Trends in Ed: Education is Magic
That's right. Education is magic. So says Bryan Caplan
. We've covered Caplan's views on education; he strongly believes that education follows a socially wasteful signalling model. Yet one of the arguments we have not discussed in much depth is his belief that work experience trumps education. I would say this is true for more lines of work than people are willing to admit. Ask anyone working in high finance straight out of undergrad if what they learned in undergrad actually helped them. Their answer will be no. I would like to reiterate that signals on their own are not wasteful; it's only when signals cost 200k and 4 years of life that they can produce negative social product. The only area where I would differ from Caplan is in STEM. It's hard to go far as a chemical engineer or a physicist without taking some necessary undergraduate courses. It's also important to note that Caplan is going after the argument that education is the key to economic opportunity (I've written in the past about how it likely crowds out economic opportunity in certain cases). Education can make you a better citizen and a better participant in democracy, but that is not the same thing as saying education is the key to uplifting the masses. The larger point that people should not miss is that the current system, which demands all students to attend college to get a well-paying job, is in need of disruption. Yet if graduation from college remains institutionalized as a labor market signal, it's hard to see where the disruption will come from.