In the Bay Area, in San Francisco specifically, voters allocated funds to fix or replace every single Bart escalator. The best hope we have for completing this job is 7 years. Yes you read this correctly 7 years. The problem is we do not have enough licensed escalator mechanics to do the work. Money isn't the problem.
Maybe more people should go into the trades - and not be funneled into higher education. We desperately need better infrastructure, more housing, tangible things. Not everyone is cut out for college.
This is a common line of argument, but you will find that many tradesmen hope their children will go to college and get office jobs.
The trades are hard on the body. Some trades are hazardous. An injury or medical problem that would be a hassle for someone with an office job can be career-ending for people in the trades.
There aren't a lot of jobs for people in middle age who can't physically work a trade anymore due to age or illness or injury -- it's about as bad as being a laid-off factory worker.
The trades also get hit very hard in recessions as people build fewer things, infrastructure spending gets cut or postponed, etc. That, combined with the serious impact of medical problems and injuries I just mentioned, can make the trades more financially precarious than they seem to be.
I'm not opposed to people going into the trades, but some of the pro-trade-education arguments need a reality check. People need to know about the downsides.
Rule of thumb for depreciation is about 2-5% of an asset decays each year and if it isn't maintained the whole thing will need to be replaced every 20-50 years. Some things defy that rule, but most things need repairs. If we live in a world where going into the trades that build and maintain everything is not considered a first-class job that allows a worker to make a first-class contribution then that is a problem.
Rather than spending money on funneling students away from the trades, money should be spent improving the OH&S outcomes of tradespeople and improving their access to tools. If someone is umming and aahing about doing a trade or becoming a social media expert, they should be able to rationally see trades as the more worthwhile job for themselves and others (obviously unless they have a real flair for social media).
Trade unions have a delicate balance between safety/compensation and cheaper labor alternatives. Developers want to maximize the efficiency of their capital and in construction, human resources are fungible.
Europe does a much better job of OH&S for tradespeople but if you look around there isn't nearly as much being built. America is the economic powerhouse it is in part because of the typically-low cost of human labor and other economies are going through the same thing now.
The market works two ways.
Outside of that, one of the issues isn't that people should go into trade. But that so many jobs that are hidden behind a requirement for bachelors degree don't need it.
I'd love to see some of our industries out there take on apprenticeship programs for places where they think bachelors were required before. Probably not hard engineering fields, but my first job out of school I was a "Systems Engineer" but everything I needed to know was on the job training. Everything.
After seeing how my parents ended up, it's no wonder to me why people would avoid the trades. We simply don't have the safety nets in place to protect people who burn out from those jobs, and no one wants to spend their later years in crippling pain as a result of destroying their back.
My parents were happy that I managed to get an office job.
Before I got into IT in the late 90's (I was 19-20 yrs), I had various construction work to tide me over. Like climbing a 4 metre ladder onto a roof with 40KG rolls of pitch, or setting rebar (the metal reinforcement for concrete) in -5C in the early morning, so when it heats up later the concrete can be poured. Just a couple of many stories where a slip was life or work ending - or being so bone cold you couldn't think.
Talking to the older guys left me with only one opinion, get out of construction.
A guy I know still from back then was cutting through a floor with a circular saw and went through the main electricity line into the building. The line wasn't on the plans... He lived by some amazing luck, but there was a very big bang.
Worked as a cattle vet for 8 months. I couldn't watch a movie anymore, always fell asleep. Being outside, lifting calves, the cuts and crushed toes, it was all too tiring. Maybe I didn't do it long enough.
I still work duty shifts from time to time. Eventually you hurt yourself (needles, bites, scratches, lifting animals, ...), it's just part of the job. But it's annoying, and exhausting to always (try to) be cautious and focused.
I can't think of any job that uses body functions and/or tools and is completely safe long term.
Now I feel physically fresh after my office job, and then bike everyday straight through the fields to go ride my horse. Impossible with my previous job, as I was already burned by it. I've reached a sane equilibrium : office job and 2-3 hours physical activity per day. And I definitely felt that a "field" job was draining me enough to affect my personal life.
Very true. I know a Uber driver who used to install and repair ACs. Unfortunately, one day, he had a mishap leading to a serious back injury. He was told he couldn't carry on in this line of work. He had no other skills or means to acquire a college-degree with a family to support. The only option he saw best fit was to drive a taxi.
Where I am, it's not uncommon to see an electrician or millwright working 70+ hour weeks to meet deadlines or make emergency repairs.
Moreover, it's been my experience that people in non-trade work (particularly non-exempt STEM workers) often work just as much overtime and don't even get paid for the pleasure. Granted, their base salaries are generally higher, but a tradesman working similar hours can approach or surpass that. (I say this is I sit at 2:40am waiting for code to compile...)
Non-sequitor: I misread that first word in your comment as "Transgenders" and was flabbergasted halfway into that first paragraph until I went back and re-read it :D
Where precisely is the trouble for the tradeperson? This is something for the owner of the project to worry about, not someone who does the work.
This is much different from my experience. I see office workers (the startup crowd especially) working crazy hours, practically living at the office, and actually bragging about it.
Meanwhile, most trades jobs are unionized. So you might be working long hours in an emergency, but you're getting paid time-and-a-half at least. Outside of emergencies, you get to punch the clock, and leave work at work.
The grass is always greener. Especially if you look outside startups (and outside software engineering), I would guess the overwhelming majority of office jobs occur around a roughly 9-5 schedule without significant overtime. There's a reason rush hour is rush hour.
I agree with you, it's a tough racket. But I think we're going to be saying the same thing about many fields and occupations in the future. Being a drone in an office is no longer secure or, in fact, healthy.
At least in a trade you're doing more than pushing paper. to each their own.
This is definitely true and I know a few people who this has been a huge issue for but I'm not so convinced it can be applied to the future. There is a lot more "automation" now than when the currently burnt out entered the industry, tools from nail guns to scissor lifts are now a lot more affordable and even mandated. There's also been a lot of improvements improvements to OHS and medicine in general, kids seem to be a lot more fitness obsessed too. They'll always be harder on the body, but I would expect the 50 year old tradesmen in 30 years time to be in much better condition than the 50 year old tradesmen today.
On the other hand, they keep lifting the retirement age so if this doesn't pan out they'll be even worse off.
> The trades also get hit very hard in recessions as people build fewer things
Is this objectively true? It seems to be common wisdom but I've never seen data to back it up. A lot of trades are more maintenance than new builds and can't be cut. I understand construction can take a big hit, but we still need almost as many plumbers and mechanics during a recession.
We should be working on perfecting AI so that humans don't have to do this stuff.
There are 35000 escalators in the US. If a typical escalator needs to be replaced every 35 years, that works out to about 1000 escalator replacements a year.
I can't find offhand any data on this, but I'd expect that most escalator installations are only a few escalators, and so that the demand for about 1000 replacements per year is pretty steady.
Thus, I'd expect that there would be about enough mechanics to handle 1000 per year, without much excess capacity.
BART has 175 escalators. That job is big enough that to do it in one year would take over 17% of the nation's escalator installation capacity. That seems like a job sufficiently out of the ordinary that it is not surprising that it has to be spread over a few years.
I used 35 years lifetime, which I got from the escalators in a manufacturer's brochure I found--it had one that was rated 30 years and one 35-40, so I took 35. But these were heavy duty escalators. Other sources suggested 25 years, or 15-20 years. If you use a lower average life, you get more mechanics needed per year.
Regardless of the lifetime used, I expect that the year to year demand will be pretty steady, and BART's 175 will still represent a very big spike.
We’re the only family I know that don’t mind if our children go into a trade. Our friends are horrified by the idea of their children not going to a university. My daughter is going to school to be an esthetician (skin care, beauty trade). In our market the ladies that do this make their own hours and make more than their husbands.
There’s plenty of money in all manner of trades. Many older folks just haven’t caught up with how much the ROI has changed since they went to school.
The other thing to consider, the more manual and dangerous trades are done mostly by men. Female labor participation rates are about to eclipse that of men. If you want more trades the smart thing to do would be to start trying to get more women into them.
From a feminist perspective not having a degree is treated as a death sentence of dependence on a man. A lot of young gals think their only option is a university degree and we’re all familiar with how few women are getting STEM degrees.
I wonder if having more women in trade work would influence men to join.
Then I looked it up. The test is intense failing on your first try is pretty common. You have to do 4 years full time of apprenticeship under a licensed contractor who unless they are family (nepotism) will pay you the minimum they can get away with. (This is why you tend to see the kids take over the parents Pumbling/HVAC/Electricians businesses)
Only after all that can you finally go on your own. From then on you owe $3k/yr to the state for insurance in case you screw up and kill someone and the state fund has to pay out. You have to pay this every year along with a $350/yr license renewal and show you are active in the trade, otherwise you can have your license revoked. Take at least 8 credits of continuing education each year as it relates to your license, which you must pass for credit (to keep up with a changing field). Take out your own insurance in case you screw up kill or injure someone and they sue you. Your tax rate is significantly higher as a contractor as will be your health insurance because you no longer have a large collective bargaining power.
Doing the math I'm surprised new people join in the bay area. The only way it makes sense is if you were already here with family or have rent control. Or you do your apprenticeship somewhere cheap like Bakersfield then move to the Bay assuming you can afford rent till you build a solid list of clients.
Generally, campaigning to make people to do something out of a sense of moral propriety is the wrong approach to creating change.
I have talked to people working hard physical labor jobs and they make hardly more than I do as a junior/mid level web dev but they are doing back breaking work 6 days a week.
That's not even as hard on the body as other physical jobs. It is not a well regarded and the community of peers you interact with means that it isn't a very desirable job.
The reason we lack truck drivers is because of pay, it costs a lot of money to get people to forgo a family, or a home, or sleeping in their own bed, waiting around in the middle of nowhere not getting paid just waiting, plus the costs of road food, the cost of maintaining and insuring your own truck, ect.
It's also a pretty shit job.
There also is not a truck driver shortage
Also everything I have heard from truck drivers makes it sound not so great at all. They are under constant pressure to keep driving even while tired and are constantly gps tracked for performance metrics.
I remember visiting the Daily News (a NYC local newspaper) in the early 2000s and on the tour learned that the unionized delivery guys could make six figures. That was almost 20 years ago. The fact that the same salary as 20 years ago is still possible doesn't really say much.
Quite the contrary actually, I think they're seen as very hard working. But I've also never seen very much in the way of recommendations from others in that trade to get into that kind of work. Probably because there are few people to do the recommending. There's certainly no shortage of freshman brogrammers who will preach a career in software development as easy money (they'll change their tune when they see the ugly side of things but that's a different topic of discussion).
It's not that bad.
You’re doing a throw back to the nineties comment, right?
Short-term greed turns out to be a ridiculously naive, stupid, and short-sighted way to run an economy.
Solving needs and reaping rewards have become disconnected - this is the exact problem we're discussing here.
In fact, solutions and rewards have become opposites in some cases, so it is more profitable to create problems than to solve them. This has become a significant portion of the economy across many sectors, but especially in advertising.
If it were about profit everyone would work in remote mines or offshore drilling platforms from 18 until they couldn't anymore.
And to to put one’s body in the way of significant harm, and work late night hours and give up your social life, anyone who has the option of doing something else is going to want quite a bit of premium. Not just $80k/year. Same goes for needing someone in rural areas.
Its a special kind of personality. You need to be mechanically handy, and have some electronics and software sense as well. I suspect if more people were aware of what it paid, they would go for it, if they were willing to put up with hazards.
Not bad for a high-school education only, but when other people are millionaires because they happened to get into Bitcoin in 2011 or because they picked the right tech startup, I see why folks would rather put their efforts into getting lucky.
Now, if every municipality in the US tried to do this, there would be a legitimate shortage. The highest bidders would get their mechanics. The rest would have to wait, possibly hiring from the inevitable influx of new escalator mechanics a few years later.
Or maybe not create this arbitrary distinction, and let people who are going to school with the intention of ultimately becoming a welder or a mechanic be able to take an English or a history class.
For some reason, people who go to college for basketball get to take art history, but not people learning to be machinists.
Maybe it's the mentality that you go to university to earn the honor of not having to work with your hands that's the problem; I also think that it's why the sciences and medicine often seem awkward there. I'm not exactly sure what the difference between a computer programmer and an elevator repairman is supposed to be, exactly.
Actually I quite think it's the opposite.
We should be saying, "Not everyone is cut out for escalator mechanic."
Those who aren't cut out for "real" work and traditional vocational education end up going to college to get useless marketing or business degrees. Plumbers, electricians, heavy machinery operators, drafters, are all making really good money historically due to the demands you're describing.
The "easy" path these days is to go to college.
College _is not_ for everyone, and the bar for success in college is constantly being lowered because of it.
For the silent downvoter: do you believe that anyone can do anything? I for one, have relatively high intelligence and I also get sick (cold etc.) easily. The colds rule out any kind of physical job, as much as I would like to be a jet engine mechanic for example, and I’m pretty much stuck with desk jobs. Do you believe that, in spite of my immune system being in the wrong part of the bell curve, I would do fine working outdoors?
The US military tries to reject the bottom third of candidates, however, the standards are always changing depending on need and the number of people who are interested in joining.
It's true that the higher scorers preform better than the lower scorers.
Billed $125/hr while actively working on a particular job, or a sure $125/hr for 2000 hours a year?
The amount you bill pays for your downtime, too.
I agree with at least that much of what you said.
It is near or at the top of OSHA's list of most dangerous construction trades. Elevators and escalators have extreme safety requirements for carrying passengers. I have been in enough elevator control rooms with qualified mechanics to be able to assure you that a 60-day wonder would be a very dangerous actor to let loose. After four years, I would not send a guy out on a job alone unless it was pretty simple.
Sending an elevator mechanic with 60 days of training out to work by himself is a death sentence for him, if you are lucky. For the passengers, if you are less lucky.
Usually for any building there is a primary mechanic who is assigned to that site, so that he has familiarity with the quirks of the system, relationships with the landlord's staff, etc. Of course mechanics in the same office cover for and assist each other.
> The rules should be amended such that you can get an escalator repair license in 60 days.
Are you serious? These two statements of yours are only separated by a tiny sentence and obviously don't go well together.
There are real risks fucking up an elevator.
Not everybody is well-served by college.
Guarantee there exists a number such that people want to do the job. Society just doesn’t want to pay that number yet, so it’s complaining about it and dragging their feet.
Do I declare a labor crisis because I can't find senior developers to work on my website for $10 per hour?
The buyer doesn't get to decide that a job is not important so someone else is expected to do it cheaply. Either the job is not important so its no problem if no one takes it or it is important so you will pay whatever it takes to get it done.
We (society) like to put MDs on pedestals because the relationship to life is direct and obvious, but we often ignore just how resilient the human body is and how in most daily situations, doctors aren't dealing in difficult life or death situations.
We also tend to ignore the indirect effects of other professions' on quality and longevity of life. If a traffic engineer saves tens of thousands of people 10 minutes a day in their commute, that adds up to saving an entire life of time quickly. Just an example of indirect effects on life.
Right now in the bay we have IBEW journeyman electricians making around 200k a year. Shoot. Pipefitters, Ironworkers, they all do well.
Since you're planning on having a multi-year infra project on the go and getting the expertise rolling, it's probably worth extending it across the network (even the newer ones), as I'd assume there's some economies of scale involved in parts and labour.
Judging by other comments in the thread, they're reaching their natural life.
Yes it is. Throw enough money at it and you'll have contractors from all around the world flying in to do the work.
It's like how tech companies complain that they can't find candidates to fill their positions: yes you can, just pay >50% more than FAANG does, offer them good employment conditions and you'll have the people. You just can't find the people at the cost that you want to find them for.
same goes for teachers. many universities aren’t about education anymore. they are what everything else has become: fundraisers. it’s sad given the education that i have had that i can count the good professors on one hand.
Money IS the problem. And the root is an inability to have continuous political will.
The issue is that San Francisco never voted to schedule replacement of 10% of escalators every year.
So, San Francisco voted to go from almost zero spending on escalator maintenance to a large single burst outlay which will go back to zero after the aforementioned 7 years.
What do the escalator mechanics do when the spending goes back to zero?
I don't know. One might argue that the licensing requirement for escalator mechanics is causing the shortage. Or maybe impediments related to unionized work minimums are causing a bottleneck in the flow of people who are allowed to hold these escalator mechanic jobs.
I think the root problem is the negative perception of not going to college.
So is the problem that there aren't enough mechanics, or not enough licenses?
I think Monty Python was aware of this 40 odd years ago, although it’s one of the few clips not on YouTube.
I call BS. An "escalator mechanic" sounds like a profession that could be trained in a year, or far less if the person is some other kind of mechanic. The reason why this training doesn't happen is likely there's not much money to be gained, if anything at all. Or maybe there's a union constraining supply of mechanics, or both.
I agree that there needs to be more vocational education, and less stigma against it. But the claim that the problem above could not be solved with liberal application of cash is dubious at best.
Having seen the sheer quantity of kids struggling with simple stuff like cleaning, cooking and not drinking themselves to death, I'm becoming more and more in favor of a mandatory service at the age of 18. Maybe not military like the IDF, but some sort of program where kids are forced to go away from home and learn to be self sufficient. Little Bobby should learn how to scrub a pot and clean a bathroom before he's entrusted with a 240k education. I took a gap year and I was significantly more focused and disciplined than I was in high school. And way better than the majority of my college peers.
But even worse than being unprepared for college, I feel like we've been fostering a poor attitude towards learning. I grew up in an academic family, so to me, learning wasn't a stage of life. Learning was an essential aspect of being alive. Going to college wasn't some arbitrary merit badge that society deems necessary. It was a natural extension of whatever field I wanted to study. I see college as a tool; I need to learn certain topics in order to get what I want in life. Of course, I'm very fortunate to have taken a gap year and worked as a programmer. If nothing else, I know that I like programming, I'm good at it and I'm willing to suffer through the painful parts. It's kinda good to know that before I spent 240k on a CS degree.
Anecdotally, vets on campus tended to be more 'serious' than ones that were not drafted. That said, most vets would have elected not to have undergone the experience regardless of their level of involvement in the war.
Also, the costs of such programs are very high. If you look at military conscription today, it is limited to countries with small populations or ones that are actively threatened. Mobilizing, feeding, housing, and caring for nearly 450,000 people is not an easy task. The net benefit of this conscription is ambiguous as well. Denmark used to use their conscripts in the care of the elderly and in wildland firefighting, but has since degraded that from their service. Doing so here in the US may be of benefit, but not at the costs that would be sustained. Such work is better left to the professionals, typically.
I'm not even close to an expert in this field, but a cursory look at it suggests that the cost/benefit ratio is not close. However, the same can be said of nearly any educational endeavor, yet we know that on a decadeal timeline it pays for itself many times over.
The Vietnam Draft will go down in history as a gross human rights violation of a generation of young adult men. That war was a proxy battle of world powers to send their young to die to line the pockets of their militaries and their contractors all in the name of ideological and economic conquest paid in blood.
In contrast, the WW2 draft is vindicated in how influential US support was in turning the tide on both fronts. US involvement invariably saved millions of lives and helped stop tyrannical genocide across Europe, Asia, and Africa. Violating the liberty of your citizens for that kind of end is probably righteous, but don't let the widows and parents bearing the flags of their fallen sons hear I said that - they died in large part to save the citizens of other nations, not for their own.
I strongly support a public works program that anyone can enroll in for a contracted number of years. Anyone lost entering adulthood should have something to fall back on that can help them contribute to society - and we sure as hell need it in the US, the infrastructure is crumbling disastrously and the country is massive and can use a substantial amount of hard labor maintenance. It is just that none of the financial incentives are there, or regulations are perverse enough to skew away private capital from fixing many of these issues. Regardless of why, we can see a ton of work we would like done, but don't have the money to afford ourselves, individually, or even as small businesses, but can accomplish collectively and publicly with something like a revitalized civilian corp of engineers.
I told my youngest sister to take a gap year to figure herself out. She didn't, and now years into college she has decided to switch studies, just like I did. Luckily we're Dutch and this is actually a realistic possibility for us.
That's called "adulthood."
- Would help people mature before diving into the next stage of life, especially immature people whose upbringing has failed to imbue them with responsibility.
- Would boost civic participation. When everyone's kid is at risk of dying, everyone pays attention to who we're going to war with and why.
- Would provide structure for people when they are at the point when they could do the most damage to themselves or society (young adulthood).
- Would strengthen military power; every citizen would have at least a small amount of military training, if we really need it.
- Would greatly diminish stratification of social/cultural/economic groups. Would help get people out of the bubbles they grow up in.
- Would increase physical fitness and health of the population.
I see very little downside to a mandatory 2 year military service.
Most of the free western world has recognized the invalidity of a large standing army or extravagant military spending. Money going into war is money totally wasted, literally burned up in bullets and bombs and lives.
In the US at least Eisenhower was already talking about where we are today becoming a problem back during his presidency 60 years ago - that the private enterprise built on military contracts would lobby congress to see the military used and expanded to give them more money. The US has refined to an artform the practice of making conflicts to send its young to die in to line the pockets of investors. One of them was both the former CEO of a major defense contractor and the damn vice president under the guy who started permanent endless war against a concept in a desert on the other side of the planet for going on twenty years.
The west and world at large should be happy to not need to train and send their young to suffer and die in war. Nuclear deterrents have functionally eliminated threats to homelands protected by them. Russia and China might be antagonists on the world stage against the capitalist establishment but they are also nuclear powers and thus no war can ever be waged against or involving them directly. It all has to be theater, destroying arbitrary swathes of third world nations in proxy wars meant to justify profits on both sides for private men who sell bombs and need to insure there is somewhere for the government to drop them.
The US and almost all western democracies should be moving towards demilitarizing entirely. There are still useful functions of militaries in defense of borders in most nations - fighting pirates, smugglers, etc - but nation-state level actors will not move against anyone pointing weapons that could glass their whole country in an hour, so wasting the valuable time of millions of young adults preparing for a war that cannot ever happen is all around a disastrous waste of time and money.
There is also the fundamental freedom angle of it. If you want to have kids spend the last two years of public education enroll in something akin to a communal public works labor program instead of teaching them Shakespeare and ancient Sumerian history they will never use that would be more defensible, but it is grossly inappropriate of anyone to say that full adults should be forcibly conscripted en masse against their will for no reason that could remotely justify the breach of their liberty.
There are some negatives to working in the trades. For one thing, manual labor takes a toll on your body. I've watched tradesmen work at my house and at my workplace. If they're my age, they're broken and hobbling.
How can somebody survive that for long enough to have a decent retirement? How do they survive recessions, which typically affect the construction industry? An economist should be able to show us how to tip the balance. Show us.
Because the government is subsidizing education. His suggestion is simple: cut/lower the subsidies.
How does subsidizing education, thus creating more college graduates, increase the value of a degree?
There must be some sort of monstrous arbitrage going on, where young people have figured out a scheme for boosting their market value, and employers are utterly clueless about it.
My own suggestions would be to provide better protections for blue collar workers, such as better enforcement of workplace safety laws, stronger unions, health care, pensions, and a generally stronger safety net.
If you spend less on one thing, you can spend more on other things (or tax less), so I don't see how that follows.
> How does subsidizing education, thus creating more college graduates, increase the value of a degree?
I would think about it like this instead: subsidizing education lowers the cost, making it more attractive than it otherwise would be compared to the alternatives (e.g., trade school).
For example, if the government decided to subsidize Ford car purchases, more people would buy Ford, right? Doesn't mean Ford cars became any better.
In fact, Kaplan admits that college increases pay more than it increases productivity -- that it benefits graduates more than it benefits countries as a whole, suggesting that something about college education enables people to keep more of their own production.
The fact that college graduates get paid more seems adequately explained by the signalling model he presents. How else do you explain the big pay differences for college graduates vs people who dropped out early? They are bigger than you'd expect from just skill/knowledge gain.
> it benefits graduates more than it benefits countries as a whole, suggesting that something about college education enables people to keep more of their own production.
Kaplan would agree would you there, he thinks it makes sense for individuals now to go to college, but as a society it doesn't make sense to subsidize, because it is mostly just signalling, and there are cheaper ways to achieve that.
An analogy he uses is that say you are at a movie theater, and you could see better if you stood. It could be true, but it doesn't follow that everyone could see better if everyone stood.
Well, one thing to consider is that you can structure things so that you avoid all the hard classes until the end, and then leave without taking them. I found myself in this situation and had to 'boss rush' all the hard STEM classes at once, which wasn't fun and probably usually results in someone just dropping out.
Confirming this isn't what's happening might be one explanation for the sheepskin effect. (Of course, just because it might be doesn't mean it is, I think Occam's Razor favors Caplan here).
Kaplan can't figure out why anybody in their right mind would pay me to work for them. (I can't figure it out either). So it must be "signaling."
A better description would just be to admit that we don't understand the market value of higher education, and there are effects that contradict a simplistic market model, either because the model is false or we aren't feeding good information into it.
The saddest thing, is that it clearly hasn't. Tuition costs have sky-rocketed, as has interest rates on education loans. It's become absurdly expensive.
As an additional note, universities right now are getting a huge subsidy: not only through tuition and student loans, but also from exemptions on income, property, and most importantly, endowment taxes.
I highly recommend his book: The Case Against Education - https://www.amazon.com/dp/B076ZY8S8J.
After that I realized grades were fairly arbitrary and explicitly aimed for Ds in classes I didn't care about and settled for whatever in the classes I did care about.
I've been doing graphics since high school, it was one of the few classes I was really excited about, and it's what I'm currently getting paid to do. I've never failed any other class.
In my opinion, the first two years of CS actually matter. Fundamentals like data structures, algorithms, and maybe even operating systems classes are great. Beyond that, most CS programs tend to be severely outdated - you'll learn more from internships and co-ops than another 2 years of classes.
Of course, take that with a grain of salt since I did know exactly what I wanted to do coming into college.
University professor here.
Perhaps it's too late now, but I would encourage you to make a strenuous effort to get your professor in as much trouble with the administration as you can. I don't know who the "class dean" is -- but contact this person's department chair, the departmental undergraduate director, the dean of engineering, the dean of students, the provost, anybody, everybody. Whoever will listen.
What you experienced is not okay. I'm sure it's not an isolated incident, but it's also not the norm.
As for the courses and the professors' capabilities, there are a bunch of systemic issues there. One is that "number of students who fail out" is a metric that is used to measure program performance, so first year is usually full of courses that are review for like half a given cohort. Another is that one often gets tenure for research, not teaching ability, so some professors optimize accordingly.
For what it's worth, there are plenty of folks who will tell you that you should "slack off" on a degree and just start a startup instead.
But then, that growth ran out, and as Weinstein says, “We were left with all of our institutions looking in some form or another like a Ponzi scheme.”
Was from here: https://youtu.be/LruYnDjkOgU?t=895
For the general skills stuff, that is all remedial stuff that should be obtained prior to entering formal college. Students should have mastery of those subjects before even being admitted. Have community colleges do remedial course exclusively (or some way to self-study online and test out).
For those 60 units of old "general education" replace it with 30 units of general career skills and 30 units of applied career skills. So the course track would go like this - first 30 units is exclusively your 30 general career skills then the next 60 units is the traditional academic track that most people take currently for their major. The last 30 units is exclusively used at applying those skills to various project-based work.
For all those old course that are currently considered general education, make them all optional, not required courses.
An easy solution would just to make replacements. Have students take introductory classes like data science, logic and reasoning, ethics, public policy, etc.
I was prevents from graduating on time because I needed to take 9 credits of... whatever. Why? Am I really a better person for being made to spend the extra time and money taking some bullshit class I barely remember?
I am of course biased as a faculty (though I think his policy prescriptions would negatively effect public schools more than private universities such as Harvard), but I think Caplan's analysis is extremely shallow.
First, note that if he's right, higher education should be an incredible drag on the economy - we're taking 4 highly productive years out of the workforce. Such an extreme conclusion shouldn't be that hard to test without resorting to anecdotes and contorted reading of data. Educational policies and subsidies vary so greatly between different countries and even states, that if it was such a colossal waste we should be seeing it in the higher GDP or productivity of the less educated countries and localities.
(The article is in general very US-centric for an issue that is not specific to the US at all.)
When a locality has less access to education, there would be naturally less of a "credential arms race" and so more people that have just as much base talent but did not go to college. Why aren't employers flocking to those places and hiring high school graduates who would be so much cheaper?
I know one theory Caplan has is that completing college certifies "conformity" and "tolerance for boredom": is spending 4 years and tens or hundreds or thousands of dollars the only way to test for these properties?
Also (at least from my experience in the IDF) conformity and tolerance for boredom are very important for the army, arguably moreso than many other employers, yet they do fine with high school graduates.
Working any entry level office job from age 18-22 would be a pretty good test. I would not have survived it.
This isn't a trick question. I've had two jobs for the last three years; one was sporadic, part-time, and technical, and the other was full-time horrid mostly-unskilled drudgery. I'm not sure whether or not to list the drudge job on my resume.
Maybe I'll A/B test it...
It's disgusting. I was a yuge Bernie fan in 2016 because he addressed one of the biggest issues our society faces - why do we allow the universities to endenture our youth?
There's simply no reason. The material is all online. Usually in a better format than what your university is offering. Testing isn't something special that only universities can offer. Hell at this point it's mostly grad students teaching anyway... (Personal experience)
We should do away with university. Learn online, test at a local institute (much more economic), but for the love of God let's give the 20 year Olds dorms still cuz that's an experience we all need to have. Coed.
If this is true could you explain what I missed out on?
* being collocated with other students provides an academic safety net for the underprepared (it's easier to get your neighbor to explain physics at 10p than a person on the internet who's in your online class/ at your training center)
* it provides peer pressure for the undermotivated... its harder to say "this workload is unreasonable, I'm not going to do it" when you see your roommate and all your neighbors slogging through it
* proximity forces social interaction, which builds social skills in those who wouldn't have sought them out
* it's great fun. Easy to achieve critical mass for parties or other recreational activities. These events in turn build friendships an a valuable network after college.
BTW, if you spent time living in a city near other young people, you probably didn't miss out on much by not living in a dorm. Some people really thrive in that environment, but personally I prefer the apartment-style living in an area with a lot of young people (college campus or city with young people) that I transitioned to after freshman year.
I had a year of rooming in college with a perfectly fine guy but I wouldn't ever want to do that ever again and got nothing particularly memorable out of it. I guess it did teach me that I desperately need privacy and personal space? Too bad I already learned that any time I went on vacation and spent too long in a day walking around a mall or theme park.
The author genuinely can’t conceptualize that people who fail out in the fourth year might, on average, have learned less in the first three? The line “practically the only explanation” even calls out the flaw in the author’s own logic. Lol.
The advantage of getting through the fourth and final year is the signal that it shows you are not one of those who did worse.
You just don’t get the same exposure at a trade school or through an apprenticeship. Perhaps the real solution is that colleges should offer training in the trades. You’d benefit from classes on how to run a business and do taxes and accounting if you’re in a trade and want to start your own business.
And just because the direct access to the knowledge is not retained, doesn’t mean the residual knowledge is completely lost. If I never learned Calculus I’d have no idea where to start if I wanted or needed to pick it up again, but because I did, I have a much easier time refreshing myself.
As a programmer, I jump from language to language often. When I haven’t used a language in a while I forget a lot of it, but once I start using it again, I recall and pick it up much faster.
So, while those researchers proved that if you don’t use it, you do indeed lose it, they failed to see if a quick refresh of the material proved their skills more than someone that never learned the skill at all. I’d imagine the results would be as I’d expect and those that previously learned it did much better than those that never learned it.
And finally, the author touched on what is more directly the issue. College ciriculiums are simply not well designed. If more majors were designed like engineering as his example, their would be more useful and their for used knowledge acquired during a students years in college and therefore more skills would translate into their field.
I'd say that paying for college should be scaled with the earning benefit it imparts, freshman year costing very little, and senior year costing a majority of the total degree. Thoughts?
What happened to the notes you took for your classes at the end of the semester? I suspect that they are thrown away and never seen again.
I suspect part of the problem with education is that we don't learn how to learn, and that we done very little work on how to retain those skills and connect them to our world.
Reading something alone will create not create fluency and understanding.
That is why we take notes. They serve both as records of what we learned, a learning tools, and a place to synthesize knowledge and understanding.
I also use wikipedia and lookup youtube videos, but I don't merely read or watch about it. I engage in an active process of learning and synthesizing information.
Its important, but I definitely agree with the OP its not ~40k a year and 3 prime years of your life important.
Its also something high school should be presenting. Its the literal last step that the state has in producing productive members of society from its curriculum, and they waste it on Shakespeare driving generations to "hate" reading than trying to diversify their students interests to get them excited about career prospects and opportunities they can rise into.
Its evident in how totally directionless and lost most college freshman are. They did what they were told in gradeschool, don't remember a fraction of it, and are now being drilled with the same kinds of banal "diversification" classes of lecture and monotony they have toned out for a majority of their life at that point.
Experiencing diversity is something that requires a desire to experience it in the first place. Forcing people to do it when all they want is a job that pays them a living wage is at least disrespectful to their self determination.
What I think we should instead pay attention to is the rate of re-learning. Something may take significant time and effort to learn the first time, and after say a year or two, one may forget it. But when re-introduced to the concept (when you may actually need it), I think one can re-learn it quite rapidly.
Roughly a third of American adults have at least a Bachelor’s degree. I (unsurprisingly) haven’t been able to find any hard data on this question, but does anyone want to take a guess at what percentage of innovation they’re responsible for? It’s certainly over a third - my shot in the dark is 90%. Measure innovation however you see fit.
You can explain away some of that gap with factors like parental education and wealth, but I’m not convinced you can explain away all of it. Skilled trades may be great for the individual, but they don’t really drive innovation. Neither do social media managers, of course - not every college graduate can be a unicorn CEO - but I’m still convinced that college education is a substantial net positive in expectation.
Or to put it another way, there isn't a direct correlation between Bachelor's holders and innovators. Sure there are some ridiculously smart people out there, and probably most of them have some formal higher education. But their education probably isn't what made them ridiculously smart; instead it was probably their education that helped shape their thinking and possibly opened some doors.
And of course there are many examples of innovations that came from people without degrees. Many technology company founders that we would today consider innovative did not necessarily hold a Bachelor's degree.
In short, I think your connection that 33% of Americans are automatically innovative just because they have a degree is quite the stretch. A degree doesn't have any correlation to ones aptitude for innovation.
The list goes on, of course. But what I want to illustrate is that entrepreneurs with “a-ha” moments don’t have a monopoly on innovation. Far from it.
Now, going through that list of innovations again, what proportion of the people involved do you think have a Bachelor’s degree or more? I promise I didn’t intentionally cherry-pick at all - I suspect the pattern will hold if you come up with your own list, provided that you limit it to the last, say, 50 years. And at least in the examples I gave, the fact that the people responsible overwhelmingly have college degrees isn’t incidental, it’s a result of the fact that deep subject matter expertise is needed to push the envelope.
Yet another attack on the liberal arts that misses the point of education entirely. An education in a variety of fields is about what it means to be a person in a world among other people and the natural environment. It's what makes democracy possible (https://press.princeton.edu/titles/10858.html). If we reduce education to mere employment training, we might as well revert to medieval feudalism where your entire life is bound to your economic production.
The other thing is that I think that we should teach history, because what happened in history is closely related to how world functions now. So having rough idea that things happened (which is pretty much what high school history teaches) is something good to have.
Because they're for math majors. And less-advanced ones are filters for potential math majors. Me, I hated that stuff. Engineering math actually taught useful skills.
> I’m cynical about students. The vast majority are philistines.
I was a horrible TA. I was mainly an RA, but had to TA one semester. I had no patience for the "what do I need to know for the test?" ones. Especially pre-meds. But ~five kids loved me, because we all cared about the ideas.
It was actually easier as a professor, because I had TAs to deal with most students. Only the ones who cared bothered to see me personally. Or maybe I was just too rude to the others.
Anecdotally, as an engineer in industry, I use very little of the engineering math. Number sense and sort of general quantitative reasoning are used.
Let's suppose for sake of argument that I actually used engineering math though. Analytic solutions to derivatives and integrals (2 semesters of calculus) are largely useless because of applications like Wolfram Alpha that will solve these problems for you. The small class of ODE/PDE problems that are handled by analytic undergrad math classes will most often be solved using numerical methods such as Runge Kutta. Linear algebra is actually super useful in practice because you can use matrix solvers to solve systems of linear equations -- but a first course in undergraduate linear algebra is often just basic by-hand computations on matrix systems, and don't discuss higher order concepts at more than a shallow level (spans, invertibility, spectral decomposition, canonical forms, etc.)
Number theory is also a huge bore
Well, precisely because university does not exist to increase future income of its students. It's mostly about extending human knowledge in a formalized way called science, and producing enough doctors to let the institution continues in the future. If one aims to study practical skill there is dozen of other options: engineer and business schools, vocational schools, etc.
I agree however that there is a worrying inflation of required degrees to get an entry position anywhere and that's a waste of time and money for all parties involved.
Then it's not worth subsidizing with government-backed loans and grants. That money would be better spent elsewhere.
Colleges give you all those supplemental classes so that you'll be well-rounded. Sure, you'd graduate faster and spend less money if you only took the classes that were immediately relevant to your career, but math proofs and math in general aren't always practical... it's about training your brain to solve problems, and the more abstract you can think about and approach a problem, the more creative you can get with your solutions.
And it's not even just about skills... college is a whole different ball game than High School in terms of meeting new people. High School is all about cliques and for a lot of people (myself included) was fucking miserable. College allows you to meet a diverse set of new people who may or may not share common interests and for me, at least, allowed me to grow as a person in ways that don't necessarily translate to anything "marketable".
Sure, not everyone is meant to go to college and the mentality that our parents had when we were younger, that "you have to go to college or you'll be flipping burgers for the rest of your life" is toxic, but those of us who do want to pursue a career that requires a higher education shouldn't have to spend the rest of our lives in debt just to do so.
That's just your opinion. Unfortunately, it's supported by the entrenched education establishment, but that doesn't make it true.
The cold hard reality is, if you aren't college material, don't attend some vocational school, and don't learn a trade, you're in for a life of hard labor or burger flipping. It's going to be a completely crap life for most people.
> those of us who do want to pursue a career that requires a higher education shouldn't have to spend the rest of our lives in debt just to do so.
Yeah, one way to reduce costs would be to remove all the extraneous coursework that's of zero value to society.
Some of that "extraneous coursework", I'm thinking of things like theather, drama, and dance, brings billions of dollars to the economy every year. For example, Broadway alone generates billions in spending annually , with some of that spending going towards the transportation, hospitality (hotel, food) , and merchandising industries .
(Edited for formatting)
I'd argue the real value of the arts in education is that they enrich the lives of those people taking them. This is particularly true in grade school, because it's usually free. Once you start to get into debt for these enriching passions, it becomes a calculus of worth. The best way to enjoy the arts is to have sufficient stress-free time to enjoy them, plus a small amount of discretionary funds depending on the art. If you don't have that, you can be an amazing artist with no time, energy, or money left to enjoy your own talents.
I think also a major problem in our society is the centralization that easy and prevalent media access causes in the arts. Instead of hundreds of local artists, you only need one Lady Gaga. She's great, but there's also a huge amount of value in taking in the arts of local people who you know or who are part of your community. It fosters diversity, local community, and a sense of pride and identity in a place. It also helps ensure that there will be more quality superstars in the future, as everyone has to start somewhere.
Anyway, all this to say I agree, and then some. People just often focus on the extrinsic value of the arts - economic or their side benefit to STEM performance - when the intrinsic value for each person who partakes in them is the most important. Sing in the shower :)
The discussion isn't whether or not you personally find intrinsic value in art. The question is, of how much utility is it to include this kind of thing in an educational curriculum when there are many people struggling financially.
When everybody's off public assistance and the unemployment numbers are at 0, we should discuss enlightening some people with the fine arts. Until then, we should be spending that money in order to train and educate people in a way that will make a material difference in their lives.
I guess flipping burgers and not having enough money to pay your bills is all okay because a select few (of most likely already privileged kids) got to sing and dance for money.
I must say “seems like” because there’s really no scientific way to prove this (most of the time...although there are some interesting micro-studies in behavioral economics). But if you think about it even a little bit, I think you would agree that having a “collective memory” about causality in society is incredibly valuable to the interests of the citizens of that society, even if it has negative economic value to individuals.
Same for any "business major", of course, except double major in accounting on CPA track.
Dunno about that, many of my middle class friends with degrees in Finance, Marketing, MIS, etc, went on to secure well paying jobs right out of college, and now 5-6 years later are doing really well for themselves. Also I know people who went to big 4 consulting out of undergrad with liberal arts degrees.
I think it depends more on the school than the major. A shitty school with bad career coaching that doesn't teach you how to 'sell' yourself to prospective employers will have unemployed software engineers.
The arts and history teach us empathy and give us context of the human condition. There is so much more to being a cog in the machine, as you said correctly. The more I see the way people behave in today's "current events" realm, the more I believe these things are more important than ever.
There's a reason that there's not much societal interest in many humanities topics covered in college outside of it. It's just apathy.
I disagree. These courses should be merely electives, if offered at all. The average person doesn't really have time for this stuff, they have a long road ahead of them and they need to spend more of their formative years preparing for the hard conditions of adult life.
I'm not here to defend useless humanities classes taught in high schools and colleges. Many of them are quite bad, but we need to raise the bar, not eliminate it.
Always with the intangible 'benefits' to people.
If what you're worried about is 'critical thinking skills' perhaps there should be a course modeled for that exact outcome.
How does learning about ancient history make you open minded? How does fictional literature make you open minded?
Maybe you should open your mind and consider that the lower class of people in society are really bad off financially and that our education system is doing exactly 0 to rectify that fact.
The humanities are important, both for individuals and for the body politic. History gives us a critical lens for looking at the present, fiction develops imaginative sympathy for others, grammar lets your voice be understood. Why should being poor exclude you from the use of history -- recognizing when you're being used by a rabble-rouser, literature -- understanding and being understood by your neighbors who may be different from you, or grammar -- being able to participate at even the most basic level in public debate? That's disenfranchisement. How do you suppose poverty is maintained?
And that's just the argument for humanities education for those in dire poverty. For the striving lower-middle class, music, art, civics, philosophy, and economics give you ways to understand yourself as a citizen and how to use wisely those resources you have.
These are all nice sentiments, but not based in reality whatsoever.
How many kids drop out of high school because they view it as completely pointless? If you're in the 10th grade, you know you're not going to college because you can't afford it or you have the self awareness that you're not a good fit for one reason or another, why finish? What good is that 12th grade civics lesson to you?
If you think humanities are important, teach them on your own time on your own dime. The majority of people live in the real world, and the real world doesn't care anything about you, only what economic value you provide. You have to have money to live in this society, until that changes, humanities are a large waste of time for a large portion of the population.
You know who sounds gullible to me? An 18 year old kid taking out 10's of thousands of dollars for a 'liberal arts degree.' Literal definition of gullibility IMO.
I guess at least you'll feel better about yourself knowing you know 'things' while you're working at Starbucks.
While I entered the school intent on majoring in Biological Sciences (genetic engineering), music is my second love and I was quite fortunate that UChicago had a fantastic music history/theory department. While picking up "marketable" skills in science/research, I picked up a double major in music, the musical skills of which have improved my playing every single time I have stepped to the piano since.
In my view, university should be about setting oneself up for a productive life. For most, this should include marketable skills, as well as enriching and non-obviously employable skills.
In my experience, enforcing a "well-rounded" education also fails in practice. Most of my peers in college sought out the easiest possible courses not directly related to their degrees in order to satisfy the university requirements.
Pursuing a "well-rounded" education should be a choice. You just can't teach someone who is unwilling to learn.
I think we'd benefit from two distinct tracks, which I'm starting to see more in practice: one track is to take the traditional college approach, the second is to take more practical training specific to your profession. I think in that way the students specifically trying to build careers for as little money and time as possible would benefit greatly, while the former group would still enjoy the traditional "college experience". Vocational training has been the case for a long time with "blue-collar" jobs, and I hope we will see more progress for "white-collar" jobs as well. I also get the arguments around building tools for complex reasoning and the time investment required, but a lot of us just don't have 4-5 years to invest.
> We can’t measure education’s social benefits solely with test scores or salary premiums. Instead we must ask ourselves what kind of society we want to live in—an educated one or an ignorant one?
> Normal human beings make a solid point: We can and should investigate education’s broad social implications. When humanists consider my calculations of education’s returns, they assume I’m being a typical cynical economist, oblivious to the ideals so many educators hold dear. I am an economist and I am a cynic, but I’m not a typical cynical economist. I’m a cynical idealist. I embrace the ideal of transformative education. I believe wholeheartedly in the life of the mind. What I’m cynical about is people.
He also cites a number of studies that show that the desired benefits of "training your brain to solve problems" either don't materialize or are non-existent after a few years.
Because they're trying to teach you English, as opposed to business and technical writing?
Same goes for history, maths proofs, etc etc. They're not trying to teach you how to get a job, but how to think mathematically, etc.
Not that school succeeds in teaching those things. I don't think I learned anything at school. But I did learn many of the things that school was trying to teach me, on my own. Because the things that school tries to teach you are actually useful, kinds of knowledge that cultivate the personality and make you a better person in all sorts of ways.
We should try to change education to be more effective teaching you what it does, not changing what it tries to teach you.
>”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.”
I feel dedicated people with an above average IQ could achieve similar things, but this sort of pedigree tends to speak more towards socioeconomic class than sheer intelligence. Where intelligence and high socioeconomic class seem to be a signaling with degrees from impressive schools.
Makes me wonder how many smart working class kids we are missing out on. The high IQ kids who went to schools not ranked in the top 100, those that would have excelled at MIT but for whatever reason never applied and now does who knows what, not performing to their potential. We have so much inbreeding, where we continually get the same kids from the same backgrounds missing out on an entire segment of the population.
I was skeptical but decided to start in SF earlier this month at the best rated/most reputable one I could find.
Obviously still early on, but I can say that I’m already grasping concepts better than I have just doing code academy/coursesa/reading SO alone on and off over the years.
It’s very possible there isn’t anything special specifically about this program, but if you basically commit to doing nothing but one thing for 16 hours a day (full day on site with projects, lectures, and then homework at night) plus weekend study for weekly tests then you will get better at anything.
Most colleges, though, aren’t really structured to support students to become good at just one thing. Though I’d also argue they aren’t necessarily designed to be job factories.
Sure it’s introductory, but so was my freshman year.
I don’t really agree with the article though, I enjoyed philosophy and history as side tracks doing my entire schooling, and I use the creativity and insights I got from those a whole lot more than I ever use economics or math.
I'm 26 now and I barely finished high-school because I thought it was a waste of time and I was working on my own projects and learning everything I could on my own about CS. My last year at school (turned 18 just before the start of the school year) I found a job as a QA in a small outsourcing company and didn't even attend classes. I didn't even care it wasn't a dev job. I wanted to be around devs and see how it is to actually work in a real company.
Now the important question here is... Why would they hire me, a person that can legally work, but not having a high school diploma? There were a couple of factors that played in my favor. First - it was basically a contract for 1 year, with 3 months of trial period. I was supposed to take the place of a woman that went in maternity. Second - I wanted a laughably low salary, really low. To me it was a lot of money at that time, but I didn't know my worth. Third - I did really well on the interview and I managed to prove to the owners of the company that I can do this job.
They hired me.
I did my job well and after the trial period my boss pulled me to the side and offered me a permanent contract. I said yes without even thinking. He said that it's usually normal to ask for a raise after your trial ends and I asked for something stupid like 5%. He smiled at me and gave me a 100% raise and the position of a dev.
I got lucky. I've thought a lot about it, but I really think that luck was on my side there. I obviously did the job good, and to this day it's the company I've worked the longest for - over 3 years.
By the way I got A's on all of my final exams (had to book holiday to go and take them haha) and got my diploma. After that I decided to enroll in university, but it was just the same as in high school. After 1 semester I couldn't escape the feeling that I was wasting my time. I continued, but in the end I dropped out. I think I made a mistake enrolling in a CS course. I should've went for something that's interesting to me, but not necessarily to do as a living like Economics, Physics, Philosophy, History etc.
I like the idea of higher education and I'm still thinking about enrolling and pursuing a degree in a different field, but I wouldn't go for a CS degree again. My 8 years in the industry now have taught me everything I need to deal with it.
EDIT: Grammar, spelling
uggggh this, this market-driven bullshit that assumes "business" should be the end goal of all human behavior
English classes focus on literature and poetry because maybe you should have some sense of beauty, because you should have some vague idea of what a good fucking sentence looks like instead of just learning to write the abominable circumlocutions of this year's dialect of Business English. Because maybe reading stories about people in interesting moral dilemmas can help us think about how we'd react in a similar situation and be able to say "hey wait I am starting to act like that asshole in that one book, it sure didn't end well for her, okay what else can I try then".
Because part of the job of education is to pass on a culture to the next generation along with raw knowledge.
> Why do advanced-math classes bother with proofs almost no student can follow? When will the typical student use history?
What's the old saw about people who don't learn history? They're doomed to repeat it? Do you really want kids making the same mistakes your parents made, because they didn't see any of the results? "Oh hey let's vote for this obvious confidence man for the lulz, what's the worst that could happen", one year later we have literal fucking Nazi groups rallying in the streets?
uuuggggghhh yes let's all just learn exactly what we need to learn to be useful to some big corporate entity, let's learn nothing that will make us ever question its inhuman, amoral, profit-first motives, I am sure this will have absolutely no problems whatsoever.
> Why do advanced-math classes bother with proofs almost no student can follow?
Because that literally _is_ mathematics, and the point of working through them is because students can actually understand them and learn to do the same thing with new problems. How does he expect anyone to create or discover anything new with just arithmetic 101?
There's a kernel of a good argument in that signaling probably is one of the main values that students get from a college degree, but it's overstated to such a degree that it crosses over into idiocy.
This guy likely just picked an economic topic that isn't talked about much and wrote a book about it to sell his brand/make money by focusing on the minority cases and using clickbait articles like this where he equates all college degrees as useless signalling and thus not worth the cost of education to promote it.
Also I did not spend all that much time by history or poetry in school. It is possible to select overly too many such courses I guess, but it is in no way necessary or expected.
A possible better route to teaching appreciation of classic literature would be focusing on debate about which popular media is best. Natural competitiveness will make people take this seriously, and at some point people will figure out that comparisons to classic literature, discussion of formal rhetorical technique, etc. are highly effective tools for debate. Pretty much no kid will read Shakespeare for fun, but if it means proving that their favorite media is better than somebody else's favorite, it might be worth the effort.
Caplan says that the book has an entire chapter dedicated to refuting this argument, which I can't speak to.
> ...students who excel on exams frequently fail to apply their knowledge to the real world... the same goes for students of biology, mathematics, statistics, ...
I think this holds better for high school. That's were we (myself, at least) got into the "test-zone".
Looking back it feels like it was deceitful to emphasise tests.
However, the main point from my side is this: I happened to have a good math lecturer at university (i.e., in higher education) that launched my research orientated subsequent years. I don't know if the problem is "higher education" or maybe just mentorship. I think it's a mixed bag for different people.
Force employers to actually vet people for what they know and can do and not force otherwise capable people to jump through expensive hoops to display pseudo-signals.
Not only will we be able to help people improve their skills as a society, but I bet college enrollment goes down across the board because most jobs aren’t that hard. Most jobs don’t actually need degrees, it’s just that degrees make hiring much easier.
How do you propose to do that? At least with developers you can make the candidate do some toy project or whiteboard but that process is woefully flawed and controversial.
That’s tech, but what if you’re hiring for something more abstract, like Human Resources or sales?
What if you just need a person who can learn quickly and is easy to work with?
Almost every job I was in changed significantly within a year of being there. New tasks, new responsibilities, new teams. I grew with the changes or I left when I wanted a change. Screening upfront for specific skills only in all but the most narrow jobs will have limited usefulness.
It seems to me the best way to accomplish this is to have a clear statement of the role, provide excellent on-boarding and make hiring and firing much easier, so you can quickly end a relationship that’s not definitely not working.
Firing is already pretty darn easy in most states. At will employment is pretty much designed to accomplish that.