Silas Barta is not so sure he trusts the White House committee that decides which Americans will die based on criteria that are classified, and so he has created a Do Not Kill list.
On a more serious note, Silas has an interesting suggestion for those who take seriously the signalling model of education:
You might have heard about the so-called “Signaling model of eduction”, promoted by Bryan Caplan at GMU (among others!), and it’s something I find plausible.
First, some background: The problem is to explain why people who get a college education are more able to get jobs, and better paying ones. The traditional explanation is that colleges provide you with knowledge skills that allow you to be more productive. (This has always seemed suspicious to those of us who have remarked, throughout our education, that “I’m never gonna use this stuff” … and been mostly right.)
The signaling model, in contrast, says that completion of college simply reveals your possession of good traits for hiring that you already had before, but could not convincingly claim to have until you completed college, since a college degree indicates some combination of intelligence, willingness to do boring stuff that doesn’t make sense, and capacity to be indoctrinated into and conform with a group (I’m simplifying a bit). These things are hard to test in a job interview, or, in the case of intelligence, usually illegal to test for.
A few years ago, I pointed out (HT: Bob Murphy ) that one usefully testable implication of the signaling model is that you should be able to earn big profits by running a business that provides high school graduates with the same “signals of good qualities” that a college provides, but at significantly lower (monetary) cost to them, simply by “cutting out the fat” — all the stuff that doesn’t help to signal the student’s ability. You would just set up some school that filters students by IQ, and then puts them through hell, gives them difficult assignments, poor living conditions, etc. No way an unemployable person could survive through that kind of regimen, right?
So there’s your idea: you make students just as employable, but they don’t have to take on nearly as much debt.
To put this in terms that Bryan Caplan would appreciate: If the signalling model is correct, then why don’t we see all kinds of much-cheaper alternatives to college? Don’t tell me accreditation is screwing things up: That’s the beauty of this test–it shouldn’t depend on government standards at all (if Caplan is right), or if anything, accreditation should make it even easier for Caplanesque businessmen to earn a profit from jumping in. Everybody else in the industry is under the impression that employers want kids who actually know stuff like algebra and The Raven, but no they don’t–the employers just want a reliable signal about the intelligence and work ethic of potential new hires. There should be a humongous opening here for businesses to fill this niche in between cost of development, and the $20,000+ per student charged at some “institutions of higher learning.”
So what’s going on, Bryan? Why don’t we see such businesses? Why don’t you take your advance from Parents Don’t Matter and start it yourself?
(NOTE: Silas was not being sarcastic in his idea. Silas is open to Caplan’s theory about the purpose of education in today’s world. I am open to the idea too, except when it is promoted by Bryan Caplan.)