Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Of Course College Is Effective--It's So Expensive

You know by now that I think college is over-prescribed. Yes, it takes a certain amount of education to sustain a democratic republic, but anyone who confuses college for education hasn't been to college in a while (or else has a financial stake in perpetuating the misconception). What we have now is actually far worse that a lack of education: we have miseducation masquerading as the real thing, which makes people think there's no need to restore learning because it hasn't gone away. (This is also why the continued lip-service paid to the Constitution is worse for constitutional law than the complete repudiation of the Constitution would be.)

However, plenty of Americans have bought the myths that 1) college is educational, 2) everyone needs as much education as possible, and 3) education spending is always beneficial. This then makes them wring their hands when they see that some people aren't spending as much time in school as possible. (The president recently bemoaned that we don't have enough four-year-olds in school.) In their view, there's no such thing as declining marginal utility. (Maybe they've just never heard of it, which is ironic considering how much time they've spent in school.)

Here's an article that seeks to tackle the problem of why so few Los Angeles high school students end up in college. From the article we read:

It turns out, in 2011 only 16 percent of graduates (about one in four) passed the classes necessary for acceptance into California state schools.
Read that again. I'll wait here for you to come back.

The article's author (credited as a website, but probably a person) either thinks "16%" is a confusing term for you or is himself confused by it. So he seeks to put it into "real-world" terms. For some reason he bypasses "one in six," which actually IS 16%, and goes for "one in four," which, a quick Google search would tell most of his readers, is 25%.

How far off is he? Oh, not that far. Only 56%. (For those of you driven to crying in a corner over the incomprehensibility of that figure, calm down: it's about one in two.)

Here's a likely explanation: not only are the readers confused by "16%," they are also confused by esoteric fractions like "one in six." After all, how often do you come across something divided into six equal parts? Quarters are MUCH more common.

This explanation has implications too chilling to pursue here. This is a family blog.

If you can't handle "16%," you shouldn't be in college. If 60 years of hammering education onto the American people has produced a populace that no longer knows 16% is one in six, the returns to education are indeed negative. The first step to correcting miseducation is to awaken its victims to the reality that their 16-to-20 years spent in school does not prima facie make them intelligent. And on the off chance they have a rare moment of clarity and see this truth, you have to keep them from thinking, "Another year of school would fix this problem."

I'd say 75% of Americans (about three in four, that is) are unaware that an additional year of school could be anything but a good thing. And that's one more reason we're all doomed.

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