How ignorant can people be?

Ignorant enough to get a Guardian column apparently.

Troublingly, we seem to have fully accepted the shift from education as a social good to a product sold to students on grounds of higher earnings in the jobs market.

The entirety of the expansion of the university sector was sold to us on those higher earnings. Those with degrees earn more, therefore if more people have degrees then more will earn more.

Not that it works that way of course.

21 thoughts on “How ignorant can people be?”

  1. If education improves an individual worker’s productivity, then yes, educating everyone will lead to higher incomes for everyone.

    But there are rapidly diminishing returns to education. Learning to read massively increases your productivity; learning the difference between a noun and a pronoun yields a much smaller increase. Spending three years at Bogcaster East University learning feminist critiques of Marxism adds absolutely nothing to your productivity.

    Given that most companies are reluctant to provide training for their employees, and that any training they do provide tends to be short & sharp, I suspect that the returns to education, measured in individual productivity growth, are very small indeed.

  2. Liberal arts degrees used to be about introducing people to the canon of western grecoromanajudeochristian enlightenment culture. The idea was that the graduate would be equipped with both knowledge and an ability to think critically. Now that grjce values are regarded as dead white male and that universities are no longer elite institutions for those capable of critical thought, they teach narrative, grievance and conformity. We’ probably doomed as a culture.

  3. Phil the higher earnings in the job market reflect higher value human needs being met. Its possible that your brain refuses to build that particular synaptic bridge, but it’s true.

  4. As someone smarter than me once remarked, the only provable link between a good education and wealth is that wealthy people like to purchase a good education for their children.

  5. @Andrew M

    The answer is already implicit in what RlJ wrote: wealthy people already mix with other wealthy people so it must be for the sake of the education rather than the classmates that they choose fee-paying schools.

    Ljh has it right and the idea of exams used to be to attest to a level of education attainment. Exams are now much debased and a good school will still seek to provide the education rather than coaching pupils to finesse an emasculated syllabus because a decent education provides furniture for the head and enriches the student.

  6. There’s a social good in providing university education to the meaningful 10%. For Joe Public to pay for the distinctly average to while away 3-4 years is open to question.

  7. The big advantage of having teenagers take 3 years of additional schooling is that the teenagers have a chance to grow up a bit.
    Not as lot as they are still likely to be entitled little snowflakes who believes the world owes them money.
    But a bit.

    At age 21 having done some different schooling they are a little more ready to start full time work.

    The ones who went to university to get their MRS degree may well have over the course of 3 years managed the search. Or maybe still trying.

  8. @AndrewM Are there feminist critiques of Marxism? I was under the impression that there was a cosy and supportive relationship between the two.

  9. “The big advantage of having teenagers take 3 years of additional schooling is that the teenagers have a chance to grow up a bit.”

    Err, no. Sorry, but this reasoning really pisses me off, because it’s complete bollocks.

    Those three years of additional schooling simply delay the point at which they have to grow up. Simply since it’s another three years during which they are embedded, almost exclusively, within their age cohort with it’s own set of behaviours and cultural references. Which is a situation that has already existed for 12 years, since they started primary school, through secondary school, and through college.

    Hiring 18 year olds straight out of college, and getting them used to a work environment, is piss easy compared to 21 year olds straight out of Uni.

  10. @Tim W

    The entirety of the expansion of the university sector was sold to us on those higher earnings

    Correct. Sold to us by Gaurdianistas, Blair & Labour for the old Equality mantra.

    When their idea fails, it’s the evil capitalists & Tories fault and Left “forgets” they imposed the stupid policy.

  11. A degree in anything other than a STEM subject from a reputable university improves one’s productivity in much the same way as does becoming a quadruple amputee.

  12. Most of the good engineering people I’ve worked with left school at 16 and went straight into a hands on engineering environment.

    All the really poor ones were engineering graduates.

  13. Ducky, I was in my late 30s at uni with the 18 year olds. The 18 year olds could and did socialise with their own age group. And with the older age groups too.

    They leave home. They get to make a lot of their own decisions. They don’t have a curfew, they don’t have to go to school.
    There is some help if they ask but mostly its the talking or signposting help, not the someone to do the thing for them help.

    And they do mature. Well, those who are away from home.
    I’ve seen it happen both while at uni and from younger friends who went away to uni.

  14. Bloke in costa rica – my profession was such that 90% of the job was research or writing.
    What are two things that are pushed at uni? Research and writing.
    I improved my rate of income by a considerable margin over the course of 3 years.

    Now I’ve left that profession (cannot do it any more due to disability) but my business I run now requires a large chunk of research. Buying and selling is easy, figuring out what to buy requires research if going beyond ‘this looks shiny I’ll buy a pallet of it’.
    A STEM subject would not have been as useful to me in my profession or my business.

    A friend of mine from school was for a few years head UK economist at a major bank. Would a STEM subject in the early 90s have helped him get that job? Or would his focus on economics have helped him more?

    One of my other friends runs his family business, a regional company he took from being 3 branches to last I looked 30 branches in last 7 years. He studied business at university in order to help his father, then took over after his father had a stroke.
    I’d class him as successful in his business. Would a STEM subject have helped him at all? Probably not. He could have probably taken over from his father at some point but would have needed a lot more training.

  15. @ Ducky
    Most of my friends matured at University and I certainly did – at least in my willingness to buckle down and do some work – at school I only rarely worked (at Latin Verse when 12-13, English in my ‘O’ level term, Physics in my ‘A’ level term and Latin Unseens when 17); but I observed really disappointing immaturity in both the OU Conservative Club and the OU Labour Club so I dropped out of both.
    I wonder what your teenage years were like – I mixed with adults as well as teenagers throughout mine.

  16. @ BiCR
    I *do* have a Maths degree from a good universityt so I am at liberty to disagree with you.

    @ Martin
    I agree with most of what you say but in your last paragraph only if your pal ran a sakes operation. As farb asvI can tell an MBA teaches one how to sell oneself and, secondarioy, some products.
    One of my friends read Engineering at University because his father ran an Engineering company: that helped him rescue the family company from near-collapse after the £ went far too high on the foreign exchange market because he understood the business; learning business didn’t require a university course and he could not have learnt the engineering “on the hoof”. Sadly he, like his father, died in harness – running a family business is no picnic these days.

  17. Andrew M,
    Here in Thailand the only real difference is that the children are nicer in the private schools. I can’t really comment on elsewhere.

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