Ben Casnocha: Comparing Modern Education to a Placebo:
Perhaps at some point it doesn't matter what actually happens during those four years; if the song-and-dance is elaborate enough, you will be convinced that education happened, and you will carry intellectual self-confidence with you into the world.
Does this phenomenon sound familiar?
If you want your headache to go away, it doesn't matter if you take real Advil or just something that looks and tastes like Advil -- the outcome is the same. The Placebo effect works. Why doesn't the same hold true for education?
Sridhar Vembu (CEO of Zoho.com) says something similar in a post on Why IT Happened in Southern India, an Unorthodox Explanation:
The education for the most past was poor quality, but that does not matter, because of what I have called the Placebo effect of education. What it confers is confidence, while the real knowledge is gained on the job - which is why dropping out of college doesn't do much damage to upper-middle-class kids, who presumably already have an ample supply of confidence.
Vembu actually has a longer post (from 2005) elaborating on the placebo effect of higher education (it's restricted to engineering education in Tamil Nadu).
Robin Hanson at Overcoming Bias: Why signals are shallow:
... academia is primarily an institution for credentialling folks as intellectually impressive ...
The previous link is a part of Hanson's debate with Andrew Gelman whose views are a lot more believable than those of Hanson's. Here's the order of the posts:
This "college education is an elaborate signalling game" meme is not really new: this post has a couple of links (and my own take on college education in the comments).
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Some unflattering views on higher ed
Posted by Abi. Posted at 5:50 PM