Bright College Days: Part III

If higher education is mostly a social loss, as Caplan persuasively argues, what is to be done? Caplan thinks that the government should stop subsidizing education. He favors full separation of school and state* That position sounds a little less interesting when you realize that is his default position. He would undoubtedly argue that private charity would be the best way of funding resistance to invading Martian tripods. And even if that didn’t work, it would still be the right way to respond, even as we endured a miserable existence under the Martian yoke and lash.

Other approaches are possible. There are certainly ways of drastically reducing the cost of education, ways that would preserve most or all of its positive effects. As James Miller suggests, we might go to three-year undergraduate degree programs, as in England. The inflation-adjusted real cost of college when I attended was about 40% of what it is today: most of those savings could achieved by simply copying decent colleges of yesteryear. Why do we need lots more administrative and support staff than in 1970? Simple answer: we don’t. Just say no. Why must professors have substantially lower teaching loads than in the days of old? Answer: starving adjuncts.

Caplan would point out that demonstrating conformity is one the prime purposes of getting a B.S. – so taking part in any reform, no matter how beneficial, marks you as one of those loser nonconformists. You couldn’t have a college that made heavy use of massively online courses …. because! Whatever was, is right.

Thus all change is impossible, just as it would be impossible to develop an internet-based jitney system, because of the political power of established cab companies.

One way to get the ball rolling would be official federal acceptance of some moderately unconventional approaches- say if the Feds hired kids with three-year degrees. It is not as if major corporations have systematically examined alternative hiring approaches and found them wanting – it’s more that HR/Personnel knows that they might be fired if they try something new, but won’t be if they do the usual. It’s HR’s conformism, as much as anything.

Suppose the Feds hired kids that had passed certain kinds of competency tests. This could be done on a trial basis: there is no reason to implement every cockeyed idea on a nationwide basis. If it works, it might become general.

In our current system, government does pick and choose, to an extent. Not so much with undergraduates, but quite a bit in graduate school. Research money flows into certain fields and not so much into others, and so graduate schools in engineering and the natural sciences are well funded [grad students get paid], while students in the humanities suffer. For example, someone writing a PhD thesis on the local density of the word “I” in Robinson Crusoe [~ 1/ln x ? ] will probably have to wait tables or turn tricks. We could do more of this. If the Feds refused to support student loans for the dubious ~80% of majors, we would see fewer students make those bad choices. People from wealthy families could still major in gender studies in private colleges – it’s a free country [?] – but that would soon be seen as the educational equivalent of cocaine – Nature’s way of saying that you’ve got more money than brains.

While we’re at it, Caplan points out (correctly) that most people don’t remember much of what they learn in school. But some do: it might be worth doing some quality research on how those people manage to retain a lot. Every man his own memory palace?

* Caplan argues that private-charity based education, along with education paid for by children’s parents is just as effective as a well-run compulsory educational system. But that is not true: contrast the path of education in late-Victorian England vs Wilhelmine Germany. “only a dozen students were reading for a degree in natural sciences at Cambridge in 1872. Germany, meanwhile, had 11 entire universities devoted to science and technology. ” Look on Haber-Bosch, ye mighty, and despair!

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66 Responses to Bright College Days: Part III

  1. Hieronymus of Canada says:

    “As James Miller suggests, we might go to three-year undergraduate degree programs, as in England.”

    From what I’ve read, traditionally English undergraduate were very focused on their ‘major’ (in North American terms), so moving to a three year program would require dumping most free (or mostly free) electives. I think this is perfectly acceptable. The only problem, at least in the States, is the high variability of high school preparation.

    “Why do we need lots more administrative and support staff than in 1970? Simple answer: we don’t. Just say no.”

    Most campus leftists hate the inflated salaries of the higher administration, but are constantly agitating for more services (e.g. services for the disabled, mental health, various centres for favoured groups like Blacks, Aboriginals, non-hetrosexuals, etc.). I doubt many see the connection.

    In Oracle of Oil, the author recounts the geologist M. King Hubbert (of “peek oil” fame) years at the University of Chicago before World War 2. I could help and notice how laid back and informal the bureaucracy was. So, for example, Hubbert was able to convince a registrar official that he should get credits in agriculture for the work he did at a Texas college.

    The growth of university bureaucracy was mostly likely inevitable with the post-war boom in education, and perhaps the only way to it roll back is to reduce the number of undergraduates to pre-war levels.

    ” We could do more of this. If the Feds refused to support student loans for the dubious ~80% of majors, we would see fewer students make those bad choices.”

    T. Greer make a similar point, noting the cost of a university education in the humanities is not worth the ridiculous amounts of money you spend (in the US) and proposed replacing it with a system of tutors.

    Another proposal: right now, at least in Canada, admissions to arts programs requires a high school average of 70-75%, while science and engineering programs require an average of 80% or so (along with the advanced science and math classes). I propose the arts admission average be raised to at least the science and engineering average, maybe even more. Rather than let anybody in, they should made more exclusive, given the lack of jobs for these degrees.

    • Ursiform says:

      During my brief experience on a college faculty I heard a (theology) professor say he thought that humanities students should have to take some science classes just like science students had to take some humanities classes. That alone might help.

  2. GAY_WEED_DAD_69 says:

    There’s a lot of discussion on this blog as to whether people really believe that environment doesn’t matter for traits, and whether having certain political ideologies influences you to get the wrong answer. We now have a study investigating this:

    Conservatives are significantly more likely to believe that correlates of success and achievement, like intelligence and musical ability, have a greater genetic component, while liberals are more likely to think the same for traits that have been historically stigmatized, like psychiatric disorders and sexual orientation. These associations are consistent with research suggesting that moral judgments are a hallmark of the political split in the United States, and that liberals tend to endorse moral foundations built around care, compassion and reciprocity, while conservatives are equally observant of issues related to loyalty, authority, sanctity, and orderliness (Haidt and Graham 2007; Graham, Haidt and Nosek 2009; Hirsh, DeYoung, Xu and Peterson 2010). Despite these ideological differences in heritability rating, there is no association between overall mean accuracy (distance from published estimates) and political ideology in what amounts to a surprising sort of “balancing out.” Conservatives, moderates and liberals together produce a correlation between intuited and published heritability estimates that is among the strongest of any relationship found in the dataset (r = .77), indicating that even in the absence of genetic knowledge, and even if social attitudes bias individual assumptions, people’s observations and intuitions about the genetic contributions to human traits are relatively informed.

    The people with the best intuition about genetics are (unsurprisingly) mothers with multiple children:

    Additionally, educated mothers with multiple children emerge as particularly accurate in their judgments of the heritabilities of these traits. (…) That motherhood is the single strongest demographic predictor of accuracy in heritability judgments is a strong indicator that many people form their attitudes about the heritability of human traits from observations and experience, rather than from biases about social and political issues. Parents, after all, have the ability to observe firsthand the results of an empirical experiment on the heritability of human traits in their own home. They can see that their children resemble them along multiple dimensions; furthermore, a parent of multiple children can see how the shared environment does not necessarily make them alike. Mothers may be uniquely observant of their children’s abilities, needs and attributes. While it is clear that social and political biases do inform the magnitude of heritability judgments, the best predictors of these judgments are education and parenthood—an encouraging prospect indeed for the public understanding of findings from behavior genetics.

    More people think that intelligence is “mostly genetic” or “only genetic” than think intelligence is “mostly environment” or “only environment”:

    Interestingly, the political differences come out in which kinds of mental traits people think are heritable. Liberals are more likely to think that disorders like schizophrenia are genetic and conservatives are more likely to think they’re environmental. The reverse is true for psychological traits like IQ and personality:

    • teageegeepea says:

      Shouldn’t the liberal belief that sexual orientation is heritable reduce their measured accuracy? I know there was a GWAS that found nothing.

      • biz says:

        Liberals don’t generally believe that sexual orientation is heritable, as in across generations, do they?. They believe that it has some genetic or developmental cause that is not environmental or cultural.

      • GAY_WEED_DAD_69 says:

        Yes, but sexual orientation was just one trait of many that they asked about, so it has only a small effect on the overall results.

    • Rosenmops says:

      I’m an educated (MSc) mother of 4. I used to believe a lot of blank slate stuff–a lot of parenting books that I read in the 80’s said that the first 3 years of life were what formed a child’s personality. But as my children grew up I realized (because my children were so different from each other) that personality is mostly inborn. I also changed from liberal to conservative. Though I am conservative, I think it is quite clear that mental illness is mostly genetic. I don’t understand why liberals would be more likely to know this than conservatives. I once argue with some very liberal people, on a forum, that alcoholism is genetic. They got very angry and said I was basically Hitler. This might have been because we were also discussing alcoholism in First Nations people, and they were claiming it was caused by residential schools. I said residential schools were a very bad thing but they don’t cause alcoholism.

      It seems like a contradiction for liberals to believe anything at all is genetic–especially the ones who claim race is a social construct.

      • carpenter says:

        Excellent post.

      • GAY_WEED_DAD_69 says:

        The paper speculates that it’s because of the differing moral outlooks of liberals and conservatives. Conservatives are more likely to see mental illnesses as “mere” character faults (so you can just pull yourself up by your bootstraps to fix your depressoin or whatever), while liberals are uncomfortable assigning blame, so they go with the genetic explanation. It’s to do with how much agency they ascribe to people, and in what contexts.

  3. biz says:

    Restricting federal and federally subsidized student loans to STEM majors would be the easiest and most immediately effective step. Not actually easy by any means, but at least something that one level of government could accomplish.

    Next would be overturning Griggs and its accompanying enforcement legislation in the 1991 Civil Rights act. Not a panacea by any means, but it would encourage employers to at least experiment with not using a bachelors degree as a generic filter, and it’s something that could be accomplished on the federal level.

    I don’t see the benefit of going to three year degrees though. It would just serve to make college cheaper and quicker and therefore reduce the incentive for mediocre students to think of something else to do. Three years works in the UK because university-bound people finish high school much more advanced than we do in the US, largely because they’ve decided earlier who is university-bound.

    • mtkennedy21 says:

      The federal student loan program began as “The National Defense Student Loan Program” and I was denied a loan because I listed pre-med as my major. I was told most pre-meds didn’t get into medical school so it was not a valuable major. I was an engineer going back to school and English Literature was acceptable choice.

    • ghazisiz says:

      STEM is not as good a career path as the propaganda would lead us to think. Most PhDs in physics, chemistry, or biology are compelled to obtain post-docs, work at low wages for at least five years, and then, if their research produces ceremonially adequate publications, they will be able to land a tenure-track academic position.
      Contrast that with the situation in a college of business. The doctorate in Marketing will immediately obtain a tenure-track job, at a salary at least 50% higher than the salary of the physicist or chemist. The Finance professor knows about one quarter the math of the Physics professor, and is paid twice as much.
      The only part of STEM that is valued in the job market is the TE: engineering and computer science undergrads do much better on the job market than other undergrads.

      • biz says:

        First of all postdoctoral positions in physics are not that lowly paid these days. Secodly, most American physics PhDs in 2018 are not aiming for the tenure track but rather extremely lucrative positions in data science and quantitative finance. Time to update your impressions.

  4. Jim says:

    Ending the Student Loan program would put strong downward pressure on college tuition and hence college operating expenses.

  5. AppSocRes says:

    Government interventions have adversely impacted post secondary education (anything after high school) in two obvious ways:

    (1) The growing plethora of regulations regarding various kinds of discrimination, various educational and institutional requirements, and grant management create increasing administrative bureaucracies at every institution providing post-secondary education.

    (2) The existence of federally-guaranteed financing for any student who wants to take a shot at post-secondary education guarantees an endless stream of financing to any institution wanting to get in on the act . This ultimately pushes these institutions into a competition for students. Institutions vie with one another to make life easy and pleasant for these potential providers of income. Idiot majors, dumbed down courses, and country club/resort quality amenities are the result. These create a further demand for administrators and other ancillary personnel, thus feeding the problems created by (1). The increased outlays also require further competition for warm student bodies providing further influxes of badly needed cash.

    The vicious cycle created by (2), in particular, is eroding the quality of higher education in this country.

    There is really no fix for (1) as long as government regulations expand. Some federally-created, administrative overhead is inevitable, e.g., to manage the details of research contracts that can run into the hundreds of millions of dollars for individual departments doing STEM research in larger colleges and universities.

    But (2) could easily be cured. First, base all federal scholarships and student loans on national, competitive examinations or some other objective, universal method of determining a student’s capacity for higher educational achievement, e.g. SAT and SAT subject achievement test scores. This could be fine-tuned by giving preference to those who plan majors in critical fields, e.g., engineering, medicine, mathematics. A perfect model is the National Defense Education Act of the 1960s.

    A refinement of this might be to track institutional performance by such measures as graduation rates and percent graduating with majors in critical fields. Federal loans and scholarships might then be restricted to students attending institutions performing above some minimal threshold. Of course, one consequence of this would be the ultimate elimination of many poorly performing institutions, e.g., the vast majority of HBCU. But I’m not sure this is a bad thing.

    • pyrrhus says:

      Yes, the Federal student loan program has been the steroid pushing all this growth, including the explosion of “colleges” teaching low grade high school material to kids who are completely unfit for advanced education..Everybody wins except the taxpayers and the students… Trillion dollar write offs are approaching, as the default rate accelerates.

    • biz says:

      I couldn’t agree more on the diagnosis of the problem.

      But at this point making federal student aid merit-based will never fly, because of disparate impact. It would never happen politically, because the Republican-leaning banks and SJW Left would be pulling out all the stops together in an alliance, and if by some miracle it did pass the courts would probably kill it.

      Alternately, I think that specifically restricting federal student aid to STEM+ majors while technically still having it be universal, i.e. available to anyone who is majoring in STEM+ and maintains the minimum GPA, has a better shot (although still a long shot) of passing and being upheld because it can be sold to the Left as as “don’t you want to give everyone, not just those white male nerds, the chance to get a lucrative job?” It would also have the benefit of actually putting some underrepresented people on the path to a good career they otherwise wouldn’t have considered. Banks would still fight it tooth and nail though, and universities would always be trying to wiggle out by inventing majors in “Decolonized Science” and other such things.

      • Hieronymus of Canada says:

        “universities would always be trying to wiggle out by inventing majors in “Decolonized Science” and other such things.”

        My first thought is humanities and social sciences departments would try to get themselves redefined themselves as ‘real’ sciences if the funding for the non-sciences were cut off or seriously threatened. For some fields, this would complete natural as they already are bifurcated between natural science and social science/humanities sub-disciplines (e.g. Geography, maybe Psychology?). In others, this would just be an extension of a long standing trend of physics envy (e.g. Linguistics, Economics). Sociology and Anthropology, whatever the current trends to proclaiming their non-science-ness, would probably do the same as well.

        • biz says:

          So true.

          In my fantasy solution scheme, federal student aid would be available for STEM+ majors, and those would be defined as something like

          “Programs in Engineering, Pure and Applied Mathematics, Economics, Computer Science, and the Natural Sciences such as Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and closely related fields, which include multivariate calculus and linear algebra as required coursework.

      • Can you imagine the lobbying? Obviously languages (and necessarily their literatures) have a national security use, and those who don’t know better (e.g. legislators) could be persuaded that sociology and psychology are important for understanding the enemy, and many things could be subsumed under “peace studies.
        When all the dust settled, I’d be surprised if STEM had pride of place in that list.

        • biz says:

          Agreed, that’s why the only hope is not selling it from a national security / strategic necessity standpoint, but rather from a “good paying jobs” standpoint.

  6. pyrrhus says:

    The same trends have occurred in secondary education. The Administrator population exploded as budgets expanded, even as educational achievement has steadily declined…Even more so, the compensation for all these useless administrators, including many boondoggles for travel. In Illinois, hundreds of highly paid administrators are retiring with pensions in the 300K range, aggravating the already critical pension crisis…Parents are stupidly voting more tax money for these creatures even as they plan “hate whitey” days…

  7. teageegeepea says:

    As a pacifist, Caplan would oppose even charitably funded resistance (or rather he’s skeptical that any guerrilla movement could be so moral), and instead advocate abject surrender.

  8. bob sykes says:

    On a lighter note, Father Sarducci:

  9. The Z Blog says:

    The place to start is the bizarre financing mechanism. Since student loans are now entirely owned by the Federal government, setting prudent caps on debt is something that is possible. Putting a debt limit in place, based on potential earnings for the major, would introduce some back door market mechanisms. Someone with a high debt ceiling, would be like a high roller at the casino, from the perspective of colleges. While low debt ceiling students would be treated like slot junkies.

    Another debt reform idea is to increase the borrowing capacity more steeply. Right now, first and second year undergrads have a lower borrowing limit than third and fourth year undergrads. Maybe set the first year bar lower, so students and parents have to think hard about the cost of college. This would also force colleges to raise standards, as they would want to increase their mix toward those able to get to year three and four.

    As far as Caplan’s suggestions, none of those things will happen, which is why libertarianism is suburban white boy astrology. It’s magical thinking that lets the adherent feel like a winner.

  10. Grumpy Old Man says:

    There’s an ad here for an MS in kinesiology. Used to be phys ed. Intentional?

  11. ChrisA says:

    On the belief that HR departments are somehow responsible for the all the hiring in companies, in my experience it is not so. Probably Greg you believe this because you have always worked in academia. I have worked for many large well known multi-national companies over several decades and hired many people, and while HR usually are running the hiring process the actual interviewing and selection of the success candidate is almost always done by the line manager who the position reports to, if no other reason than an HR person knows they can’t ask the necessary technical questions. Sometimes, especially with hiring of people directly from college into graduate recruitment programs, HR will winnow down the candidates via things like psychometric testing (or by restricting the applicant pool to certain Universities). This is more to get a small enough number to interview though. A lot of people blame HR for their failure to get good jobs for reasons I think of self respect, they can’t accept that the reason they failed was that there was a better person out there.

    My view is certainly close to Caplans in that we heavily over educate most people beyond what they need. But as to the signalling hypothesis and that it is all about employers blindly requiring degrees. I have actually hired non-graduates into what are normally considered graduate jobs (programmer, engineer), and their performance as a group was not different to the graduates, in fact because they came up through the ranks they often had better insights about things. Usually I found these people through seeing their work before I knew they were not grads. HR never opposed me in hiring them, as I say above they would defer to the manager. I think if bright kids suddenly did decide to stop going to university the employers would not have too much of a problem with that, we always had to retrain our new-hires anyway for the specific nature of the job. However bright kids normally go to college, its just what they do nowadays.

    • gcochran9 says:

      “Probably Greg you believe this because you have always worked in academia” – hardly

    • mtkennedy21 says:

      The college degree thing is all about IQ testing.

    • Rosenmops says:

      At the university I am familiar with the hiring is done by a committee of faculty from the department in question. But before they can put out an ad for a position it has to go through HR and vice presidents, etc.

      It is amazing how many vice presidents there are at my university–they keep adding new ones. I’m sure there are more administrators than faculty now. They certainly earn a lot more than faculty.

    • AppSocRes says:

      In my last position, the filtering process that our HR department employed insured that we never got the chance to interview candidates who might have qualified for the IT positions we were seeking to fill. Ultimately we bypassed the process and got our employees from a pool provided by an outside contractor who had a contract with our agency that allowed this. Of course we wound up paying a very large and permanent overhead to the contractor for each contract employee we got this way

  12. Yudi says:

    “While we’re at it, Caplan points out (correctly) that most people don’t remember much of what they learn in school. But some do: it might be worth doing some quality research on how those people manage to retain a lot. Every man his own memory palace?”

    It’s worth considering the skills we actually are able to inculcate well in the minds of the young–implicit memory-based abilities like shoe-tying, bike riding, rollerblading, etc. They are all motor skills learned at a young age, often in a one-on-one situation. I’m the first one to acknowledge Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory is bullshit, but perhaps we could find some way to tap the well of implicit memory better.

    Our friends the libtards have been hard at work attempting to do just that–the Implicit Association Test was supposed to identify evil racists and help retrain them. Stereotypes were thought to be embedded in implicit memory, which is ridiculous considering the number of outdated ones that no one now believes in (e.g., it used to be a common belief that blacks were cowardly). It’s almost as if stereotypes are responsive to real differences, and change when those change…

    So maybe we could beat them at their own game by finding some constructive way to manipulate implicit memory.

    • Thiago Ribeiro says:

      “It’s almost as if stereotypes are responsive to real differences, and change when those change…”
      The cowardly Black stereotype responded to what?

  13. Steve Johnson says:

    Simple solution that actually cuts right at the problem – entirely replace college degrees with nationally standardized exams. Make sure there are enough degrees of differentiation between the highest levels of passing grades and the lowest level to capture the intended difference between elite college grads and community college grads. Topics for the subject matter exams to be created by academics in the field with core subjects needed by all (calculus for math majors, for example) and x number of optional subject exams out of y possible exams (where y>x).

    This leaves universities with the role of actually educating students and gives students the incentive to evaluate the value of university instruction in enhancing his ability to demonstrate knowledge.

    The SATs were revolutionary when they were introduced because they used early information technology to allow for massive grading where in the past only hand grading of entrance exams was possible. Since then there have been massive improvements in information tech – apply those improvements in the same way to solve a massive social problem.

  14. Jim says:

    Strictly speaking the density of primes is 1/log x.

  15. E. Olson says:

    As a business or professional or government bureaucrat do you really want to give an average 17-20 year old a job requiring personal responsibility and serious potential risk to the organization? I think we need to face the fact that having 17-18 years squeezing 4 years of college into 4 to 6 years is as much about babysitting young “adults” until they are old enough to take on adult roles as it is about education. Sure there are some 17-18 years old people that are smart and conscientious enough to be productive employees in “high skill” or “brain” jobs, but these are the same small group that are successful in today’s university system – getting into good schools (on academic scholarships), taking useful/challenging majors, graduating in 3-4 years, and getting a good job or continuing on in graduate/professional school and then getting a good job. They would also be successful in doing degree work in inexpensive online settings or whatever system might replace the current one. The problems occur in dealing with those young adults of lower intelligence and/or with poor worth ethic, because they aren’t suitable employees or entrepreneurs in challenging fields, but some will mature enough and perhaps learn something useful during college to make them reasonably valuable employees by age 22-24. Of course the farther down the distribution you go the less likely this is to happen, and hence the proliferation of junk schools, junk majors, diversity and inclusion vice-presidents, and huge student loans.

  16. dearieme says:

    “we might go to three-year undergraduate degree programs, as in England” where many STEM degrees now take four years. The British habit of not insisting that STEM students take humanities classes probably comes from the period when they would all have read plenty of Chaucer and Shakespeare in secondary school, plus at least done some Latin and French.

  17. dearieme says:

    “only a dozen students were reading for a degree in natural sciences at Cambridge in 1872″: science/engineering were done on a larger scale at Edinburgh and Glasgow at the time, I’d guess.

  18. Cantman says:

    “Other approaches are possible. There are certainly ways of drastically reducing the cost of education, ways that would preserve most or all of its positive effects. As James Miller suggests, we might go to three-year undergraduate degree programs, as in England.”

    I gave you a chance, but no, Caplan’s right and you’re wrong. The real example of England (and for instance West Germany) is that in 1990 only about 5% of people attended university at all. Life there was not on some drastically lower level to life in the USA. Meanwhile the most “educated” country in the world was Russia.

    Incremental reformism won’t solve anything. People at this point are socially coded to believe far more education is “necessary” than is even useful. They need to be subjected to a mechanism that will force them to consume drastically less even if it feels painful, which it will even if it is actually enormous beneficial to them.

    That’s ignoring the fact that the people in control see the education system as a key vector of their ideology and hence buttress for their power, and don’t much care whether it helps the individuals paying for or consuming it.

  19. Cantman says:

    “Caplan argues that private-charity based education, along with education paid for by children’s parents is just as effective as a well-run compulsory educational system. But that is not true: contrast the path of education in late-Victorian England vs Wilhelmine Germany. “only a dozen students were reading for a degree in natural sciences at Cambridge in 1872. Germany, meanwhile, had 11 entire universities devoted to science and technology. ” Look on Haber-Bosch, ye mighty, and despair! ”

    Which translated into a 200-fold difference in the technical capacity of the two countries, or what? Taken as a whole, the German economy was still less productive than the British, and remained so until the 1960s. It just does not matter very much.

    • gcochran9 says:

      Germany had a substantial productivity lead in heavy industry by the First World War (mainly in metals and chemicals) , but Britain had the edge in light industry, particularly textiles and clothing. Germany had modernized effectively in heavy industry, much less so in sectors like agriculture. Germany gained considerably on Britain during the decades before the war, and in areas that that had high military utility.

      Imagine that Great Britain had the same population as Germany, while neither had any allies. A pure-play version of WWI. Imperial Germany would have beaten GB like a red-headed stepchild. Not just because Germany had greater scientific and industrial capacity – but that would have been the biggest factor.

      • Cantman says:

        Crazy-ass nonsense. Germany would indeed have defeated Britain in such a case, because it had a conscription system. If you think there would have been any other reason, bring data.

        • Toddy Cat says:

          British historian Corelli Barnett agrees that German (and American, for that matter) technical education was far superior to Britain’s, and that this is what led to the British under-performing in battles like Jutland. He backs this up with copious statistics.Obviously, he has an ax to grind, but he makes a very good case.His books “The Swordbearers” and “The Pride and the Fall” are good places to start.

          • Cantman says:

            Even I agree that German technical education was superior to that of the Britain, the question being “so what?”. 12 natural science degree candidates vs 11 universities suggests that Britain should be like Congo with respect to Germany, if the coefficient of proportionality between subjects with natural science degrees and overall technical capacity of a nation where anywhere north of zero.

            In the actual case, the British had better planes, better communications, better tanks (where were those German tanks, if they had such better industry and were just overwhelmed by numbers?), better code breakers, and won the war.

            • Cantman says:

              For that matter it was the British complacent giant Imperial Chemical Industries, run by people who weren’t at university in the 1900s, that came up with the correct method for producing the enriched uranium for the atomic bomb. Meanwhile Germany’s highly educated clowns were blowing themselves up trying to make a pile.

        • German vs British Methods... says:

          It does indeed seem like crazy-ass nonsense. Or rather, pointless – Britain would not have done what it did if it were not in its situation; it would not have specialised as it did if this were not for its comparative advantage.

          But it does pose the interesting and relevant question – Britain was obviously not hugely technologically backwards to Germany (even if there were some degree of difference) despite this difference in educational system. Why was this the case, what exactly were the Brits doing instead of what the Germans did and what does it tell us about the efficacy and importance of technical education?

  20. Yudi says:

    “Thus all change is impossible, just as it would be impossible to develop an internet-based jitney system, because of the political power of established cab companies.”

    I wish something like Uber would come along and destroy the current university system, but it won’t be that easy. Cab companies never had good press or much social power, but large media companies and the upper echelons of the government and economy are studded with beneficiaries of the university system.

  21. How to lower the cost of school?
    Why not
    1. Mandate that the five service academies open parallel academies which offer courses defined by the required texts
    2. Mandate that these online universities grant credit entirely by exam
    3. Admit any person who applies, at $0.00 tuition
    4. License independent organizations to (e.g., University of Phoenix, Sylvan Learning Centers, etc.)administer these exams, at a fee to be negotiated between the student and the testing agency
    5. Commit the federal government to accept degrees earned through this process for purposes of employment.
    A major cost of the US K-PhD credential industry is the opportunity cost to students of the time that they spend in school.

  22. sainchuck says:

    In my country, Slovakia, the number of graduates increased by a factor of ten after 1991. It didn’t make much sense to people then, and it makes even less sense today. Some 15 years ago, there was serious talks about defunding humanities completely, back to the good ol’ days, didn’t go over well with the public, or the EU – we needed bureaucrats and Euro-studies majors, we were told. It was about the same time we tried to sterilize some gypsies – only the worst offenders in exploiting the children social benefits – we were barbarians, we were told. Today, we are a resigned nation, glad we have someone to be told shit. But hope is not lost – in Czechia, there are some renewed talks about defunding humanities, which is only countered by the growing EU pressure to adopt standardized tests of mediocrity for high school grads and undergrads. Say what you will about the commies, but at least education they did fairly competently – problem is, the old guards are almost all retired or dead and they are being replaced by Euro-studies majors…sigh

  23. Pingback: This Week In Reaction (2018/02/11) - Social Matter

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