Monday, September 01, 2014

Is there really a connection between education and economics?

If you listen to education debates even casually, you soon begin to realize that the universal assumption is that there is some strong correlation between education and economic performance. We need "workers for the 21st century," we are told. Our "economic future is dependent on our education system," and so forth an so on.

But here's a graph comparing NAEP test scores (accounted to be the most reliable national education measures) and U.S. economic performance.

All this is not to say that there is no correlation between real education and a good economic system, just that there doesn't seem to be any between education as it is measured by tests and the economy. I suspect that if there was a way to measure the individual economic success of students with a good liberal arts education, you would get a very different result.

But even so this evidence should make us rethink the whole connection everyone likes to make between education and economics and should make us ask whether our materialist fixation with economic success isn't actually hurting both education and the economy.

Ever since the purpose of education was changed from the old classical education (in which the purpose was to pass on a culture) to the progressivism of the 1920s (in which the purpose was to use schools to reform the culture), and the pragmatism that came in in the 1940s (in which the purpose was to fit children to the culture through directly teaching job skills), our education system has been in decline.

In other words, we ought to reassess whether economic performance should even be a goal of education.

As long as our education system continues to focus on external goals such as "career readiness" and "social skills" (not to mention multiculturalism and political correctness) and neglects the true goal of education, which is to acculturate students and develop their ability to know and think, it will continue its long downhill slide.

Maybe if we got back to trying to make students better human beings, rather than better workers, they would be both better human beings and better workers.

HT: Schools Matter


ioannesmaximus said...

Litterae non dant panem.

Singring said...

Martin posts a graph showing that test scores in maths and reading have been almost perfectly constant for the past 40 years.

Martin then says that 'the education system has been in decline' and that 'it will continue its long downhill slide'.

Just another regular old day at Vital Remnants.