Tuesday, December 21, 2004

# Posted 1:39 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANIMAL HOUSE OR A BETTER AMERICA? In response to a recent post on OxBlog, Alex Whitlock asks: "What if everybody in America went to college?"

Right now, college graduates are almost guaranteed a decent job. But if everyone had a degree, wouldn't that just mean that educated folks wind up doing low-skill work or even unemployed?

Not being an economist, I don't have the means to answer that question in a very sophisticated manner. But I do have a hunch. Around sixty years ago, right after World War II, someone could've asked whether it was really worth making sure that all Americans got a high school education, since the value of a diploma would go down if everyone got one.

My sense is that getting America through high school represented a critical step toward creating the skilled workforce that was ready to capitalize on the use of new technologies in the 1980s and 1990s.

You might also say that once America went to high school that the value of a diploma did go down, so Americans started to one up another by going to college. Maybe someday we'll start one-upping another in the job hunt by going to grad school.

While some education might be redundant, my sense is that a pool of educated workers with advanced degrees, especially in fields like computer science or biology, would begin to create opportunities for themselves. Then again, an outsource-ophobe might say that our educated workers will have their jobs taken by educated Chinese and Indians will to work for less.

But I'm not so worried about that, probably because I was brought up to believe that knowledge is power. But what if every American got a masters degree or even a doctorate? Would we become a nation of Mondale/Dukakis voters? Yikes.
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