Saturday, October 30, 2010

Higher Education Bubble Update; New York Daily News Calls It a "Government-Sanctioned Racket"

The College Board released new data this week on "Trends in College Pricing" for 2010, and reported that four-year public universities raised tuition this year by 8%, almost twice the 4.5% average increase for tuition at America's private universities.  That differential follows a well-established pattern over the last decade of higher tuition increases at America's public universities than at private schools (see the chart above).  Public university tuition has increased faster than private tuition in each of the last four years, and in eight out of the last nine years, by an average of 3% per year.  As the chart above shows, the trajectory of college tuition in the U.S. is on a path that makes the recent housing bubble seem like a minor historical footnote by comparison. 

In assessing the College Board data, a NY Times article "As College Fees Climb, Aid Does Too" finds some "good news," but only by reversing cause and effect:

"The good news in the 2010 “Trends in College Pricing” and “Trends in Student Aid” reports is that fast-rising tuition costs have been accompanied by a huge increase in financial aid, which helped keep down the actual amount students and families pay."

The New York Daily News does a much better job of reporting the true causal relationship in an editorial that could be titled "As College Financial Aid Climbs, Tuition Follows:"

"College financial aid comes largely from the federal government. Meaning, out of your pocket. And ours. And out of the pockets of families scraping to raise that extra 8% for tuition. A government-sanctioned racket is what it is. States cut back on assistance to schools, so the schools raise tuition. Then the feds jump in, dish out billions in taxpayer dollars in student aid, and tuition goes up again. And again (see chart above).

Meanwhile, those fortunate folks who inhabit the groves of academe feel absolutely no need to hold the line on expenses. They ought to be ashamed, most of all for sending so many graduates out into the world with diplomas and loan statements showing a near-lifetime's worth of debt."

And this ongoing "higher education bubble" is especially troubling at a time when economist Richard Vedder reported recently that millions of students with college degrees not only graduate with debt, but "are doing jobs that the BLS says require less than the skill levels associated with a bachelor’s degree."  Some of those jobs include bartenders, janitors, and food preparation workers, all the more reason to call it a "government-sanctioned racket."

Thanks to Gregory Tetrault. 

54 Comments:

At 10/30/2010 12:37 PM, Blogger Ironman said...

The link is more direct than most people realize - up until 2009, when total federal spending exploded, there's almost a perfect correlation between the growth of total federal spending and the average annual tuition at four-year universities.

Needless to say, we've developed a tool you can use to forecast what the cost of higher education will be based upon the projected growth of federal spending.

Also, here's a little different analysis that confirms higher education is indeed in an economic bubble - it has become decoupled from changes in the median household income in the U.S., beginning around 1990.

 
At 10/30/2010 12:49 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Is the only purpose for attending college to acquire the skills the BLS says you need for a job? I have this discussion with my college students often (who I admit, I am holding captive). I would like a dollar for everytime I explained why writing skills are important in any job.

College also has to fix the failure to learn the very basics in high school. I am always surprised when over half the class cannot figure the total invoice price for a 25% retail mark-up on the wholesale price of parts with a 6% sales tax added on. One student also thought his take-home pay would be $2800 for 52 hours work at $12-per-hour with anything over 40 hours at time-and-a-half and taxes witheld of 25%. I bet he is going to be surprised when he gets a job!

 
At 10/30/2010 12:51 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Oops. Every time.

 
At 10/30/2010 1:33 PM, Blogger hal said...

higher education (in fact all educational services) should grow like a business. Colleges should admit anyone who can pay tuition, and increase supply, enrollment, as needed. They should also have campuses wherever there is demand.

 
At 10/30/2010 1:59 PM, Blogger Plans to Prosper said...

Walt, writing skills are NOT important for every job. In particular, the "bartenders, janitors, and food preparation workers" mentioned above don't need much more than basic literacy skills for those jobs.

 
At 10/30/2010 3:18 PM, OpenID Sprewell said...

Mark, you missed the best writeup of these price increases, which of course is in the WSJ. :) While true that public school tuitions are rising faster, the WSJ shows that private tuition is still 125% higher, so public schools have a long way to go to get to that level of gouging. ;) It's possible the private schools have less economies of scale, since the public universities tend to be huge, but I suspect the biggest factor in the price difference is that they simply gouge their students a lot more, partially because dumb parents are willing to pay for the luxury good of having their kid stamped with the private school "brand." I wonder how much govt grants contribute to the very high private tuitions: it would be interesting to see a stat of how much their revenues are federally funded vs the public schools' percentage.

Walt, while writing can be an important skill for many white-collar jobs, it is often taught very badly most places, with antiquated and mostly useless reading of "literature" rather than anything worthwhile. Another reason why most education is worthless is that educators, such as yourself, don't understand that subjects of the sort you think are "basic" are useless these days. Your student won't have to do any of that math, he'll just use software like Quicken that will do the math for him. :) He should have a basic fluency with some general mathematical concepts, like 5 + 5 represents putting five things with five other things and counting how many there are after or that 50% represents half, but all the computation is best done by the calculator on his smartphone or by software on his computer.

I'm sanguine about the mess that education is in however, as online learning will soon destroy it. We can debate all we want about the basic minimum that most people should know, but in the highly competitive online learning environment that is now being built, this will all be tested empirically and will be done at a fraction of the cost of the current education system. So the current schools and colleges can gouge all they want, all it means is that they will go out of business all the faster as online education takes off and they're completely unable to compete. :D I for one will be laughing my ass off at all the worthless teachers and "administrators" who will be thrown out into the streets when all the schools and colleges go bankrupt, just as I enjoy all the leftie reporters being sacked today as the newspapers go under. :) The leftie constituencies are self-destroying, as all they do is use the govt to rob from the populace and get fat in certain protected sectors, but when technology comes along to render that protection ineffective, they are completely decimated because of decades spent getting fat without competing.

 
At 10/30/2010 3:45 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Plan to Prosper: How about when you want to write your Congressman to complain about the new 20% tip he wants to put on tips to balance the budget? Do you think a letter using crayons and words spelled wrong is persuasive or convincing? Do you think it is important to know there is a literal difference between persuasion and convincing and when to use one or the other?

Sprewell: Any of my students who cannot correctly add or multiply amounts on an invoice and present it to the customer will not have a job performing service calls on customers. If they cannot perform service calls on customers they are not employable in the field.

The students who provided the wrong answers used calculators because I required them to be used to eliminate the "I just added or multiplied wrong" excuse that I knew I would receive otherwise. I've been at this a while :)

I think you are correct about online education. At least I hope you are because developing and writing curriculum for hybrid and online courses is my newest job.

 
At 10/30/2010 4:39 PM, Blogger Frank said...

Walt and Sprewell are both right on. ANYTHING you want to learn, you can learn for free on internet; well, maybe not brain surgery or ballet dancing or other "hands-on" skills.

As far as math, I always estimate in my head about what an answer should be, and THEN use the calculator to get the exact amounts.

As for writing and reading, even if you don't use them precisely in your work, it makes life a whole lot better and civilized, no?

 
At 10/30/2010 7:34 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

Private universities have enormous drop out rates.

 
At 10/30/2010 7:39 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

Sprewell obviously learned nothing in school.

 
At 10/30/2010 8:55 PM, OpenID Sprewell said...

Walt, bad example of why writing matters, nobody reads those letters sent to congressmen, certainly not the congressmen. ;) And nobody uses letters or crayons these days, ever heard of email? ;) Whatever you may think the difference is between persuasion and convincing, I guarantee that nobody's learning it in school. :) I'm not sure what your students do but I suspect none of them will be adding or invoicing anything once they get on the job. When I got cable internet service hooked up recently, the cable technician who strung the wire and hooked up my cable modem showed off his latest Android smartphone that he uses on the job. Not only does it let him take calls on the go and quickly change his schedule, he can use it to remotely access their company website and whatever service call info he needs. Tools like these have obsoleted your old-fashioned processes and notions of what knowledge is "necessary." ;) As for the kids who didn't know how to get your answer even with a calculator, I suspect they will almost never have to use a calculator in their life- how many people actually bust out the computer-generated grocery bill given to them and check the math?- but obviously some people don't know how to use calculators either. Good luck with your online work, I expect it to be a flourishing sector over the next decade, at the expense of the current schools/colleges that will be destroyed. :)

Frank, it's precisely that sort of estimation that is much more important. In trying to force the useless computation into students' heads, most teachers don't even bother getting the much more basic orders of magnitude math taught, which explains the fundamental numerical illiteracy of most journalists, for example. Some people may think learning to appreciate the opera makes life more "civilized," but we don't force students to sit through that thankfully. ;) Some amount of basic writing and reading is needed, but certainly not the decade of reading ancient crap like A Tale of Two Cities or The Great Gatsby that is forced on most students today.

Hydra, thank you for repeating my point that nobody learns anything in school, but at least some of us are capable of learning outside of it. :D

 
At 10/31/2010 2:33 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"The students who provided the wrong answers used calculators because I required them to be used to eliminate the "I just added or multiplied wrong" excuse that I knew I would receive otherwise. I've been at this a while :)"

OOps! I must have mis-keyed.

 
At 10/31/2010 2:44 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

There's a limited supply of prestigious U.S. colleges with demand exceeding supply. So, the quantity of prestigious U.S. colleges increased.

How competition for the best students, faculty and facilities -- and rankings -- sends tuition soaring
Nov. 8, 2006

For the past 40 years Cornell's tuition has outpaced the Consumer Price Index (CPI) by 2 to 3 percent annually.

Why? The simple answer is that Cornell offers a premium product (an education at an elite institution) in an extremely competitive market, and to stay ahead of the pack, the university must keep getting the best students, faculty and facilities -- and the best rankings. And that costs a lot of money.

However, competition for students, faculty and top facilities explain only some of the reasons behind these staggering increases; the fuller explanation is far more complex.

Experts' explanations as to why tuition costs so much and keeps going up:

The "root cause" of the continual increase in tuition "is the failure of faculty productivity to grow." In other words, "Our output in terms of the numbers of students we are educating doesn't change." Although Cornell keeps getting better, it does not become more efficient by teaching more students, because that is not in students' best interest.

 
At 10/31/2010 2:45 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Continued...

Many other factors also contribute to tuition inflation:

•Graduate education -- More graduate education is offered than in the past, which is more expensive than undergraduate education.

•Faculty salaries -- Over the past 40 years Cornell has had to increase tuition by 2 to 3 percent annually to help prevent faculty salaries from slipping behind those at other leading universities. Keeping faculty happy is critical to retaining them.

•Student expectations -- Although the quality of life and education on campus keeps improving -- with food courts, state-of-the-art classrooms, modern living-learning residence halls and new fitness centers, for example -- changes in tuition do not adjust for or give "credit" for improved product quality.

•Less research support -- The federal government gives higher education less money for research even while the cost of research has skyrocketed. That puts more pressure on the rest of the budget, making less money available to defray the cost of tuition.

•Alumni support -- Alumni give generously, but often to specific programs. Gifts often fail to support a program in full, so the university must make up the shortfall.

•Maintaining rankings -- Higher rankings lead to more applications, allowing Cornell to be more selective; as a result, the quality of students goes up. However, this tends to increase financial-aid expenditures in order to compete with other elite universities for top students. Also, how much the university spends per student for education and maintaining a low student/ faculty ratio both weigh heavily in determining rankings. Any slippage in the rankings is extremely costly to the institution.

Other factors for the rising cost of education:

•The rapid growth of administrative staff (including staff to support a sophisticated technology infrastructure), which has risen 123 percent in the last 15 years.

•Increasingly expensive laboratories and library materials.

•Increase in marketing to woo top students. "While the additional spending adds to the cost burden, it has little impact on the ultimate distribution of students."

•Enhanced career counseling and job placement services in the effort to attract top students.

•Financial aid -- The competition for top students has become increasingly fierce. Yet, federal assistance (Pell and TAP awards, for example) has failed to keep up with inflation, and more tuition dollars are needed for financial aid. In 1976-77, tuition and fees provided 27 percent of the university's revenue and government appropriations provided 28 percent; in 2006-07, tuition and fees provided 35 percent of the revenue while government support had shrunk to 10 percent. As a result, Cornell makes up the difference.

 
At 10/31/2010 2:45 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 10/31/2010 3:31 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

"Quality education is not the accumulation of data. An inanimate computer hard drive can do that.

Quality education is the nurturing and development of curiosity, creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, wisdom, ethical sensibility, and judgment.

Quality education mediates between what's in the books and what's on the streets, between cosmic theory and common sense.

Quality education instills the humility and grace to know that you don't know it all."

 
At 10/31/2010 4:13 AM, OpenID Sprewell said...

PeakTrader, what a bunch of marketing claptrap in that first excerpt of yours. Oh, I see, faculty need be "happy," so we need to pay them a ton more, far more than the rate of inflation. I wonder how many other worthless employees would like such a deal. As for a "quality education," anybody is free to pursue that on their own, just stop asking taxpayers to pay for yours. If you think any college has ever done a good job of nurturing curiousity or critical thinking, you are far too naive about what goes on in a university. Rather than promoting fantasies of what a "quality education" should consist of: online learning will give people choice, the ability to learn whatever best suits their needs and desires. That is one of the main reasons it will destroy the current university system, among many others.

 
At 10/31/2010 5:47 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Sprewell, why do these high-tech firms waste their money on campus-style workplaces when everyone can work at home on the computer?

Why do these workers deserve raises, beyond increases in the cost of living, for basically a knowledge-based economy?

Why not take online courses and print out all the college degrees you want rather than go through the inconvenience of rigorous programs in school?

Why waste your time on "curiousity or critical thinking" questioning why?

 
At 10/31/2010 8:35 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Sprewell,

HVAC technicians who work for small heating and cooling contractors are years away from having the technology you describe. The big companies do have what you describe, but most technicians starting out have to work for 2 or 3 years at the small companies at $8 to $15- per-hour with no benefits to get the experience required for the really good jobs that tend to be at the bigger companies and corporations ($20 to $40-per hour and benefits). No experience, no good paying job.

If a technician undercharges the customer, the company eats the difference because they realistically cannot go back to the customer and ask for more money. The customer is elated if they notice, but they wonder how you can run a business that way (bad). If a technician charges too much, either the customer notices and has to correct the employee (bad), or they don't. If they don't notice, they wonder why your service cost more than your competitors, they tell all your friends you are too expensive, and they never call you back (bad, bad). Talk about a lose-lose situation--screwing up invoices is a huge one.

Want my suggestion? Learn the simple math if you want a job. Most of my students who struggle with math also struggle with technology anyhow (and poor, poor organizational skills).

Sprewell: "If you think any college has ever done a good job of nurturing curiousity [sic] or critical thinking, you are far too naive about what goes on in a university."

Sprewell, I hear your statement above almost everyday from people who I work with (or something along the same line). As far as I know, I have never heard it from someone who actually attended college long enough to say they attended college (never went or quickly dropped out). Feel free to reply back and let me know if you are the exception to my observation.

FYI: My Congressman reads and often replies to my letters. I know that because he discusses them with me when I see him.

 
At 10/31/2010 9:35 AM, Blogger juandos said...

'Richard Vedder reported recently that millions of students with college degrees not only graduate with debt, but "are doing jobs that the BLS says require less than the skill levels associated with a bachelor’s degree."'...

Hmmm, should college be considered a 'trade school'?

 
At 10/31/2010 9:43 AM, Blogger juandos said...

Thomas Woods Jr. writting in the Mies Institute: Nullification: What You'll Never Learn in School

'Nullification is the Jeffersonian idea that the states of the American Union must judge the constitutionality of the acts of their agent, the federal government, since no impartial arbiter between them exists. When the federal government exercises a particularly dangerous power not delegated to it, the states must refuse to allow its enforcement within their borders'...

 
At 10/31/2010 10:32 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

"Hmmm, should college be considered a 'trade school'?"

Could be. Not everyone needs college, but most indicators point toward everyone needing training of some sort past high school. The people who don't believe that might consider sleeping with a cardboard box over their head as moving up in the world.

 
At 10/31/2010 8:36 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

It's possible the private schools have less economies of scale, since the public universities tend to be huge, but I suspect the biggest factor in the price difference is that they simply gouge their students a lot more, partially because dumb parents are willing to pay for the luxury good of having their kid stamped with the private school "brand."...

That tends not to be how things work. Parents pay more because usually the private schools offer better education and allow their students to get better jobs that pay more.

 
At 11/01/2010 12:23 AM, OpenID Sprewell said...

PeakTrader, I'll tell you why they were wasting their money on campus-style workplaces, because they are stupid, though not sure what that has to do with education. Nobody "deserves" raises, they earn it through outcompeting others or they don't get one, at least in sectors that aren't highly regulated and wasteful like education. And since most outside education haven't been getting raises after inflation, I don't see the point of your question. Not sure why you think someone would take an online course to "print out" another worthless college degree, my whole point is that online learning will be much more customized and specific. Most college degrees aren't "rigorous" either. Obviously I'm not against curiosity or critical thinking or I wouldn't be bringing up this line of reasoning in the first place. ;) What I do question is the fatuous notion that forcing a "liberal education" on people is somehow worthwhile.

Walt, there's nothing special about the tech I describe, it has been very affordable for a while. I understand that most of the smaller contractors might be fairly backwards and still making the transition, but it's not going to be long before they're all using similar software. My point is that invoicing shouldn't be handled by the technicians anyway and to the limited extent it has been, it soon won't be at all. I'm telling you that math is useless for 99.9% of the population, just as shoeing a horse or running a printing press are useless skills. :) While some kids who struggle with math may also struggle with tech, there are a lot of highly technically adept people who don't know much math so whatever connection you are trying to make is invalid. Why would people you know blame universities for not being very good if they have never attended one? Are they business types who never attended college while building their own careers and are amazed at the helplessness of the college graduates they now deal with? That makes sense to me. ;) I have no idea who makes such claims more often but obviously your real aim is to suggest that I just haven't attended college, far from it. I know of what I speak, having attended a college that was in the top 5 for my engineering discipline and then joining grad school there too. But of course you resort to ad hominem suggestions because you can't make a case on the actual facts. :) Your congressman may have nothing better to do than read your letters, but most don't and can't, considering the flood of emails they get. Considering most people don't get any kind of post-high school "training," you have a pretty distorted view of the world if you think all those people live in cardboard boxes.

Vange, ah yes, I've never heard of a bunch of private school kids working as "bartenders, janitors," and waiters, as the original post said. ;) Keep living in your dream world, must be nicer than facing reality.

 
At 11/01/2010 5:18 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Sprewell,

"But of course you resort to ad hominem suggestions because you can't make a case on the actual facts. :)" I clearly stated that I was making personal observations and not providing facts. I am around a lot more people who did not go to college than did, so my sample is not random for scientific purposes. I meant no offense. Thanks for the reply.

The employers come to our job fairs and tell us what they want us to teach our students so they will hire them. Math and writing are at the top of the list along with soft skills of how to deal with customers. For some reason, incorrect amounts and incorrectly spelled words on invoices bother them along with rude employees who cannot deal with people. Apparently they think that's what they need from us to run a profitable business, so it really does not matter what you or I think. We either deliver, or we don’t work, too.

FYI: If you want to elevate your message above all the others to your Congressman, don't use email. Use a typed or nicely handwritten letter (NOT A FORM LETTER) to your representative using proper protocols. Don't just vent and tell him or her all of your problems. Offer a solution to one well-defined problem. Offer a solution that makes a noticeable difference. Offer a solution that possibly results in votes or money (but don't offer a bribe or insult their integrity!!--yea, they have one). If done correctly, you will be noticed.

 
At 11/01/2010 7:20 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

Not sure why you think someone would take an online course to "print out" another worthless college degree, my whole point is that online learning will be much more customized and specific.

It is obvious that some people will take courses that are not meaningful just to get a degree because they require one. But it is also obvious that there is a need for customized and focused programs that can be delivered on-line cheaply and effectively. I suspect that many young men and women will take such courses while they are working part or full time as a way to get both experience and an education.

Most college degrees aren't "rigorous" either.

Absolutely right. You can take useless courses that do you more harm than good even in the most expensive Ivy League schools.

I'm telling you that math is useless for 99.9% of the population, just as shoeing a horse or running a printing press are useless skills. :)

Here I disagree. If you can't think mathematically you might as well be mentally retarded and only partially human. Math skills are important to life itself, not just a job.

Vange, ah yes, I've never heard of a bunch of private school kids working as "bartenders, janitors," and waiters, as the original post said. ;) Keep living in your dream world, must be nicer than facing reality.

You are confused. I never said that an expensive private school education will get you a meaningful or high paying job. I simply wrote that they will usually give you a better opportunity if you choose to take it. Of course, if you go to Harvard and take useless courses that will not prepare you for life or if you refuse to improve your judgment or critical thinking skills you cannot blame the institution for your failings.

 
At 11/01/2010 8:42 PM, OpenID Sprewell said...

Walt, you may be right that many employers are fairly backwards and think that their employees will have to do math. As for writing, I've already pointed out that reading "english literature" is not good training for communication through writing. The calculation you have to make is whether companies who give their employees the cheap invoicing and other software that now exists will put out of business the companies that make their employees do the math themselves. If anyone in education could actually reason, they would clearly choose the former but they obviously won't, which is great as far as I'm concerned because they will go out of business that much faster. :) FYI, I would never send any communication to the local congressman, other than perhaps voting occasionally, as he's largely an irrelevance in my life and those of most people.

Vange, online learning will kill off the degree, just you wait. :) As for math, I think you've lost the distinction I made between being able to reason about estimation and logic vs the computation required to actually produce precise final amounts, the latter of which is what is largely taught as math today. Please reread exactly what I wrote earlier. Your argument is equivalent to saying one is mentally or physically retarded because you don't wash your clothes and let a washing machine do it for you. ;) As usual, whenever you make assertions about how everyone else is confused, it is inevitably you that is wrong. :) It's not just about private schools guaranteeing a job, it's about their being a horrible value, a huge price bump over public education for minimal to no average gain.

Further, I find it hilarious that anyone could think that simply by taking "useful" courses one can actually learn to reason or think critically at a university. :D While it is true that it helps to think critically by reading recent thinkers or their arguments, it is so far from what is necessary to learn to reason that current universities are essentially cargo cults, "If we just force our students to read a bunch of books, maybe they will somehow teach themselves to reason." :) While it's an open question if anyone can be "taught" critical thinking, current colleges actually harm critical thinking through campus speech codes put in by their PC police and advancing dumb ideas as gospel, as juandos pointed out with how they give short shrift to nullification.

 
At 11/02/2010 8:04 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

"FYI, I would never send any communication to the local congressman, other than perhaps voting occasionally, as he's largely an irrelevance in my life and those of most people."

Thanks, Sprewell. Your lack of an opposing viewpoint could tend to my position stronger. My viewpoints are not always popular ;) Fell free to not vote anytime you want, too.

 
At 11/02/2010 2:37 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

The calculation you have to make is whether companies who give their employees the cheap invoicing and other software that now exists will put out of business the companies that make their employees do the math themselves.

Obviously a company will provide employees with the best tools possible because it wants to increase productivity.

But you are taking a very superficial position yet again by assuming that the only use for a decent education in mathematics is to do simple tasks like adding or filling out invoices. It isn't. You want people who have skills in mathematics because people who are used to thinking logically and can solve problems are much more useful than illiterate automatons.

 
At 11/02/2010 3:03 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Vange, online learning will kill off the degree, just you wait. :)

If you are saying that more degrees will be earned on line I could naot agree more. There is clearly a bubble in bricks and mortar education that will have to be popped and will be popped.

As for math, I think you've lost the distinction I made between being able to reason about estimation and logic vs the computation required to actually produce precise final amounts, the latter of which is what is largely taught as math today.

I did not miss it. I think that filling out invoices is a minor part that will have little to do with math skills because software packages will handle most of the details.

Please reread exactly what I wrote earlier. Your argument is equivalent to saying one is mentally or physically retarded because you don't wash your clothes and let a washing machine do it for you. ;)

No. I accept the fact that it is better to let a computer add up a long string of numbers than to waste time by doing it in your head. I just do not think that people who fill out invoices is what makes a company great. You try to be a machinist, lathe operator, sheet metal mechanic, accountant, tool maker, scheduler, production manager, or an engineer without having a decent understanding of mathematics.

As usual, whenever you make assertions about how everyone else is confused, it is inevitably you that is wrong. :)

No. You simply take a very superficial position and look at something that few will disagree with and turn it into a straw man.

It's not just about private schools guaranteeing a job, it's about their being a horrible value, a huge price bump over public education for minimal to no average gain.

I would not disagree that some private schools are a terrible deal and am certainly discouraging my soon to be twelve-year old son from going to Yale or Princeton, which are two of his choices at this time. But for some people those schools make a huge difference and are a great deal. One of my frineds has a pal who had a hockey playing son who attended an Ivy League school on a partial academic scholarship that still had him paying more than he would at a typical public school that offered full scholarships. In his third year the kid blew out a ligament in a knee and had a broken collar bone. While his career ended the fact that he went to the right school and played a major sport got him a job on Wall Street that meant a job that wound up paying more than $500K per year after a few years. Seven years after he started the kid retired with a huge chunk of cash and now owns a golf course, a huge ranch and a piece of some small market team in Western Canada. The last I heard he was going back into the business on the natural resources side. If he plays his cards right he will make another fortune by selling gold, oil, and ag stocks to his old clients for another five or so years and may actually have enough cash to buy a pro team, which is supposedly his goal.

You could argue that he was an idiot for paying $30K a year more than he should have but he and his parents knew that he did not have the skills to be a pro and that the connections that he would get would pay off in the long run. All he had to do is mention the school and the doors to a good future opened up. This is all situational and depends on the individual. While most people would be better off paying as little as possible for an education and hitting the workforce sooner private school can be a great deal for those that plan right and have above average intelligence.

Further, I find it hilarious that anyone could think that simply by taking "useful" courses one can actually learn to reason or think critically at a university.

Try taking a logic course.

 
At 11/02/2010 3:15 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

While it is true that it helps to think critically by reading recent thinkers or their arguments, it is so far from what is necessary to learn to reason that current universities are essentially cargo cults, "If we just force our students to read a bunch of books, maybe they will somehow teach themselves to reason."

I think that you need to go back and look at Machiavelli's description of the three types of minds. What you are talking about are the B minds but those don't really concern me because if you need to depend on the writing and thinking of others you have a serious problem understanding the world as it is.

What concerns me is the A mind; the type that can think on its own. For that kind of mind reading the thoughts of others is important only to dismiss dead ends and false trails and to focus on what matters. Such a mind can easily interpret (and reason about) the world by applying the right tools to all kinds of diverse areas of thought. To that mind the exposure is very important because there is no need to reinvent what other great minds have done. The exposure will not help the B mind nearly as much but it will help avoid pitfalls that come from not understanding the world at all.

While it's an open question if anyone can be "taught" critical thinking, current colleges actually harm critical thinking through campus speech codes put in by their PC police and advancing dumb ideas as gospel, as juandos pointed out with how they give short shrift to nullification.

I agree that the US university system kills critical thinking. For an interesting contrast hang out near a speaker's corner at a typical Chinese university where you will hear argument that would never be permitted on a US campus that cares more abut political correctness than truth.

 
At 11/03/2010 8:04 PM, OpenID Sprewell said...

Walt, not voicing my opinion to a useless public flunkie is not a lack of a contrary viewpoint, ;) but yeah, I don't bother voting most of the time either. Generally speaking, those of us who don't bother do far better than those who look for govt to watch out for them, as you apparently do.

Vange, I addressed the point that Walt raised about invoicing; if you find it superficial, blame him, not me. I'll note that he and I actually listed concrete examples, while you haven't been able to muster up any in your multiple comments, so perhaps you shouldn't be accusing others of taking "superficial" positions. ;) Thinking logically and solving problems are different from doing math, again a point that I already made that you cannot seem to grasp, perhaps because you don't know how to think logically? ;) No, no degrees will be earned online, you will simply get certified in various subjects. Some people will choose to get certified in organic chemistry and botany, others in copywriting and editing, ie what are considered "courses" now will become separate certifications online. A student will post his list of certifications to an online database and people looking for help will filter based on the certifications and experience they want. This has almost no connection to the monolithic degree and its constituent coursework, that is largely ignored today. I'm glad you see that invoicing will be done by software, now try to back up your claims by mustering up a counter-example where a person needs to do the math. How much "math" do a lathe operator or scheduler do? Most of the math even in all the mildly to more technical jobs you list can and will be done by software. I don't understand how accountants even have jobs these days, but to the extent they do, they're not doing "math." Haha, I don't think a linguistic expert coud figure out what taking "a very superficial position and look at something that few will disagree with and turn it into a straw man" is supposed to mean. :D

 
At 11/03/2010 8:04 PM, OpenID Sprewell said...

My point is that all schools are a horrible deal and the private schools are the worst. While I'm sure the hockey player in your anecdote might have had some doors opened by his Ivy degree, it's certainly not what got him the $500k salary, that would be the work he put in. Correlation is not causation, particularly not with a single sample. ;) If he's really selling gold/oil/ag, I suspect he will blow whatever cash he has now, let alone make more. :) All current education, including private school, is primarily a signaling mechanism: you signal your ability by going there and doing difficult but largely useless work. What you don't seem to get is that the kids who did get in to those universities would do just as well if they didn't, presumably because you're the type of person who would actually find anything of value in a "logic" course. :) In your thesis about A/B minds, you nowhere address my point that universities are merely forcing the students to read a bit and charging huge sums for sitting around doing essentially nothing while the students read, so nothing to add there. Never been to China, glad to hear they're ranging widely in their discussions but considering how much of a joke their political system is, they have a long way to go to get anywhere with that.

 
At 11/03/2010 8:23 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Vange, I addressed the point that Walt raised about invoicing; if you find it superficial, blame him, not me. I'll note that he and I actually listed concrete examples, while you haven't been able to muster up any in your multiple comments, so perhaps you shouldn't be accusing others of taking "superficial" positions.

Sorry but I find arguments about the use of math for a purpose as mundane as filling out invoices very superficial. As I stated, that is not the reason why one needs a mathematical education because such a job can be done by any idiot who can punch numbers into a software program that does all the work.

You need math for simple daily living and planning. I just attended an information program about a pension wind up plan and was shocked at the ignorance that I found among the participants. Simple concepts that could be followed by an average person of average intelligence with an average education in mathematics and logic was beyond most in the crowd, which is why most of the participants will wind up making terrible choices and wind up eating dog food before they die or wind up losing their lump sum payments because they were scammed by people who understood mathematics a bit better.

I go back to the water-bug example that my grandfather always gave. If you do not have the right education to understand reality you wind up as one of those water-bugs that lives on the surface of a pond. Life will be very very limited and very superficial because without the right education one cannot escape the limitations imposed on us by that ignorance. Like that little water-bug we will not be able to experience the richness of what is below the surface and know what is really possible.

 
At 11/03/2010 8:52 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Thinking logically and solving problems are different from doing math, again a point that I already made that you cannot seem to grasp, perhaps because you don't know how to think logically? ;)

You may well be correct but I have always considered a logical mind to be a mind that is also mathematical and consider a person who is poor at mathematics to be ill equipped to be as logical as one who is good as one who is good at mathematics.

Let me point out here that if look at the kind of crap that comes out of the soft sciences we have to conclude that knowledge of mathematics and logic are still not sufficient for a decent education. A logical mind would reject most of the papers that are presented and published in the soft sciences, which is why physicists, chemists, molecular biologists, and mathematicians have such disdain for ecologists, psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, or evolutionary biologists.

Let me remind readers that most members of the latter group are not exactly ignorant of mathematics or even logic. Their problem is that the knowledge of both is insufficient to be applied in the way that the researchers want, which is why they are incapable of doing much to advance knowledge in a meaningful way.

Perhaps I am making my point badly. To be a serious and mindful person one needs to have a broad education of which mathematics and logic are very important. Now it is very possible to be fat, dumb, and happy in this world by not having such an education. In fact, most people are quite happy being limited just like those little water bugs who also don't know better. My point is that a truly authentic and full human life requires that we take the time and energy to obtain a good education that would allow us to distinguish between truth and illusion and to truly experience a full life if that is what we wish. Sadly, most people fail because when they get their education they base their beliefs on premises that are not true and build logical structures on myths and lies that are not reflective of what the real world is like.

 
At 11/03/2010 9:01 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

No, no degrees will be earned online, you will simply get certified in various subjects. Some people will choose to get certified in organic chemistry and botany, others in copywriting and editing, ie what are considered "courses" now will become separate certifications online.

One can get a degree on-line if that is what is desired. So I will disagree with your point that degrees will not be granted because I still feel that societal momentum will continue to assign value to degrees. And if people want them the market will provide.

But you are right if you are implying that many employers will be looking for little more from a program other than certification that shows that an employee is likely to be competent in a particular skill that is required for a particular position.

This has almost no connection to the monolithic degree and its constituent coursework, that is largely ignored today.

I disagree. While competence in certain skills is very important an organization requires coordination of different activities and skill sets in ever changing environments. That will mean demand for people who are good at such functions and who provide the lubricant that reduces the friction that is inherent in certain organizational structures. There will always be room for the thinker, designer, and critic who can look at the various pieces and see how they need to fit together or where changes will need to be made so that all of the efforts are better focused and creating a better outcome.

 
At 11/03/2010 9:28 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

I'm glad you see that invoicing will be done by software, now try to back up your claims by mustering up a counter-example where a person needs to do the math.

I said that I do not care about invoicing because it is a very low value added function that will be eliminated by the engineering and math geeks who create the systems in the first place. The value does not come from people doing mindless tasks like data entry but from the creative types who are actually involved in the design, development and production of a good or service. Your obsession with the superficial and mundane is very puzzling.

How much "math" do a lathe operator or scheduler do?

Quite a bit actually. You try and reschedule all direct and support activities in a process without understanding mathematical concepts. And the machinists and lathe operators that I used to work with had to use mathematics to figure out exactly how to produce many of the products that they had to make.

Most of the math even in all the mildly to more technical jobs you list can and will be done by software.

That is not true. There are many small batch operations around that cannot justify automating all of the functions necessary to make a particular product. The people who make heavy equipment, aircraft, custom pumps, compressors, or electric motors, custom structures, oil services equipment, etc., etc., etc., will still have to know how to perform mathematical operations to understand their jobs.

I don't understand how accountants even have jobs these days, but to the extent they do, they're not doing "math."

Really? How do you look at a balance sheet or income statement and understand that there is a problem if you don't understand or 'do' math? Do you ever read how Buffett figures out whether it makes sense for him to buy a company? You think that he would be better if he used a computer program to try and see what he does?

Haha, I don't think a linguistic expert coud figure out what taking "a very superficial position and look at something that few will disagree with and turn it into a straw man" is supposed to mean.

You are a very superficial person who does not seem to understand the real world and thinks that it can be replicated by a computer generated facsimile. Well, things do not work that way in the real world. There a mathematical education is essential for many jobs and certainly is a huge advantage for people who want to be successful. Buffett is rich because he can figure out what is essential and do the basic calculations in his head or on the back of an envelope, not because he knows how to use Excel.

 
At 11/03/2010 9:49 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

My point is that all schools are a horrible deal and the private schools are the worst.

But that is not true. All schools are not a horrible deal and the private schools are not the worst.

As an example, if you want to be a lawyer a higher tier expensive school like Harvard will give you significantly better and more numerous recruiting opportunities than a lower tiered school.

If we look at the general return from an average education we find a return on our undergraduate investment of around 13% to 17%, which is not too bad. In a country like Canada an average high school graduate will earn around $800,000 less than the average person who has a BA. That means that for the average person it still makes sense to get a university degree. Of course, if you want to argue that returns would improve if fewer people took stupid courses that did not really help them learn a skill or improve their education I would be happy to agree. Get rid of such programs and courses and the returns are amplified by a great deal more.

My thinking is a bit different. First, I think that adolescence is a modern invention rather than a real condition. I think that young people are very capable and could be encouraged and pushed to learn more faster and to get out in the real world much sooner. For kids who have what it takes it makes sense to begin taking on-line courses as quickly as possible and get a degree and a set of skills that are marketable as early as possible.

 
At 11/07/2010 11:38 PM, OpenID Sprewell said...

Vange, knowing mathematics wouldn't have helped the people at your pension information program either, they could use software for that also. What they should instead focus on is the high-level analysis of the pension plans: what markets are these plans going to invest in, what is their historical track record, and are the returns competitive with other plans, no math necessary for any of that. It is very likely however that most would be lost with software also, but if someone is that clueless they are better off giving control to their family members and are very likely to get scammed no matter what. Most people are water bugs because it is impossible to understand very much of the complexity of life: what's important is not trying to understand any big piece of it but avoiding making bets in the areas you don't understand. While mathematics employs particular types of logic, there's not much correlation between that and the high-level reasoning and more fuzzy, probabilistic logic that is really valuable in life, which is why most math-adepts don't do that great in life. :) I will point out that the hard sciences have lots of math/logic but churn out plenty of crap papers too, so that's clearly not the difference. The soft sciences problem isn't that their math knowledge is "insufficient" but they are dealing with inherently more complex phenomena AND they tend to not be the brightest bunch. Whatever you may think a "serious and mindful person is" is irrelevant, as everybody has their own ideas on that, but forcing students to do four years towards a college degree is both silly and soon will be impossible.

Why would anyone still get a "degree on-line" if they can just do 30 hours towards various certifications rather than 120 hours towards a degree? You are right that social momentum favors the degree but that will be killed off within a decade or so. There will always be a role for generalists but if less than 1% of degree-holders are the thinkers and critics that you bring up, they're not worth talking about because the remaining 99% who do degrees today won't be doing them. Haha, I ask you to provide an example where math is actually necessary and you dismiss that as "superficial and mundane." No wonder you make such broad and dumb statements, because you have no idea of the concrete realities where these ideas actually apply. Lol, is there any math that a scheduler does that couldn't be done better in software? I suspect you have no idea but it doesn't matter, your scheduler will lose his job to such software. Whatever math your lathe operators or machinists had to do will be done in CAD and control software in the future, leaving them to make higher-level analytical decisions. If your company doesn't understand this, they will go out of business and get undercut by a company that does.

 
At 11/07/2010 11:38 PM, OpenID Sprewell said...

Nope, none of the technical positions you list will need math, all done in software. If the highly complex layout of computer chips can be automated to be done by software and CAD-like design tools that don't require any math, pretty sure all the positions you list will be also. Haha, do you think that's what accountants do, manually check balance sheets and income statements with a calculator? XD No wonder you are so clueless about all these issues. Do you think Buffett sits around trying to crunch a bunch of numbers? :D Yes, to the extent he requires any math, he would be better off outsourcing it to a computer program, as most of Wall Street does today. Lol, it's hilarious how you always accuse others of things that perfectly describe you: "You are a very superficial person who does not seem to understand the real world and thinks that" computers can't replace a great deal of what humans do now. Lol, it is in keeping with your great ignorance that you think math has almost anything to do with why Buffett is successful. XD Buffett learned math simply because there was no Excel back then, the next Buffett is almost certainly using Excel and not doing any of that math.

I've already pointed out that to the extent an expensive school like Harvard helps at all in "recruiting," it is pure signaling, not because of the useless stuff you study there. I've also pointed out that correlation is not causation, ie the smart kids who go to college probably would have made $1.5 million but it's the dumb ideas they were taught in college that probably cut them down to only $800k. ;) If you simply cut out the stupid courses in most college curricula today, there'd be nothing left, they're that bad. :) The goal of online learning will be help them learn stuff that is actually worthwhile. We actually agree about getting kids in the real world sooner: they'd take less online courses in any given year than is forced on them by a typical high school or college curriculum today and work during the remaning time, particularly in low-level internships in the markets that they think they might want to get into, so they can see what it's like first-hand. Where you fail is in limiting that to "kids who have what it takes," whatever that means, and continuing to insist on a degree, ie 2-4 years of courses for a single certification, whereas every "course" like Chemistry I or microeconomics becomes a certification online. :)

 
At 11/08/2010 4:05 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Vange, knowing mathematics wouldn't have helped the people at your pension information program either, they could use software for that also.

No they could not. To figure out what is going on you need to be able to solve problems, not just use tools. In the real world problems are very complex and have many moving parts. There is no computer program that would help unless you could connect all of the dots and determine what your options are first.

What they should instead focus on is the high-level analysis of the pension plans: what markets are these plans going to invest in, what is their historical track record, and are the returns competitive with other plans, no math necessary for any of that.

They have no such options. What they have to decide is do they take the guaranteed payments each month for the rest of their lives or do they take a lump sum that they get to invest on their own. Most of them came equipped with 'sophisticated' analysis from their banks and their investment advisers. What I saw was pathetic outputs based on programs in which historical data was input. There was no real analysis to speak of, which is why most will wind up eating dog food if they live long enough.

It is very likely however that most would be lost with software also, but if someone is that clueless they are better off giving control to their family members and are very likely to get scammed no matter what.

Software programs are tools, not knowledge. No matter how proficient you are at using them, they can't help you unless you know what is going on.

 
At 11/08/2010 4:21 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Most people are water bugs because it is impossible to understand very much of the complexity of life: what's important is not trying to understand any big piece of it but avoiding making bets in the areas you don't understand.

What one needs to understand first, is how incentives work and figure out that normal human beings act in response to incentives. What one needs to understand second is that one's understanding is often much lower than what one assumes.

While mathematics employs particular types of logic, there's not much correlation between that and the high-level reasoning and more fuzzy, probabilistic logic that is really valuable in life, which is why most math-adepts don't do that great in life.

I do not claim that mathematicians can't be idiots in real life and do many stupid things. I only argue that having a sound knowledge of mathematics is more likely to give us some of the tools that we need to make much better decisions.

I will point out that the hard sciences have lots of math/logic but churn out plenty of crap papers too, so that's clearly not the difference.

Sorry but it isn't even close. Lousy papers are much easier to spot in the hard sciences because a hypothesis is easier to falsify when we try to reproduce the results. Look at the cold fusion papers for a perfect example. Compare that to the bit of fraud that created the hockey stick fiasco for the IPCC. On the issue of data integrity we actually had a 'scientist' claim under oath that if you wanted to make a cherry pie you needed to pick cherries and that picking the best data that one needed to create a conclusion was common in the field.

The soft sciences problem isn't that their math knowledge is "insufficient" but they are dealing with inherently more complex phenomena AND they tend to not be the brightest bunch.

I disagree. We saw that the entire field of dendrochronology was filled with incompetents who did not understand the statistical methods that they were using.

Whatever you may think a "serious and mindful person is" is irrelevant, as everybody has their own ideas on that, but forcing students to do four years towards a college degree is both silly and soon will be impossible.

I do not disagree that some people would be better off learning how to be machinists or taking courses that provide them with specific skills rather than a general education. But as these threads show there is something to be said for obtaining an education that allows us to make better decisions and see reality as it is. And while I agree that such an education can be obtained on your own time without access to a physical educational institution for some people it is very helpful if there is some face time that would allow one to focus ideas and determine what needs to be learned.

 
At 11/08/2010 4:30 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Why would anyone still get a "degree on-line" if they can just do 30 hours towards various certifications rather than 120 hours towards a degree? You are right that social momentum favors the degree but that will be killed off within a decade or so.

People need jobs now and need to make certain that they are best positioned to get the most that they can as quickly as they can. For many that means getting a degree in addition to a specific skill.

For the record, I agree that over the next few years many institutions will find it very hard to attract enough students to stay in business because much of what those institutions offer is priced too highly. If the government ever got out of the student loans business you will see a massive change that will destroy most of the lousy schools in short order and will drive prices to much lower and more reasonable levels.

Haha, I ask you to provide an example where math is actually necessary and you dismiss that as "superficial and mundane."

Try being an engineer without understanding math. Or an accountant. Or try to read the annual report for the company that you are investing your money in. There are thousands of examples each day where having knowledge of math gives you a huge advantage over those that are ignorant of it.

 
At 11/08/2010 4:38 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

No wonder you make such broad and dumb statements, because you have no idea of the concrete realities where these ideas actually apply.

You are not seeing the obvious because you have enough knowledge not to be bothered by the need of having certain math skills. Trying doing something as simple as going shopping with someone with a credit card who is mathematically illiterate.

Lol, is there any math that a scheduler does that couldn't be done better in software? I suspect you have no idea but it doesn't matter, your scheduler will lose his job to such software.

I never said that they could not do better by using scheduling programs. But to learn how to be good at using the programs most effectively schedulers need to understand mathematics.

Whatever math your lathe operators or machinists had to do will be done in CAD and control software in the future, leaving them to make higher-level analytical decisions.

Perhaps but they certainly need to know math now. This is not some make believe world where robots and computers make human decision making irrelevant. In this one if you can't understand certain concepts the tools will not help you to be as productive.

If your company doesn't understand this, they will go out of business and get undercut by a company that does.

A great deal of machining is done at thousands of small companies that run small batches. Event those that are highly automated would not be stupid enough to hire machinists who do not understand mathematical concepts. In fact, the jobs are self selecting. If you want to be a machinist chances are that you are all right at mathematics.

 
At 11/08/2010 5:02 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Nope, none of the technical positions you list will need math, all done in software. If the highly complex layout of computer chips can be automated to be done by software and CAD-like design tools that don't require any math, pretty sure all the positions you list will be also.

Try going to the average manufacturing company and living in the real world. In the real world complexity requires that we make many adjustments to our plans because the world is always in flux. To survive in such a world companies need employees that can think clearly and understand basic concepts.

Do you think Buffett sits around trying to crunch a bunch of numbers? :D Yes, to the extent he requires any math, he would be better off outsourcing it to a computer program, as most of Wall Street does today.

You are clueless. I read about how Buffet decided what to pay for a particular company. On one side there were a number of people with their laptops inputting data into their spread sheets and running valuation models. On the other sat Buffet with a pencil and a piece of paper. No computers and software programs were necessary because the deal was not all that complex and depended on just a few factors, which were known and agreed upon. In the real world the rewards do not go to the people trying to run spreadsheets and run models that try to replicate reality. They go to the people who understand what is important, what isn't and have the simple skills needed to make effective decisions.

Lol, it is in keeping with your great ignorance that you think math has almost anything to do with why Buffett is successful. XD Buffett learned math simply because there was no Excel back then, the next Buffett is almost certainly using Excel and not doing any of that math.

Buffett is successful because he is very good at math and applies it to his decision making process. He is extremely successful because he knows that reality cannot be modeled by computer programmers and that all that you need are simple skills that are properly applied.

 
At 11/08/2010 5:09 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

I've already pointed out that to the extent an expensive school like Harvard helps at all in "recruiting," it is pure signaling, not because of the useless stuff you study there.

But that may be of a huge benefit to kids who have what it takes since they would be opportunities to excel much faster.

I've also pointed out that correlation is not causation, ie the smart kids who go to college probably would have made $1.5 million but it's the dumb ideas they were taught in college that probably cut them down to only $800k.

The extra amount would be very meaningful to many people. So would the extra benefits, the social prestige, etc.

If you simply cut out the stupid courses in most college curricula today, there'd be nothing left, they're that bad.

I do not agree. Most of the courses that I took were perfectly fine and very useful. Many of the courses that I sat through outside of my program were also fine and very useful. One of the best and most useful courses that I sat through was a political science course. It laid a solid foundation that enabled me to see the world as it was rather than as you imagine it to be. I am sure that you could have used a course like that.

 
At 11/09/2010 8:31 AM, OpenID Sprewell said...

Thank you for repeating my point that any tool is useless if the person using it is clueless, now try saying something new. You may think your pension buddies had no "real analysis" but considering your dumb investments in commodities, I suspect theirs were better than yours. :) Not sure what your non sequitur about incentives has to do with anything. Your argument that "a sound knowledge of mathematics" is useful for most people is not only wrong, it exhibits a deep ignorance of how the world works, ie you are a waterbug. ;) Yes, the hard sciences have less crap papers but it's not because they understand math better, as you yourself shy away from, it's for the reason that was so obvious that I didn't bother stating it: the hard sciences are usually more easily testable by experiment. As for dendrochronology, of course their math knowledge is insufficient but that's not the main reason they fail, it's the two I gave. I'm not sure how "these threads show there is something to be said for obtaining an education that allows us to make better decisions and see reality as it is," would be funny to read why you think that. :D As for face time, there's always video conferencing for that. I see, people "need jobs now," but they must wait 4 years to get a degree? Do you even read the nonsense that you write? It is not merely college prices that will go down, the entire institution and curriculum will be destroyed by online learning. A lot of engineers and accountants don't do math, I already gave a specific example of computer chip layout.

 
At 11/09/2010 8:31 AM, OpenID Sprewell said...

You are ignorant of what is coming because your knowledge of these topics is fairly shallow. Not sure why you think credit-card shopping is hard, the whole point is that those machines automate the math for you. I see, a scheduler needs to know math to use the program: does that mean everyone who uses a computer needs to know math too? XD Of course not, the whole point of a good scheduling program is for the person using it to just enter some dates and times, without knowing any math, and the scheduling program does the rest. Nobody said human decision-making is irrelevant, only that math is useless for humans, try to stick to the subject. The whole point is that the highly automated companies will hire employees who won't know much math. You can't see this because you imagine that the way it's done now is the way it will always be done, a sign of ignorance and an inability to reason. Yes, employees need to "think clearly and understand basic concepts," but this statement has nothing to do with math so I have no idea why you bring it up. Haha, this is priceless, you tell me I'm clueless then go on to say that Buffett does almost no math when making his decisions, contradicting your own thesis. XD The cognitive dissonance and repeated contradiction of your idiotic comments is really quite hilarious. :D So math is really important but spreadsheets and models based on math cannot replicate reality, I love how you argue against your own points. :) So is being "good at math" a simple skill or a complex skill? He must not be doing much math if all he needs is a pencil and paper. ;)

I don't think you understand what signaling means, please reread what I wrote or read up on it elsewhere. You don't "excel" by doing useless work. Yes, the extra $700k that kids would earn by not going to college would be very useful, we agree there, but not sure what extra benefits or social prestige you see. Yes, of course you don't see how your college courses were useless, because you're precisely the type of person that they're aimed at, someone too dumb to realize how useless they are. :D Haha, what was so useful about your political science course and what use do you imagine I would get from taking one? Please elaborate, this will be hilarious. :) I took political science courses too and they were largely a waste of time. I learn a lot more simply by reading the news.

 
At 11/09/2010 3:18 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

You may think your pension buddies had no "real analysis" but considering your dumb investments in commodities, I suspect theirs were better than yours.

My dumb investments in commodities? My investment in sub-$300 gold and sub-$5 silver seem to have worked out quite well and are far from dumb. Of course, they have not done as well as the commodity stocks but we don't expect that given the higher risks with the stocks.

Not sure what your non sequitur about incentives has to do with anything.

That is your problem. You don't understand things well enough and are so hung up on the technology angle that you forget that human beings are not bullets fired from a gun or charged particles in a magnetic field. They respond to incentives and will change behaviours whenever the planners, regulators, and politicians act. This means that even if you understand your little part of life quite well you still do not have sufficient information to take the risks that you are taking. Most people do not fail because they don't understand something that they tried. They failed because they believed that they understood something that was not entirely true, which is why a sound theory based on understanding human action often beats a reliance on historical data and experience based analysis.

Your argument that "a sound knowledge of mathematics" is useful for most people is not only wrong, it exhibits a deep ignorance of how the world works, ie you are a waterbug.

From what I see around me, the real world is not kind to mathematical illiterates. Of course, I do not inhabit your fantasy world and things may be different there but that is not a place where anyone else lives.

Yes, the hard sciences have less crap papers but it's not because they understand math better, as you yourself shy away from, it's for the reason that was so obvious that I didn't bother stating it: the hard sciences are usually more easily testable by experiment.

Congratulations. You finally made a clear statement that is mostly true. The hard sciences are more rigorous because they have to have a falsifiable hypothesis, something that is not true in the world of the 'soft sciences.'

As for dendrochronology, of course their math knowledge is insufficient but that's not the main reason they fail, it's the two I gave.

Actually, that is exactly why their papers failed. Had their math been better and had they been better at cherry-picking and falsifying data they might have gotten away with their scam.

 
At 11/09/2010 3:34 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

I'm not sure how "these threads show there is something to be said for obtaining an education that allows us to make better decisions and see reality as it is," would be funny to read why you think that.

Because in the real world good judgment and prudence matter over the long run.

As for face time, there's always video conferencing for that. I see, people "need jobs now," but they must wait 4 years to get a degree?

No they do not. My son wants to start taking university courses in high-school, something that the Registrar will allow him to do. He hopes to have four or five full credits by the time he is ready to enter university or more if he is really capable of handling the work load. He is already looking at on-line lectures and is improving his math skills by going to the Khan Academy site. The point is to get done as quickly as possible and to start earning as much as possible early on.

Do you even read the nonsense that you write? It is not merely college prices that will go down, the entire institution and curriculum will be destroyed by online learning.

That is what I wrote.

A lot of engineers and accountants don't do math, I already gave a specific example of computer chip layout.

I would never hire an engineer who did not understand mathematics. Neither would anyone that I have ever worked with. And only a Bernie Madoff type would hire an accountant who did not understand math.

 
At 11/09/2010 4:08 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

You are ignorant of what is coming because your knowledge of these topics is fairly shallow.

Hardly. I have been reading about many of these things probably before you were even born. Gary North has some wonderful arguments about this and has been very vocal about the failure of modern educational institutions and their demise at the hands of on-line institutions.

Not sure why you think credit-card shopping is hard, the whole point is that those machines automate the math for you.

LOL...

That is not the point. The point is understanding what is going on so that debt is manageable and risks are kept low. Haven't you been paying attention? The number of personal bankruptcies is exploding precisely because people did not understand simple mathematics.

It is clear from your silly statements that you are still hung up on the tools and do not pay attention on the judgment part. This is not a debate but two one-way conversations.

I see, a scheduler needs to know math to use the program: does that mean everyone who uses a computer needs to know math too?

If they live in the real world it certainly helps. Don't users of computers make decisions about investments, mortgages, insurance premiums, pensions, savings plans, tax strategies, durable and consumer purchases. etc.? The people that I know do.

Of course not, the whole point of a good scheduling program is for the person using it to just enter some dates and times, without knowing any math, and the scheduling program does the rest.

Sorry but in the real world there are other factors that have to be considered that will require knowledge of math. Issues such as capacity, throughput, error rates, vendor lead requirements, etc., etc., all matter and for better understanding you will hire people who are competent mathematically. Any fool can pull a trigger but if you want to shoot straight you better hire someone who know how to aim.

Nobody said human decision-making is irrelevant, only that math is useless for humans, try to stick to the subject. The whole point is that the highly automated companies will hire employees who won't know much math.

You need a reality check. Even companies that have highly automated operations demand math and science skills. People who can't read blueprints, can't take measurements properly, can't do basic arithmetic, and don't understand statistics will not be hired. I think that you need to get out of your mom's basement, stop playing on-line computer games, and get out in the real world.

My son has been worried about his future and has been looking at what companies want. He has looked at the aircraft makers, computer companies, banks, auto makers, oil companies, the miners, and the ag companies. They all prefer candidates with business, engineering, mathematics, or science degrees. You can't get any of those degrees without taking math courses. And even the marketing and human resource departments want people to understand statistics and basic mathematics. As I said, try living in the real world.

 
At 11/09/2010 4:47 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

You can't see this because you imagine that the way it's done now is the way it will always be done, a sign of ignorance and an inability to reason. Yes, employees need to "think clearly and understand basic concepts," but this statement has nothing to do with math so I have no idea why you bring it up.

As I wrote above, try applying for a job without having a degree that did not require you to take math or courses that used mathematics and see how many options are open to you. Most universities require that their computer science graduates take mathematics. The same is true of people who take accounting, engineering, finance, commerce, human resource management, marketing, etc., etc., etc.

The bottom line is that no matter where you look the good jobs that provide good pay all require a good handle on mathematics. And as I wrote many times before, you can't go through life without needing math skills that will help you figure out that to do when you make some very important decisions that will have a major impact on your life.

 
At 11/09/2010 5:19 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Haha, this is priceless, you tell me I'm clueless then go on to say that Buffett does almost no math when making his decisions, contradicting your own thesis.

As usual you missed it. Buffett was better than the MBAs with the laptop because his understanding of mathematics and of reality was better. He understood that there was no need for complex models that could not mimic reality so he simply did what needed to be done in his head and on the back of an envelope with just a pen. No spreadsheets and programs were required because the critical jobs that those spreadsheets and programs did were already internalized by a man who had a very good grasp of mathematics.

So math is really important but spreadsheets and models based on math cannot replicate reality, I love how you argue against your own points.

Models are not math. They are an incomplete attempt to understand reality. Mathematics provides useful tools for those that understand reality better and can use the tools to gauge risk and uncertainty.

So is being "good at math" a simple skill or a complex skill? He must not be doing much math if all he needs is a pencil and paper.

Most decisions do not require a deep understanding of complex mathematical techniques. It is better to have a good grasp of reality and apply simple mathematical tools instead. (Which is what Buffett, Munger, or the other followers of Graham or Fisher do.)

I don't think you understand what signaling means, please reread what I wrote or read up on it elsewhere. You don't "excel" by doing useless work.

Who said that taking business, engineering, design, dentistry, law, or medical courses at Harvard is 'useless' work?

"Yes, the extra $700k that kids would earn by not going to college would be very useful, we agree there, but not sure what extra benefits or social prestige you see."

I see a lot of prestige attached to an Ivy League school. Even if you have exactly the same skills as someone who graduated out of UCLA or Kansas you will usually get an earlier opportunity. Here is my evidence:


John Roberts - Harvard Law School
Anthony Scalia - Harvard Law School
Anthony Kennedy - Harvard Law School
Clarence Thomas - Yale Law School
Ruth Bader Ginsburg - Harvard/Columbia Law School
Stephen Breyer - Harvard Law School
Sotomayor - Yale Law School
Samuel Alito - Yale Law School
Elena Kagan - Harvard Law School

Isn't it strange that there are so many decent schools in the US but that all of the current Supreme Court Justices are from the Ivy League?

 
At 11/09/2010 5:30 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Yes, of course you don't see how your college courses were useless, because you're precisely the type of person that they're aimed at, someone too dumb to realize how useless they are.

I took engineering and have used what I learned. The courses were very useful.

Haha, what was so useful about your political science course and what use do you imagine I would get from taking one? Please elaborate, this will be hilarious.

I did not take the course officialy. I sat in the lectures, did all the readings, and even wrote the assigned papers. It was the most important course because it allowed me to get very rich by seeing how the world works and allowed me to predict how the political game is likely to play out. After I took it, there is little that surprises me in the world of politics.

I took political science courses too and they were largely a waste of time. I learn a lot more simply by reading the news.

That is because you have the C mind that Machiavelli talked about. Anyone who gets his information from newspapers or TV news programs deserves what he gets.

 

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