Bryan Caplan, a conservative economist at George Mason University in the USA, has a new book being shipped in January 2o18 that is likely to be both much talked about and highly controversial in education policy circles. Called, The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money, Caplan’s book probably won’t win many friends inside the education industry.
While yet to be published, Caplan is teaching a course at George Mason using the book and its rigorous econometric analysis of the education field, and his course notes and slides are readily available. Nonetheless, impeccably well argued and supported by a vast tranche of data (spreadsheets galore accompany his GMU course), Caplan’s conclusions merit discussion and debate. I do not agree with his central thesis–as stated in the book title–but do agree with at least one or two of his recommendations. For example, Caplan suggests that we “… not send average or apathetic high school students to college.” Ok by me (and by Caplan’s economics), but less ok is, “[m]ake high school, college, and the master’s much more vocational.” I know this is a trend, but he (and perhaps all economists) take for granted that education’s main value is to produce a maximally employable graduate. We should at least consider the alternatives before readily accepting that this is education’s best and highest purpose.
I am reminded of Oscar Wilde’s line in Lady Windermere’s Fan about knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing.