Bryan Caplan suggests that students in the bottom half of their class begin vocational education after elementary school. I recommend reading the whole post.
According to Caplan, a critic of his idea thinks this might:
…intensify the already severe problem of business brainwashing…[of] narrow materialism, unquestioning conformism, and outright deception…[and that] Academic education is a vital counterbalance [by teaching us] to challenge the status quo to think for ourselves, and appreciate the plurality of values.
Caplan has seven points for his critic to think about. I like this one:
Academic education does indeed instill a distinct set values. But I see near-zero evidence that schools encourage students to “think for themselves.”
I think what his critic really means by “think for ourselves” is to present a set of values that agrees with his own.
One point Caplan doesn’t mention: folks in the bottom half of the class probably won’t get whatever the academic world is trying to instill in them.
I don’t mean that they’re too dumb to get it.
I know quite a few people who were in the bottom half of their class. Part of the reason they were is because they seemed advanced in thinking for themselves and thought school was bullshit (looking back, I think their point has some merit).
They spent considerable time developing skills with something they enjoyed and are doing fine now doing something that uses those skills.
Plus, isn’t education supposed to teach us how to read, write and do arithmetic? If Caplan is accurately portraying his critic’s viewpoint, then I think he exemplifies one thing that’s wrong with education — the education body sees itself as “vital” for something other than education.
Update: For clarity, it wasn’t Caplan’s point that made me want to use cuss words, it was his critic’s. Also, while I agree with the intent of Caplan’s point, I don’t agree that it is as simple as putting the bottom half of the class through a vocation.
Rather, I think it is something that should be able to be done as a choice and not degraded as the ‘path for dummies.’
Also, I think that many vocations that are now achieved through the university track could easily be achieved through more of a vocational track. For example, I could have been successful in my former profession as an engineer with all the humanities hoopla added into my education by university requirements.
One of the unintended consequences of subsidizing college education has been the consolidation of vocational professions into universities.