The Case against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money

November 5, 2019 - Comment

Why we need to stop wasting public funds on education Despite being immensely popular–and immensely lucrative―education is grossly overrated. In this explosive book, Bryan Caplan argues that the primary function of education is not to enhance students’ skill but to certify their intelligence, work ethic, and conformity―in other words, to signal the qualities of a

Why we need to stop wasting public funds on education

Despite being immensely popular–and immensely lucrative―education is grossly overrated. In this explosive book, Bryan Caplan argues that the primary function of education is not to enhance students’ skill but to certify their intelligence, work ethic, and conformity―in other words, to signal the qualities of a good employee. Learn why students hunt for easy As and casually forget most of what they learn after the final exam, why decades of growing access to education have not resulted in better jobs for the average worker but instead in runaway credential inflation, how employers reward workers for costly schooling they rarely if ever use, and why cutting education spending is the best remedy.

Caplan draws on the latest social science to show how the labor market values grades over knowledge, and why the more education your rivals have, the more you need to impress employers. He explains why graduation is our society’s top conformity signal, and why even the most useless degrees can certify employability. 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.

Romantic notions about education being “good for the soul” must yield to careful research and common sense―The Case against Education points the way.

Comments

Anonymous says:

So right and so wrong I was both validated and distressed by this book: validated because I agree that the value of school comes not from its usefulness but from the signals it sends, and distressed because I disagree with his interpretation of what those signals mean. Like Caplan, I believe our obsession with academic success is toxic, both for individuals and society. I see academic credentials as a perverse currency, necessary for gaining acceptance in a culture that believes they have real value. But inflation…

Anonymous says:

A Very Important Book This is an important book, one which all educators, parents, students, taxpayers and policy makers should read and absorb. The title is a bit overwrought but the subject is of vast importance and the points of the book are argued rigorously. Bryan Caplan is a Berkeley/Princeton-trained economist who teaches at George Mason. He is a libertarian by political inclination but he says that his views on education were formed long before his views on politics were. As an economist he sometimes…

Anonymous says:

Important discussion of the value of a college education Everyone knows that college grads earn a lot more than high school grads. But why is that the case? Most people assume that it’s because people learn a lot in college and the labor market rewards that knowledge with higher salaries. Caplan strongly disagrees, arguing that earning a college degree is mainly a signal to employers that you are a diligent and hard-working person who conforms to society’s norms. In other words, employers don’t expect that you’ve learned much in college and, as…

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