The World Might Be Better Off Without College for Everyone

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NorthReport
The World Might Be Better Off Without College for Everyone

The World Might Be Better Off Without College for Everyone

 

The World Might Be Better Off Without College for Everyone

Students don't seem to be getting much out of higher education.

NorthReport
Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

If this is an American article, as it seems to be, then no worries.  The U.S. is in no danger whatsoever of everyone affording college.

Left Turn Left Turn's picture

Bryan Caplan, the author of the article, hints at an underlying reality that he doesn't explicity acknowledge. Namely, that modern capitalism has utterly failed to provide -- indeed cannot provide -- "good" jobs for everyone. The avergae level of education amongst the population matters not one whit when it comes to the type and quality of the jobs on offer in the 21st century "neoliberal" economy.

NorthReport

When you finish high school you can learn a trade, and your house will be paid for long before most university students.

A very high number of university students would be much better off financially to go that route first, and then after they have a trade, earning $35-$60 an hour, go to university if they wish, work in the summers at their trade, and they will have no student debt. Go figure!

alan smithee alan smithee's picture

Not everyone can be a plumber,an electrician,a mechanic or a web designer. Just like not eveyone can be an accountant,a doctor,a lawyer etc..

Trade training is an excellent thing but it doesn't garauntee anything more than a University education. And don't be a fool. That little piece of paper from a college or university means A LOT,make no mistake about it.

NorthReport

People have been sold a bill of goods about the trades That trade diploma sometimes is worth worth more financially than a college degree 

progressive17 progressive17's picture

It depends on the trade and/or the college degree, the state of the economy, and the progression of the labour market out of and into various skills and professions.

In the US now it was recently reported that people without even high school only have a 5.2% unemployment rate. However people with a college degree are doing better at about 4.1%.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

NR, you keep posting this anti-intellectual nonsense over and over. Why is that? Are you feeling insecure?

Anyway, you're expressing a myopic point of view and posing a question that's been asked and answered about twenty times over. No-one has said everyone should have to go to university (although it wouldn't hurt if they did). People who go to university don't fare less well in the long run than tradespeople.

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

NorthReport wrote:

When you finish high school you can learn a trade, and your house will be paid for long before most university students.

A very high number of university students would be much better off financially to go that route first, and then after they have a trade, earning $35-$60 an hour, go to university if they wish, work in the summers at their trade, and they will have no student debt. Go figure!

Y'know North, there isn't anybody anywhere making the argument that EVERYONE should go to college.  What's actually being argued for is that college should be low-cost or no-cost for everyone who WANTS to attend-including those who might go into the trades and attend universities in their spare time-btw, which trades let people take most of the year off to go to college?.  And as to the "most people should go into the trades" argument-the trades are a great idea for some, but you can't assume they're the answer to most-and what happens when they robotize the trades, as they are planning to robotize so many other jobs?

You might want to rethink your focus on pushing everybody into the trades-and your curious hostility to the idea of a college education.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

It's certainly true that for a long time, in Canada at least, post-secondary education is practially an assumption for high-school grads.  I recall that when I was 19, the question wasn't "do you want to go to University?" but rather "which Universities did you apply to?"  Everyone -- including parents! -- just assumed it was the ticket to prosperity for everyone, whether it was a good fit or not.

But I'm not sure that "the swing of the pendulum" to where everyone assumes that pipefitter's papers are the ticket to prosperity for everyone, whether it's a good fit or not.

Again, for all sorts of reasons, I don't think we need to worry that everyone's going to go to University.  And FWIW, the fewer people who become, say, welders, the more lucrative being a welder will be. 

Pogo Pogo's picture

I have a friend that gave me the sage advice to always get more out of a job than a paycheck.  I would take it to this discussion to say that any education assessment should use more than income measures.  This would apply (maybe not equally) to both academic and trade studies.  I find general uses for my general arts studies and the skills I learned as a millwright's helper.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Magoo, I think your experience is partly a class thing. There were few people in my high school who seriously considered university, most just got a job or headed to trade school. I'm guessing 15% of us went to university. In contrast, my cousin's school had a majority of kids go to uni, but they lived south of the tracks. 

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Quote:
Magoo, I think your experience is partly a class thing.

Always possible.  But in Grade 13 I was attending a Composite school in a semi-rural town of 2600 people, and about a third of my classmates literally lived on a farm.  So, not Rosedale is all.

To be fair, though, the whole idea of a Composite school is basically two streams, and those streams rarely co-mingled, so perhaps I only knew the academic stream, and not the occupational stream.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Oh, I did necessarily mean very rich people - my high school was very blue collar workers' kids. The more middle class kids went to university. Our career counsellor was very concerned that I'd find university difficult to adapt to because my dad was in the trades and my mum hadn't finished high school. 

NorthReport

Society generally has been sold a bill of negative goods about the trades. Part of the problem - guidance counsellors don't usually come from the trades. For example, contrast the way society reacts to a policeman dying at work, compared to a construction worker killed on the jobsite. Another problem, a lot of parents don't want their kids to obtain dirt under their fingernails at work. And Timebandit, it sounds that you, as well as moi, are fortunate to have experienced both worlds.

Trade School vs Traditional College

https://careerschoolnow.org/careers/trade-school-vs-traditional-college

 

Pogo Pogo's picture

Is there an emoji for asked and answered?

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

NorthReport wrote:

Society generally has been sold a bill of negative goods about the trades. Part of the problem - guidance counsellors don't usually come from the trades. For example, contrast the way society reacts to a policeman dying at work, compared to a construction worker killed on the jobsite. Another problem, a lot of parents don't want their kids to obtain dirt under their fingernails at work. And Timebandit, it sounds that you, as well as moi, are fortunate to have experienced both worlds.

Trade School vs Traditional College

https://careerschoolnow.org/careers/trade-school-vs-traditional-college

 

You're assuming that there needs to be some broad societal choice either to push young people towards college-something that isn't happening now-or towards the trades.  

You also seem to think that people who want college to be low-cost or no-cost somehow want to STOP young people going into the trades.  That simply isn't the case.  People who push for easily affordable college simply want it to be an option for those who want the option.

There is no intellectual conspiracy to wipe out the trades OR to denigrate people IN the trades.

You're engaging in one side of an imaginary argument.

lagatta4

I'm sure there are some discussion boards and media where people in the trades are looked down upon - say in the Globe and Mail, but a fairly down-to-earth leftish site like this one isn't one of them.

I'm very proud of what we have achieved here with the CÉGEP system, with some highly-qualified trades streams, but in which the students must also take some academic courses, such as history, the other official language and their own, as well as some relating to maths or sciences (including the now essential computer knowledge). This is because it was considered essential to "citoyenneté": citizenship, but in the sense of informed participation in society.

Nowadays, there are very few trades that don't require computer literacy and other knowledge that was arcane 50 years ago. For example, school caretakers/janitors or whatever that trade is called now require systems knowledge to do their job.

I thought the police officer vs the building worker was an odd example; while police do attend police college now, most are not highly educated in the academic sense, and building workers now have to take far more specialized trades training than their grandfathers did. On the contrary, it is how the ruling class views the ROLE of the police in the social order that makes their deaths somehow more tragic than those of other workers. Yes, police work is essential to public safety, but so is sanitation...

Another interesting aspect is how important popular education has been for many labour and popular movements, and a shorter working day meant more repose, but also more time to study (in all senses). The workers' movements did not always think that learning to read and write (beyond basic literacy, also in terms of being able to access literature) was a futility reserved for the upper or upper-middle-class. Especially in times of progress and upturns in the workers' movements, all kinds of education were very much a demand (I'm thinking of the Italian movement in 1969, in the wake of the French and other 1968 wave, but there are countless other examples around the world).

Unionist

Thanks for that, lagatta. Seeing contradictions between university education and skilled trades must be easier outside Québec, especially given our 50-year headstart with a publicly-funded system (CÉGEP) that prepares high school graduates for both streams - and, as you point out, doesn't draw an exclusive line between the two in terms of content.

I also note that this year is the 30th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision in the matter of Action Travail des Femmes, where the court upheld the Human Rights Commission ruling that women were under-represented in the trades on CN Rail, and actually ordered CN to hire in such a way as to correct that. The fact that 30 years later, women are still radically under-represented, not only in the railway but in many other sectors, is a sad reflection of the systemic social and cultural biases about "men's jobs" vs. "women's jobs", as much as it is of employers' reluctance to proactively correct discriminatory practices.

Bottom line - we need free post-secondary education, together with living stipends where required, and we need to eliminate the overt and subtle barriers to access. Denigrating one or the other kind of training seems, as you said lagatta, more suited to other types of forums.

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

We need people to be able to go into the trades if THEY wish.  We need people in and out of the trades to have the chance to stretch themselves through university education.  We also need to get back to the idea that learning was a good in itself, that it shouldn't HAVE to be tied to the question of employability.  

It doesn't have to be "either/or", and I have no idea where North gets this idea that people who support free university education look down on people in the trades or have it in for the trades as a series of occupations.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Ken, Unionist, lagatta:  ❤️

JKR

College should be for the the upper-classes. That's why we have established elite institutions for the best, brightest and most polished amongst us like Oxford, Cambridge, Eton, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Exeter, etc,... Once you let the riffraff in who knows what will become of society.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Quote:
That's why we have established elite institutions for the best, brightest and most polished amongst us like Oxford, Cambridge, Eton, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Exeter, etc,... Once you let the riffraff in who knows what will become of society.

Are you posting from the UK?

Because trust me, you can be a bit of a dullard and still get into "college" in Canada.

cco

Ken Burch wrote:

It doesn't have to be "either/or", and I have no idea where North gets this idea that people who support free university education look down on people in the trades or have it in for the trades as a series of occupations.

It's a fascinating example of modern-day class enforcement. When I was in high school in the USA, military recruiters would target poor minority students who weren't doing well academically with similar rhetoric about how going to war was somehow more authentic than going to university. The basic idea seems to be that people have to be deprived of other opportunities in order to fill necessary career niches, which dovetails nicely with the desire of the upper class to avoid using the most traditional capitalist mechanism for recruiting people to the job you need filled. In other words: If Canada has a shortage of plumbers, the answer is neither discouraging higher education nor importing TFWs, but raising plumbers' wages. (Here in Québec, the recent bloviating about a "labour shortage" and discussion of bribing people to have children has conspicuously ignored the same mechanism.)

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Quote:
If Canada has a shortage of plumbers, the answer is neither discouraging higher education nor importing TFWs, but raising plumbers' wages.

If there's a shortage of plumbers, doesn't "the market" do exactly that?

cco

The preponderance of complaints from business groups about labour shortages appears to suggest that their first instinct is to demand the government provide them a more deprived workforce. Hence, the previous existence of the TFW program.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

I would think that employers are more likely to go the TFW route when nobody wants to do what they want done for the pittance they pay.

If I owned a plumbing maintenance company, I'd rather pay the employees I've got more money (which I would recoup by charging more, if plumbers are hard to come by) than by importing a plumber from China and paying him/her less and charging less.

There's really no advantage to a Canadian employer importing labour that Canadians are willing to do, and Canadians are willing to pay for.  Why would I make my life 10x more complex to have twice as many plumbers who earn half as much?

JKR

Mr. Magoo wrote:

Quote:
That's why we have established elite institutions for the best, brightest and most polished amongst us like Oxford, Cambridge, Eton, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Exeter, etc,... Once you let the riffraff in who knows what will become of society.

Are you posting from the UK?

Because trust me, you can be a bit of a dullard and still get into "college" in Canada.

In Canada you say?...pity.

WWWTT

I’m a plumber. UA local 46  also a builder  

i want my kids going to university. But when they get old enough, I want to teach them how to build a house. What I feel is the most important thing is that we all find something we like to do that is contributing to our society no matter what and we all have an equal opportunity with no barriers of class race color sex money background etc etc. 

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

WWWTT wrote:

I’m a plumber. UA local 46  also a builder  

i want my kids going to university. But when they get old enough, I want to teach them how to build a house. What I feel is the most important thing is that we all find something we like to do that is contributing to our society no matter what and we all have an equal opportunity with no barriers of class race color sex money background etc etc. 

With you on that.  It's important that we don't lose the ability to actually MAKE things.

Caissa

His argument is a bit of a straw person. Nobody recommends that everyone should go to university. He sets up the false argument and then knocks it down.

I have been in the education system since 1968(kindergarten) and in the university system since 1981 (student) 1994 (employee). I believe education is a good in and unto itself. I find this quotation from the author to be rather telling: "

I’m cynical about students. The vast majority are philistines. I’m cynical about teachers. The vast majority are uninspiring. I’m cynical about “deciders”—the school officials who control what students study. The vast majority think they’ve done their job as long as students comply."

 

lagatta4

I've heard the same line about workers, unions and union militants...

And then, suddenly (or so it seems) a movement emerges!

WWWTT

With you on that.  It's important that we don't lose the ability to actually MAKE things.

I don't feel that would happen anytime soon. However, I do feel it's important we are all fairly compensated for our services. A CEO earning 7 digits a year is just as unfair (if not more) as a staff member busting her fuckin ass off just to put food on the table and help provide for her family!

Pogo Pogo's picture

The point I will grant is that there is still a significant bias in large portions of society that university is the path to success (however you define success). Outside our echo chamber of course...

Pondering

College/university was sold as a class equalizer. This was supposed to be the ladder that made the class system fair. Get a good education and you can be anything, doctor, lawyer, engineer. It's true to an extent but it is still who you know as much as what you know unless you are a star in your field. Legal aid lawyers come from the lower classes, partners in firms come from the upper classes.

40 years ago a floor sweeper at Purina got 17 dollars an hour. A fortune in those days and certainly not based on skill. Now the low wage work is in services. There is no reason why a MacDonald's worker can't earn the same.

progressive17 progressive17's picture

Henry Ford was a supporter of Adolf Hitler. But he also knew that if his workers could afford his cars, many of them would buy them. So he raised his workers' wages, and many of them bought his cars. 

Now we are in a race to the bottom. Unskilled work pays minimum wage or barely more. With rent and bills, it means people can only afford things made by real slaves in Bangladesh and wage slaves in many other countries. Companies like Sears are going belly up but the lineups at the dollar stores are longer than ever. This stuff is imported by the containerload, and is rarely inspected by the Canadian government for toxic content. 

With rising inequality, it is prosperity for the rich and depression for the poor. When you average it out, we have apparent economic growth. 

Maybe we have hit bottom. We are chronically underinvested per worker. The extreme right is exploiting this situation by blaming immigrants, the Illuminati, etc. People who want simple explanations for complex and seemingly intractable problems fall prey to this rhetoric from the gutter. 

The solution to the depression which is affecting the majority of us is Keynsian. Tax the rich, and spend the money on public works and income supports. It worked before, and it will also work again. In addition we need to raise punitive tariffs on countries which permit slavery and crass exploitation and adopt currency controls and withholding taxes on money destined for tax havens. 

The obsession with foreign trade is not borne out by its percentage of GDP. The vast majority of GDP is government, consumer, and domestic business spending. We should focus on those things and determine to build a domestic Canadian economy for Canadians. 

NorthReport

Worth repeating. Thanks Pogo.

Pogo wrote:

The point I will grant is that there is still a significant bias in large portions of society that university is the path to success (however you define success). Outside our echo chamber of course...

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

NorthReport wrote:

Worth repeating. Thanks Pogo.

Pogo wrote:

The point I will grant is that there is still a significant bias in large portions of society that university is the path to success (however you define success). Outside our echo chamber of course...

There is a difference, however, between those who say that university is "THE path to success"-in terms of employability-and those who argue for free or nearly-free university education because everyone should access to a life of the mind, who feel that education is a liberating good in and of itself.  

And we simply don't HAVE to choose between free college and the opportunity to learn a trade.  Why can't a decent society make both available?

Pogo Pogo's picture

In Richmond every high school has a trade program so that people can choose to get a year of trade certification under their belt prior to graduation.  A great program and I know many who have taken advantage of the option.  There is no electrician program in Richmond. I asked about it and was told that the problem was that any kid with the math to be accepted in to the electrical program would be pushed to go to university.  

I agree that the winner/loser argument is not the way to go. Both are a good choice depending on circumstances.  This of course assumes that lack of basic training/education is necessarily bad. Is someone who decides against any post secondary program necessarily wrong?