Peter Orszag provides some clear and sobering commentary on the value of a college degree in a column for Bloomberg yesterday. The key message is here:
The effects of globalization are already moving up the wage scale, though, and that trend will likely continue. As Alan Blinder of Princeton University trenchantly noted in 2006, “Many people blithely assume that the critical labor-market distinction is, and will remain, between highly educated (or highly skilled) people and less-educated (or less-skilled) people -- doctors versus call-center operators, for example.” Instead, the crucial distinction is between those tasks that are easily digitized (and thus subject to substantial competition from workers abroad) and those that are not.
Readers of the blog know that I tend to advocate for choice-based alternatives to our current system of public education in which local monopolies are granted to individual schools. I think there is simply too much value to choice and competition in any endeavor to limit it to the two forms it can now take in primary and secondary education: move to a different public school district or pay out-of-pocket for private school (foregoing the amount that the school district would have otherwise had to spend to educate the child).
New from Professors Philip Babcock and Mindy Marks is an analysis of trends in how college students are spending their time. The answer is "less studying, more leisure." The summary provided by the American Enterprise Institute is well worth the read. Their conclusions:
- Study time for full-time students at four-year colleges in the United States fell from twenty-four hours per week in 1961 to fourteen hours per week in 2003, and the decline is not explained by changes over time in student work status, parental education, major choice, or the type of institution students attended.
- Evidence that declines in study time result from improvements in education technology is slim. A more plausible explanation is that achievement standards have fallen.
- Longitudinal data indicate that students who study more in college earn more in the long run.
Why might achievement standards have fallen? Quoting Babcock and Marks:
amusing sobering reflection on what the high cost of college means for we in the professoriate, courtesy of Professor Winston at MIT. Enjoy?
Elizabeth Green has a must-read feature in this weeks' New York Times, "Building a Better Teacher." There are several worthwhile parts focusing on effective techniques, but I particularly enjoyed the discussion of what makes teaching different from learning:
Mathematicians need to understand a problem only for themselves; math teachers need both to know the math and to know how 30 different minds might understand (or misunderstand) it. Then they need to take each mind from not getting it to mastery. And they need to do this in 45 minutes or less. This was neither pure content knowledge nor what educators call pedagogical knowledge, a set of facts independent of subject matter, like Lemov’s techniques. It was a different animal altogether. Ball named it Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching, or M.K.T. She theorized that it included everything from the “common” math understood by most adults to math that only teachers need to know, like which visual tools to use to represent fractions (sticks? blocks? a picture of a pizza?) or a sense of the everyday errors students tend to make when they start learning about negative numbers. At the heart of M.K.T., she thought, was an ability to step outside of your own head. “Teaching depends on what other people think,” Ball told me, “not what you think.”
Read the whole thing.