Thursday, June 23, 2011

On Education

As someone who both values education and wants to be a teacher, I'm a bit worried by the suggestion that education is useless (see also here). Of course, some education is useful. But I'm never going to be teaching engineering or shop class. So, I have reason to worry. Is my current profession a waste of time and money?

I have to admit: it is plausible that liberal arts education might be useless for most students. I really don't think there is decisive empirical evidence on either side. Of course, I have really enjoyed the liberal arts and benefited from it. But I'm not most people.

Bryan Caplan thinks education is worthless for the marginal student. But I have a partial defense of education. As Caplan knows, a university education seems to be causally related to both pro-trade and pro-immigration attitudes. The mechanism is that college education socializes people to become more cosmopolitan and tolerant. Bryan Caplan is a stalwart defender of free trade and open borders. So, this is a defense of education that even he should love.

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