"The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Methods and means of supporting critical thinking in education
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"The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby Upton_O_Goode » Tue May 15, 2018 8:00 pm

As much as anyone, I have been skeptical of the “practical” value of a liberal education, ever since I realized that after four years as a pure mathematics major in college, I had no knowledge that would make it worthwhile for any industry to hire me. It has always amazed me that arcane, inbred academic problems in every way comparable to the theological debates of the Middle Ages, are capable of generating support from government agencies. The government, after all, is supposed to spend its taxpayers’ money on goods, services, and activities that serve the national interest. What national interest is served by research, difficult and subtle though it is, in descriptive set theory?

Now comes Bryan Caplan, professor of economics at George Mason University, to stretch this kind of thinking into its most extreme form. Mr. Caplan is exercised, not only about pure research, but about teaching of any kind not directly related to what is apparently, for him, the only justifiable end of education: jobs that bring in a good salary. As I now intend to make the case for a liberal education against the author, I will state two things at the outset: (1) I generally agree with Caplan that the US would be much better off with a lot more vocational high schools and technical colleges like the German Realschule and the British polytechnics, and fewer students enrolled in college-prep courses in high school or in colleges of arts and sciences; (2) my long, informal study of ethics (one of those impractical subjects the author decries) makes it clear to me that the two of us differ on a fundamental value. When that happens, to the extent that fundamental values have real-world consequences, the two parties to the dispute can’t both have what they want and are forced either to seek a compromise or to live with eternal bickering. I am not willing to compromise and am more than willing to bicker forever on this matter. Let us now get down to cases.

Mr. Caplan’s main point is that education is “signaling.” That is, having a college diploma is much like having noble birth used to be. It opens doors to a more comfortable life, independently of the basis on which the diploma was awarded. He makes this point, with which I totally agree, very forcefully on p. 26:
“The best education in the world is already free…Fact: anyone can study at Princeton for free. While tuition is over $45,000 per year, anyone can show up and start attending classes. No one will stop you. [That’s not quite true, but close enough.] No one will stop you. No one will challenge you. [Probably.]” (Not quite true, as I say; you can't crash a limited-enrollment seminar, where some of the best work is done.) So, like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz (used as an epigram for Chapter 1, by the way), you don’t actually need a brain. You merely need a diploma.

Businesses do look for these signals when hiring, and Mr. Caplan doesn’t advise anyone to ignore this important fact. It’s just that he doesn’t like things to be this way and wishes he could change them. He himself admits to being broadly educated, but he regards most of what he learned as useless. Well, let him tell you himself. Despite his own claim to having broad interests, he poses the following question:

“Why do English classes focus on literature and poetry instead of business and technical writing?” (p. 10)
Even on Mr. Caplan’s own ground, the implication of this rhetorical question is downright wrong! Mr. Caplan apparently thinks that reading great authors will have no influence on one’s ability to write. One won’t pick up any elegant turns of phrase or new ways of looking at the world that might burnish a technical paper some day and make its presentation more effective. He wants a grim focus on technical writing reminiscent of socialist realism, of which I have read enough in Russian to last me two lifetimes. He shows not the slightest understanding that ordinary communication among educated people is replete with quotations and paraphrases of literary classics (yes, including poetry!) and references to themes explored in the great novels.

He is gracious enough to grant that English and mathematics are two subjects that do have usefulness. But of course, by English he means only business writing, and by mathematics, he means literally nothing beyond Algebra I, which he admits is useful because it shows how to read graphs. He laments that high schools don’t teach statistics (and so do I), but how he thinks statistics can be learned without knowledge of Algebra II escapes me. In any case, he truly despises it. Here is his verdict:

“Most students, however, continue on to Algebra II, which largely exists to prepare students for calculus. Calculus, in turn, gets you into college. Once college begins, however, you’ll probably never differentiate another equation unless you pursue a degree in math, science, or engineering.”

So, he apparently knows a version of statistics that doesn’t involve any calculus: no Central Limit Theorem or any tests for hypotheses other than perhaps the chi-square, which he uses by rote, the way I use Mathematica. In fact, he says so in the Preface: “When relevant experimental evidence is thin or nonexistent (as it usually is), I put my trust in Ordinary Least Squares with control variables.”

His rhetorical challenges to broader education, by which I presume he means the distribution requirements still in effect in colleges of arts and sciences, despite the trendy new curricula that have degraded them, are bluntly stated: “…few college graduates use higher mathematics, foreign languages, history, or the arts on the job.” (And of course, their jobs are their whole lives, aren’t they? Nothing else is worth learning.)

He devotes several pages (44–46) to history and uses the well-known woeful ignorance that Americans have about their own past and their own laws to conclude that, “If we owe everything we know about history and civics to history and civics classes, we owe next to nothing.”

He feels the same way about foreign languages and regards the Spanish he was forced to learn as a total waste of his time. In response, I'd quote Goethe: "Wer fremde Sprachen nicht kennt weiss nichts von seiner eigenen." (He who knows no foreign languages knows nothing of his own language.) The man needs to get out more. Reading literature in Russian, French, and German has immensely facilitated and enriched my writing in English with new and more colorful and effective turns of phrase. And I have learned to look at the world in entirely new ways by seeing them from the point of view of an author who grew up in a different culture; by no means all of these important books have been translated into English.

I think it’s fair to read between the lines of this tirade and state the major premise that he is suppressing: “If only a minority of students are actually inspired to become educated or interested in the humanities, social sciences, pure science, foreign languages, and the arts, then it’s not worthwhile spending money and requiring these subjects for graduation.” This is a premise I abhor, and I think I can explain why, quoting one of those Old Books that he wouldn’t have taught any more (and in that project, success is well-nigh achieved already.)

Gospel of Matthew wrote:A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. (Parable of the Sower, Matthew 13: 3–8)


Christians have always recognized that only a small portion of the soils into which they cast their seeds of the Kingdom of Heaven are fertile ground for those seeds. They did not, for that reason, cease to sow those seeds. In academia, we are not promoting the Kingdom of Heaven, but we are the bearers and transmitters of something called culture. I insist that we make every effort to continue sowing the seeds of culture, even though only a minority of students will respond. In the name of (what I regard as) a crass sense of economy, Mr. Caplan wants us to stop spending money on these things. He laments that US governmental organizations (federal, state, and local) spent over a trillion dollars on this in 2011. But of course, some of that was for activities even he would approve. How much he regards as waste is a matter for calculation. If I were looking for government waste, I would rather look at the building of nuclear-powered and armed aircraft carriers and the corrupt Congress that has allowed pharmaceutical companies to charge Medicare any price they want, Medicare being forbidden by law to negotiate.
Well, as I said at the outset, I have a disagreement with the author over fundamental values. Let the bickering continue.
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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Tue May 15, 2018 8:26 pm

I too have liberal arts degrees: American Literature and Clinical Psychology. While both taught a bit of what the label would make you think....a few years after the experience I realized that Amer Lit really taught me about human motivations, psychology, and philosophies of various sorts. Psyche had a whole lot of statistical analysis and protocol design and testing.

At the time, my studies were thought to give me a foundation to think for myself....and with the aging and socialization I got, figure out what I wanted to do with my life.

I could go on...but I'll just conclude: "Higher Education" should not be for one thing/one type of person/one goal only. Some may want career placement, others time to grow. Everyone's mileage varies.

The point of going to Princeton is not the education you get there.....said education can be gotten all by yourself reading the books on your own. No, the Ivy League Schools are about making social contacts to grease your way as you decide to go.
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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby Lance Kennedy » Tue May 15, 2018 11:10 pm

My view is simple.

Government should set up an independent body to rule on educational courses, and classify them according to how useful they will be to the taxpayer.

Call it a 1 to 5 classification.

1. Those forms of training considered vital for the future well being of the taxpayer, such as medicine, engineering, and vital trades like being a plumber or electrician. Students doing those courses get all their fees paid and an allowance equivalent to unemployment benefit.

2. The training that is probably useful, but not vital. E.g. science and maths. Fees are paid and a small allowance.

3. Training that may be useful if the economy goes that way like law and accounting. Fees only.

4. Training that is probably not going to be useful to be terribly useful, like drama or creative writing, but might possibly be if it all turns out right. No fees or allowance.

5. Training that is blitheringly useless such as medieval English literature. These guys get to pay through the nose for their useless education.

Just a point about statistics. Algebra is not needed. Some background training is required such as the meaning of randomness, normal distribution etc. But the actual calculations can be done very, very easily using computer programs. Obviously the people using that have to understand the results, but even that does not really require any understanding of algebra.

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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Wed May 16, 2018 6:25 am

Lance Kennedy wrote: and classify them according to how useful they will be to the taxpayer.

Ha, ha....that was kinda wrenching to read. Good One!!

when I was a kiddie...schooling including the virutally free college I got was "for me." What "I" wanted...even before any substantial "me" was formed.

How useful is "any" education for others to any taxpayer? Seems to me you are missing an entire dynamic: taxpayers don't want to spend....they want to not spend. Hence, the decline of Western Civilization.
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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby Gord » Wed May 16, 2018 5:01 pm

I will never agree that the value of an education is dependent upon what job it is training you to do. Most education is about building the person to be a larger and more rounded individual, even while specialising in a discipline like pediatrics or horticulture. Your education didn't train you to work in an office? Good. Working in an office is supposed to train you for that.
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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby Lance Kennedy » Thu May 17, 2018 8:07 am

That may be true, Gord, but why should the taxpayer shell out for something that will never benefit the taxpayer ?

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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby Upton_O_Goode » Thu May 17, 2018 11:25 am

Lance Kennedy wrote:That may be true, Gord, but why should the taxpayer shell out for something that will never benefit the taxpayer ?


Good question. The best answer I can give---and it applies to the hard sciences rather than the humanities---is that you never KNOW what information may turn out to be relevant. The discovery of penicillin is an illustration.

I wouldn't prescribe educational policy based on utilitarian considerations alone, however. Government has to prioritize (as your list above does). But the priorities have to be set against the general economy. If the country is sufficiently prosperous, it may be feasible to subsidize the arts generously. I'd like to see some artists rescued from poverty in any case. Ideally, the country would be wealthy enough to provide a bare living for everyone, whether they work or not. I don't believe everybody would just take off and play video games in that case. Meaningful work is an important part of human happiness, and most people would prefer to work. In that situation, of course, the less desirable jobs would simply have to pay better to attract workers.
"When you are studying any matter, or considering any philosophy, ask yourself only what are the facts and what is the truth that the facts bear out. Never let yourself be diverted, either by what you wish to believe, or by what you think would have beneficent social effects if it were believed. But look only, and solely, at what are the facts."

Bertrand Russell, Advice to Future Generations

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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby ElectricMonk » Thu May 17, 2018 12:13 pm

It is plainly stupid to focus on nothing but future employment: if everyone studies to become X, there won't be enough jobs from the rest of the alphabet: lawyers are a case in point.
Things change too fast to guess in the 10 years of education prior to employment what would be best to know. General knowledge and free access to information are the best chance to keep the future workforce flexible to tackle whatever is required.
Optimization and specialization leads to a dead end.
I've come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:
Spoiler:
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2. Anything that's invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.
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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby Lance Kennedy » Thu May 17, 2018 7:56 pm

That is why, EM, you need an independent and expert body of people constantly reviewing the classifications, so that students are encouraged into the areas that are needed.

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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Thu May 17, 2018 9:01 pm

Lance Kennedy wrote:That may be true, Gord, but why should the taxpayer shell out for something that will never benefit the taxpayer ?

You need to define "taxpayer." I chose what I wanted to study in school, and I paid taxes then. Even more now. Same for the parents of kiddies in school who don't pay taxes....they soon will be. "It sounds like" by taxpayer, you mean people who want to pay less taxes? Not the same thing at all.
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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby Gord » Thu May 17, 2018 10:51 pm

Lance Kennedy wrote:That may be true, Gord, but why should the taxpayer shell out for something that will never benefit the taxpayer ?

I have no idea what that has to do with anything I just said, but I'll pretend it does. :P

The taxpayer should "shell out" for the society in which he or she or it lives. The benefit from doing that is the society itself. For example, the taxpayer should shell out to support infrastructure in far-off parts of the country where he or she or it will never go. The benefit comes from whatever it is that comes out of that area of the country. It may be direct, or it may be indirect. For instance, if a particular taxpayer shells out money to support a farmer in Butthurt Nebraska, that taxpayer may never himself or herself or itself eat any of the produce of that farm; however, someone else who eats that produce may provide a service to that particular taxpayer, such as mining some gold to fill his or her or its teeth, or producing electricity to run his or her or its sex toys, or writing the textbook that he or she or it learns from.

I don't know what to call that. Let's try "gestalt". I'm not even sure what that word means, but someone else just said it and I apparently know how to spell it.
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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby Lance Kennedy » Fri May 18, 2018 12:02 am

Gord

If, over a 45 year working lifetime, I pay in excess of $50,000 in taxes towards education, I want to be sure my extorted money is not being used to pay for someone to study Medieval English literature or the art of fly fishing. If people want to study those things, good luck to them, but let them pay for it themselves.

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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Fri May 18, 2018 12:49 am

You need to define "taxpayer." I chose what I wanted to study in school, and I paid taxes then. Even more now. Same for the parents of kiddies in school who don't pay taxes....they soon will be. "It sounds like" by taxpayer, you mean people who want to pay less taxes? Not the same thing at all.

You want higher education to be a trade school, other TAXPAYERS want if for other pursuits. Let the Majority rule.
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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby Gord » Fri May 18, 2018 2:40 am

Lance Kennedy wrote:Gord

If, over a 45 year working lifetime, I pay in excess of $50,000 in taxes towards education, I want to be sure my extorted money is not being used to pay for someone to study Medieval English literature or the art of fly fishing. If people want to study those things, good luck to them, but let them pay for it themselves.

See, your problem is you think taxation is equivalent to extortion. The study of Medieval English literature is as valuable to one person as is the study of economics to another.
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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby Lance Kennedy » Fri May 18, 2018 4:16 am

No.

Medieval English literature has no practical benefit whatever. It is the equivalent of someone giving me money to study Zane Grey's westerns. (I have read a couple, and they are crap - No literary merit at all.). If someone studies economics, the value to wider society is debatable, but that person might end up in a financial role in a corporation, and provide some value to society.

If you are fascinated with Medieval English literature, or any other form of useless writings, that is fine. Study them all you like, but do not expect me to pay for your hobby.

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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Fri May 18, 2018 4:23 am

One opinion to rule them all............
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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby ElectricMonk » Fri May 18, 2018 8:44 am

You are missing the point: no one knows what is going to be needed, not even experts.
We live in an age where it would be perfectly acceptable if we had to keep things the way they are for a generation because we didn't prepare people with the right skills: an argument could be made that this is exactly what is currently happening in the US.
What we need is people studying what they WANT to study, something that they will want to do for something else but just money. And for that, they must be offered as broad a smorgasbord of options so that they can make an informed decision. Education should give them a little bit of everything, just so they can talk to everyone at least on the basic level: communication between workers is much more important than individual excellence.
If a major part of a generation decides to go into Liberal Arts, maybe it's because they feel that there isn't enough of this in the current world. After all, they will be the one who will be living in the world they make with whatever skills they have acquired.
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3. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.
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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby Upton_O_Goode » Fri May 18, 2018 10:16 am

Gord wrote:
Lance Kennedy wrote:That may be true, Gord, but why should the taxpayer shell out for something that will never benefit the taxpayer ?

I have no idea what that has to do with anything I just said, but I'll pretend it does. :P

The taxpayer should "shell out" for the society in which he or she or it lives. The benefit from doing that is the society itself. For example, the taxpayer should shell out to support infrastructure in far-off parts of the country where he or she or it will never go. The benefit comes from whatever it is that comes out of that area of the country. It may be direct, or it may be indirect. For instance, if a particular taxpayer shells out money to support a farmer in Butthurt Nebraska, that taxpayer may never himself or herself or itself eat any of the produce of that farm; however, someone else who eats that produce may provide a service to that particular taxpayer, such as mining some gold to fill his or her or its teeth, or producing electricity to run his or her or its sex toys, or writing the textbook that he or she or it learns from.

I don't know what to call that. Let's try "gestalt". I'm not even sure what that word means, but someone else just said it and I apparently know how to spell it.


I call it culture. Without it, a society is liable to crumble into mutually hostile factions. It may not be the highest priority to pass it on, but it's somewhere on the list of things worth doing.
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Bertrand Russell, Advice to Future Generations

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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby Upton_O_Goode » Fri May 18, 2018 10:23 am

ElectricMonk wrote:It is plainly stupid to focus on nothing but future employment: if everyone studies to become X, there won't be enough jobs from the rest of the alphabet: lawyers are a case in point.
Things change too fast to guess in the 10 years of education prior to employment what would be best to know. General knowledge and free access to information are the best chance to keep the future workforce flexible to tackle whatever is required.
Optimization and specialization leads to a dead end.


Bravo! The Soviet Union failed because of (1) corruption and (2) sincere, well-meant planning. Just imagine sitting down to run an economy and having to decide how much coal, how much steel, how many condoms (!) you're going to need five years from now. Incidentally, in the name of propagating Marxism, the USSR funded a lot of the kind of research that one might call "useless." (One example: When I lived in Moscow 30 years ago, I knew a professor at MGU whose specialty was the mathematical manuscripts of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. (That's akin to the archaeological manuscripts of Immanuel Velikovsky and Erik von Däniken.)
"When you are studying any matter, or considering any philosophy, ask yourself only what are the facts and what is the truth that the facts bear out. Never let yourself be diverted, either by what you wish to believe, or by what you think would have beneficent social effects if it were believed. But look only, and solely, at what are the facts."

Bertrand Russell, Advice to Future Generations

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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby OlegTheBatty » Fri May 18, 2018 9:01 pm

Lance Kennedy wrote:That may be true, Gord, but why should the taxpayer shell out for something that will never benefit the taxpayer ?


The lower the education levels in a state, the more support Trump has there. Education benefits everyone, whether they pay taxes or not.

If the only criterion a person has to measure the value of an education is dollars and cents, they need more education and some sense.
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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby Lance Kennedy » Fri May 18, 2018 9:16 pm

Oleg

Surveys have shown that, in the USA, 95% of the people with Ph. D.qualifications in science, medicine and engineering, are atheists. Less than 40% of those with equivalent in liberal arts. Does this sound like a liberal arts education teaches people how to think ?

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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby Gord » Fri May 18, 2018 9:31 pm

Lance Kennedy wrote:No.

Yes.

Medieval English literature has no practical benefit whatever.

To you. It has practical benefits to others.
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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Fri May 18, 2018 9:32 pm

What mental stimulation/education/training should "taxpayers" offer to those who can't do PHD work in your chosen field?

Ha, ha........I remember the jokes we English Lit majors told about the science clods. Could not understand metaphor and allusions like the rest of us. Course, that wasn't exactly true: the clods just hadn't read the reference works that allowed the metaphors to make sense.

Yes, Lance, if everyone had your values....they'd all have your utilitarian sense of the world. Yay?
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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Fri May 18, 2018 9:35 pm

Wifey, being extremely competent in "all" languages, had a good grasp of Medieval English Lit (Dutch too...and Latin is relevant as well of course). She used it as we toured the Churches and antiquaries across the UK. She mentioned it was helpful when she spend one summer on a dig. She was more interested in medicine than archeology though, so didn't get more than a passing knowledge of it. good for anyone interested in history, literature, culture. Not everyone wants to be a tool.
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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby Lance Kennedy » Fri May 18, 2018 10:43 pm

Used it while touring churches ?

In other words, a hobby.

I have no problem with people studying anything, as long as I , and my taxes, are not required to pay for it. When I did my scuba diving courses, right up to instructor standard, I paid for it myself. That is all I ask. Learning as hobby should be paid for by the hobbyist.

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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Sat May 19, 2018 10:24 am

Lance: you still don't get it. You pay taxes.....period. Then, its your fellow taxpayers through representation that decide how to spend it. The majority will, the historical practice, is to offer a wide range of academic studies. Medieval Languages is not Scuba diving, although most colleges have a swimming program? I remember doing swimming relay races in High School. I know: kiddies should do exercises on their own time...who needs gyms in paper pushing schools?

I remember from years ago complaints of kiddies reading comics instead of books. The response I approve of was let the kiddies read whatever they want to and when and if books are noticed, they will be prepared to read them too. Same with the pursuit of any knowledge: pursue what you are interested in and over time, most subjects will have someone interested in it. If everyone studied the only the subjects you want: that would be a lot of disappointed people trying to find jobs from such a limited pool. Let people study Medieval Lit and then find a job making kites. Everybody wins.
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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby Lance Kennedy » Sat May 19, 2018 7:55 pm

Bobbo

You cannot tell the difference between medieval literature and engineering ? Let me tell you. The first is a hobby while the second is useful. Duh !

I do not expect the taxpayer to pay for my hobbies, and neither should those who read medieval literature.

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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Sat May 19, 2018 9:49 pm

Lance: third time: what would you have the taxpayers do with kiddies who either have absolutely NO INTEREST in those pursuits, or even if they do, can't do the course work? .... and who is supposed to write all the crap we see on tv?....movies.....plays.

What kind of intellectual wasteland are you advocating?
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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby Lance Kennedy » Sun May 20, 2018 1:04 am

Bobbo

Education in the essentials should be given. It is only when it goes into hobbies that it should be paid for by the hobbyist.

There are, of course, always people who do not want to learn. There is no easy answer for them. You can lead a person to knowledge, but you cannot make them learn. The best you can do is make available suitable learning programs. Not Medieval literature. Perhaps wood working or car mechanics ?

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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Sun May 20, 2018 3:11 am

Medieval Lit is not a hobby. Again, as always, you can't deal with answers you don't like:

Forth time: what would you have the taxpayers do with kiddies who either have absolutely NO INTEREST in those pursuits, or even if they do, can't do the course work? .... and who is supposed to write all the crap we see on tv?....movies.....plays. I see no Pre-Med or Teaching. Start to look past your first kneejerk and the list gets real long. What should a future librarian study?
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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby Lance Kennedy » Sun May 20, 2018 3:50 am

Bobbo

I do not know any clear remedy for those who do not want to learn. Nor does anyone else, which is why it is still a problem. Spending lots of money for them to attend courses on useless topics is not an answer.

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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby Upton_O_Goode » Sun May 20, 2018 10:53 am

Lance Kennedy wrote:Just a point about statistics. Algebra is not needed. Some background training is required such as the meaning of randomness, normal distribution etc. But the actual calculations can be done very, very easily using computer programs. Obviously the people using that have to understand the results, but even that does not really require any understanding of algebra.


I agree with you. But I disagree with Caplan in his view that all he needs is least-squares. Why forego the use of more sophisticated data-processing methods if they are available? And of course, even though you and I don't have to understand the details to use the software (increasingly, that's true about almost everything!), somebody does have to understand it in order to develop it. That's a good reason for funding basic research in statistical methods. But I doubt if we disagree about this.

The Algebra II that Caplan despises actually saved me a bit of money once, when I paid off my mortgage early and found that the bank had overcharged me about $100 on the final payment. I went to the bank and politely explained it to a mystified manager, who was happy to credit me with $100 (mostly to get out of a conversation he didn't understand, I think.) :mrgreen: With a little knowledge of geometric progressions and how to sum them, it's possible to calculate what your monthly payment will be on any debt. But why bother? The bank is honest and will tell you what the payment is to be.

About that software, as I mentioned in my original post, I use Mathematica exactly that way, and I'm extremely grateful for it. It has now helped me write several books, and the graphics it produces are superb. It is a bit worrisome that software is allowing almost everyone to become dumber about the way the world works, more dependent on authority every day. But that's probably an inevitable consequence of technology. Discussing the book Robinson Crusoe, Bertrand Russell remarked that the average person marooned as he was could achieve much more in the seventeenth century than he could today.

But the dumbing down has a definite downside. On Thursday, I bought a new computer and monitor and took it home to assemble it. I unpacked the monitor and located all the parts on the instructions, which is to say, the power cord, a USB cable, a VGA cable, and a DP cable. The instructions were pictures-only, and they showed how to connect all three cables sequentially. Great! What could be simpler? Except that it wouldn't work. The computer would come on, the monitor would display the opening screen for about 30 seconds, then go black. With a black monitor screen, a person is helpless. So, I carted it back to the tech support center, where there were guys who actually understand how the thing works. They told me, I needed only ONE of the three cables, and they recommended I use the DP. Having all three connected caused insurmountable interference with the video signal. So, there was ignorance at both ends, with me having no idea how the thing worked at my end, and the manufacturer not understanding that the AND logical connector is different from the OR logical connector. Just those words would have saved me a lot of trouble and frustration. But probably the manufacturer assumed the consumer was too dumb to understand the difference. The only printing on the damned instructions was the three cable names. :D
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Bertrand Russell, Advice to Future Generations

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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Sun May 20, 2018 3:09 pm

lance: you are a dolt. Lack of liberal arts in your background. Ain't that a hoot?
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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby Lance Kennedy » Sun May 20, 2018 8:47 pm

Bobbo

No need for insults.
I am in fact, very widely read. My degree is in biology, but I read stuff from all walks of life.
None of which changes my view that learning which will never benefit the taxpayer should not be paid for by the taxpayer. I live that way myself. I attend courses from time to time, learning material that interests me, and pay for it myself.

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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Sun May 20, 2018 10:54 pm

insults?....... where???????

dolt: A person who is not very bright //// As in: anyone who thinks everyone would benefit if they shared his own values and opinions.

None of which changes my view that learning which will never benefit the taxpayer should not be paid for by the taxpayer.
//// You might be right..........because I had a liberal arts education and I was taught that any and all learning was a benefit to the person.....the minimum being you learned to love learning.

Conservative: I made it all on my own and everyone else would be better off if they thought just like me.

Liberal: to each their own.
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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby Lance Kennedy » Mon May 21, 2018 4:32 am

Wrong.

Learning to do astrology or homeopathy is just a tool for screwing everyone over. Not a value to anyone except the swindler.

Many subjects are of value only to the learner. I do not expect anyone else to pay when I learn those things, so why should anyone else expect the taxpayer to pay for their education if it is not returning anything tangible to the taxpayer ?

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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Mon May 21, 2018 3:36 pm

I'm not aware of astrology or homeopathy being studied at the college level. At most a 10 minute mention during a discussion of something more traditional?

Shirley Lance when you can see yourself grasping so inartfully like this, some :idea: should form in that perfect vacuum?
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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby Lance Kennedy » Mon May 21, 2018 8:28 pm

Don't know about your college, Bobbo, but there are a lot of places around the world where various kinds of quackery are taught at taxpayers expense.

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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Mon May 21, 2018 8:46 pm

I don't doubt it lance. But how small an occurrence warrants your recognition?
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Re: "The Case Against Education," by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Postby Lance Kennedy » Mon May 21, 2018 9:34 pm

There are heaps of subjects of no practical value learned at taxpayer expense. Why should the taxpayer pay for them ?

As I have pointed out several times, I have done numerous courses at my own expense. This is the way it should be. The taxpayer pays money to the government and deserves a return on that investment. There is no return in teaching someone a useless subject, even if that learner derives satisfaction. The taxpayer does not.

On the other hand, if the taxpayer supports people learning to become doctors, then there is a practical and valuable return on the investment.


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