Culture

Bryan Caplan’s Book and Some Thoughts on Classes that Matter

I’m a few chapters in to Bryan Caplan’s book The Case Against Education: Why The Education System is a Waste of Time and Money. (LINK)

I follow and appreciate Caplan so I had a good gist of the books main theme before I started. So far, he does a good job coloring in the narrative with details. The point is easily gleaned from the title. The underlying theme connects with the book by Caplan’s George Mason colleague Robin Hanson’s book The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life. (LINK).

Caplan’s point: We spend a ton of resources on a system that doesn’t do what it says it does–make us a more valuable work force–and does serve the purpose to signal productivity to future employers. The “so what” is that there’s probably a better way to do that. Hanson’s point that relates: the majority of things we humans do are related to signaling and not related to real returns or desires.

I recommend both books.

Caplan got me thinking about what classes I took in my life actually mattered. I have a graduate degree so I’ve taken a bunch. Surely some mattered. Here’s what I came up with. One qualifier, basic reading and numerology are assumed critical so I’ll skip.

Here goes, not in any order:

1-High school typing.

2-College Probabilities and Statistics

3-College Military History: Comparative General Staffs ( a class we researched civil war battles and had to write and defend papers on the actions of Union and Confederate General staffs)

4-Thermodynamics. Why? The idea of multiple variables moving along an efficient arc, pressure, mass, temperature, etc, has kept my view of the universe together. A bit quirky I know.

5-Special Operations Mission Planning (also known as “how to turn a rock head into a powerpoint genius)

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4 replies »

  1. I don’t remember a whole hell of a lot from my college classes. Only the ones where the instructor brought passion and insight and new ways of thinking excited me. What I do value the most from my graduate and post graduate schooling is learning how to discuss ideas not beliefs and listening to others. This is what I mourn the most for those who do not get to have that experience. I feel it is an invaluable experience and tool in learning to try and get along with others very different from yourself.

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  2. I don’t remember a whole hell of a lot from my college classes. Only the ones where the instructor brought passion and insight and new ways of thinking excited me. What I do value the most from my graduate and post graduate schooling is learning how to discuss ideas not beliefs and listening to others. This is what I mourn the most for those who do not get to have that experience. I feel it is an invaluable experience and tool in learning to try and get along with others very different from yourself.

    Like