Edited by Daniel

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I agree somewhat.

In regards to the second language issue, I believe a lot of that stems from that we start teaching it way too late.  By 6th grade the kid is about 11 years old in most cases and that is pretty late to start teaching someone a second language.  In most other countries they start teaching students a second language by the time they are about 5 or 6 years old.  I know we are talking about a 5-6 year difference which may not seem like much, but in a child's mental development that is a huge amount of time.  Looking back on elementary school I wish we were taught a second language which can benefit all children instead of other fillers that reach a very finite amount of children such as art class.

As for college, it is largely a waste of time and money.  The bachelors degree is today what a high school diploma was 30+ years ago.  There is a literally a college for everyone and a bachelors degree holds little value anymore other than getting you through the door to a job interview.

I graduated with a degree in history and a minor in business.  I have used my history degree 0 times since I graduated but I have worked in the business field for the past 10 years.  I will say working retail and also working in an office environment as a teenager (basically doing intern type things) has had a much bigger impact and a much better learning experience than any business class I have ever taken.  Over the past 2-3 years in my company (a corporate office setting for a multi-billion dollar company) I have had these 20-somethings fresh out of college with bachelor degrees from good schools and with internships under their belts ask me what terms like Net 30 and FOB Origin mean but they can recite the tenants of Keynesian economics like the back of their hand.  Too much theory and not enough actual real-world business knowledge being taught in college these days.

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Agree 100% on second languages...I started learning Spanish in 8th grade.  I was a good enough student that once I reached high school, I skipped Spanish I and started in Spanish II, took Spanish III my sophomore year, then skipped Spanish IV to go into Spanish V as a junior.  I tested well enough in college to spend my freshman year taking Spanish III and Spanish IV...at that point, the instructor speak Spanish 90% of the time, so you do HEAR a lot of Spanish, but it's spoken at a much slower rate than what you would ever hear in the real world.  I got nothing but As and Bs in those classes...but I was never truly fluent either writing or speaking Spanish...and I never got to the point where I was ever truly thinking in Spanish.  Learning a second language comes far more naturally to young children (kindergarten age) than to older kids, and you really need to be in an environment where you almost HAVE to speak it constantly to truly make significant progress.  10-15 minutes (tops) per class of actual legitimate conversational Spanish is never going to cut it.

But yeah, as far as the rest of my college experience goes, I went to Montclair State College for four years and had no idea what I was really doing there (as a relatively good high school student from a pretty well-to-do family, you just went on to college, no questions asked...I was one of those guys who really should've taken a year off or two and worked instead)...I left MSC with no degree after crashing and burning hard in my fourth year.  I then went to work full-time for my father (he was an electrical engineer), and then eventually went back to school (Mercer County Community) and earned an Associate's Degree in Electrical Engineering Technology...even better, many of my MSC electives were accepted by MCC, so almost all of the classes I took were what I really needed to take, given my line of work.  How much of what I learned in that program do I really use?  Not a whole hell of a lot.  Most of what I use now I learned by doing. 

It can indeed seem like college is more of a test to weed out the harder workers from the general slackers, and that it's less about what you're actually learning, and more of a "Well how much are you willing to put in to learn a bunch of stuff that you may never use?" primer.  More of a "Well either this guy is willing to work hard enough to learn or at the very least is a natural learner and has a piece of paper or two to prove it, so if we hire him, we can expect more of the same."

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1 hour ago, Colorado Rockies 1976 said:

Agree 100% on second languages...I started learning Spanish in 8th grade.  I was a good enough student that once I reached high school, I skipped Spanish I and started in Spanish II, took Spanish III my sophomore year, then skipped Spanish IV to go into Spanish V as a junior.  I tested well enough in college to spend my freshman year taking Spanish III and Spanish IV...at that point, the instructor speak Spanish 90% of the time, so you do HEAR a lot of Spanish, but it's spoken at a much slower rate than what you would ever hear in the real world.  I got nothing but As and Bs in those classes...but I was never truly fluent either writing or speaking Spanish...and I never got to the point where I was ever truly thinking in Spanish.  Learning a second language comes far more naturally to young children (kindergarten age) than to older kids, and you really need to be in an environment where you almost HAVE to speak it constantly to truly make significant progress.  10-15 minutes (tops) per class of actual legitimate conversational Spanish is never going to cut it.

But yeah, as far as the rest of my college experience goes, I went to Montclair State College for four years and had no idea what I was really doing there (as a relatively good high school student from a pretty well-to-do family, you just went on to college, no questions asked...I was one of those guys who really should've taken a year off or two and worked instead)...I left MSC with no degree after crashing and burning hard in my fourth year.  I then went to work full-time for my father (he was an electrical engineer), and then eventually went back to school (Mercer County Community) and earned an Associate's Degree in Electrical Engineering Technology...even better, many of my MSC electives were accepted by MCC, so almost all of the classes I took were what I really needed to take, given my line of work.  How much of what I learned in that program do I really use?  Not a whole hell of a lot.  Most of what I use now I learned by doing. 

It can indeed seem like college is more of a test to weed out the harder workers from the general slackers, and that it's less about what you're actually learning, and more of a "Well how much are you willing to put in to learn a bunch of stuff that you may never use?" primer.  More of a "Well either this guy is willing to work hard enough to learn or at the very least is a natural learner and has a piece of paper or two to prove it, so if we hire him, we can expect more of the same."

One answer suggested by the book is for the government to stop subsidizing student loans altogether.  That'll stop a lot of people from taking on debt to learn useless things in college.  I would suggest making student loans dischargable in bankruptcy after a certain period of time.  Banks will be much more discerning about who they loan money to, and it could cut the gordian knot of the credentialing arms race. 

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5 minutes ago, Daniel said:

One answer suggested by the book is for the government to stop subsidizing student loans altogether.  That'll stop a lot of people from taking on debt to learn useless things in college.  I would suggest making student loans dischargable in bankruptcy after a certain period of time.  Banks will be much more discerning about who they loan money to, and it could cut the gordian knot of the credentialing arms race. 

Wasn't this floated before (or still being floated) and there were threats of lawsuits?  I think it was challenged as being unlawful or unconstitutional on the grounds that it would deny lower income students the ability to enter institutions of higher learning.

Again I could be wrong but I have a feeling that is what happened previously with this idea.

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7 minutes ago, DevsMan84 said:

Wasn't this floated before (or still being floated) and there were threats of lawsuits?  I think it was challenged as being unlawful or unconstitutional on the grounds that it would deny lower income students the ability to enter institutions of higher learning.

Again I could be wrong but I have a feeling that is what happened previously with this idea.

Ordinarily I would think that an argument that the Constitution requires student loans to be subsidized one way or the other (either through government mandated lower interest rates or nondischargability) would be laughed out of court, but these days, who knows.

It's really a moot point, since politically such a proposal is dead on arrival, at least as things stand now.  And that's because, despite the fact that colleges don't teach much that's useful, degrees really do boost earnings substantially.  But that's a result of credentialing, and not because of anything that colleges really teach.  If there were somehow a way to lower that bar, so to speak, our taxes would be a whole lot lower.

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5 minutes ago, Daniel said:

Ordinarily I would think that an argument that the Constitution requires student loans to be subsidized one way or the other (either through government mandated lower interest rates or nondischargability) would be laughed out of court, but these days, who knows.

It's really a moot point, since politically such a proposal is dead on arrival, at least as things stand now.  And that's because, despite the fact that colleges don't teach much that's useful, degrees really do boost earnings substantially.  But that's a result of credentialing, and not because of anything that colleges really teach.  If there were somehow a way to lower that bar, so to speak, our taxes would be a whole lot lower.

The housing crisis was largely the result of banks being forced by the government to grant mortgages to individuals who typically wouldn't qualify for one due various things like low credit score, low down payment, high risk, etc.  That was signed by Clinton around 2000 after I believe as a result of litigation or the threat of litigation.  I could be wrong about that though.  Either way I think while it probably should be laughed out of court, you know it will not with the current political and social climate.

All degrees do by increasing earnings is by enabling people to interview for jobs they wouldn't without a degree.  All degrees these days are just keys to get your foot in the door.

I also believe if we subsidize these colleges then taxpayers should have more of a say or a way to control how these colleges spend it.  I am not exactly happy that the highest paid state employee by far is the Rutgers football coach.

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5 hours ago, DevsMan84 said:

The housing crisis was largely the result of banks being forced by the government to grant mortgages to individuals who typically wouldn't qualify for one due various things like low credit score, low down payment, high risk, etc.  That was signed by Clinton around 2000 after I believe as a result of litigation or the threat of litigation.  I could be wrong about that though.  Either way I think while it probably should be laughed out of court, you know it will not with the current political and social climate.

All degrees do by increasing earnings is by enabling people to interview for jobs they wouldn't without a degree.  All degrees these days are just keys to get your foot in the door.

I also believe if we subsidize these colleges then taxpayers should have more of a say or a way to control how these colleges spend it.  I am not exactly happy that the highest paid state employee by far is the Rutgers football coach.

While the government would encourage the lending you mention, the banks for the most part we’re happy to go along.  An infuriating book on the subject is The Lost Bank about the fall of Wamu.

To be clear, as long as college is necessary to boost career earnings, it is only fair that it be generously subsidized by the government in one form or another.  It’s a very expensive price to pay for more equality than we’d otherwise have, but right now I don’t see any other choice.

There are a few things that could maybe get the ball rolling.  Perhaps let people go to law school with only a high school degree.  I went to law school and there is really nothing about an undergraduate education that’s necessary to master the material.  (Law school itself really only needs to be two years anyway). Perhaps do the same for medical school, or something similar to it.  And don’t make it the exception, make it the rule.

At a cultural level, I think we need some kind of purge of the establishment that sets education policy.  And by that, I mean an establishment that believes all grade school kids need to be instructed in dance, at least that’s how it is in NJ.  

But really, I know this is all tilting at windmills.

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Thanks for posting this. I’d love to get my hands on that book as soon as I have the time.

I’d argue that 95% of academic success in education has to do with parental involvement. If you want your kids to do well and stress the importance of it, they will. On the other hand, the statistics are crippling https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-literacy-america

We need to get away from the idea of passing classes=success. Parents find that passing classes is more important than fundamental skills. And they’ve been conditioned and rewarded with that behavior for the most part. However, parenting cannot be regulated, but education can. If a student is not on the current reading level for the appropriate grade, they should not move on. Period. The gap only gets wider, struggling students fall behind more. 

The top 10% and bottom 10% in schools get most of the attention, with the middle just skating by. If we can raise the bottom 10%, I think we would see a decrease in crime. But what is an appropriate solution to a student who’s family doesn’t place emphasis on education? Hold him back until he reaches appropriate reading levels? Then we’re looking at 17 year old freshmen.

Does the book talk at all about making K-8 compulsory and give the option to not go to high school? I don’t think it would ever happen because there would be a ton of teachers losing jobs, there could be a couple benefits.

#1 this gives students a purpose to try hard. If for example, high school was privatized and kids could be kicked out for academic and behavioral issues, schools would become more competitive. Students would have a vested interest to succeed. 

#2 if school truly isn’t the place for your kid, get them to a place where they can develop themselves into something useful for themselves and society. 

This was a lot of sporadic thought and rambling, I’ll get off the soapbox for now.

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16 hours ago, Daniel said:

While the government would encourage the lending you mention, the banks for the most part we’re happy to go along.  An infuriating book on the subject is The Lost Bank about the fall of Wamu.

To be clear, as long as college is necessary to boost career earnings, it is only fair that it be generously subsidized by the government in one form or another.  It’s a very expensive price to pay for more equality than we’d otherwise have, but right now I don’t see any other choice.

There are a few things that could maybe get the ball rolling.  Perhaps let people go to law school with only a high school degree.  I went to law school and there is really nothing about an undergraduate education that’s necessary to master the material.  (Law school itself really only needs to be two years anyway). Perhaps do the same for medical school, or something similar to it.  And don’t make it the exception, make it the rule.

At a cultural level, I think we need some kind of purge of the establishment that sets education policy.  And by that, I mean an establishment that believes all grade school kids need to be instructed in dance, at least that’s how it is in NJ.  

But really, I know this is all tilting at windmills.

If that is the case then I would love for some caveats or some rules that are bound to piss many off.  For instance, the bolded statement is largely true, but not always true.  If a student wants to go to college on the government's (taxpayers) dime then they should be limited to the majors they are allowed to pursue.  I really don't want tax dollars to be used for a student who majored in Philosophy only to never really earn that much back in their lifetime.

That's the big issue, the government is subsidizing the education of too many students who are pursuing essentially "useless" degrees.  If you are a student who cannot go to college because of this rule because you are not interested nor qualified to go into these fields, then trade school you go.

That's the other big issue too.  Our society has a general taboo against trade school.  Get the notion out of people's heads that college is the be all, end all to having a successful life (financially) and you solve a lot of problems.

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11 hours ago, Devils Pride 26 said:

Thanks for posting this. I’d love to get my hands on that book as soon as I have the time.

I’d argue that 95% of academic success in education has to do with parental involvement. If you want your kids to do well and stress the importance of it, they will. On the other hand, the statistics are crippling https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-literacy-america

We need to get away from the idea of passing classes=success. Parents find that passing classes is more important than fundamental skills. And they’ve been conditioned and rewarded with that behavior for the most part. However, parenting cannot be regulated, but education can. If a student is not on the current reading level for the appropriate grade, they should not move on. Period. The gap only gets wider, struggling students fall behind more. 

The top 10% and bottom 10% in schools get most of the attention, with the middle just skating by. If we can raise the bottom 10%, I think we would see a decrease in crime. But what is an appropriate solution to a student who’s family doesn’t place emphasis on education? Hold him back until he reaches appropriate reading levels? Then we’re looking at 17 year old freshmen.

Does the book talk at all about making K-8 compulsory and give the option to not go to high school? I don’t think it would ever happen because there would be a ton of teachers losing jobs, there could be a couple benefits.

#1 this gives students a purpose to try hard. If for example, high school was privatized and kids could be kicked out for academic and behavioral issues, schools would become more competitive. Students would have a vested interest to succeed. 

#2 if school truly isn’t the place for your kid, get them to a place where they can develop themselves into something useful for themselves and society. 

This was a lot of sporadic thought and rambling, I’ll get off the soapbox for now.

That is the million dollar question.  Typically a lot of these bottom 10% are born into single parent households where the parent is either not interested or too busy working to support the family to really sit down with the kid and be engaged in their education.  Throwing extra money at the situation hasn't worked for the past 30+ years, so then what?

Quite frankly I think the middle 80% is getting the short end of the stick here.  For instance my 11-year old nephew lives and goes to school in Brick.  Brick is as middle class as they come.  The schools aren't bad there, but they could definitely be better.  Unfortunately they are in that large zone where they are not rich enough to really raise their education levels to where they should be but they are not poor enough to get state government assistance.  They pay quite a bit of taxes and it really does grate my brother that a large chunk of it goes to Abbot districts when they could really use the money themselves.  They are also far from the only districts who have this sort of issue either.

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Posted (edited)

To answer a few questions, the book makes the point, which I find persuasive, that college boosts earnings largely as a result of signalling or credentialing and not really as a result of what a student actually learns.  To prove the point, Caplan tries to calculate the "sheepskin effect" which is the value that a diploma has.  He shows that people who have a college degree earn a lot more than people that dropped out of college after three years.  If employers were really interested in what somebody learned, the one extra year of college (where most students are just goofing off anyway) wouldn't be much more valuable as to earnings, but it is.  The same is true with students that drop out of high school after three years as opposed to sticking around the extra year to get the diploma.  So it is true that college boosts people's earnings, but it likely has very little to do with what students actually learn.  A caveat is that people with STEM degrees do out earn people with English degrees, etc.  But again, even most STEM majors don't use most of what they learned in college in whatever field they end up going into.  It's just that employers realize that STEM fields are more challenging and deduce that STEM majors are smarter and more conscientious than political science majors.

 I believe that access to college needs to be heavily subsidzied just so that the credentialing arms race isn't a game that only the affluent can play.  But if we as a society, including employers, could have some kind of great awakening as to what the education system is actually there for, we might change things for the better somehow so that we make the signalling game less expensive for society, and I mean a lot less expensive.  I don't know how that would work though and I doubt it ever could.  Go run for Congress or your state legislature on a platform that education is a waste of time with a very detailed argument and see how far that gets you.

For his part, Caplan is a libertarian extremist, so his solution is a complete separation between school and state, and that school should be expensive.  He glosses over his own admission that the education system is not entirely about signalling (he pegs it at 80 percent) and that obviously it teaches important things like literacy, everyday math, basic science, etc.  In about a page or two though (if I recall correctly)  he asserts that private charity can take care of all that, his only evidence being that England achieved 95% literacy before it had compulsory public education, of course, literacy back then was measured only by whether someone could sign his own name.  He also does not bother to think of the success of the Prussian education model, which made Germany the most advanced nation on the planet within a relatively short period of time.   So his solution to the problem is the weakest part of the book.  But identifying what's actually going on is very important, even if the very imperfect system we have now is the best we can do.  By analogy, human beings may never have the ingenuity to be able to cure late stage pancreatic cancer or master interstellar travel.  But we're certainly not going to get there if we were under the delusion that pancreatic cancer is caused by the gods being mad at us or if we could travel the galaxy using a stargate.

Edited by Daniel

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I could be totally misunderstanding the point, but how does subsidizing help things?  Over the past couple of decades government funding has increased more and more towards state colleges and the only thing that has happened out of that is tuition has gone higher and higher.  What remedy does throwing more taxpayer money at colleges provide?

The issue with colleges these days are twofold: 1) The student debt issue caused by ever climbing tuition costs and 2) Too many students are graduating with essentially "worthless" degrees.  What I mean by worthless is that the amount of extra income earned by that individual over their lives due to that degree versus how much student debt they owe.  There are plenty of degrees where the student will either never or struggle to make back over their lifetimes due to their choice of degree and should have probably chose another field or go to technical school instead.

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29 minutes ago, DevsMan84 said:

I could be totally misunderstanding the point, but how does subsidizing help things?  Over the past couple of decades government funding has increased more and more towards state colleges and the only thing that has happened out of that is tuition has gone higher and higher.  What remedy does throwing more taxpayer money at colleges provide?

The issue with colleges these days are twofold: 1) The student debt issue caused by ever climbing tuition costs and 2) Too many students are graduating with essentially "worthless" degrees.  What I mean by worthless is that the amount of extra income earned by that individual over their lives due to that degree versus how much student debt they owe.  There are plenty of degrees where the student will either never or struggle to make back over their lifetimes due to their choice of degree and should have probably chose another field or go to technical school instead.

You are correct that college is probably more expensive in part as a result of encouraging people to take on debt to attend.  In the same way, if it were public policy to have as many people as possible own a Mercedes by subsidizing Mercedes car loans, demand for Mercedes would go up and so would the price.

But it's not the entire answer.  First, the book discusses the entire education system from grade school through college.  Caplan says the government should get out of the education business entirely.  If that were the case, you would have a lot of people who would pretty much not go to school at all and who would not be able to read, write, do basic arithmetic or understand basic mathematic concepts like percentages, basic probability and so forth, or at least you'd have a lot more people that couldn't grasp those concepts, notwithstanding Caplan's claim that private charity would take care of that. 

Otherwise, even Caplan admits that college degrees are not, on average, worthless to the person who gets one, even if the person didn't learn anything useful.  The numbers show that a college degree makes economic sense for most people that get one or even pursue one, but that's a result of signalling to employers the person's relative intelligence, conscientiousness, etc.  The same holds true for someone who gets a high school diploma versus someone who doesn't even though the former doesn't really have much more useful knowledge than the latter.

That gets back to my belief that the government should still subsidize college loans notwithstanding the enormous costs because I fear that if we didn't, then it would really be a much smaller set of people who could manage to get in the signalling game, which would mean more inequality.   To take my Mercedes hypothetical, lets say that owning a Mercedes, the more expensive the better, was somehow a very important part of getting a good job.  As it stands now, only very wealthy people can afford to buy themselves or their children one, and without some serious incentives from the government, banks are not going to loan your average 18 year old $100k to acquire one (we'll also assume, just to make things work, that the bank can't repossess the Mercedes, the same way it can't repossess someone's college education).  The already wealthy keep getting Mercedes, and thus the key to the good life, but the poorer have no shot, or much less of a shot than if someone helped them pay for one. 

I don't know how we get out of this dilemma.  Maybe if enough of the people who set education policy in the country recognized what much of the education system really accomplishes, perhaps we could trim away much of the costs that make the signalling game so expensive.

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1 hour ago, Daniel said:

You are correct that college is probably more expensive in part as a result of encouraging people to take on debt to attend.  In the same way, if it were public policy to have as many people as possible own a Mercedes by subsidizing Mercedes car loans, demand for Mercedes would go up and so would the price.

But it's not the entire answer.  First, the book discusses the entire education system from grade school through college.  Caplan says the government should get out of the education business entirely.  If that were the case, you would have a lot of people who would pretty much not go to school at all and who would not be able to read, write, do basic arithmetic or understand basic mathematic concepts like percentages, basic probability and so forth, or at least you'd have a lot more people that couldn't grasp those concepts, notwithstanding Caplan's claim that private charity would take care of that. 

Otherwise, even Caplan admits that college degrees are not, on average, worthless to the person who gets one, even if the person didn't learn anything useful.  The numbers show that a college degree makes economic sense for most people that get one or even pursue one, but that's a result of signalling to employers the person's relative intelligence, conscientiousness, etc.  The same holds true for someone who gets a high school diploma versus someone who doesn't even though the former doesn't really have much more useful knowledge than the latter.

That gets back to my belief that the government should still subsidize college loans notwithstanding the enormous costs because I fear that if we didn't, then it would really be a much smaller set of people who could manage to get in the signalling game, which would mean more inequality.   To take my Mercedes hypothetical, lets say that owning a Mercedes, the more expensive the better, was somehow a very important part of getting a good job.  As it stands now, only very wealthy people can afford to buy themselves or their children one, and without some serious incentives from the government, banks are not going to loan your average 18 year old $100k to acquire one (we'll also assume, just to make things work, that the bank can't repossess the Mercedes, the same way it can't repossess someone's college education).  The already wealthy keep getting Mercedes, and thus the key to the good life, but the poorer have no shot, or much less of a shot than if someone helped them pay for one. 

I don't know how we get out of this dilemma.  Maybe if enough of the people who set education policy in the country recognized what much of the education system really accomplishes, perhaps we could trim away much of the costs that make the signalling game so expensive.

The issue I see is that the second bolded part would just lead to the first bolded part.  College will only get more expensive so further debt will have to be taken on by the student.  In the end the taxpayers and students end up paying more with smaller and smaller return on investment.

I don't think the government should get out of the K-12 education, but funding should be attached to the student and not the district.  Basically the current charter school system is the way of the future to get more bang for your buck and lowering cost at the same time.

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5 minutes ago, DevsMan84 said:

The issue I see is that the second bolded part would just lead to the first bolded part.  College will only get more expensive so further debt will have to be taken on by the student.  In the end the taxpayers and students end up paying more with smaller and smaller return on investment.

I don't think the government should get out of the K-12 education, but funding should be attached to the student and not the district.  Basically the current charter school system is the way of the future to get more bang for your buck and lowering cost at the same time.

Oh, it certainly will, or will at least contribute to it.  At this point though, even with all the debt, college is a good investment for most people.  And without subsidized debt, a lot of people couldn't make the investment in the first place.

The evidence I've seen is that charter schools for the most part don't perform any better than public schools, on average anyway.  But even if they didn't, the problem is that charter schools just play the same signalling game as everywhere else, especially since their curriculum is mandated by the government.  By design they kind of have to since it's the state that allows them to exist in the first place. 

Things that might help, which Caplan suggests, is to loosen child labor laws and allow more teenagers to start working at a younger age, perhaps excepting only the most physically demanding jobs.  Maybe also spend a lot more on technical education starting at the middle school level.  Training for one job at a young age is better than having no job skills.  My understanding is that Germany does something like this using a very successful apprenticeship program. 

Again, I understand what I'm suggesting is never going to happen.  Most politicians would not get very far these days by saying that not all kids are above average.

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