The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money.

Author:Mendenhall, Allen
Position:Book review
 
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The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money

Bryan Caplan

Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2018, 395 pp.

Bryan Caplan is a professor of economics at George Mason University who has spent over 40 years in school. "The system has been good to me," he confesses. "Very good. I have a dream job for life."

He's also a shameless traitor to his profession and guild, a critic of the system that's afforded him a life of leisure and affluence. That's a good thing. We need more honest critiques of the higher-education boondoggle from privileged insiders. As an economist, moreover, he argues from data and facts, not feelings or emotions. He'll undermine his own best interests if statistics lead him inexorably to positions at odds with his personal welfare.

The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money hits bookshelves amid reductions in government spending on universities due to budget shortfalls in die aftermath of the Great Recession. The chorus of complaints runs something like this: "Legislators don't realize what goes on in the university; they don't understand what it takes to teach and research; they don't know what I do to earn my pay; they don't appreciate how important education is to our state; they can't competently assess my everyday work."

But Caplan understands these things, having spent his entire career as a student or a professor at major research institutions. The argument against educational excess is more credible coming from an academic, like him, who's complicit in its harms.

Caplan's chosen title (with subtitle) says it all: His target isn't the acquisition of knowledge (it's good for people to learn), but the wasteful, exorbitant system that in many cases impedes rather than facilitates the acquisition of knowledge. Five provocative words on the book's opening page--"there's way too much education"--are predicated on the proposition that learning and education are distinct, that garnering credentials does not correlate with increased erudition or competence.

It's no secret that the costs of higher education have been rising steadily for decades. Universities have long been reallocating resources away from basic classroom instruction and towards amenities, administrative

payrolls, athletic programs, student services, and construction projects. The ready availability of federal student loan money has enabled colleges to hike tuition and fees...

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