Commentary on the Culture: A revisiting

In this poorly written original article, I lamented the culture of colleges because it is impossible to avoid commenting on the college culture. My main point was this:

If, at the age of 17, you asked me what paradise was, I would have described something indistinguishable from what college is today. Fortunately, I am no longer a seventeen-year-old, and I now live in the culture that quickly snapped me out of that delusion. The college experience is one of two things. It is either an experience loaded with alcohol, parties, promiscuity with zero responsibility, or one full of loneliness, crippling debt, and stress. The former is more popular. It is immediate gratification at the expense of that which is meaningful. This fact is also heavily laden with irony because colleges exist to help individuals find that which is meaningful to them by pursuing a degree that translates to higher earnings and a more fulfilled life.

My view on this has changed. I agree with a weak version of that argument. The culture of American Colleges is broken; this much is true. In fact, as Bryan Caplan explains in 416 pages, much of higher education is signaling. Even if one makes the case that there are gains to higher education in the aggregate, as there no doubt is, it would be hard to detangle the effects of the signal from the knowledge that is, supposedly, imparted. One must then take a holistic view of colleges. My updated view is that colleges train individuals on the type of culture they would experience in the workforce. This training shows up in filtering individuals who either do not or can not fit in the culture. It also shows up in solidifying some individuals' views of the culture by either radicalizing or increasing their confidence intervals, i.e., making them more sure of their position. Finally, it shows up in training more middle-of-the-road individuals, like me, how to avoid the landmines in the current culture that characterizes the workforce to survive long enough to enjoy the returns to your intellect.

Certainty Rating: 48%


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