Found in 10 comments on Hacker News
gnicholas · 2023-03-18 · Original thread
Relevant book: The Case Against Education

Written by an economics professor, this book argues that much of the value of education is signaling, and that we greatly over-school many kids.

gnicholas · 2022-09-06 · Original thread
Much of the discussion here reminds me of Bryan Caplan's work on the relative value of what students learn versus the value of education as signaling.

His piece in the NYT was posted here [1] a few hours ago. It's a super-condensed version of his book, which goes into great detail on his research hypothesis versus others, and policy recommendations (which he admits are too extreme to be enacted).



crackercrews · 2022-08-07 · Original thread
Lots of data about this in The Case Against Education. [1] The basic argument is that much of education is signaling. It would be a better use of resources to let people signal more cheaply instead of getting degrees in subjects that do not teach them skills that are useful for jobs or life more generally.

I disagreed with some of the harsher recommendations but found the data compelling.

asabjorn · 2019-05-15 · Original thread
> No one is saying we shouldn't have new generations. We should stop growing the population. This means the number of births and the number of death each year would be about the same.

The problem in the west is not a growing population, but a decreasing one.

> The max population of the earth is debatable, but the fact that there is a limit is not.

Yes, but here we are talking about the US population of $327 million decreasing. The population on earth is 7.53 billion and it is growing elsewhere. Are you arguing that a reduction of the US population serves some larger purpose so we should not be concerned about our culture?

> As far as fewer inventions, why focus on giving everyone a good education? Then we would have more than enough people to give us the technology needed to survive.

I'll focus on higher education since in the US other levels are both free and mandatory.

Access to personal growth opportunities is very important. However, data indicate universities are often not the answer to that and it is also questionable if universities makes someone more creative [1]. Regardless 60% and increasing of the US population has taken some college.

In addition to this it is worthwhile considering what the less creative people are taught to follow in universities. Universities seem to be the center of our cultural decay and an anti-intellectual attitude of not teaching core ideas have taken hold in many schools.

Why do you think higher education would help create more innovation?


Zanni · 2019-03-20 · Original thread
That's a side effect of Caplan's main objection, that a college degree has become a credential, used for signaling, and not indicating any real merit or learning. Once students recognize that (and they have), they put in the bare minimum to get the credential, and administrators respond by forcing new minimums. It's still possible to get a good education if you choose your institution, classes and professors wisely, but it's frustrating for motivated students to be surrounded by slackers. In a good learning environment, you're going to learn as much or more from your peers as from your teacher.

I highly recommend his book: The Case Against Education -

asabjorn · 2019-01-17 · Original thread
So the three largest problems for millenials:

- large and increasing cost of housing due to artificial restrictions of housing through zoning and housing permitting

- large and increasing cost of education due to subsidized education with no cost control of the product, leading to bloat in administration and unnecessary spending at universities [cost increase is both monetary and in time due to grade inflation]

- opportunities are increasingly centered in jobs and cities where the two previous problems are aggravated the most

Neither of these are productive uses of the amount of debt millenials accrue for this purpose.

University education is mostly signaling that you are conscientious, smart enough and execute an imposed set of tasks over an extended period of time [1]. The book in the link argue although an individual benefit from graduating at a good college the society as a whole does not get extra value from more people needing a college education to get a job. Maybe we could get a cheaper signal for this?

When buying a home housing has the main purpose of sheltering a family. Short-term increases in house prices lead to a decline in births among non-owners and a net increase among owners [2]. With decreasing birth rates that is already below replacement in the west making it impossible for most to buy and making rent crazy high seem like an incredibly short sighted idea.



Edit: added extra info on education having a time cost. This is Peter Thiels long-standing point.

joaorico · 2018-09-04 · Original thread
This is a bit of a strange article.

First, "in his recent book" refers to his 2011 book [1]. And Christensen has been prophesying this general bankruptcy "in the next decade" since that time. [2]

In any case it's interesting to think about the larger argument of the future of traditional higher education in general versus online education.

Bryan Caplan's thesis that (the state should cut funding for higher education because) higher education is mostly about signalling 3 things is a good tool. He argues that higher education signals a combination of intelligence, conscientiousness and conformity. The combination of the 3 is crucial for the model. [3]

Online education, and more generally self-education, fails on the conformity side. Companies do not want in general to risk such non-conformists, when they can hire from a stream of fresh graduates (smart, hard-working and relatively conformist).

Also, I think the socialization, friendships and networking that happen in the university are extremely valuable and not easily replaced by online education (where and with who can a smart, driven 18 year old hang out while studying and learning for 4 years on MOOCs and textbooks?)

And in addition, I hope, traditional universities are starting to improve their teaching methods (eg, flipped classroom, peer instruction) to multiply the pedagogical and motivational value they offer vs MOOCs.

For online education to replace traditional higher ed, it might require taking into account these factors. Could something like workspaces for freelancers or remote workers - but for studying - replace the traditional institution and the above benefits? Such that, for example, you would not be seen as an extreme non-conformist by not enrolling in a university?

Also, outside the US, tuition costs is often much lower. An online STEM degree, say a certified online masters in software engineering such as coursera or edx, could easily be more expensive than regular (or even the best) university.




(To be clear, he argues that from the individual's perspective, university is still net positive, if you have what it takes to finish the degree and don't get too much in debt. It's the state that should cut funding since it's inflating credentials.)

millermp12 · 2018-08-30 · Original thread
I think you're completely missing the artificial signaling that is at stake here. The scarcity is _by design_.

Cf Brian Kaplan "The Case Against Education"

Robin Hanson "Elephant in the Brain"

Matticus_Rex · 2018-05-18 · Original thread
I highly recommend The Case Against Education by Bryan Caplan ( It's one of the more careful social science books I've ever read, and while it comes to controversial conclusions, even if you disagree with them you'll learn a lot about the issues by reading it. The assumption that education can be assumed to be profitable for society simply isn't supported by the evidence.
peralp · 2017-11-20 · Original thread
While not directly related, Bryan Caplan of George Mason University argues that pushing everyone to college doesn't make sense and most of what's learned in school is a waste of time from the job market perspective. The degree is about signaling how competent someone is instead of the useful skills and knowledge obtained via education.

The link to the podcast from 2014 better represents this nuanced argument.

His book on the topic will be released in January 2018

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