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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Modern Educaton and the "Negative Wedding Dowry"

I am fascinated with articles and stories on the level of education that we have and what we do with it.

I recently came across this WSJ article.  The premise is simple: we in the US are falling behind the rest of the world in education.  The idea is you measure how much education you have at 25 and compare that to how much your parents had at the same age.

In most prior generations the "amount" of education each new generation has has exceeded that of their parents.

But since about 1970 or so, for men, that has changed.  In 1970 about 65% of men had more education than their parents.  Today that number is around 40%.

Considering that today's schools don't actually provide the same type or amount of education the level of you might find 40 years ago I would say that that number is far, far lower.  Maybe 20% of men today have more education than their parents.

Me and my generation was probably one of the last to take "getting educated" seriously.

Ask a techy graduate from virtually any school who Thucydides is or about the Emperor's of Rome and all you will see is blank stare.  Ask them about World War II, or Korea, or about a foreign country, or about the news - more blank stares.  In fact, ask most college graduates about any subject outside their narrow scope of specialization and all get is, well, nothing...

Prior to 1975 the Vietnam War drove men to college - it was the only way to get a "deferral" from the draft.  But by 1975 there was no more war so men said "to hell with education" and went back to being, er, well, men.

Meanwhile woman have been advancing in "education" - today there are more women graduates of college than men.  But again - they seem to have very little in terms of actual "education."

But women, according to the same article, are also losing ground with respect to their parents in terms of education even though they are relatively steady in terms of college graduation.

The peak of our "educatedness" was about 1970 or so for both sexes - and its been down hill since then.

So what does this say about US as Americans?

Well, for one thing, the supposed "smartest" among us are leaving the workforce because of retirement.  I am not sure that in and of itself is a bad thing because the "smartest" have not done much for us in the last 40 years save for take us from first place in education to a paltry 14th or so in the world.

So what does that leave?

The "less educated."

Personally I find the characterization of "less educated" as somehow inferior troubling because it does not take into account common sense, life satisfaction and talent.

Education in and of itself is basically useless.  Teach a man engineering and you have an engineer - whether working on a gas chamber for genocide or a spaceship to the moon.

Its what you as a person do with that education that matters.  How you use it and what you use it for.

Today education is sold as a tool to "make money."

Get that "ticket" and you'll be set for life...  or will you?

The variance in income between careers you can enter with a bachelor's degree is probably an order of magnitude, i.e., ten times.  A petroleum engineer might make $120,000 USD to start, a English major $12,000 USD flipping burgers at McDonalds.

So what you do apparently matters a lot too.

My companies stopped hiring computer science graduates around 1985 because all they wanted was a good job - they weren't concerned with the work aspect of it.

So if money is all you care about become a mid-level drug dealer - no education or student loans required.  (You see them all the time at places like Chucky Cheese - but SUV's, lots of gold, etc.)

I think all this is taking us off the "moral" cliff...  People don't care about anything but money any more and education in the last forty years has made this worse because the "morality" aspect of education was stripped away during that time.

The "less educated" will and are becoming our leaders - how do you make rational economic decisions for your constituents if simple math is beyond you?

The answer is you don't...

You make decisions based on power alone - no morality, no education, no leadership.

And look at what you get - today's effort to bail out the USPS with tens of billions of dollars.

Not because it makes sense, not because its right, not because of anything but votes and power.

You get the idea that if you pay $10 billion dollars today you might save $10 billion dollars over several years.


Why not just save the $10 billion dollars over several years and not pay anything?

Total savings: $10 billion dollars.  (And no, you're not saving $20 billion because you never spent it in the first place.)

What madness: running the government like rationalizing going to a sale to spend money you don't have on what you don't need.

We now owe more on education than credit card debt...

And since men have been opting out of the education system for four decades this means that all that debt is piling up disproportionately on women.

So while women may have the edge in "degrees" they also have the edge in "debt."

And where does this take us?

Imagine a world with a "negative wedding dowry" (please, take my daughter and her $100,000 USD of debt) and you'd see why marriages are failing and men are failing to take up seriously with women.

Little wonder more children than ever on on anti-depressants...

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