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The World Might Be Better Off Without College for Everyone
#1
from Atlantic Magazine.



Quote:Students don't seem to be getting much out of higher education.

How... can anyone call higher education wasteful in an age when its financial payoff is greater than ever? The earnings premium for college graduates has rocketed to 73 percent—that is, those with a bachelor’s degree earn, on average, 73 percent more than those who have only a high-school diploma, up from about 50 percent in the late 1970s. The key issue, however, isn’t whether college pays, but why. The simple, popular answer is that schools teach students useful job skills. But this dodges puzzling questions.

First and foremost: From kindergarten on, students spend thousands of hours studying subjects irrelevant to the modern labor market. Why do English classes focus on literature and poetry instead of business and technical writing? Why do advanced-math classes bother with proofs almost no student can follow? When will the typical student use history? Trigonometry? Art? Music? Physics? Latin? The class clown who snarks “What does this have to do with real life?” is onto something.

The disconnect between college curricula and the job market has a banal explanation: Educators teach what they know—and most have as little firsthand knowledge of the modern workplace as I do. Yet this merely complicates the puzzle. If schools aim to boost students’ future income by teaching job skills, why do they entrust students’ education to people so detached from the real world? Because, despite the chasm between what students learn and what workers do, academic success is a strong signal of worker productivity.

Suppose your law firm wants a summer associate. A law student with a doctorate in philosophy from Stanford applies. What do you infer? The applicant is probably brilliant, diligent, and willing to tolerate serious boredom. If you’re looking for that kind of worker—and what employer isn’t?—you’ll make an offer, knowing full well that nothing the philosopher learned at Stanford will be relevant to this job.

The labor market doesn’t pay you for the useless subjects you master; it pays you for the preexisting traits you signal by mastering them. This is not a fringe idea. Michael Spence, Kenneth Arrow, and Joseph Stiglitz—all Nobel laureates in economics—made seminal contributions to the theory of educational signaling. Every college student who does the least work required to get good grades silently endorses the theory. But signaling plays almost no role in public discourse or policy making. As a society, we continue to push ever larger numbers of students into ever higher levels of education. The main effect is not better jobs or greater skill levels, but a credentialist arms race.

Lest I be misinterpreted, I emphatically affirm that education confers some marketable skills, namely literacy and numeracy. Nonetheless, I believe that signaling accounts for at least half of college’s financial reward, and probably more. Most of the salary payoff for college comes from crossing the graduation finish line. Suppose you drop out after a year. You’ll receive a salary bump compared with someone who’s attended no college, but it won’t be anywhere near 25 percent of the salary premium you’d get for a four-year degree. Similarly, the premium for sophomore year is nowhere near 50 percent of the return on a bachelor’s degree, and the premium for junior year is nowhere near 75 percent of that return. Indeed, in the average study, senior year of college brings more than twice the pay increase of freshman, sophomore, and junior years combined. Unless colleges delay job training until the very end, signaling is practically the only explanation. This in turn implies a mountain of wasted resources—time and money that would be better spent preparing students for the jobs they’re likely to do.

.......

Arum and Roksa cite a study finding that students at one typical college spent 13 hours a week studying, 12 hours “socializing with friends,” 11 hours “using computers for fun,” eight hours working for pay, six hours watching TV, six hours exercising, five hours on “hobbies,” and three hours on “other forms of entertainment.” Grade inflation completes the idyllic package by shielding students from negative feedback. The average GPA is now 3.2.

What does this mean for the individual student? Would I advise an academically well-prepared 18-year-old to skip college because she won’t learn much of value? Absolutely not. Studying irrelevancies for the next four years will impress future employers and raise her income potential. If she tried to leap straight into her first white-collar job, insisting, “I have the right stuff to graduate, I just choose not to,” employers wouldn’t believe her. To unilaterally curtail your education is to relegate yourself to a lower-quality pool of workers. For the individual, college pays.

This does not mean, however, that higher education paves the way to general prosperity or social justice. When we look at countries around the world, a year of education appears to raise an individual’s income by 8 to 11 percent. By contrast, increasing education across a country’s population by an average of one year per person raises the national income by only 1 to 3 percent. In other words, education enriches individuals much more than it enriches nations.

How is this possible? Credential inflation: As the average level of education rises, you need more education to convince employers you’re worthy of any specific job. One research team found that from the early 1970s through the mid‑1990s, the average education level within 500 occupational categories rose by 1.2 years. But most of the jobs didn’t change much over that span—there’s no reason, except credential inflation, why people should have needed more education to do them in 1995 than in 1975. What’s more, all American workers’ education rose by 1.5 years in that same span—which is to say that a great majority of the extra education workers received was deployed not to get better jobs, but to get jobs that had recently been held by people with less education.

As credentials proliferate, so do failed efforts to acquire them. Students can and do pay tuition, kill a year, and flunk their finals. Any respectable verdict on the value of education must account for these academic bankruptcies. Failure rates are high, particularly for students with low high-school grades and test scores; all told, about 60 percent of full-time college students fail to finish in four years. Simply put, the push for broader college education has steered too many students who aren’t cut out for academic success onto the college track.

The college-for-all mentality has fostered neglect of a realistic substitute: vocational education. It takes many guises—classroom training, apprenticeships and other types of on-the-job training, and straight-up work experience—but they have much in common. All vocational education teaches specific job skills, and all vocational education revolves around learning by doing, not learning by listening. Research, though a bit sparse, suggests that vocational education raises pay, reduces unemployment, and increases the rate of high-school completion.



For purposes of discussion. I consider Atlantic Magazine an excellent supplement to your life if you do not already get it.
The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated Communist  but instead the people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists -- Hannah Arendt.


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#2
Personal comments:

1. For someone doing an entry-level job with little experience, someone with a four-year college degree is almost certainly more desirable than an eighteen-year-old with nothing more than a high-school diploma but no vocational specialization. One can assume that the college grad is more mature. College grads may be more cautious, and more likely to believe in their potential for failure. They are likely less willing to believe that they can get away with something questionable, like cutting out of work early or filching cash from a till.

If I were hiring someone to run a cash register I would prefer to hire someone with four years doing the job to someone with no such experience but a college degree, both aged 22. But a college-degreed applicant or someone fresh out of high school? The 18-year-old kid might be paying more attention to dates on Friday night than to the company's need for clerks to work one of the busiest nights of the week. The college grad may think the work far below his talents, but at least he knows that he needs to make some sacrifices if he is to get another job elsewhere.

2. Literature and the arts allow someone even with a job that he utterly hates to have a focus off the job. To be sure, the same can be said of the youth who took shop classes and has a hobby with carpentry that he can do when not doing some job that he hates. Few people must work 70-hour workweeks anymore, and due to technological advances, fewer people will have the opportunity to do 40 hours or more of paid toil. Leisure will be increasingly important as personal identity for anyone who does not have an intellectually-demanding profession or work at some craft for pay.

The idea that college can make a refined adult out of a callow youth is not reliable -- but where else can one learn the fine art of using leisure to enrich personal life? Leisure of course has its o0wn market, and it is much of the consumption that we now enjoy. As barest necessities become relatively less costly, leisure spending could be the difference between a boom and a bust.

3. Brilliance, persistence, an ability to put up with boredom, diligence, and the ability to find vital but hard-to-find information are desirable traits. Having these traits is easy to prove with someone who has a graduate degree. Finding them in an employee without more than a high-school diploma is possible but rare. It's not that such precious people do not exist; they are simply difficult to find if one has them and has no obvious means for finding them.

4. Formal post-secondary education has value for more than the person who gets it. It is best that someone know how to write a coherent report, have the ability to recognize logical fallacies, know something about human behavior, and recognize that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Freshman composition is a reliable subject in the freshman year; psychology. philosophy, and economics are obvious survey courses for college students. (If I were a college dean I would make them mandatory.)

It would be best that youths spend a couple years in post-secondary education just to take some courses that offer vital knowledge not usually taught in high school. We need K-14 education just to make people less likely to vote for demagogues, whether Donald Trump or someone equally damaging and destructive on the Left. One Donald Trump is one demagogue too many, and an American equivalent of Hugo Chavez will do similar harm, if with a different political flavoring. Demagoguery in the name of economic growth does not lead to sustainable growth, and demagoguery in the name of social justice rarely results in social justice.

5. The credential treadmill is excessively costly. It partly reflects the low, rigid glass ceilings that have emerged in bureaucratic organizations. Corporate hierarchies have tendencies to insist upon college degrees even for rather menial tasks, as at call centers. This may reflect the increasing concentration of industry and shrinking opportunities.

6. It is worth noting that although college graduates tend not to start businesses (if they have student loans, they will latch onto clerical work with pretensions of professional qualities rather than risk starting any new business other than perhaps a medical practice), people with vocational training can do so. Small businesses other than professional practices have potential for growth in employment as Big Business does not have; government agencies are always under the threat of budgetary cutbacks. I am tempted to believe that K-14 education and vocational training may be the best of both worlds for millions who neither attend college or who are not up to college-level work.
The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated Communist  but instead the people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists -- Hannah Arendt.


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#3
More on the topic of education and its value:

Please discuss -- from the Harvard Business Review:


Quote:We often hear employers and business leaders lament the unfortunate gap between what students learn in college and what they are actually expected to know in order to be job-ready. This is particularly alarming in light of the large — and still growing — number of people graduating from university: above 40% in OECD countries, and nearly 50% in America.

Although there is a clear premium on education — recent reports from The Economist suggest that the ROI of a college degree has never been higher for young people — the value added from a college degree decreases as the number of graduates increases. This is why a college degree will boost earnings by over 20% in sub-saharan Africa (where degrees are relatively rare), but only 9% in Scandinavia (where 40% of adults have degrees). At the same time, as university qualifications become more commonplace, recruiters and employers will increasingly demand them, regardless of whether they are actually required for a specific job. So, while tertiary degrees may still lead to higher-paying jobs, the same employers handing out these jobs are hurting themselves — and young people — by limiting their candidate pool to college graduates. In an age of ubiquitous disruption and unpredictable job evolution, it is hard to argue that the knowledge acquisition historically associated with a university degree is still relevant.

There are several data-driven arguments that question the actual, rather than the perceived, value of a college degree. First, meta-analytic reviews have long-established that the correlation between education level and job performance is weak. In fact, the research shows that intelligence scores are a much better indicator of job potential. If we were to pick between a candidate with a college degree and a candidate with a higher intelligence score, we could expect the latter to outperform the former in most jobs, particularly when those jobs require constant thinking and learning. Academic grades are indicative of how much a candidate has studied, but their performance on an intelligence test reflects their actual ability to learn, reason, and think logically.
College degrees are also confounded with social class and play a part in reducing social mobility and augmenting inequality. Many universities do select students on meritocratic grounds, but even merit-based selection is conflated with variables that decrease the diversity of admitted applicants. In many societies, there is a strong degree of assortative mating based on income and class. In the U.S., affluent people are more likely to marry other affluent people, and families with more money can afford to pay for schools, tutors, extracurriculars, and other privileges that increase their child’s likelihood of accessing an elite college education. This, in turn, affects the entire trajectory of that child’s future, including their future career prospects — providing a clear advantage to some and a clear disadvantage to others.

When employers attach value to university qualifications, it’s often because they see them as a reliable indicator of a candidate’s intellectual competence. If that is their focus, why not just use psychological assessments instead, which are much more predictive of future job performance, and less confounded with socioeconomic status and demographic variables?

https://hbr.org/2019/01/does-higher-educ...e-for-jobs

Comment:

1. College is a structured alternative for what non-college kids typically do while of college age: drifting through menial, and servile jobs. If one gets into an apprenticeship program, then that is a good alternative to spending time in  college. This said, I see nothing wrong with someone learning a skilled trade also attending college. College can be an  enriching experience, and I would endorse it for anyone who can reap some benefit from it.

Apprenticeships for skilled trades are not readily available to most youth who may not even recognize the difference between being a craftsman and being a laborer. Apprenticeships are often practically handed down to kids in families whose prime breadwinner does skilled labor.

2. College is not a vocational school. College education, if at a mediocre-to-great school, is far more intellectually rigorous than the training for most clerical work and semi-skilled labor. It is intended to complete a youth to be a more desirable citizen. Of course it isn't for everyone. To be sure one can be an autodidact, but one misses peers in the same quest and gets little direction. Most vocational training is done to make someone adept at doing a low-skilled job, such as operating a cash register, quickly. Very soon after learning to do such a task comes a personal realization that there is more to life than running a cash register -- and the employer who hires one to run a cash register cares not a whit about anything beyond that function on the job (except that one not steal company assets, cut out early and come in late, or insult customers).
 
3. The intellectual rigor makes one more of a thinker on the job even if it is a cut-and-dried personal service. If one is a retail clerk one might be better at finding solutions for a customer.  A waiter? One can better communicate with customers who focuses on something other than the meal. Of course we have more college graduates than we have jobs that legitimately require a college degree.

4. College is a good place for smart people meeting other smart people who have something in common other than being from the same community. This may be the opportunity for someone from Dallas to meat someone from Houston who can be a soulmate -- at the University of Texas at Austin. Boy and girl next door? Sure, if they have the same limited aspirations and the same culture they might have a successful marriage, which solves lots of personal problems. "We both love Peruvian folk music" even if neither is Peruvian is a shared interest even if the two come from very different backgrounds (Finnish-American from the the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Italian-American from greater Philadelphia).

5. That college boosts one's potential in contrast to a non-college person in Sweden by a smaller share than in sub-Saharan Africa ignores that 9% of ordinary earnings in Sweden are worth far more than ordinary earnings nearly everywhere in sub-Saharan Africa. To fail to recognize such is to ignore that Sweden is a much richer country, the only valid comparisons to Swedish economic conditions in sub-Saharan Africa is to the still-well-off white minority in South Africa... and that Swedish institutions are much more egalitarian than those of most other countries. So Sweden is richer and more egalitarian to begin with -- duh!

6. It is possible to find people with limited formal education who have the sort of intellect characteristic of college students. It is also far more difficult to recognize the cognitive treasure that one has working for one, especially if the work that such a person does offers little opportunity for expressing one's intellectual talent. Most people who are significantly smarter than their co-workers have good cause to hide it. There is no less a closet for intellect in much of America than there was (and really still is) for homosexuality. In most places, a homosexual can hide what he or she is by avoiding discussion of homosexuality or of topics that might suggest homosexuality. It's probably harder to hide intellect when one clearly does not relate to stereotypical topics of prole conversation, like discussions of series television.

Many employers are likely to fire someone far too intellectual in orientation for the job that one does. Face it -- most work is so designed that a moron could do it. So it was with the assembly line, and so it is with fast food.
The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated Communist  but instead the people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists -- Hannah Arendt.


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#4
I learned more from Wikipedia, Orion's Arm and forums like this than from my formal education.
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#5
(01-10-2019, 08:21 AM)Bill the Piper Wrote: I learned more from Wikipedia, Orion's Arm and forums like this than from my formal education.

On the other side, I believe that my formal education made me more effective in using the rich lode of reference material such as Wikipedia and made me a better user of language on Forums of any kind and able to get more out of the discussions on the Internet. The biggest positive was that I met people from national and cultural backgrounds very different from mine (I miss them in the dreary hick town in which I feel stranded) who often had interesting tales to tell. Yes, Chile under Pinochet was not as bad as America media told us that it was -- it was even worse!

But even attending high school in the San Francisco Bay Area was quite a learning experience for things other than academics. I may have had some huge cultural clashes as a junior, but paradoxically those were mostly with white kids who were vile racists and could not understand why I didn't join in -- and with dopers, also mostly white. I got along best with Asians and (rather ironically, as I am a German-American) with Jews. I saw rather few blacks (such few as I met were OK), and most of the Hispanics were poorly assimilated in the 1970s. On the other hand there was a brilliant and attractive girl with the surname Bettencourt who was extremely proud of her Spanish heritage and, had I ended up with her, would surely have assimilated me into her culture. Back then I recognized racism as something for schmucks and scum.

A good college education makes one more open-minded and more adept with language. Both are highly desirable in practically any commercial or bureaucratic setting. Maybe one is not so open-minded toward drugs, bigotry, and demagoguery, but those are obviously for fools. The tragedy is not that someone with a college education finds that work on an assembly line pays better than being a salesclerk in a department store; the educated fellow who works on assembly line might do much good for his fellow workers as a shop steward during a union-management negotiation.
The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated Communist  but instead the people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists -- Hannah Arendt.


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#6
I agree - the whole "education" sector is in a yuge Crisis, and might implode. Better go to Khan academy and such.
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#7
(02-06-2019, 11:43 AM)Hintergrund Wrote: I agree - the whole "education" sector is in a yuge Crisis, and might implode. Better go to Khan academy and such.

Education at its best is preparation of life. Content matters, of course. I remember seeing billboard ads in Dallas that proclaimed "Dallas Baptist University teaches traditional values". Yes, tradition has its merits, but people who already have traditional values don't need to get further indoctrination. One must learn when to violate traditions, especially of those traditions are tainted. Why not learn something about traditions not one's own, as with the Greco-Roman world? Educated Americans used to know more about antiquity, and people who realize how badly the Romans fouled up have lessons to tell us.

Truth be told, more of most of our lives will be spent in leisure than in toil. If one really messes up in leisure (as with cocaine) one will mess up everything else. People can use their leisure to enrich their lives or transform themselves into numbing bores.

For specific learning, as in how to do mathematics, Khan Academy is good -- really good. Programmed learning is a good way to learn technical studies. Humanistic studies? Not so much.
The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated Communist  but instead the people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists -- Hannah Arendt.


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#8
Today, ppl can read all the classics on the web... definitely better than what you have to read in school... why don't more ppl do so?
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#9
(02-07-2019, 09:47 AM)Hintergrund Wrote: Today, ppl can read all the classics on the web... definitely better than what you have to read in school... why don't more ppl do so?

Of course, to get the most out of them one needs to discuss them with others reading them.
The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated Communist  but instead the people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists -- Hannah Arendt.


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#10
(02-07-2019, 05:47 PM)pbrower2a Wrote:
(02-07-2019, 09:47 AM)Hintergrund Wrote: Today, ppl can read all the classics on the web... definitely better than what you have to read in school... why don't more ppl do so?

Of course, to get the most out of them one needs to discuss them with others reading them.

Thinking and pondering about them should suffice - in theory, but in practice many people can't, so they need to discuss with others (so someone else can do the thinking).
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#11
Video 
(02-08-2019, 08:35 AM)Hintergrund Wrote:
(02-07-2019, 05:47 PM)pbrower2a Wrote:
(02-07-2019, 09:47 AM)Hintergrund Wrote: Today, ppl can read all the classics on the web... definitely better than what you have to read in school... why don't more ppl do so?

Of course, to get the most out of them one needs to discuss them with others reading them.

Thinking and pondering about them should suffice - in theory, but in practice many people can't, so they need to discuss with others (so someone else can do the thinking).

Or at least compare experiences, which is part of any educational experience (even a traveler's tale). But simply reading -- who would know whether one got to read anything?
The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated Communist  but instead the people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists -- Hannah Arendt.


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#12
The posts here
http://generational-theory.com/forum/thr...l#pid41387 original link here:
https://youtu.be/CAxj87RRtsc?t=5m31s
"if change doesn't come in the university, it's not going to happen"

http://generational-theory.com/forum/thr...l#pid41386

and here
http://generational-theory.com/forum/thr...l#pid41374

are most relevant to this topic.
"I close my eyes, and I can see a better day" -- Justin Bieber

Keep the spirit alive;
Eric M
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#13
(02-06-2019, 11:43 AM)Hintergrund Wrote: I agree - the whole "education" sector is in a yuge Crisis, and might implode. Better go to Khan academy and such.

I discussed this idea earlier for a different aspect, largely content. I remain satisfied that for most smart kids between ages 18 and 22, a solid liberal education is the best possible use for their time. The old small liberal-arts school that operated at modest cost due to limited specialists (the professor taught at most three books) and small scale. There was no need for a big, expensive bureaucracy, a research lab, a library full of specialized publications in multiple fields, or semi-professional sports facilities. Like many other institutions, big colleges are trying to expand -- and crowd out alternatives, such as those colleges that have 'failed' to grow.

Cost is important in a time of widespread economic distress, and the old liberal arts school was not particularly expensive. Many were operated by churches that could be expected to offer some intellectual safety. Kids would learn about Jefferson but not Marx. The style of teaching was much as in high school, only at a slightly-more sophisticated level.

Liberal-arts schooling was elite in the sense that not every kid can use it. For some youth who would be perfectly satisfied with the entertainment on the idiot screen, the content of liberal-arts schooling is nearly 'pearls before swine'. 





We are in a Crisis Era, and overpriced luxuries will be vulnerable. Bang for the buck is a legitimate concern for people under economic distress.
The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated Communist  but instead the people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists -- Hannah Arendt.


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