Arnold Kling  

Goldin-Katz Filters into the Mainstream

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Real Health Care Reform... More on U.S. Education...

David Brooks writes,


During the 20th century, Americans were better educated than the citizens of any other power. Since 1970, that lead has been forfeited, producing inequality and wage stagnation. To compete, the U.S. will require a series of human capital initiatives.

These days, if you give me a typical Krugman column and a typical Brooks column, the former is less likely to set me off.

We may very well be at the threshold of an era of major government initiatives. However, a lot of what's on the plate consists of problems caused by past initiatives. Fannie and Freddie are exhibit A. Medicare is exhibit B.

A major business has to be pretty careful about limiting its scope. The attention of senior management is scarce. If they don't pay attention to something, it can go off the rails. So they only have time for one or two major initiatives a year, while they try to keep ongoing processes on track.

Government is even harder to manage than business. But someone like Brooks can write as if government has an infinite management capacity.

My thinking is that the management capacity of the government in Washington is already way over-taxed, to put it mildly. If our political leaders were business executives trying to hold onto their sanity, they would be doing everything possible to offload responsibilities to the private sector and to other layers of government, so that they could focus on just a few things that they might do well.

Obviously, that is not their mindset.


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COMMENTS (8 to date)

He is right about the relationship between our fall in education and most of our other problems. Our schools are more concerned with self-esteem than education, meaning they are producing people who know nothing, but feel good about what they know, but are psychologically incapable of taking criticism (being corrected). You can't improve if you can't be corrected, resulting in stagnation. Our universities are most to blame, since they have lowered their standards, which resulted in high schools lowering theirs, resulting in middle schools lowering theirs. We have students unable to write, who are ignorant of what a subject and a predicate are (the two problems are related). The response from the universities is that "the best and brightest will just have to be bored," when it should be "the dumbest and laziest should never be let through the door." Our universities need to readopt the statement on the door of Plato's Academy: "He shall not enter who has not first mastered geometry." I would throw in "and grammar."

Jose writes:

Dr. Camplin: Maybe primary and secondary education should limit its scope of activities and focus on doing one thing well...

Gary Rogers writes:

I would disagree with the relationship. I would be more inclined to believe that the problems in education are a result of government mismanagement, which is also the root cause of the inequality and wage stagnation. After all, the people in Washington who brought us the latter are not uneducated, they are just not very intelligent. There is a differrence.

Actually, they are uneducated. Having an advanced degree does not equal being educated. Again, our universities are at fault.

dearieme writes:

"During the 20th century, Americans were better educated than the citizens of any other power." I dare say that there does exist some definition of "educated" for which this is true.

It's laziness in term usage. It should read "more Americans had received a college degree than any other . . ." That would be more accurate. And, perhaps, immediately after WWII, they were in fact educated. Not so much any more.

fundamentalist writes:

The college diploma nonsense is a red herring. It doesn't mean anything. Check out the McKinsey web site for research they did on education. Formal education means nothing for productivity, which determines long run wage increases. Almost all of the education that increases productivity comes from company-paid training or OJT.

The fact that companies need to provide additional training to newly-hired college-educated employees should tell you everything about the state of higher education.

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