Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Education v2.0

My classic 1990 Chevy Donk was practically spewing coolant.

I know very little about cars and bar something that is obvious AND within the fixability of the limited amount of tools I have, I usually have a mechanic friend of mine fix my car. However my mechanic friend is actually quite busy and quite successful, and this seemed to be something simple like a thermostat and so instead of waste his time, I contacted a friend's younger brother who is enrolled at the Dunwoody Institute for auto mechanics.

Dave stopped by, took two looks at it, BOOM, had it fixed for $20 in parts and $20 in labor, and the donk lives to drive another day.

But what Dave reminded me of, in his very quick and cheap fix of my car, is how the US education system today is broken to the point of obsolesence.

Dave, did a very very naughty thing according to conventional educational wisdom;

He went to a tech school.

There he learned a trade that everybody needs, but did not get a bachelors and will therefore not be able to become a failed quant over at Goldmans Sachs where he will make $250,000 to run the company into the ground. Tisk tisk tisk.

Stupid Dave.

But how stupid is Dave, really?

Currently Dave is employed and I (with my top ranked degree) am not.

Dave is also immensely more employable than I am in that financial services are laying people off, while industries that repair things cheaper than buying them new are booming.

And whereas everybody could use economic wisdom and advice, they're not willing to pay for it unless you have a nice suit and work for one of those bankrupt companies. EVERYBODY is willing to pay for a good, but cheap mechanic, especially if their car breaks down.

The only thing one can deduce from Dave's versus my education, is that Dave got a better one.

Now this is the primary problem with the US education system. It is NOT about preparing youth for the real world by arming them with employable skills. It's now about two things;

1. Generating money for those who work in the education industry
2. Brainwashing youth for political purposes, namely to vote in the future in the best interests of the education industry.

Or sure, they put it under the guise of "intellectual enlightenment." That education isn't all about just making more money (scoff scoff). Hoity toity academics claiming education somehow has a higher purpose than just training the masses to produce. But in the end, sorry boys and girls, reality wins and the reality is that education SHOULD be to train the masses with employable skills so they might have better lives in the future. And here is where the education institution fails miserably and makes itself progressively obsolete and unneeded.

First off look at most conventional colleges and what is required to get a simple bachelors degree. I don't know about you, but LESS THAN HALF the classes I took in college had anything to do with my degree. Accounting, Finance, and Economics classes were dwarfed by the amount of philosophy, theater, english, psychology, "pre-requisite" crap I had to take in order to get a "well rounded" education.

Let us not fool ourselves. This has nothing to do with making you "well rounded." It's to employ all the other idiots that majored in philosophy, pscyhology, foreign languages, etc. as TA's because the harsh reality (there's that word again) is that outside academia, THERE ARE NO JOBS FOR PHILOSOPHY MAJORS. To graduate from the U of MN's liberal arts college YOU HAVE TO TAKE TWO YEARS OF A FOREIGN LANGUAGE. WHY? You'll never use it. But hey, you employed several TA's for two years. Good for you. It's the test of whether a degree or study is worthwhile or not. If the only thing you can do with the degree is reteach it to future students, then the degree is worthless. If it has a practical application outside college, then it's worthwhile. Right now I'd say about 65% of the degrees being issued are worthless.

This is the second point about education becoming obsolete. It is no longer an education. It is a hobby for spoiled children. Brainwashed and told they MUST go to college (but without any explanation WHY they should go) kids pick degrees that reflect faux intellectual hobbies and approach NOTHING that is a true education.


Are you kidding me? Just listen to talk radio or watch the news.


Can't you just read the books they'd force you to read in college AND save on the tuition AND have the same employment prospects?

It's one thing to practically extort money from the student body to make all of them take 2 year's worth of this garbage, but to allow poor students to waste their time and money earning a full degree in these things is criminal.

This brings up a third point; the value of the degree.

I lament just how much more I could have learned had I been allowed to take more finance and economics classes instead of being forced to take HR or "marketing" or "logic." I theorize most engineering and computer science majors resented having to take worthless liberal arts courses. Imagine instead of 2 years of garbage and then 2 years of practical study, if all 4 years were dedicated and focused on ONE study. The amount one would learn would certainly be near double and the quality and caliber of your graduates would be vastly improved.

But no, now you have a computer engineer who is marginal, but hey, he knows the difference between Behavioral and Cognative theories in psychology. Instead of having specialized, employable labor (like Dave) we now have diluted, bland and non-refined labor entering the labor market.

Then there is a fourth point; grad school.

"Hey, that hobby not working out for you? Go to grad school." And invariably "grad school" means law school because law school takes those with worthless degrees and turns them into money grubbing lawyers. Great, just what this country needs. However, it's not just law school, but the grad school system of the liberal arts.

A reader in a previous post of mine made a great point in that if you look at it from the university's perspective why would they want to offer grad programs in engineering, computers, the sciences, biology, etc. The equipment and gear for labs and so forth is very expensive. But there is practically not capital outlay or expense if you want to set up a law school. There is no fix assets that need be purchased if you set up a "graduate program in education." And is there a degree more worthless than the MBA (passing the CPA test will earn you more). If these idiotic kids want to blow another $40,000 on an additional 2 years of a "education" let's make it possible for them. Meanwhile we can hire those washed up lawyers and sociology majors to become professors and TA's! Boom! A windfall of revenue for the U.

Now, as education starts to drift further and further away from its original purpose of educating the masses and instead starts to become a money making operation that poses as an educational system, it becomes obsolete. People will not expend their time and energy going to get "educated" when there is no financial return for it in the end. However, whereas in the past it seemed the masses didn't care if they were getting a good education or not, and pursued college more and more as a hobby, I do believe this "education bubble" is about to burst. The primary reason being that the factors causing the bubble are rapidly deteriorating.

1. To be able to afford majoring in a "hobby" you needed parents of a certain economic wealth to still take care of you when you graduate at 24 with your bachelors in anthropology. However, Mommy and Daddy aren't as rich as they used to be. Matter of fact, they weren't all that rich to begin with. And whereas daddy's 401k was $300,000, now it's only worth $125,000. And mommy just got laid off at Piper Jaffray, looks like they won't be able to "cash in" on that home equity line, because, well, heh heh, sorry junior, there's no equity left. They used that to buy the Lincoln Navigator and your trip to Europe.

2. The economy is collapsing so hard and crushing so many people that prospective students who would have normally relied on mom and dad to pay for it, find out their primary source of financing is gone. THEY have to pay for it. This crushing financial burden makes students realize REAL quick the value of money and if they started as a philosophy major, they'll quickly change their tune when dad can't cut the checks.

3. Youth will be affected by the harsh economic realities, not just psychologically, but financially. A 16 year old kid who just saw his parents get foreclosed on isn't only going to be thinking "gee, maybe I should switch from art to chemical engineering." He's going to be thinking, "Maybe I should just go to Votech and become a plumber so at least there's food on the table. I can't afford 4 years of school, the first 2 of which are nothing but BS anyway."

In otherwords, the economy will deteriorate so much that families and children will no longer be able to afford going to college like you would "go to Cancun." Education will once again take on the mantle of being a means by which to earn more money and with financial resources dwindling, demand for the "hobby degree" will dry up and demand for vocational programs will increase. The current educational system as we know it will collapse and instead of droves of poetry majors engaging in poetry "slams" or "peace studies" majors throwing down some mean candle light vigils perhaps maybe some of them can do something useful like fix my effing car or install some additional RAM in my computer.


Unknown said...

Hello Captain!

I've been reading you for awhile, floated in from SDA on one of your posts awhile ago with your fantastic pie charts on education.

I just want to finally post on one of these blogs and give a big thumbs up to you, and to contributors, for spreading reality.

I love listening to you rant and perhaps I shouldn't feel like this as I'm about to go to College in the Great White North, I feel relieved because for once, it's not me. It's very comforting! You begin to think you're alone in the liberal swill, without a bastion or a raft, about to sink at any moment...

But reading this is always a nice breeze in the sails to keep going. Even if the present can be a bit dreary to think about, It is comforting, there are still people with 'alternative' thought left amongst the masses.

Captain Capitalism said...

Hi Vegi,

Well you're in college and you have two choices;

1. Constantly rack your brain trying to figure out what you missed or how you're wrong.

2. Look at it with logic and common sense and realize you're surrounded by spoiled brats who are still children.

Once you kind of "accept to be arrogant enough" to believe in #2, it's amazing how much clearer it becomes.

Don't let the lefties get you down in college. Tell them what they want to here if it lands you a date. Where is "The Great White North College" exactly?

Unknown said...

I'm in Alberta my good Captain, I'll be going to NAIT. The course I'll be taking is mostly centered around computer programming and code, aka, math... so I am hoping that I will not be surrounded too severely by the spoiled brats. Ideally around midsemester most of them will have fried their brains and will have been shipped out.


That's my hope at least.

Anonymous said...

This recession isn't bad enough to make people think the way you suggest. I don't think they are going to pick schooling based on employment in the future. Our kids (I'm 31) have too huge of an entitlment mentality. If they are younger than 24, they aren't even going to remember this as a difficult time. I surely don't remember 1991 being hard.

Is capitalism coupled with democracy self defeating? Did the previous generation create so much wealth via capitalism that the current generation can just vote themselves to not have to do anything? I think that is the endgame of capitalism and democracy.

Hydrick said...

If it's like computer science education at my old college, the first couple of courses they can muddle through since you're more focused on basic coding and the programs aren't too complicated (and the ones that are the professors are more willing to help you walk through). However, by about the third or fourth course (where you start getting into things like the basics of how compilers work), where you start getting hard into the little details, they'll be moving on to other departments for their course selection.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Captain, for voicing a view I have had for years. In High School, our "counselors"...spit made us feel tech school was for the failing "not so special" kids and smart peoople like me should not go there.
Now I have learned that I am an hands on learner who failed miserably in University life. But Hands on learning in tech school would have been much better for my learning style. I would have had the same trade that I am in now, but would have a much broader range of skills and abilities, and would have reached a high position much earlier in my career.

University is not the end all of education, it is one small step in the life of learning...

Chemist said...

Interesting comment you made about a 'well rounded' education being more about shoveling math/science/endineering students into arts courses in order to give the TA's someone to get paid for teaching. I wonder if this might explain why science students require twice as many arts electives to graduate than the number of science electives the arts majors require (at least at the U where I work). By the way, the 'science' courses the arts students take are mostly BS non-math tripe anyhow...

Brings me to another one of my qualms; all students must take an english literature course for all degrees. It's the whole 'well rounded' argument and it's 'important for all students to be able to appreciate literature'. Fine. However, isn't it just as important for all students to have a basic knowledge of math?

Anonymous said...

North American Islamic Trust?

CMY said...

I'd like to say that I'm clairvoyant, but "dropping in" on useful classes in community college for three years probably benefited me more than I know.

Actually, I do know- it allowed me to gain actual work experience and not thumb my nose at something which I felt was "beneath me". I wasn't painted into a corner, I didn't saddle my parents (or myself) with debt, and I never stopped learning.

While most of my contemporaries are worried about finding work, I'm starting a business. Yes, it might be the worst time to do so, but I don't have any unrealistic expectations, nor do I intend to build some great shrine to capitalism in my honor if I'm successful (big office, employees, COO, CTO, etc).

My years have taught me that lean and mean is the name of the game, because I've seen so much through the eyes of other entrepreneurs that I've worked for. They didn't put money back into refining their process, they only sought a bigger footprint.

My version of "making it" isn't a 401k and a mortgage, it's a laptop on a beach somewhere, anywhere.

Anyways, sorry for the rant, but you're completely on target with this Captain.

GW South said...

Vegi - Read this post if you have not done so.

It is fantastic.

Anonymous said...

I attended one of the top engineering universities in Canada and even we had to take a few "garbage" courses from the Arts faculty. We needed to take 5 electives and this represented about 10% of the total courses required for graduation. From my perspective they were a welcome break from the grind of technical courses and if you were smart, you could figure out which ones were easy.

Of course I was well aware that many people were basing their entire degrees on these fluff courses and their prospects for proper employment were slim.

Regarding your point about capital investment to cover courses, there's a reason tuition for engineering is almost double that of other programs. Our RF lab had frightningly old equipment and when we complained the lab manager quipped that upgrading one bench would cost roughly $300,000. There were 15 benches in the lab. Obviously $4.5M can go a long way elsewhere and besides the equiment, while old, worked perfectly find for the experiments we were doing.

With respect to your mechanic friend - he did what everyone should do. Learn a trade. Both my grandfathers, who spent their teen years in the Great Depression, often said that a man who knows a trade is never without a job. Imagine the GDP producing capability of an engineer who also a tradesman. For example, if you had civil engineers who were also masons.

The masters of the world would still be those that made a trade their primary occupation, but there would be a "reserve" of apprentice/journeyman level people to draw on when necessary.

Blackwing1 said...

As a design engineer with a BSME, I'm often asked, "What field of engineering should I go into?" My response is usually, "Don't."

Why? More and more companies are laying off engineers in favor of shipping those jobs overseas. Many times they simply hire cheap engineers from other places, bring them in on "temporary" 2-year visas, and then ship 'em back when their time is up. The same applies with a vengeance to designers. After all (the idiot managers say), "It doesn't matter who's pushing the mouse on a terminal. We get the same designs whether it's Joe here in Minneapolis or Sanjay in Bombay". They're wrong of course, since the quality of the drawings from overseas typically stinks, but that's a whole 'nother issue.

What I tell young people today is to ignore the 4-year college degree, and get a 2-year vocational education...but be sure it's in a field THAT REQUIRES THEIR PHYSICAL PRESENCE! Automotive repair is perfect example, HVAC technician is another. If it can be done from a keyboard, it can be done by someone in India and for a tenth the cost. But it's really tough for somebody in India to fix the failed compressor in your central air conditioner.

Anonymous said...

If it's anything like the programming course I took I hope you're not in a multicultural hell-hole and you get taught by a Chinese professor that can only read you powerpoint slides directly from the book.. aside from barely understanding that when he tried to explain why your program wasn't working or help you.. you couldn't understand that and it was more of a "I know what I'm saying but I can't figure out how to explain it to you.

You're right, though.. the first C class you take.. or C++ for that matter.. you'll see a ton of kids struggling pretty badly, I know I did.

Good luck with a Programming degree.. you're in for hours upon hours of debugging fun. I'm switching to Computer Networking and IT stuff.

tony said...

Good read.

In Europe it is common to segregate out kids by the time they are 15 into very different groups based on academic "potential." Either you have it or you don't, and if you don't appear to be the academic type you are given an education suited to "labor."

While I'm not sure denying someone their opportunity to get further schooling if they so choose is the best way to go, there needs to be a clear alternative in high school for kids who want to learn a trade.

You say college education is ridiculous, what about the tripe that is taught in high high school? Let kids inclined toward working with their hands have the option to enter training for a trade instead of finishing high school. They would be skilled workers by 18 and able to support themselves and a family well before the avg kid gets his BA now.

Unknown said...

As a junior self-taught economist, I fully concur with you.
I was also one of those dumb persons whom went to Dunwoody for automotive repair, after finishing the course, I bought a small building and opened up an auto repair shop.

Trade school was a logical choice for me. I came from a poor family with less than favorable economic situations. Being poor made me appreciate things more. Many times I had worked 2 or 3 jobs at a time. I'm grateful that I escaped the contagious herd of entitlement mentality.

I also attended your ballroom dance class with my girlfriend last night. It was fun. I was the guy about your height in the blue-red shirt, with the muscles.

Another thing I'd like to comment on is the shocking number of people I meet from college(I never went to college)that appear to severely lack the ability
to ratiocinate and have very diminutive "critical thinking" skills-as by the definition of Ayn Rand.

Chris W.

Ryan Fuller said...

"Imagine instead of 2 years of garbage and then 2 years of practical study, if all 4 years were dedicated and focused on ONE study. The amount one would learn would certainly be near double and the quality and caliber of your graduates would be vastly improved."

Ummm... diminishing marginal returns, Captain? It'd be great to cut the crap courses, but claiming that two extra years of study would nearly double the learning of the students goes against one of the economic principles that economics undergrads learn in the first two years. :)

Anonymous said...

I agree with tony. This should be happening in High School. Bring back apprenticeships and for crying out loud stop telling kids that not going to a four-year college makes you a failure!

Anonymous said...


Why didn't address student loans in your post?


rebarbarian said...

Cappy: You missed one point. If you could have done well at university but had taken a trade instead, by the time you are 35 you could be running a good sized plumbing company, driving an Avalanche and living in a pretty nice house that gets built cheap by trading favours with other trades.

Hot Sam said...

To hell with becoming a military officer, earning a PhD in Economics, or becoming an auto mechanic.

The job you really want to have is a train mechanic with the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system.

The average salary is $113,000 per year. Their vehicle mechanics are the highest paid in the nation.

BART pays retirement health care benefits of $1868 per month.

BART pays 7% of the employees salary into their retirement fund.

Here is the report

The cost of maintaining this salary and benefit structure accounts for nearly half of BARTs $250 million four-year deficit.

BART employee unions are currently threatening a strike which will largely shut down the daily commute for thousands of workers.

Here's a database where you can look up what BART employees make. You'll note that for some of the attorneys they have misplaced a decimal point.

~Beth D. said...

Thank you for voicing what I have been trying to say for 10 years! I am a teacher that has gone through schooling and test after test along with other teachers. I have seen others pass these courses and tests and STILL not be good teachers. Still, the state got all of our money to take these tests and pass these courses when the BEST experience I ever got for preparing me to teach was the ACTUAL teaching that I did while getting my degree. I almost didn't pass a course because I was working and teaching so many hours!

Your words make sense and I commend you for speaking up!

Anonymous said...


As someone who got an English degree (not lucrative) on student loans, before paying his way through a Computer Science degree (lucrative), I sympathize with what you are saying. I think the fact is that a lot of what is taught in humanities is garbage. It is, or was, in the eighties, hit and miss--you got sensible humanities profs and you got raving Marxists. I suspect the latter are more prevalent these days.

But that's not to say the humanities are a waste of time. If we want to keep our republic, we need a population containing many individuals who have read history and philosophy (real history and philosophy, not post-modern, post-colonial and deconstructionist goobledygook.)

I might even go so far as to say that people who spend their time imersed in the great pool of past masterpieces of literature are going to be less gullible than people spending their time passively watching TV or playing video games.

Consider Victor Davis Hanson as an example of how wise a person can be after a sensible study of the humanities. Many of our founder were lawyers who spent their live immersed in history, law, and philosophy.

But the major educational institutions have pretty much abdicated the role of teaching the real humanities. As you say, they are increasingly becoming propaganda organs for left-wing interest groups. Look at Obama--almost everything he says has been molded by the Marxists.

Our suave but feckless president plays the fool for the world's strongmen--talking about disarmament and apologizing for America's `crimes', while they proceed apace to build weapons and attack freedom and democracy. In constrast, consider one of my favorite quotations from Winston Churchill, "Those who beat their swords into plowshares usually ending up plowing for those who didn't." There's more wisdom in that single phrase than a lifetime of peacenik utterances from The One. But how would we know it without reading history?

If we're going to beat the left we need to be smarter and better-educated than they are. They have their institutions that churn out clever-sounding minions for the press and politics, and we need ours. Pretending that the humanities don't matter is just playing into their hands. Rather than encouraging people to learn about carburetors and brakes, you might do better to encourage them to read Edmund Burke.

Mrs. Bob said...

Well I can say at lot about this. My first perspective is that even though Mommy and Daddy are no longer footing the bill I still know thirty-somethings who are going back to college to finish that degree. Even though the actual degree should be used as toilet paper. Their is some sort of thought that they are only worthwhile if they have a degree any degree. Especially the women around here who want to be SAHM's but don't know how to cook, clean, budget, be a handyman etc. I have often thought of opening a finishing school just to teach a basic standard of living for them, much more practical than another useless degree.

On the subject of engineering degrees, a lot of stuff I took in college has nothing to do with the job I have now. Plus I need to pass a licensing exam after four plus years of college that should be based on what I do now, but is largely based on trivial stuff I learned in college that I don't use. I think engineering could use an apprentice, journeyman approach.

Mrs. Bob said...

Well I can say at lot about this. My first perspective is that even though Mommy and Daddy are no longer footing the bill I still know thirty-somethings who are going back to college to finish that degree. Even though the actual degree should be used as toilet paper. There is some sort of thought that they are only worthwhile if they have a degree any degree. Especially the women around here who want to be SAHM's but don't know how to cook, clean, budget, be a handyman etc. I have often thought of opening a finishing school just to teach a basic standard of living for them, much more practical than another useless degree.

On the subject of engineering degrees, a lot of stuff I took in college has nothing to do with the job I have now. Plus I need to pass a licensing exam after four plus years of college that should be based on what I do now, but is largely based on trivial stuff I learned in college that I don't use. I think engineering could use an apprentice, journeyman approach.

dtrum said...

Even economic hardship will not signifcantly change the fact that crap studies are highly overrated by most people. The reason for this is that crap studies enable you to take a job in the government or in academia. Those jobs are far more secure than being an engineer who has to endure changing demand for his/her labor during business cycles.

Something that hasn't been mentioned yet is that if we had a real private education system, students ideally would have to pay tuition rates according to the costs that their studies bring about. So students majoring in chemistry would have to pay far higher tuition than someone who majors in political science. That would further reduce demand for really important majors.