College a Consequence of a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?

Michael Robertson points out a logical flaw inherent in many of the studies and comments on the value of a college education: In a sense college is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you tell people they have to get a college degree to earn more, then those most motivated to earn more will go to college. That doesn’t necessarily mean that college has contributed to their subsequent performance or production abilities.

For example, imagine a world in which the formal education system ends with high school. Society might tell high school graduates that to get ahead in life they have to spend a year digging a hole by hand and then another year filling it back in. Employers might reasonably conclude that people who perform that ritual have demonstrated a level of diligence, motivation, and responsibility that is not manifest, if not utterly lacking, in those who haven’t spent two years digging a hole. Furthermore, the fact that a person could waste two years in a hole instead of earning money also suggests they come from a supportive and resourceful family, so they are likely to have been natured and nurtured to produce excess wealth. Hole graduates would then justifiably get preference over non-graduates in the job market, marriage market, and any other situation in which their skills and aptitude can’t otherwise be measured or verified.

Yes, I think in too many cases American “higher education” is a waste of time and resources.

Crazy U

Daniel Akst reviews Andrew Ferguson’s new book on admissions at elite colleges, appropriately titled Crazy U.

The most darkly humorous aspect of this often hilarious book is its depiction of an admissions process that corrupts everything it touches. It’s a process that discourages reticence by requiring students to write revealing and disingenuous personal essays; discourages thrift by regarding parental savings as fair game in the financial-aid evaluation; discourages intellectual curiosity by encouraging students to pursue grades rather than knowledge; and discourages honesty by transforming adolescence into a period of cynical calculation.

Akst reiterates arguments I have frequently made against higher education:

Most students (and their parents) have no clear idea why a university is the reflexive next stop after high school, and yet roughly 70% of American high-school graduates go on to college. Are they supposed to marinate themselves in the best that has been thought and written? Is the point to learn how to think? To gain marketable skills? To make social connections? Or merely to signal to potential employers and spouses that here is a person with the patience and cleverness to navigate a great deal of folderol on the way to a degree? Although nobody can quite agree on what college is for, Americans and their leaders have embraced higher education with cult-like devotion—which is one reason the cost of tuition at many institutions has climbed into the stratosphere.

The Reality of Public Sector Unions

Collective bargaining in the public sector is less a negotiation than a conspiracy to steal money from taxpayers.

That’s from James Taranto’s excellent review of the arguments against public sector unions.

Clay Johnson ofers an excellent summary in a WSJ letter yesterday:

The public sector is not a free market, it is a government-imposed monopoly. The final “customer” has no choice or alternative. There is no outside competition, and we all must buy the product.

There cannot be a legitimate collective bargaining negotiation without the discipline of a free customer able to say no. If we must have public-sector monopolies, we should require that they provide maximum value to the taxpayer at minimum cost. They may always join us in the private sector if they wish to freely negotiate a better alternative.

Indeed, private unions can drive their business into bankruptcy. (Or at least they could before the federal government got into the business of bailing out private companies.) Public unions, no matter how greedy, only drive their employers to raise taxes.