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Monday, June 29, 2009

Less is More

Thomas Sowell:

The representatives of the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities point to the fact that, in countries like Canada, Korea, and Japan, “more than 50 percent of young adults hold college degrees,” while only 41 percent do in the United States.

No reason is given why one of these numbers is better than another. Apparently the implicit assumption is that education is a “good thing” that it is always better to have more of. But, if that is the case, why 55 percent rather than 75 percent, 95 percent, or 100 percent?

Even food is not a “good thing” categorically, without limit. We can’t live without it but, beyond some point, it causes obesity and shortens our lives.

A certain amount of education is undoubtedly very beneficial for some people but, at some point, enough is enough, even for geniuses. For each individual, depending on that individual’s interests and dedication as well as ability, the time comes to leave the classroom and go out into the real world.

Posted by Richard Anderson on June 29, 2009 | Permalink


I remember someone I knew in university who was taking a bachelor's degree in "leisure studies". Unfortunately, too many people go to university to study bs like that on taxpayer dollar.

I like to see those numbers broken down by degree Publius. I think they would speak volumes.

Posted by: Charles | 2009-06-29 6:55:58 AM

There isn't a great deal of difference between 41 and 50 percent.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2009-06-29 7:48:19 AM

Sowell is a liar or a complete moron (or both). It took me about a minute using google to determine that his assertion that "no reason is given why one of these numbers is better than another" is false. In fact, they not only provide an extensive argument for their position, they give a reason in the very same sentence Sowell quotes. The full sentence is this: Given the impact education has on the economy, the U.S should set a goal of college degrees for at least 55% of its young adults by 2025. He might disagree with their reason, but to say they have none is exceptionally dishonest. Sowell is a jackass.

@Charles: The full 31-page paper is here: http://www.aplu.org/NetCommunity/Document.Doc?id=1672 They give lots of detailed statistics to answer your questions.

Posted by: Fact Check | 2009-06-29 9:52:28 AM

No amount of education is too much. I would argue that, given the political leanings of the professoriate along with the (University / College) PC environment of intolerance, that there can be too much "schooling". The current non-market based delivery system has no way of optimizing the level of schooling.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2009-06-29 10:54:34 AM

Charles is spot on. There are degrees and there are degrees. If one eliminates the "fluffy" degrees from the ones in science, math, engineering, medicine et cetera the number drops greatly.

Posted by: Alain | 2009-06-29 11:19:19 AM

I have seen the astounding lack of common sense in people who have been educated (or "schooled," to use John's term) beyond their intelligence. They have heads filled with ideas, but have no idea how to apply those ideas to life. All too often this leads to disillusionment, frustration, and bitterness, resulting in obnoxious hacks like Fact Check and TrueWest.

The terrible truth is that the majority of positions in the United States do not require a college diploma, much less a university degree. Cops have no use for BAs in criminology. Schoolteachers would be much better served by a teacher's college than a master's degree. Requiring lawyers and doctors to complete a four-year undergrad degree prior to commending their "real" studies is ridiculous. Universities are supposed to be institutions of higher learning, not job factories for the masses or places where academically mediocre rebels with rich parents can hide from the draft.

Oh, and did I mention that such commonsense measures would allow the next generation of young professionals to start their careers WITHOUT a six-figure debt load?

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-06-29 11:27:46 AM

Shane, I agree with most of what you said.

What is the correct level of education, and the correct % of the popolulation who should obtain colleg degrees? In a country free from government interference, that number would be exactly what supply and demand resulted in.

Posted by: TM | 2009-06-29 11:51:00 AM

Thanks FC. A stat doesn't mean anything if you don't look at how it was generated.

Posted by: Charles | 2009-06-29 12:26:25 PM

The population of the United states is bigger than Canada Korea and Japan combined. So 41% of 300+ million is still far more than 50% of 100 million.

Posted by: Sam T. | 2009-07-01 12:39:15 PM

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