Saturday assorted links


1. Are you kidding me? It's a predictable rant steeped in social-desirability bias. Is there any point that it makes that requires a response from Caplan? Please say what that point is.

One good thing about it is that this piece does distinguish between more practical and less practical forms of education.

And while it tries to defend the less practical, I didn't see it making a strong case. A win for Caplan.

"In an innovative, large-scale, and randomized-control study on the effects of a single field trip to the Crystal Bridges Museum in Northwest Arkansas, researchers found that K–12 students who visited the museum demonstrated stronger critical-thinking skills, increased historical empathy, higher levels of tolerance, and a greater interest in consuming [that's a rather crass word to use] art and culture."

Big deal. Note that even if you take the study at face value, except for "critical thinking" (which is itself a dubious educational concept), three of out of the four things mentioned, "increased historical empathy, higher levels of tolerance, and a greater interest in consuming art and culture" are moral qualities that have nothing to do with improving academic skills (though it does reveal what the author considers to be most important in education).

"are moral qualities"
Moral qualities... The horror, the horror.

That's rich coming from the 'Brazilian' fraudster.

I am not a fraudster. You want a fraudster? Think Mr. Donald "Swindling workers and creditors" Trump. He has promised to "lock her up". Has anything come of it yet?! Meanwhile, President Temer promised nothing, yet all living former Brazilian Presidents are under federal investigation. Popular former President Lula is BEHIND BARS! Who is really draining the swamp and who is swimming at it?!

Oh. And Caplan's opinions are not steeped in any sort of ideological bias? I guess not if you share that bias.

The article recognizes the validity of much of Caplan's criticism, but is very negative towards his proposed solutions. I'd suggest that Caplan, if he feels like it, might respond to that.

Here's a paragraph,

[Caplan] also asserts, without a shred of supporting evidence, that vocational education is more “interesting” than the standard academic curriculum and would help “to raise a new productive, independent, engaged generation,” far superior to the “the bored, infantilized youth of today.”

Here's another,

it is a telling omission that Caplan does not explain how we should measure student aptitudes. He has six pages on why we should stop stigmatizing child labor and not a single line on the mechanism for tracking students; he is clear, however, that “academically uninclined” students should be steered to vocational education at the age of twelve.

There are more.

The author would have an aneurism if Caplan dared mention the SAT.

(There are some fair criticisms of Caplan's work in the article. You only need one hand to count them.)

Lol at conservatards who don't like to read. "Daddy read it to me" Arnold pleads.

That you can't tell he's challenging you to formulate an argument suggests you might improve your reading comprehension.

So sad that you clearly cannot understand Arnold's clean writing. He, like so many conservatards disregards empirical truths in favor of emotional truths. Then grumbles about his widdle hurt fee-fees.

Which empirical truths? Arnold specifically asked Tyler to point out which parts of the essay raise points Caplan already addressed. To claim this shows Arnold didn't read the essay is insipid. I've had my complaints about Arnold being indifferent to empirical evidence in the past, but the only instance in which the essay cites any study against Caplan was on a trip to a museum supposedly making kids more appreciative of art. Nowhere does the essay acknowledge Caplan's points on the research regarding "transfer of learning" (instead there are citation free references to educational psychology earlier in the essay). I was most disappointed that in all Snyder's discussion of vocational education in this piece OR his earlier one responding to Danielle Allen, there was nothing about actually existing vocational education in Germany (which Bryan points to as a model to follow). A better critique of Caplan's use of signalling theory (which I believe Noah Smith made) is that failure to graduate should be considered a signal that a student was failing to build "human capital" compared to those who do graduate. But Snyder isn't particularly interested in human capital and just an aspirational educational idealism seemingly disconnected from empirical evidence on any form of existing mass education.

"Arnold specifically asked Tyler to point out which parts of the essay raise points Caplan already addressed"

That is a deliberately generous and misleading misreading of Arnold. Arnie asked what part of the article merited a response, not which part was new but rather which part was deserving.

If your problem with the article is that it is insufficient in its citations that seems a facile problem, given the nature of a web article vs a book several hundred pages long. But hey, whatever makes you feel better.

but the only instance in which the essay cites any study against Caplan was on a trip to a museum supposedly making kids more appreciative of art.

Which misses the main point - are they measuring the effect of the museum on the children or the difference between children who like to go to a museum and children who do not.

After all, think what the responses would be if you told an inner city Ghetto class they were off to an art museum and an Upper Middle class White class.

If you actually read the article you would have seen that it was a randomized study and "The benefits for students attending high-poverty schools were especially pronounced".

I did not read the study although I did read someone else quote it to the effect it was randomized. But that sort of misses the point. You can tell a good student to go to a museum and he probably will. You can tell a bad student to go to a museum and he will probably cut class.

You misunderstood what you read. They looked at groups of kids taken to the museum and groups not taken--it was not a case of telling the kids to go and allowing them to choose.

You'd be hard put to find one paragraphs which was a rant. Most of it isn't critical.


“Educational psychologists have shown that rich academic content is vital for getting students, including below-average students, to improve their academic skills”

‘Rich’ does a lot of work in that sentence as it is meaningless but will be metamorphosed into anything required to vainly refute Caplan.

“Schools that remove the flesh and blood from the curriculum will cut off circulation to education’s beating heart: curiosity.”

Complete emotion garbage and rant.

“Caplan’s plan effectively denies the possibility of two key features of any worthwhile education: discovery and seduction”

Complete bullshit rant.

“He seems to imagine that students arrive in school like calculators, their computing power hard-wired and all of their preferences pre-set. ”

You can hear the undertone of ‘labeling Caplan a ‘racist’ in that sentence.

“they would be abdicating their professional obligations as teachers.”

Lol, wut? I’ll need to see that in the contract, please.

“Moreover, “peripheral” subjects such as art could indeed be central to high quality schooling. (Suburban schools for the well-heeled certainly think so.)”

Omg. Central?? I’m sorry Art, but this is complete claptrap. Combined with class war baiting.

The 1st ~25 paragraphs are a decent, if stilted, review of Caplan’s book. The remainder is complete garbage.

That Snyder makes one citation to a study on a randomized field trip makes it all the more galling that he makes NO such citation for the earlier claims you quoted.

I thought that was funny. The author was trying to defend the value of school with a study showing that when students *left* school to spend a day somewhere else, their motivation and interest improved.

The term 'rant' does not mean what you think it means.

As someone who grew up in the bottom quintile and, somehow, got to the top 1%, here is what many at the bottom want:

1. A set of aptitude and achievement tests which measure students, administered, at a minimum, at the end of primary and secondary school.

2. A set of highly lucrative scholarships which are based upon those tests.

3. Clear explanation to all students of (1) and (2) throughout school years. This is critical to lower income students.

4. Clear and effective coverage of the topics to be covered in (1) and (2) such that those children in the top decile aren’t overly advantaged by their personal tutors.

The US does a decent job at (1), is getting progressively worse at (2), has always been horrible at (3) and has never been good at (4) but we are getting vastly worse at it.

No doubt that many at the bottom want far more than this, but it would be a good start. It, likely, only helps the top ~10% (or less) of students, but at least it gives some hope.

I think that this aligns well with Caplan’s ideas.

Caplan's headline is: "Why we need to stop wasting public funds on education."

He advocates two major policy responses. The first is educational austerity. Government needs to sharply cut education funding to curb this wasteful rat race. The second is more vocational education, because practical skills are more socially valuable than teaching students how to outshine their peers.

Is that compatible with your scholarships?

I could see a tip in that direction, but I don't think face value, massively fewer college degrees, should be a first step.

“Is that compatible with your scholarships?“

I think so.

I do not think that most of the poor go to college with the vision of enlightening themselves. I think that they go with the hope of escaping poverty, or simply increasing their station. We have been selling false goods to the poor and that Caplan’s vision is more honest.

The devil is in the details, but for what it is worth, I agree in general, and have seen close hand college oversold to kids who do not complete.

To give you a bit more, honest, information. I was a "character reference" for a junior college application. The kid not did not complete, and I got calls years after because I was in the database. They were bill collectors, looking for repayment for his college loans.

Did I know where he was? Did I know where he can be found?

This is something fundamentally broken s***. And yet it is our system.

@Al - congrats for making it into the 1%. Some free advice from a fellow 1%-er: watch out for relatives, friends, who use you as a bank. Here in the Philippines, it's manageable but even I have to watch on occasion from people who need some modest capital (typically $5k to $20k) to start their business, and who probably will never pay you back. Further, top 1% in income (which is something around $300k USD a year or so) is not the same as top 1% in net worth (assets minus liabilities, which is around $9M or so). My first year out West, I was making near $100k a year (a few decades ago, which is probably like $150k now) and spent it all. Even at my peak income and peak savings, and I lived rather modestly but nice, I only saved about 30% of my income, after taxes and expenses. California is expensive, and also behaviorally, 'easy come, easy go'. I made the bulk of my money not from my six figure job, but the old fashioned way: I inherited it from relatives and from my family, who's also in the 1%. And I vote nowadays Democratic Party, since the Republican party is such a mess and the Libertarians are irrelevant. Good luck!

Reasonable and cogent.

From the article, "Caplan estimates that the B.A. completion rate is around 65 percent for “excellent” students, 44 percent for “good” students, 12 percent for “fair” students, and about 5 percent for “poor” students." We are sending people to college who should not go.

It's bad policy, and I think a disservice to the "fair" and "poor" students, to not be very frank with them. I think your 1, 3, and 4 above would do that. And given that, then 2 makes a lot of sense, and if we don't waste money on trying to push the very unlikely to succeed, we can afford to fund it adequately.

Sort of like the walk-on model in sports, anyone can try out, the rules are clear, but the the scholarships and coaching (your "highly lucrative scholarships") go to those who make the college cut.

Simultaneously, 12 years should be enough time to provide a good education (literate, numerate, basic cultural and citizenship, some skills) for those who aren't going to college.

“And given that, then 2 makes a lot of sense, and if we don't waste money on trying to push the very unlikely to succeed, we can afford to fund it adequately.”


“It's bad policy, and I think a disservice to the "fair" and "poor" students, to not be very frank with them”

No doubt. The bill of goods that we sell to students today is cruel. Is it any wonder that they are dissatisfied?

The mildest of critiques has the delicate "libertarian" headed for the fainting couch!

"Eh, I don't like it very much" would be a very mild critique which also wouldn't be deserving of any of Tyler's praise. A full-throated denunciation of Caplan which went through Caplan's claims and showed them to be a misreading of the existing evidence would merit more respect.

I had to laugh when I got to

Teacher pay, of course, is not unrelated to educational quality.

There's no justification here. It's just "of course." What are the effects of teacher pay on student learning? Never mentioned at all.

The author is completely unaware of the irony of the following sentences

With better salaries, it is easier to attract and retain qualified, highly motivated teachers. The average starting salary for a teacher in Arizona is $31,874. As one Phoenix-area teacher said: “I mean really, I need a college degree to make this?

Huh. If only someone wrote a book on why we require college degrees for things that don't need college degrees. Anyone know of such a book?

Well, some believe that people respond to economic incentives. Offer better pay, and you may well attract better employees.

But the strongest believers in this general idea often mysteriously abandon it when discussing teachers. I don't know why.

In general, I would expect it to be true, but right after going through a bunch of things where I talk about someone isn't providing evidence I wouldn't use an "of course" for a complicated system of inputs and outputs.

TFA explicitly studied the issue of effective teachers and found that getting an educational degree had no effect on student outcomes, which made the "why do I need a college degree for this?" so hilarious.

I've said before on this forum that I think my state's teachers are underpaid, because we keep on losing teachers to other states, so I'm not unsympathetic to the outcome. It's still not an "of course."

But the strongest believers in this general idea often mysteriously abandon it when discussing teachers. I don't know why.

What you say is true and I know exactly what you mean by the selective application of economics. But it's also true that people on the other side will refuse to connect the dots that say "well the teachers suck because the pay sucks." They will never ever admit the teachers suck, ever. They'll dance around the issue and say "we need to pay more to get better teachers" but the issue that there is anything wrong with the current teachers is verboten. And when you leave the primary argument for something off your list, you are never going to be effective arguing for it.

My phone gave me a news alert about the British royals, and I thought "really, Google? This is who you think I am?"

But sure, gossip is connected to some primal urge to sniff out power structures, now mostly misdirected. It will be natural long after it is useful.

USPS says they shouldn't have to account for 50% of its liabilities.–-not-amazon-–-for-billion-dollar-loss/ar-AAx7TcK?ocid=spartanntp&ffid=gz

And they would be right, when one considers pre-funding - 'What if your credit card company told you: “You will charge a million dollars on your credit card during your life; please enclose the million dollars in your next bill payment. It’s the responsible thing to do.” Doesn’t seem quite right, does it?

Well, that’s what the U.S. Postal Service’s requirement to prefund its long-term pension and healthcare liabilities is like. The Postal Service is required to pay the full estimate of its liabilities, currently estimated at nearly $404 billion, even as that estimate moves around and is based on assumptions that are highly uncertain and can frequently change over the life of the liability.

First, let’s look at current funding levels. The Postal Service has set-aside cash totals of more than $335 billion for its pensions and retiree healthcare, exceeding 83 percent of estimated future payouts. Its pension plans are nearly completely funded and its retiree healthcare liability is 50 percent funded – much better than the rest of the federal government. But getting to this well-funded position has been painful. The Postal Service’s $15 billion debt is a direct result of the mandate that it must pay about $5.6 billion a year for 10 years to prefund the retiree healthcare plan. This requirement has deprived the Postal Service of the opportunity to invest in capital projects and research and development.'

Before reading the rest of my post go research the difference between cash-basis and accrual-basis accounting, particularly the latter. You clearly don't know the difference between the two. To borrow from your mistaken example, the USPS is actually the credit card borrower and the USPS employees are the credit card company. How? USPS employees forego income today in return for deferred benefits, therefore the USPS is borrowing from the employees. Prior to 2007, nowhere on the USPS consolidated financial statements was this borrowing acknowledged. Instead the USPS would wait to disclose this debt when the credit card bill ballooned to its peak amount as the benefit came due - when the employee retires and claims deferred income.

From an income statement perspective the "losses" that started to accrue in 2007 are offsetting the fact that the USPS essentially was lying prior to 2007 by not previously accounting on its income statement for this credit card bill they were racking up. Income statements are done using accrual-basis accounting not cash-basis.

From a statement of cash flows perspective, if you were a USPS employee would you feel comfortable with your borrower the USPS continually running up a credit card bill for as many as 30-40 years without ever even making a minimum payment? Responsible credit card borrowers pay off their bill every month. Or in the case of the USPS it would be to place cash in a secure 3rd party entity to ensure the solvency/liquidity of the USPS does not disturb the employees ability to collect the money it lent to the USPS.

“You clearly don't know the difference between the two”

Who has this ever stopped prior?

Anyway, thanks for the great post Jay.

My favorite is when the ignorant fools claim that the USPS is forced to count retirement liabilities for employees they have not even hired yet, and even people who aren't born yet but will become employees. I tell them that if they truly believe that is how the liabilities are being calculated they need to go to the SEC and report fraudulent statements made by the CFO of the USPS. From the most recent 10-K...

"OPM valuations of post-retirement health liabilities and normal costs were prepared in accordance with Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board Statement of Federal Financial Accounting Standards (“SFFAS”) No. 5 and SFFAS No. 33, which require the use of the aggregate entry age normal actuarial cost method. "

SFFAS 5 and 33 actually contradict the moronic statements made by fools that don't understand even most basic of accounting rules/methods.

It's not only generally accepted accounting practices (GAAP), Federal law - ERISA - provides/sets minimum standards for [...] benefit accrual and funding; provides fiduciary responsibilities for those who manage and control plan assets; [...] The law applies to non-government employers.

The comparing the estimation and accrual of expenses for probable future pension/benefits liabilities to revolving credit (credit card) arrangements is completely bogus. That is typical for the average your libtard.

Sound advice from Edward Gibbon - never annoy yourself arguing with people whose opinions are asinine.

Further, this statement of yours is completely debunked by accrual basis accounting because you are ASSUMING the lender would/could demand payment before any liabilities are ACCRUED...

'What if your credit card company told you: “You will charge a million dollars on your credit card during your life; please enclose the million dollars in your next bill payment. It’s the responsible thing to do.” Doesn’t seem quite right, does it?"


#1, way too long and juvenile in tone. I made it through about a quarter and then gave up -- so maybe the good stuff is at the end, but i doubt it. I by the way don't buy a lot of what Caplan has to say -- it certainly is wrong in the case of my life -- and am dubious that any save the chattering classes will pay the least bit of attention to it.

No part of it is juvenile in tone. Caplan gets much more deference than he's earned.

We should be able to separate the man (contemptible) from his ideas on this particular subject.

Should we be able to separate the contemptible man from his contemptible ideas?

He grunts his counter-examples rather than explicating them. That ought to be enough to demonstrate that his is nothing more than juvenalia. His "no you're wrong" sentences are never followed by evidence and when he gesticulates towards some study it's an N=12 non-pre-registered study from 20 years ago.

Science is upending your world, I get that, but perhaps you should try embracing the unfolding truth rather than running from it like some evolution denier.

Why exactly is the man "contemptible"

He's in favor of open borders. Nuf said.

1. In low track classes, meanwhile, there is an emphasis on following directions, personal responsibility, and minding one’s ps and qs.

Horror of horrors!

Please don't pollute the thread.

That review of Caplan's book was dreadful. Just looking at his take on vocational education:

-On Caplan's side there is a ton of statistics and sources on how well vocational education performs. Not all of them positive! For instance, he cites is evidence that workers aged 50 and above may have *less* chances of switching careers if their education was vocational.

-On Snyder's side: a couple anecdotes and rent-a-quotes about how vocational education is racist.

The reflexive resort to racial accusations is the most eye-rolling part of the review. It's the only part where he tries both barrels on Caplan, and it's a waste.

I'm struck by the way everyone hates "administrators" in the abstract, but almost no one has a plan for the specific administrators they want to fire: and whose positions ought to be eliminated.

Well they can start with the "dedicated" graphic designer that the Equity and Inclusion office pays 75k a year (per your linked article)

How do you keep the administrative costs of the milk company down? You have no need to micromanage it, exposure to market competition does that as well. Universities, unfortunately, are a natural monopoly, so my modest proposal is to regulate it like one. Impose tuition controls.

"Universities, unfortunately, are a natural monopoly"

Seriously? I a plural of diverse things (interstate things, international things!) is a monopoly?

In other news, dogs have a "monopoly" on being dogs.

2. It does not take many more high-level administrators to cause administrative bloat as evidenced by the finding that the greatest growth in headcount has been in mid/low level administrative staff. High level administrators create and expand their bureaucratic empires with more employees.

Enrolling more under-prepared students and offering students a wider range of services are part of the problem, but even that is mostly caused by the universities themselves (e.g., create course distribution requirements that are more complex than need be, do not expect students to lift a finger to understand those requirements, and thus there is now a "need" for more academic advisors). Administrators also create a raft of regulations, which requires even more administrative staff to ensure compliance.

3. “Balkan cities, if I can venture this generalization, were military encampments.”

I rather think that I first read that description decades ago.

I've had a look at some of Branko Milanovic's other posts on his blog. I found interesting stuff there. Thank you for the introduction, Mr Cowen.

the guy just keeps knocking em out of the park like #7

everybody else can go, f u, lil f o, nobody, s ho's!!

1. It's hardly critical at all, mostly summarizing his argument.

The review does point out the inconsistency of bemoaning the general knowledge of the US populace, and then recommending that we give up on trying to educate people. The review also points out that a lot of kids in the US attend high poverty, highly segregated schools with unqualified teachers. That students in those schools don’t learn much isn’t surprising, and doesn’t seem to be a point addressed by Caplan. Caplan’s arguments certainly would have been stronger had he done what Charles Murray did in “Coming Apart”, or even if he had tried to bring some insights from “Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids”. It would especially be more persuasive if he had limited his analysis to kids from stable homes. As Caplan opined in his earlier book, so long as you follow minimal upper middle class parenting norms, parents don’t influence the life outcomes of their children. But more than half of US children no longer live in the same household as their biological father by the time that they are 15, so most kids in the US aren’t being raised in the minimally upper middle class way that Caplan recommends. So to say that the education system of a nation that puts more than half of its children through traumatic experiences (like the breakup of their biological parents or the absence of their father) isn’t good because students don’t learn much for me is an really informative analysis. Kids from broken homes don’t learn much, and kids from broken homes are the majority of US kids. Now if the education system is producing subpar outcomes for middle class kids from stable families, that would be damning evidence in the “case against education”. But my impression is that US schools do work well for those students, and they do learn both general and practical knowledge.

Caplan doesn't think "shared environment" has much impact even among poorer Americans. Growing up in a single-parent household doesn't matter as much if the reason is widowhood because that's more random and less genetic than divorce or illegitimacy:

I haven’t done a deep dive into the literature, but I don’t think that study on kids of widows is convincing, perhaps because the trauma of losing a parent is different from that of having a living parent who isn’t involved in child rearing and/or creating a lot of drama in a kids life. A dead father is a better father than one who is in and out of a kids life unpredictably, has drug and alcohol problems, is a criminal and in and out of jail, gets into fights and arguments with their child’s mother, makes their child live with step children and half siblings and the girlfriend/wife du jour, etc. Not to mention that the shared environment of grouping up in a neighborhood where family instability is the norm does seem to have a huge impact on children, especially boys.

1. One of the few good critical reviews of Bryan Caplan on education.

Too many issues to be resolved is my feeling. Caplan is right that fewer gov subsidies resolve many education issues. Fewer guv subsidies help everywhere, Caplan has a hard time picking the one area when so many need addressing. I commend him, now he has to write ten other books.

The logic of signalling (which Robin Hanson embraces over Caplan's libertarianism) is that the government should not be hands-off. Instead, it should TAX signalling activities.

#5 When I was young, things were different.

#1 I find Caplan's weakest argument to be “adults forget most of what they learn.” But have they forgotten that they have forgotten? To me, education isn't a linear process that achieves its zenith in the final year of your formal education, rather the educational system is there to build the scaffold that is later revisited and adapted to your career or intellectual passions. How useful it is to have the knowledge that a particular abstraction exists, especially later in life when your intelligence is less fluid, so that you can revisit the literature or sources and upgrade your human capital? I think of high school and especially college as a gentle introduction to many topics, building cubbyholes whose initial contents may get lost or outdated, but which nonetheless continue to serve a useful structure, especially when they are revisited and updated with the freshest theories. That's why I advocate for alternating between breath and depth, to get comfortable with both the lifelong skills of building the scaffold then filling it in.

Possibly you are right - but how would you determine what the best way is to deliver this education to achieve these goals if you can't even quantify them or describe them except in the most vague way?

#1 "we saw what happens when attention is so ruthlessly focused on basic skills. With the fortunes of schools and teachers hinging on how well their students performed on annual tests in English Language Arts and Math, thousands of schools that struggled to meet their “Annual Yearly Progress” targets cut out recess as well as “extraneous” subjects such as music, history, and art. Teachers spent that time teaching-to-the-test and the stress levels of educators, parents and students increased exponentially."

I get that schools and teachers really hate this because it makes the lack of student progress so obvious. I don't get why that is a problem - its supposed to do that.

Students in S. Korea spend much more time studying and get much better results. Americans need to suck it up or America will end up at the bottom of the barrel like Brazil.

Being held accountable for results was not why they became teachers.

What I didn't see in the review of Caplan was how his blithe dismissal of the humanities displays an ignorance of how business or society actually works.

The chief task of a CEO has virtually nothing to do with any technical skill, but in fact is the task of interacting with people, and navigating the complex egos, cultures and conflicts that come with the human animal.
The chief task of a citizen responsible for assigning power is to understand and negotiate a consensual set of norms with fellow citizens.
Caplan wants to propose a better organization of human activities, but sees no value in humanities, the study of humans.

Is there any evidence that studying humanities helps people interact with others?

Well, there are mountains of evidence of humanities majors telling us how much the humanities help people.

Yes, observe the mountains of references to political theory on economics blogs, purporting to explain human behavior and prescribe policy solutions.
Economics , like anthropology, is at bottom the study of human behavior.

2. The problem is not simply rising salary costs per se but that all these extra administrators (senior and mid-level) create new rules and regulations and required reports and committee meetings that add costs to the rest of the organization. It's become like India's famous "paper Raj."

1. The welfare state breeds morons. Stop paying them to replicate and let them starve. Then they will find real value in education.

Very true

It's agriculture that has allowed weak genes to proliferate. If your are serious about improving the gene pool we need to destroy industrial society and shoot everyone who engages in agriculture. First with our remaining guns and then with arrows.

Or we could use genetic engineering to weed out undesirable gene alleles, but who can wait 10 years for that to be practical? Ain't nobody got time for that.

For a time they were allowed to proliferate, perhaps. But in many places population growth has stopped. The number of people having no children is about the same as it was hundreds of years ago, I don't know what the percentage was pre-agriculture but it seems human bands were rather egalitarian at that time. So it seems there is still a strong selection effect- though for what exactly?

What if the people engaging in agriculture don't give up their guns?

#1 - It has an excellent description of Bryan's arguments, and a strenuous attempt to dismiss them without many serious arguments.

For instance, it takes laboriously articulates (rather well) Bryan's objections against art/music/social studies, but strives to dismiss it by whackily and almost comically inferring from a "large-scale, and randomized-control study" that found a correlation between "a single field trip to the Crystal Bridges Museum" and "stronger critical-thinking skills, increased historical empathy, higher levels of tolerance, and a greater interest in consuming art and culture."

If there is a strong case for trashing humanities in a rich nation a poor nation like India cannot afford to waste public money on supporting disiplines like philosophy and Sanskrit which often have more light bulbs in the classrooms than students. The teachers of such subjects ensure their kids keep away from these subjects in college but hypocritically insist on public money be used to pay huge salaries for teaching empty classrooms. Caplan is rightly wants students to be trained in marketable stuff. But there will be people who have a passion for humanities. Perhaps a couple of institutes devoted to humanities will do for a poor economy.

The review claims good pay attracts good teachers. Maybe in America. In India high salaries for government teachers with 100% job security made standards worse.

India spends far less on Sanskrit than on Hindi or Urdu or the popular humanities subjects like political science, history etc.

blah, my point is not about which discipline gets more funding. My argument is that what Caplan says about spending on the humanities in a rich nation like the U.S applies with greater force in a poor nation like India. My objection is against wasting public resources, like India does, on any subject with very low or even zero job value.

#1. The review is in accord with my reading of the book and the extensive critiques that I sent on to Professor Caplan who said he was too busy to respond. I wonder how many of the fan boys/girls who are posting today even did a detailed reading of the book. If you had you would see a number of the flaws in the argument.

If anyone is interested (highly doubtful given the confirmation bias of those posting, including myself) my commentary is here:

Perhaps you could incentivize us to visit your website by providing the most cogent critiques here in summary form?

He's too busy to do that.

I don't think Caplan's education-as-signalling theories are bulletproof, but they are surely better argued than what's on the other side, which gish gallops from topic to topic.

Weber, instead of making a general observation about Caplan's critics, why not give a point by point rebuttal to Goldhammer ?

5.”....the most crucial dynamics of neo-liberalism did not involve the glamorous public clash of ideas between intellectuals. Instead, they were duller, more relentless and in the end, more effective – the persistent efforts of neo-liberals to argue through new kinds of international institution and to push back against organized efforts to make global markets more accountable to national authorities."

In hindsight, it is easy to make neoliberals into villains. The normalization of our economy has produced great benefits for many and it is difficult to know whether a different path would have created a more just environment. Oftentimes, the implementation and perversion of the ideal produces unintended consequences. Money, power, bias, and political machinations converge to influence the process. Naturally we attempt to insulate our institutions from outside forces. But are they? Professional affiliations can be corrupted. Powerful men with lots of money require attention. Bias is inherent. Political parties continue to wage campaigns for oversight.

I identify two glaring problems with allowing state control. The first is the merit of a politician and whether they do their homework or are a victim of the same outside forces. The second is the attention of the voter and whether they do their homework or are a victim to propaganda. I don't feel the need to know the intricacies of every policy decision. I want to trust that politicians will study the issues and make informed decisions. Likewise, I want to trust that institutions are following the science.

A glamorous public clash of ideas between intellectuals without arguments based on countless fallacies would be a beautiful thing. That might be accomplished in a world with more intellectuals of Henry’s caliber.

Jaysus, so much wrongness. The review was kind of pointless.

"1. A set of aptitude and achievement tests which measure students, administered, at a minimum, at the end of primary and secondary school.

2. A set of highly lucrative scholarships which are based upon those tests.

3. Clear explanation to all students of (1) and (2) throughout school years. This is critical to lower income students.

4. Clear and effective coverage of the topics to be covered in (1) and (2) such that those children in the top decile aren’t overly advantaged by their personal tutors."

This is so completely NOT what people at the bottom want that I seriously question whether or not the speaker was at the bottom. That's what conservatives think people at the bottom should have.

We have tests. We used to have scholarships based on tests, but poor people of color and their advocates demanded those tests be eliminated because poor whites did much better than well off blacks. Poor people of color don't want tests. They want grades, because grades can be rigged by majority minority schools, both comprehensive and charters, and then universities who want to brag about enrolling kids of color cheerfully accept the fraud.

Poor students have been taught every which way you can imagine, from discovery to explicit to DI, in vouchers and charters and public schools. The kids who have the brains to learn, learn. The kids who don't have the brains to learn as much as we'd like are still learning far more than they did 50 or 60 years ago, when those kids either dropped out or meandered through bonehead classes long enough to graduate high school.

We're finding all the smart kids. And kids in the top decile aren't "overly advantaged by their tutors". Colleges are more than capable of adjusting expectations based on a kid's social circumstances. They simply choose not to.

Whatever idiot said poor kids are taught by unqualified teachers is largely incorrect. Poor black and Hispanic kids in inner cities are often taught by long term subs because the schools are brutal. But many, many poor kids are taught by highly qualified teachers. Lots of Title I schools in the suburbs with good pay and good teachers and reasonable discipline procedures. And many poor kids are taught by the same teachers in the same schools with rich kids. There is no significant difference in the gap.

As for Caplan, he's not so much wrong as he is ignorant. Three big concepts are completely missing from his book rendering it utterly useless.

Clarification: I don't mean Caplan is ignorant generally, of course. But despite all the reading he bragged of doing, he's completely ignorant both of the history of American education, what factors drive our education policy, and what education in America is right.

As is always the case with his big ideas, he thinks America is filled with white folks and no other. If he doesn't live in Marshmallow land, he doesn't look around much.

Perhaps you could share a summary of the "three big missing concepts"? Myself I find Bryan's arguments highly convincing so I would like to know what I am missing.

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