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That's a side effect of Caplan's main objection, that a college degree has become a credential, used for signaling, and not indicating any real merit or learning. Once students recognize that (and they have), they put in the bare minimum to get the credential, and administrators respond by forcing new minimums. It's still possible to get a good education if you choose your institution, classes and professors wisely, but it's frustrating for motivated students to be surrounded by slackers. In a good learning environment, you're going to learn as much or more from your peers as from your teacher.

I highly recommend his book: The Case Against Education - https://www.amazon.com/dp/B076ZY8S8J.




An important thing to note is that in many areas colleges may not be the best way to learn a subject. I personally am ok learning from old blog posts and online documentation for most everything computer related and personally even slightly prefer it to college classes. However, as you mentioned I need a credential so sit through classes to get it and do near the minimum to get a good GPA and pass all the classes. There is simply no need to take challenging classes which may not teach exactly what I am interested in and take the risk of wasting upwards of 1,000 dollars on the class and getting my credential permanently stained with a bad grade if I misjudge the difficulty and fail. It is simply less risky, far less stressful, and typically easier for me to learn by not challenging myself at college wherever possible. Especially with education as cheap (many cases free) and accessible as it is online I find it hard to view anyone not slacking and attempting to learn much at college to be a fool.


I don't presume my institution is representative (nor that it isn't), but for what it's worth, most students I see are not slackers at all. Students often choose the harder courses, and many of them require a significant amount of work (a typical CS course requires 12 hours of work outside lecture and many require much more).


I wasn't a slacker until I took a computer graphics class that consumed more of my time than my other 4 classes combined, and I still failed it on a technicality (out for a job interview the day partners were assigned for the final project. Wasn't allowed to do the project alone, there were an odd number of people in the class. If you fail any "section" of the class, you fail the whole class. After back-and-forth with the professor, I contacted my class dean. He said he'd contact the professor, didn't, told me it was too late to change the grade, and then quit)

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.


> I still failed it on a technicality (out for a job interview the day partners were assigned for the final project. Wasn't allowed to do the project alone, there were an odd number of people in the class.

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.


Thing I learned about the two bad professors in the school of engineering I went to was the Chair was beyond sick of their shit.


I had a similar experience when I finally made an effort to get to know the higher UPS in my car department. they often know already who the problem faculty are and are more than happy to help you deal with them. unfortunately, I think most college students are unaware of how in-department politics work and/or are just inherently unwilling to escalate things.


Sorry, forgot my audience. :) STEM folks tend not to be slackers (in their subject). Caplan also mentions this is where most of the measurable learning takes place. And there are non-slackers, to greater or lesser degree, in every class. But I saw a lot of them in the required classes ("core" or "diversity"), language classes and business classes. Most slackers self-select out of STEM, except as required.


For a CS degree, the slackers can read the slides at home, do the assignments from home, and only come in to do the exams. You're not going to see them until the graduation ceremony. (At least, I didn't.)


How does doing work remotely make one a slacker (other than the aspect of not physically transporting yourself)? And if you're capable of completing a course without being present, what does that say about the course and or your capabilities?


It doesn't; what I meant to say is that "just because you don't see slackers doesn't mean they're not there".

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.




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