Professor Bryan Caplan Talks about Education at George Washington University

On February 20th, we had Bryan Caplan come to campus and speak about his new book: The Case Against Education. 17 people showed up, which was a really good crowd because he spoke during the middle of the school day.

Caplan discussed his new book The Case Against Education. Caplan argued that education is only helpful when people are learning useful skills and when they are having fun (even if they are not learning any useful skills). Most of the time, students are not learning useful skills and they are not having any fun.
In reality, Education primarily helps students signal to employers that they are better candidates in the job market. For an example, Caplan discussed the frequency of different majors among undergrads. Some people point to premed programs or engineers as an argument against Caplan. And Caplan concedes that students in some majors learn skills that are used in the “real” world, but only a small amount of students graduate in these majors. For example, engineers only make up 5% of all undergraduates. On the flip side, major such as political science, history, communications, music, art, and film make up about 33% of all majors. All these majors have little to no job availability in the real world. Each year enough people graduate with communication majors to fill all the communication jobs in the country. While communication majors may learn some valuable information about that field in school, almost none of those majors will actually end up working in communications. They end up working in other jobs that they learned nothing about in the college classroom.

Another example was foreign language, many states and colleges now require that high schoolers take at least three years of a foreign language in college. Less than 1% of students that graduate from high school report becoming proficient or fluent in a langue do to high school classes. Some people can speak more than one language, but they are not learning that in school.

Caplan argued that the government must slash funding on higher edu. and education in general because that would be the only meaningful way to change the education system.

Education is subsidies by state and federal governments to the tune of $1 trillion dollars per year. This influx of money leads to more people enrolling in higher education. Rather than making the population more skilled, Caplan argues this has created credential inflation. He argued that studies showed the same job from 1940 now required three more years of schooling. Credential inflation does not make the work force more skilled, just more in debt. A cut in higher education funding will mean less people at universities. Many of the people that do not attend college might actually be better off. Caplan argued that vocational training and apprenticeships will help people learn more useful skills than in college while not having to pay a heavy price tag.
It was a great event and it was a pleasure to hear Caplan’s perspective.

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