Page One of My Next Book
By Bryan Caplan
I’ve started writing my next book, tentatively entitled The Case Against Education: A Professional Student Explains Why Our Education System is a Big Waste of Time and Money. Here’s page one:
I have been in school continuously for the last thirty two years. First pre-school, kindergarten, elementary, junior high, and high school. Then a four-year bachelor degree at UC Berkeley, followed by four years in a Ph.D. program at Princeton. This was immediately followed by what you could call my “first real job” – as a professor of economics at George Mason University. Ten years later, I’m still here.
The system has been good to me. Very good. I have a dream job for life. I am expected to teach six hours of class, thirty weeks per year. Unlike many professors, I love teaching; but even if I did not, 180 hours a year would be a light burden to bear. The rest of the time, I think, read, and write about whatever interests me. That’s called “research.” My salary does not make me wealthy, but I wouldn’t trade places with Bill Gates. I figure that Gates’ billions couldn’t buy me anything that I want that I don’t already have. And I bet that even in “retirement,” Gates has a lot of stress.
Personally, then, I have no reason to lash out at the education system. Quite the contrary. But three decades of experience, combined with two decades of reading and reflection, have convinced me that our educational system is a big waste of time and money. Practically every politician vows to spend more on education, and as an insider, I can’t helping asking “Why? Do you want us to waste even more?”
Most people who criticize our education system complain that we aren’t spending our money in the right way, or that ideologues-in-teachers’-clothes are leading our nation’s children down a dark path. While I mildly sympathize with some of these complaints, they often contradict what I see as the real problem with our educational system: There’s simply far too much education going on. The typical student burns up thousands of hours of his time learning about things that neither raise his productivity nor enrich his life. And of course, a student can’t waste thousands of hours of his time without real estate to do it in, or experts to show him how.