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

Author(s): Bryan Caplan

Current Affairs

Why we need to stop wasting public funds on education

Despite being immensely popular - and immensely lucrative - education is grossly overrated. In this explosive book, Bryan Caplan argues that the primary function of education is not to enhance students' skill but to certify their intelligence, work ethic, and conformity - in other words, to signal the qualities of a good employee.

Learn why students hunt for easy A's and casually forget most of what they learn after the final exam, why decades of growing access to education have not resulted in better jobs for the average worker but instead in runaway credential inflation, how employers reward workers for costly schooling they rarely if ever use, and why cutting education spending is the best remedy.

Caplan draws on the latest social science to show how the labor market values grades over knowledge and why the more education your rivals have, the more you need to impress employers. He explains why graduation is our society's top conformity signal and why even the most useless degrees can certify employability. He advocates two major policy responses. The first is educational austerity. Government needs to sharply cut education funding to curb this wasteful rat race. The second is more vocational education, because practical skills are more socially valuable than teaching students how to outshine their peers.

Romantic notions about education being "good for the soul" must yield to careful research and common sense - The Case Against Education points the way.


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Bryan Caplan is professor of economics at George Mason University and a blogger at EconLog. He is the author of Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent Is Less Work and More Fun than You Think and The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies (Princeton). He lives in Oakton, Virginia.

List of Illustrations ixList of Tables xiPreface xiiiIntroduction 11 The Magic of Education 92 The Puzzle Is Real: The Ubiquity of Useless Education 313 The Puzzle Is Real: The Handsome Rewards of Useless Education 694 The Signs of Signaling: In Case You're Still Not Convinced 965 Who Cares If It's Signaling? The Selfish Return to Education 1246 We Care If It's Signaling: The Social Return to Education 1657 The White Elephant in the Room: We Need Lots Less Education 1958 1 > 0: We Need More Vocational Education 2259 Nourishing Mother: Is Education Good for the Soul? 23810 Five Chats on Education and Enlightenment 262Conclusion 285Technical Appendix: Completion Probability and Student Quality 291Notes 295References 337Index 381

General Fields

  • : 9780691174655
  • : Princeton University Press
  • : Princeton University Press
  • : January 2018
  • : 229mm X 152mm
  • : United States
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : 45 b/w illus. 17 tables.
  • : 416
  • : 371.010973
  • : English
  • : Hardback
  • : Bryan Caplan