*The Case Against Education*


It's double the price of other Kindle books so it probably won't sell well. Even if the price were lower, it still would sell poorly because people don't want to hear the message.

Paying for a book? How quaint and old-fashioned. I'll get the pirated version.

Shhh - this comment section rarely tolerates such a perspective for long.

Wrong again, prior.

You know you could just check out the book from the library. Yes, it may be a few months before your local library has it or will allow you to request an inter-library loan, but by that point in time you can spend five minutes browsing the reviews on Amazon to see if it is any good. Or you could stop by a bookstore and skim through a chapter or two in a half-hour. Neither of those options cost you money (except however much it costs to go to the library or the bookstore) and neither is illegal.

Is there a difference to society if he downloads it via torrent or checks it out from a library? Honestly asking.

I don't know if it matters, but the library does actually pay the publisher for the book. Also, I suspect that greater levels of activities at libraries lead to at least marginally higher budgets for libraries.

The traditional library is an outdated institution catering to the homeless and the crazy. Library budgets should be slashed.

The publisher in question is affiliated with Princeton University, so stiffing them helps starve the beast and Caplan should be happy if people pirate the book. I think he's opposed to intellectual property rights as well, so he won't mind not getting paid personally.

Libraries, and their homeless burden, varies. My county library is kind of rough, but luckily my city library is quite nice. Both good budget, and a very family clientele.

Actually they are rebuilding the county branch now. It will be interesting to see if they have some kind of homeless solution.

Perhaps just inside the front cover there is a special message from the author saying "Sucker! Told you all that education was worthless".

And nothing else.

Ok, that's kinda funny.

I suspect this book is overbroad and overdrawn, but .. sometimes we dislike people who earnestly tell us what we already know. That's not totally fair.

There are people who don't know, who still pitch college for all, and this book might be good for them. Or even it might be good that this book is out there, forcing them to be a little more careful about demonstrating a value added.

and this book might be good for them.


(I see the comment-eating software is working nicely.)

-- There are people who still pitch college for all...

Such as literally every Dem politician in the United States of America for the last forty-five years?

-- and this book might be good for them


Always google first.

Obama calls for focus on vocational training

I bet you memory holed this part as well:

"In primary and secondary schools, Obama is pushing to expand his signature Race to the Top initiative. The competitive grant program prods states to take dramatic steps such as wiping out traditional teacher tenure protections so that administrators have more flexibility to fire teachers who are performing poorly."

Never had a memory to lose, partisans literally do not register anything good about the other side. Both Dem and Rep partisans.

“In primary and secondary schools, Obama is pushing to expand his signature Race to the Top initiative. The competitive grant program prods states to take dramatic steps such as wiping out traditional teacher tenure protections so that administrators have more flexibility to fire teachers who are performing poorly.”

Federal intervention in primary and secondary schooling was a social work scheme cooked up during the Johnson administration and now mostly serves as a wedge to prevent local policy initiatives educrats don't like. Blow it up.

"Both Dem and Rep partisans."

Maybe this is a workable test then. When someone you don't like has a policy you do like, can you report it fairly? If not, that might be one working definition of "derangement."

As opposed to being on someone like Trump early, because you identify him as a unique danger.

Federal intervention in primary and secondary schooling was a social work scheme cooked up during the Johnson administration and now mostly serves as a wedge to prevent local policy initiatives educrats don’t like.

Because the local initiatives are inherently wiser than those of the "educrats?" I don't think so.

@Anonymous: could Trump ever accomplish something you do like, and could you admit that? Then maybe you don't have TDS. I know I don't even though I can't stand the guy, because from the jump I knew he wouldn't be the end of the world, and actually some good stuff would come with him (granted mainly typical Rep stuff). If you can't stop bitching about him even now and can't just move on with your life, you have TDS.

I think of the two of us msgkings, I have the more integrated position.

I don't claim to think the guy is terrible, but so are the people who complain about him.

@Anonymous: typical dodge and strawmanning. Answer the question. Could Trump ever accomplish something you like, and could you admit as much? I'm asking you to apply the workable test to yourself.

What a foolish question.

"Could Trump ever accomplish something you like, and could you admit as much?"

Yes, potentially, because every previous president has done something i approved of. But what does that even tell you?

It tells you absolutely nothing about the threat I saw in 2016, and opposed. It certainly does not tell you what has been confirmed since then.

The Weak, Effective Authoritarian

So you know, continue to be an ass, more concerned with your fellow commenters than *that*

Holy smokes, I'm quoting YOUR QUESTION above. Jan. 25, 5:09PM above. Forget it, you're a total waste of pixels.

You did not understand my question. It was not future or hypothetical. It was here and now. It was, can you correctly characterize an existing position?

"When someone you don’t like has a policy you do like, can you report it fairly?"

Like when I fairly report that Trump's efforts to undermine the FBI and the rule of law are a sh*tshow.

The only question now is "how much" obstruction. How much obstruction can you support, msgking?

You are directly contradicting yourself now. Your question, as a test of TDS, was could your report on a policy fairly if it was something you DO like from someone you don't (Trump in this case). Not something you presumably don't like, such as undermining the FBI. Can you fairly report anything Trump has done that you do like? If not, you may have TDS. Honestly, I really don't care. You are a crashing bore and a thin-skinned narcissist, kind of like the president. No amount of agreeing with you that Trump sucks will satisfy, or stop you from reminding us all you didn't like him from the start (even though many of us didn't either). So have the last word you crave.

I have been on a nice brisk 10 mile hike, with about 1500 feet elevation gain. Kinda tough since I did the same yesterday. I hope you all got outside today.

msgkings, you are still an ass.

You still want to make this about me and avoid at any cost thinking about Trump as a President, and your responsibilities as a citizen now, as he challenges our institutions.

I think if you broaden "education" to mean social networks you develop in school that open doors later in your career, such as done in Japan and Korea and US top 30 schools, there's a case to be made that education is more than just signaling.

That said, vocational school such as what they have here in the Philippines--to teach you to weld for example--is probably under-utilized in the USA. The US needs specific schools for coding, for passing the law bar exam (no, law school does NOT train you for that, but the private course "BarBri" does), for doing specific medical procedures (like in China, a 'doctor' who specializes just in hernias), for accounting, and the like.

Bonus trivia: I did my first stick weld the other day, using an induction welder, 90 Amps I think was the setting, and it was awesome. I got the weld to flow right, and the welding rod did not stick to the metal, and it was so cool for about 10 seconds (then I lost the touch and broke the weld). You have to have steady nerves (at first my hand was shaking too bad, I thought I would electrocuted) and hold the welding rod about 1 mm from the piece being welded but not touch it, and smoothly at an angle travel with the rod. It's a skill that takes years to perfect, though, as I say, in a few minutes I did get a somewhat decent (but no doubt not strong) weld that was not just a spot weld. I used welding glasses to cover my eyes but most Filipinos use ordinary dark sunglasses, even when they have welding glasses, which amazes me as to their recklessness.

This is the proper middle ground, that there are many paths to education with positive individual and societal ROI. Those should be pursued by the individual and subsidized by the state. Whether that is a 2 year welding course or 4 years of business administration.

Did you know that Vietnam sews our clothes because they all know how? It is not an option, it is (or was) a regular part of junior high curriculum. So of course it is easy for Vietnam to pick up clothing manufacture. Good ROI for them.

What we don't need is "no education" and "all the education" fools shouting at each other. We need to see ROI.

"This is the proper middle ground, that there are many paths to education with positive individual and societal ROI....We need to see ROI."

And you make no effort to show this or address any of the points Caplan made.

I have not read the book mr. blokk, but the feel I get is that it is "here are some zero ROI situations, and so they all are"

Not fair? Or does Caplan recognize that an engineering degree has merit in a lot of tangible ways?

Want to get a green card? Go to a Korean welding school. https://youtu.be/AT2wzQq7kx0?t=728

Interesting video. Koreans, is it legit?

@dux.ie - nice video. Notice that welding takes about 18 months of intense, 9-to-5 study to learn correctly. They were using a gas welding machine, which makes the best welds (a good weld is stronger than the material it holds together), not the easier to learn stick welds, which when doing spot welds are pretty good (most Philippine 'motorcycle taxis' use such spot welds on rebar, which is a terrible material to weld anyway, and they last pretty long), but won't pass muster for high-quality, industrial applications like say a gas or oil pipeline under tremendous pressures, or a bridge.

And, as a bonus, welding typically can't be off-shored. And there are often licenses that prevent competition from illegals.

imho, skilled + licensed blue collar work is the optimal career path nowadays for anyone who didn't get into a top-30 school.

The book the illiterate have been waiting for.


Hey! I resent that.

Public education in the US already foists illiteracy on c. 40% of students passing through, that could be tough to compete with.


Incidentally... I teach history. Every semester I ask the new cohort of undergrads what they are reading. And especially if they read out of curiosity. It is my educated guess that only 1/10 pick up a work of history to read for pleasure, ie one not assigned.

At some point our question might become: "WHICH history is going to repeat itself?"

An amusing anecdote from a teacher of English history was the catchphrase: "if there's one date I want you to remember in this class, it's 1066" [Battle of Hastings]. The teacher repeated this catch phrase throughout the semester, and, at the end of the semester, asked on the final exam the one date to remember. Only half the class got it right.

Bonus trivia: saw "Jumanji" the other day here in the Philippines, I liked it (my wife did not think it was that great, don't know why, I thought the plot lines were clear, which sometimes is a problem here in Asia and BTW all those "talking heads" and "adult drama" English movies that critics rave about do poorly over here since the English is too hard to follow: action speaks louder than words over here). At the end of the movie, (mild spoiler) the characters forgot to mention...the one word that also is the title of the movie!

What kind of a university do you teach at? How many people ever read history for pleasure (after the advent of electronic mass communication)?

American Heritage was profitable for decades. Still, it had a niche audience.

I love history, I'm reading about the French/Indian war right now - more murder and mayhem than any Hollywood turd. Lot of sh#t happened tween Jamestown and Yorktown.

It is my educated guess that only 1/10 pick up a work of history to read for pleasure, ie one not assigned.

News flash! Most people are not intellectual hobbyists. You'd have gotten a higher share in 1980, perhaps because people read books more or perhaps because baccalaureate-granting institutions captured 20-odd percent of each cohort rather than 40-odd percent.

Most people are not at college. Or doing a History course. History is accessible in a way that, say, higher mathematics is not. But I would still expect most mathematics students spend most of their free time thinking about mathematics. If most students simply did the mathematics assigned to them, in the classroom, and nowhere else, I would question why that student was doing that subject.

Yes, it is probably something to do with the 40%, but even so 1 in 10 is very low.

I was a math major but I read lots of Michener as an escape. I would have read history if I knew how to find really well written history.

The newer generations spend a lot of time on Snapchat, Instagram, and YouTube. They missed the reading train. We'll see where that goes.

Possibly because they are too busy jumping through the hoops assigned to them to get their fairly meaningless piece of paper? That really takes the fun out of it. I never read history books when I was in school taking history classes. Now that I've been out a while I enjoy them.

Charlie Day: "He said I'm illiterate....what does that even mean?"

Who need engineers?

Is this based on the education system of a particular country, state or county?
Or more of a sweeping generalization?

I think it is a sweeping generalization. I just got through readings tidbits of it in the link and found a quote: "When learning is neither useful or inspirational, though, how can we call it anything but wasteful?"

Richard Vedder is growing old, and someone has to take that spot of running down schools and teachers.

Self recommending.

If it was tagged 'Byran Kaplan' now that would be funny.

When I was young, we valued education.

". . . and I remember my youth and the feeling that will never come back any more - the feeling that I could last for ever, outlast the sea, the earth, and all men; the deceitful feeling that lures us on to joys, to perils, to love, to vain effort - to death; the triumphant conviction of strength, the heat of life in the handful of dust, the glow in the heart that with every year grows dim, grows cold, grows small, and expires - and expires, too soon, too soon - before life itself.” Joseph Conrad, "Youth"

When you were young, schooling probably ended up with some reasonable level of education.

Usage: Education, properly a drawing forth, implies not so
much the communication of knowledge as the discipline
of the intellect, the establishment of the principles,
and the regulation of the heart. Instruction is that
part of education which furnishes the mind with
knowledge. Teaching is the same, being simply more
familiar. It is also applied to practice; as, teaching
to speak a language; teaching a dog to do tricks.
Training is a department of education in which the
chief element is exercise or practice for the purpose
of imparting facility in any physical or mental
operation. Breeding commonly relates to the manners
and outward conduct.
[1913 Webster]

What are the alternatives he proposes? Home-schooling? Apprentices starting at a young age?

Sort of funny how long he has been writing this book. When he started writing about the idea, it still felt like the post-Freakonomics neoliberal boom, and "signaling" was a somewhat novel idea, at least to people outside of the profession of economics.

Now everyone screams about how economics isn't a science, and "Virtue signaling!" is all anyone ever says on Twitter.

If it sounds New Left in the 21st century you know it's coming from a libertarian.

A good book but the conclusion Caplan thinks follows, the government should cut its education spending, will not be persuasive The guy who's struggling to pay back his student loans because the corp demanded it isn't going to care why, if fact telling him it has no value may make him even more eager to shift the burden of the cost off of his shoulders and onto the corp's.

I suspect Caplan focuses primarily on college education. Personally, though I found undergrad to be relatively beneficial while K-12 seemed like sort of a waste. It's remarkable how little actual instruction there is through so many hours of early schooling. The format of sitting in a classroom for 6 hours a day is quite unnatural for children and especially spells death for more active kids who's very normal behavior is pathologized by the school system. Even with the vaunted "socialization" I think it's probably a mistake to socialize kids almost exclusively in segregated single year age cohorts. Plus you could provide socialization through non-academic activities expressly designed for that purpose. The real issue I think is that young children, aside from some precocious exceptions, are not mature enough to really benefit from hours upon hours of daily academic instruction. College I found a lot more beneficial because I was at an age where I could benefit from it, I had more control over my courses, and the faculty were much sharper and had actual expertise in their subject. And there was more of a focus on results and exams as opposed to earlier grades that were more about dutifully completing make-work assignments.

K-12: Glorified babysitting
College: Potentially useful although way too many people go. The four year BA is probably too long in many cases.
Grad-school: Certain professional and technical fields are probably worthwhile but mostly a waste. Lots of bogus programs.

Gregor, you are a genius.

I agree 100%, but I would go further. Turn the system around completely, allow students whatever they want ...online...and at their own pace, then certify knowledge with optional exams.

The current torture chambers called schools punish the life out of boys - only the girls and the girlymen are left standing.

...allow students to study whatever they want ...

Of course, he continues the dissembling of the "education" system. What they sell is schooling and as Caplan aptly supports, signaling. The case against schooling would be more accurate, but then they use education because schooling reveals itself.

I need some help with this.

Is it better to go to collage four for years, go into debt for $80,000, and then get a barista job?

Or, is it better to just get the barista job first, skip crawlage, and then get 4 years of pay and experience and maybe even a few bucks in your pocket.

I'm trying to push my son into college because that is where the chicks are, plus sports.

What would Peter Thiel say?

Comments for this post are closed