by Tyler Cowen
on May 5, 2012 at 4:05 pm
1. The mathematics of bookbinding.
2. The campus tsunami.
3. Resume padding among economists.
4. At around 2:45, Rush Limbaugh refers to Kevin Grier and me as a young liberal who writes for a tech blog.
5. Wealthy French looking to move to London at higher rates.
One wonders how hard the French are looking at GB when the Swiss are nearby. London, the great financial hub that it is, may not be inducement enough.
(And I live here: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/category/uk/london/)
If the rich of France want to move to London, they (1) are stupid: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/wealth-exodus-france/ and (2) can swap with my place in London.
Can’t speak of uber rich but a lof french nationals buying in Brooklyn….last 2 yrs or so…several schools have all French curricula that never existed a couple of yrs ago
I blame Dominique Strauss Kahn. If you are an uber-rich French national you probably never know when that Brooklyn apartment may come in handy.
Where’s all the good tech advice on here?
Shit no. They aren’t young liberals who write for a tech blog. They are old right-wingers who write for a physiology blog.
I am worried that eventually almost all college students will take the exact same classes, lecturing by the same people from Stanford and MIT and Harvard. Diversity and heterogeneity of thought is worth something. “Establishment” views are going to become even more entrenched, and we are going to get stuck in all kinds of local minima.
When we talk about ROI of a college education, homogeneity lifts all boats. We are trying to be like Sweden, right?
We have a semi-documented case of where this can be a problem. The Soviet nuclear physics world was extremely strong. To do post-graduate work you had to pass fiendishly difficult exams to get into a good institute. But what they did not examine was not considered important.
Meanwhile in Britain, Roger Penrose was interested in Escher’s paintings and got into topography. Which the Russians thought was unimportant. Penrose expanded out into the world of mathematical physics and invented twistor theory. That literally would not have occurred to the Russians, or to many other people, because it was not considered a particularly useful or interesting branch of mathematics. Penrose was lucky to go to places like UCL and Cambridge where students could do what they were interested in.
Who knows, perhaps the answer to String theory lies in some obscure corner of geometry. We won’t know if everyone is taking the same courses and sitting the same exams as everyone else.
(By the way, much of this is lifted from, I think from my failing memory, one of Freeman Dyson’s books)
I’m seeing a punnet square. On one axis is diversity and homogeneity. On the other is right and wrong. On a third axis you could put mainstream or contrarian.
Colleges are already extremely homogeneous by comparison to any other market. And ideological conformity is already about as rigid as it can get.
Re: #4, he was apparently referring to John Gruber’s blog as a tech blog he was surfing for Apple information populated by liberal readers, on which he read Gruber quoting you guys: http://daringfireball.net/linked/2012/05/03/end-of-football
Listening to the audio and looking at the transcript, he doesn’t appear to call Kevin Grier nor Tyler Cowen a liberal writing for a tech blog, so I hope there was some bigger point other than a failure to listen to the actual commentary…
Tyler is getting lazy
Limbaugh is not especially clear about what or who he is talking about. The Grantland piece says clearly identifies Tyler Cowen and Kevin Grier as academic economists. That Limbaugh tries to tie the threat to football into some kind of evil leftist conspiracy theme is transparently stupid. While legal liability may hasten the decline, parents that fret constantly about very low probability risks such as stranger abduction are unlikely to allow their precious offspring to participate in a sport that has such a high probability of permanent and progressive impairment. It seems likely that football will eventually take on a status similar to that of boxing or MMA. Though, as a team sport it may be harder to sustain.
The football thing reminds me of the smoking thing. People really didn’t understand that inhaling smoke with every breath might not be great for you. And it turns out it takes something like 10-100 years to cause a problem (depending on genetics). And what quite often happens is you get cancer a little early, the thing that would kill you anyway if you exercised and ate well enough to live that long. And your excuse is what, you listened to the people selling the stuff that it wasn’t harmful or addictive? And our solution was to give money to the government!
Were people really that stupid?
Now we have a sport that people have created phrases that always go together as if they were one word such as “gotyerbellrung” and people don’t realize that after 15 years of doing they might accelerate some marginal neurodegeneration?
“That Limbaugh tries to tie the threat to football into some kind of evil leftist conspiracy theme is transparently stupid.”
This is now the standard red state (American right) playbook.
Scientists discover some evidence that some feature of American culture in the post World War II decades (the NFL got its start in the mid 1960s) has some negative effects. The response is that the scientist are evil COMMUNISTS intent on destroying American culture, and we should keep everything exactly as it is.
The thing is, in terms of standard of living, the postwar decades in the U.S. really were the high point in human history. So the attitude makes a sort of sense as backwards reasoning; eg things were good in the 1950s and 1960s, so any step away from that is bad, so anything that could case us to move away from any feature of that time, however trivial, must be denounced.
The NFL didn’t get its start in the mid 1960s. It was formed in 1920. And professional football, albeit much less organized, had been around for a couple of decades by that point.
I think you are over-thinking this. College football is a way of life in many conservative parts of the U.S., particularly in the South. Proposing to take football away from people in some places is about as popular as proposing to show gay porn to kids in sex ed classes.
I suspect what will happen is, like an increasing number of things in the U.S., the evidence will become irrelevant and people will make up their minds based on cultural or partisan identity. If doctors and scientists provide evidence showing football is dangerous, that just means the scientists are lying, just as they are (so one partisan narrative goes) lying about second-hand smoke and global warming.
Don’t you see how ridiculous the hype is with all those things?
If you need RCTs with incredible statistical power to show there is a problem…there is no problem.
We now think sitting is as bad for your heart as smoking.
Football is no more dangerous than everyone knows it is. You can freaking die! At least being paralyzed isn’t uncommon and I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often it’s quite amazing. It’s just that there are ALSO long-term DIFFICULT TO SEE problems as well.
The whole problem with global warming is that we might have to return to “today’s” level of fossil fuel usage and cow farts. And every day “today” gets pushed forward a day. We simply think that we won’t be able to economically and politically return to whatever “today” was when there is a real problem, but that tells you exactly why doing ahead of time is probably unworkable.
It is really nothing to do with scientists except that they are too far out on the bleeding edge of science at the margin of marketing.
Tyler gets the facts wrong again.
In other news, dog bites man.
You couldn’t be more wrong. Limbaugh is clearly reading the article as it appeared on Grantland and not the portion Gruber quoted. Past that, he’s clearly attributing the essay to “this guy.”
“My point with this is just that I know who these people are, and now that this is being speculated about on a tech blog, wait ‘til the forerunners of the liberal sports media get hold of it. Even though their bread is buttered with this stuff, I know these people.”
But the point is that he doesn’t actually know who these guys are. At all.
Signaling…it’s not just for education anymore.
What’s the partial effect on wage from resume padding?
You can also read about book repair from this guide or this one. The latter is arguably too comprehensive, although I bought Jade 403 based on its recommendation and this guy’s AMA.
Doing book repair well is hard.
Book trivia: acid-free paper will last longer than those CDs, even perhaps pressed CDs, with PDF or XML format data on them.
Any truth to the rumor that Paul Krugman put on this resume that he was a minority because his great-great-great grandfather was a Sioux lesbian.
Yes. I believe her name was Julia.
#4: He repeatedly makes the point that he found the the article on a tech blog populated by young liberals, which is apparently true.
I see that your version of events has the advantage of Limbaugh looking stupid, so you’re probably not interested in being accuracy.
But he has more interest in being accurate than either you or Limbaugh do in “being accuracy,” which is probably impossible, as “accuracy” is not a person. Sorry about that.
The problem with France is that it’s full of French.
2. Assuming that a person could get a great education for free, online, at their own pace, then the real test of online education is how to build credibility in the degree.
As long as MIT maintains brick and mortar education and makes no distinction on its transcripts which courses were delivered through alternate means, credibility is maintained. When the majority of classes are taught this way, the question will be – fair or not – how well did they learn?
I predict that comprehensive, in person, exams will become the next evolution of online learning. Employers and grad schools will have to find some way to separate the wheat from the chaff, not that the chaff is necessarily bad.
Signal must break through the noise or be sought. Buy stock in ETS when it becomes for-profit and goes public.
Agree with you about comprehensive exams that will allow you to compare students across schools and online curricula.
Look also for schools which will differentiate themselves with hands on learning and proficiency through internships and real world projects to prove mastery.
I agree there will be differentiation. But I also think there will be combination. Because online education liberates students from a rigid schedule, they will be free to work at jobs, internships, and research projects. There will probably be some mentor or counselor to guide and evaluate these projects.
The majors for which “hands on” work is either necessary or desirable will meet your model. The majority of college majors though are simple ‘book lernin’. The online/internship model might actually enhance their education. For example, let’s take a Mathematics major or an English major. 100% of their courses could be taken online. What can or should they do for an internship? For the English major, that’s a bit easier – write or edit. For the Math major, will there be enough math-related internships available? It may just spark a great awakening in Applied Mathematics.
I think it is fraudulent to fail to make a distinction between degrees earnt on the premises so to speak and those acquired some other way. For a lot of degrees, especially outside the STEM fields and more so that have a quasi-political component like law, a large part of their value may not be the things you learn but the friends you make. You come with a list of names and contacts. That may be worth more than the actual content of the courses you take. I mean history at Yale? Come on. What other value would it have?
I really don’t see this taking over from traditional universities. It is not about facts you learn. It is about people you sleep with too. And people you talk to face to face. About interaction with other students.
So perhaps the model to go to is to evolve something like Oxford and Cambridge where you go to a bricks and mortar university and get a personal tutor. That tutor guides you in course choices, but they are provided by someone else. On line in this case. But the tutor follows your progress, talks to you about what you’re doing, is in the same field but mainly concerned with research anyway. And in the end, the local university certifies what you have done. That could work as a model. Even though it would be expensive.
If people really were educated in the way education is marketed, then why would you need any credibility in the degree? You would need credibility that the school met the standards. But once the standard is met everyone would be the same. There would be no hierarchy. No credential competition. No need for signaling.
I think I figured out that this is why some people consider a PhD working for the federal government to be equivalent to a PhD in engineering when comparing salaries. If people are all equal, and education is all equal, then it is a linear onward and upward comparison.
Of course, all of the above is fantasy.
I think the social aspects of university are greatly overrated. Half or more of those aspects have nothing to do with education or prospective employment. The other half is either unproductive or fleeting. It’s the same argument people use against home schooling, and the criticism has been debunked over and over again. The home-schooled or self-taught student isn’t necessarily cloistered. They can make friends, play sports, join clubs, go to worship services, and more generally engage with people the same way that tens of millions of other Americans do who are not learning or working at universities. The internet cuts both ways – it has led to more social isolation and to better long-distance communication. It appeals to both introverts and extroverts. In fact, it permits introverts to reach others without fear.
The original model of education was that children of wealth would study in their fathers’ extensive libraries, at private schools, from private tutors, or at the church, by themselves, from books. Hardly egalitarian and hardly desirable by modern standards.
Then they would go to schools like Oxford or Cambridge and listen to lectures or undergo internships. Then they would spend years reading and writing, mostly by themselves. Interaction with peers was done at infrequent conferences and through letters that were sent on slow boats. These are the people we revere in science: Galileo, Newton, Einstein. The greatest social interaction were among clergymen who, as a group, often remained cloistered from society. History’s greatest scientists were, for the most part, self-taught loners or members of exclusive academies.
Arts and Sciences were originally meant for their own sake, not as a profession. If we intend education today to be focused mainly on professions, then the school-internship model would be best. But not everyone can get an internship related to their field of study. There are already battles brewing between internships and paid permanent workers, especially those who are part of unions.
I know History majors from Yale, and none of them are working in “History.” In one sense this confirms your hypothesis that social contacts are more important than the education. Then why uphold the pretense of education? It reminds me of Linda Richman giving people a topic of discussion when she became verklempt. Does “History” merely give these socialites something interesting to talk about? Do discussions of History at a cocktail party help the firm to pick the next Vice President?
I don’t know if I could have suffered through three years of online classes better than suffering through three years of B&M classes for law school. B&M has advantages in gaining and maintaining your attention and providing discipline to your schedule. That doesn’t mean the model is best for everyone, particularly someone who is a single parent or who must work a full-time job or who has an irregular schedule. Universities have way too much overhead. Professors seem to be compensated not for the quality or outcomes of their teaching (which pays the university’s bills) but for research. (professional degrees being the exception)
I welcome the internet revolution in education. I look forward to seeing these results unfold. God help us if a solar storm destroys all our electronic communications.
That argument may be more valid if we had ever had a home schooled President. Or at least one in modern times. On the other hand we have had some who went to Groton and even more who went to the Ivies. In recent times a very small number of Ivies too. I do not believe for one second their admission policies are any use at picking out the best and brightest, or even the most ambitious, although they clearly do select for the richest. So the former cannot be determining the outcome but the latter may. But ignoring parental wealth, that suggests that the human capital aspect of friendship with your student peers is important in America. The internet is no substitute for that sort of networking.
You may have a point about apprenticeships, but one of the differences between Britain and America was Britain’s reliance on apprenticeships. That meant that existing firms had to expand, in a small and slow way, into new fields. America could, and did, train hundreds of people for the airplane manufacturing sector through its universities and colleges. I am not sure apprenticeships are the best way to go although they have their place. Law probably should be only taught this way for instance.
I would hope that History as a subject has a value in and of its own. I would also think that people who tried to learn from the past would do well. It is said that the analysts who do best in sudden downturns are those who studied History at university. I have no idea if this is true or not. However it also should teach a range of skills we are ignoring – critical thinking (which is now a euphemism for spouting mindless Chomsky-like cliches), clear writing, research skills, critical evaluation (which has also died as anyone under 50 tends to think that anything written more than five minutes ago is useless by definition). The Humanities has largely abandoned its mission and so will suffer. They will have to rely on those social networks or no one would bother.
I agree that actual classes and deadlines provide a discipline that internet learning cannot. In theory I am sure the internet would benefit a lot of people from a non-traditional background. On the other hand they may be the very people who need the external discipline.
I also agree Universities have way too much overhead. Mostly administration. Football teams, although they may pay their way. I would like to see a return to less professional administration with more control by the academics themselves. But that won’t happen and frankly most academics don’t deserve it. A lot of that over head is a tacit admission that the university itself teaches rubbish. They seem unable to claim that the academic experience is worthwhile so they sell their campus on the number of gyms and clubs it has. However I also tend to think it is a good idea if academics have to research. At least in the sciences. Students should struggle to learn. The modern world caters to their weakness too much and this just reinforces those weaknesses.
I am ambivalent about on line learning but I will be interested to see how it turns out. I think it has its place.
>A lot of that over head is a tacit admission that the university itself teaches rubbish. They seem unable to claim that the academic experience is worthwhile so they sell their campus on the number of gyms >and >clubs it has.
It’s not that the academic experience is rubbish, it’s that a good academic program doesn’t help attract customers (students). This is because it is very difficult to evaluate the “academic experience.” The most likely explanation is that even students/parents are not equipped to judge differences in academic quality between the schools that the student was accepted to. If Student X gets into Stanford, UChicago, and Penn (all rated #5 among nat’l universities in U.S. News & World Reports), do we really expect that Family X is equipped to judge which one has a better undergrad program (remember that Student X probably has no idea what she will major in, making even the slightly more manageable task of comparing departments useless). However, Family X can easily evaluate which has a new student union, library, or athletic center. Now imagine that Student Y, the first in her family to go to college, has to choose between SUNY-Stony Brook and SUNY-Buffalo (both rated #111) — how is Family Y, which knows even less about the academic world than X, going to make a judgement about academic quality? In this context, it’s easy to understand why universities — even very good ones — are more interested in investing in “student life” than the academic experience.
You might argue that universities should publish job placement data for undergraduates in the same way that PhD programs are beginning to. That might be an improvement, but that data will be subject to all sorts of noise. It would be interesting to see institutions try this, though.
I predict that comprehensive, in person, exams will become the next evolution of online learning. Employers and grad schools will have to find some way to separate the wheat from the chaff
I hope you are correct, but I have my doubts this will ever be allowed to happen on a large enough scale to matter.
Bill presented an alternative to comprehensive exams: internships. I think that is plausible too.
Ph.D. programs already have comprehensive exams as a knowledge check, and dissertations as a minimal check on research ability. The subject tests of the GRE act as a de facto comprehensive exam for admission into some graduate schools. I have no doubt that ETS and similar organizations will meet the very “profitable” challenge of certifying online education.
In Financial Services, your job performance matters the most, but there are non-B&M, self-paced, certification programs that hold considerable weight in the professions, e.g. CPA, CFA, CRP, CTFA, CFP, CFS, CIMA. The CPA is actually a licensing requirement in most states to work in the profession or to even call yourself an “accountant.”
My fear, Yancey, is that the comprehensive exams will become an exclusive gateway through which only the privileged can pass. It will eliminate the very egalitarian educational prospects that the internet offers.
<blockquote.My fear, Yancey, is that the comprehensive exams will become an exclusive gateway through which only the privileged can pass. It will eliminate the very egalitarian educational prospects that the internet offers.
I don’t disagree with the analysis, but this is exactly why I don’t think it would be allowed to happen. Companies today would explicitly test applicants thoroughly if they were allowed to do so- it would, without the legal hassles, be much cheaper way of making sure you didn’t get a bad employee. They aren’t allowed to do this- they are forced to do such filtering via the credential process of colleges and university. My fear is that any attempts to break this credential process, to allow the more able to bypass the expense of physcial college, will be blocked precisely because of the fear of disparate impacts.
“My fear, Yancey, is that the comprehensive exams will become an exclusive gateway through which only the privileged can pass. It will eliminate the very egalitarian educational prospects that the internet offers.”
Thats sort of the point of higher education: to sort people based on affiliation and IQ.
2. “Many of us view the coming change with trepidation.”
My experience with resistance to anti-aging arguments makes me wonder if everyone who reacts with trepidation in areas I know nothing about are also silly ninnies.
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