Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

Ever have a nightmare . . . about school?

I can’t remember enduring a “dog ate my homework” or “naked in front of the class” dream recently — it’s been a long time since graduation — but economist Bryan Caplan discusses a different variety on EconLog: those nightmares in which one “realizes” that one lacks a credit to have graduated, and so must go back to college, late in life, etc., etc.

Caplan says many people have such unsettling dreams.

More interestingly, he muses that “I’ve never ever heard of someone dreaming about suddenly forgetting whatever job skills they learned in school.”

That is, people worry about trivial infractions of arcane qualifiers for a credential, but people don’t worry about the alleged purpose for going to school and getting credentials: learning something.

This Kafkaesque comedy rests on our “deeply rooted beliefs” that

crossing educational finish lines has a big effect on employability but little effect on job skills. The nightmare isn’t that you suddenly can’t do your job. The nightmare is that you’re the same person you were yesterday, but society throws you into limbo because your papers aren’t in order.

Caplan is writing a book titled The Case Against Education. He argues that we’ve come to rely too much on credentials, that pushing schooling and accreditation has not produced a net benefit to society.

He, a college professor, happily admits that, for bright people who test well, schooling can provide enormous private benefits. But that’s no ground for public subsidy.

Policy should surely encourage increasing skills, not making it easier for some folks to get jobs regardless of skills.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

By: Redactor


  1. JFB says:

    Higher education, and its continuation, should be a personal decision and investment.
    The undertaking, in time, effort and cost should be individually paid for, and justified in the same manner as any other investment (or for strictly personal satisfaction without economic expectation).
    Following up on your thought, a college degree has NO intrinsic value, but skills matriculation towards it hopefully imparts – the ability to think critically and learn independently – are priceless.

  2. Drik says:

    After 40 years of a Department of Education at a cost of a billion dollars a year, we now have high school graduates that can’t read and have rendered a high school education as necessary but worthless. An so we are on track to do the same for a two year college degree.
    Think we are better educated now? Check out the required reading list for completing high school back in the 50s. Makes today’s high school look like kindergarten. And that was really watered down from what was required 100 years ago. Up until we had a federally – run Department of Education we led the world. Since its formation we have fallen behind in almost every field compared to other countries almost every year.
    Maybe just coincidence. Maybe having the states run their own education and curricula was peaking and would have crashed anyway and continued to crash every year since for 40 years. Maybe having the control and responsibility being run a lot closer to the people that have to live with and have their families subjected to the results was a bad idea anyway.
    That’s the ticket.
    Wanna buy a bridge?

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