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.