How People Get Good at Their Jobs: IDF Edition
By Bryan Caplan
Email from EconLog reader Joshua Fox, reprinted with his permission. There’s no reason, of course, that you couldn’t have a similar job training model without the injustice of conscription.
Bryan, I loved The Case Against Education.
Further support for your thesis comes from the Israel Defense Forces, where twenty-year-olds control air traffic, direct large organizations, and develop software.
In civilian life, such levels of responsibility would require an advanced education.
The IDF sorts candidates partially by their formal schooling. But since the process starts in the beginning of the senior year, and certainly before matriculation tests are finished, academic progress is not the most important criterion.
The IDF administers IQ tests. They also give personality tests (created by no other than Daniel Kahnemann!). Other markers of personal “quality” are used, with less weight, as for example leadership in extracurricular activities.
New soldiers get taught exactly the needed skills. For example, software developers get a few months of training focused on software development. The army allows a a few recruits in
relevant areas, like engineering and medicine, to delay their service until after their degree.
And amazingly, the software developers, air traffic controllers, medics and others seem to do as good a job as any in civilian life. In fact, their levels of responsibility would otherwise
require many years of experience, another twist on your thesis. And these soldiers are not just a select few: Israel has broad mandatory conscription.
The next questions are whether and why these soldiers have to step down to a lower level of responsibility when they enter civilian life, and whether and why they need a B.A. to get hired.
P.S. My four kids didn’t attend school.