Politics Daily

14/06/2014

This is an attempt to replace Dr Bryce Edwards’ daily political round-up while he’s taking a break. I’m not pretending to be balanced. While I link to a range of news stories, the blogs I link to are usually from the centre to the bluer end of the political spectrum or the more reasonable or witty bits of the pink to red end. You’re welcome to leave links to other news and blogs in comments.

Election

David Farrar @ Kiwiblog –

Brook Sabin @ TV3 – Paul Goldsmith ‘concentrating on party votes’

Inventory 2 @ Keeping Stock – What the 2014 General Election is all about…

Hamish Rutherford @ Stuff – Bays may be Craig’s best hope of a seat

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – With friends like the Conservative Party, who needs enemies?

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – No cup of tea needed – ACT gifted Epsom

Pete George @ YourNZ – Key on possible election alliances

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – So, the whole police force will vote National, that much is clear

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – In business? Hate provisional tax? Vote National

Pete George @ YourNZ – Three MPs for Te Tai Tokerau?

Lindsay Mitchell – Red Alert not so alert

John Armstrong @ NZ Herald – Key’s big treble gamble

Fran O’Sullivan @ NZ Herald – PM must think on what really matters

Trade

Wayne Mapp @ Pundit – Free Trade – the end of the cosy arrangement?

Beehive

Nikki Kay – Support for young environmental leaders

Jo Good hew – Protecting your future made easier

Team NZ

Dana Johannsen @ NZ Herald – Team NZ sailing close to wind: Joyce

David FaRRAR @ Kiwiblog – The Government should say no to more money for Team NZ

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – “Sail for the Dole” scheme running out of money

Inventory 2 @ Keeping Stock – Enough is enough

Inventory 2 @ Keeping Stock – Dalton’s audition for a Tui ad

Labour

Chris Trotter @ Bowalley Road – Gut Reactions

Waikato Times – Hipkins misses the mark

Inventory 2 @ Keeping Stock – The Waikato Times on Hipkins’ “epic fail”

David Farrar @ Kiwiblog – A rare letter from the Chief District Court Judge

Inventory 2 @ Keeping Stock – No by-election for Epsom

David Farrar @ Kiwiblog – Cunliffe on Iraq

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – Another David Cunliffe “on the hoof” policy revealed

Valedictories

NZ Herald – Keep farewell speeches for deserving MPs only

David Farrar @ Kiwiblog – A silly editorial

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – One of the, erm, dumber Herald editorials?

Local Government

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – Adams muscles up, rips up Len’s unitary plan

Other

Inventory 2 @ Keeping Stock – Wally of the Week – 13 June 2014

Inventory 2 @ Keeping Stock – Quote of the Day – 13 June 2014

David Farrar @ Kiwiblog – Maybe Lyons should stand for Labour?

 

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – If the PM is tainted then so is the Queen

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – The nasty left, always rewriting history

 


We don’t need so much education

11/01/2011

Pink Floyd sang We Don’t Need No Education. Economics teacher Peter Lyons doesn’t go that far, but he does question if we need so much education:

Countries with a better educated population do appear to be more prosperous. This may be a false causation. Higher education levels may lead to prosperity, but more likely is that national prosperity provides the funding for higher education levels.

There is evidence to suggest that pouring money into tertiary education may not be the silver bullet for achieving higher living standards. Economic growth is the result of increasing the value of output per worker.

The key element is productivity levels. Much of what is learnt in school or university does little to increase the future potential output of the learner.

This is not to deny that education has great value in producing people who can live a good life and participate fully in society. The question is whether levels of tertiary education are the key to economic prosperity.

A friend noted that when his children started secondary school in the 1990s there were about 100 pupils in the third form, almost all of them stayed on to the seventh form and more than half of them went on to tertiary education, most to university. He contrasted that with his own experience in the 1960s when there were around 200 third formers, only 20 seventh formers fewer than half of whom went on to tertiary studies.

One obvious change from the 60s to the 90s was the increase in the number of people who were unemployed and it must be better to have teenagers at school than leaving to go on to a benefit. Another is the increasing use of technology which has replaced some manual jobs which people who left school with no or few qualifications used to do.

Then there are occupations like nursing, training for which used to take place on-the-job in hospitals, that now takes place in polytechnics or university.

The tertiary participation rates in New Zealand have surged over the past two decades but there is little evidence that this has translated into increased labour productivity and economic wellbeing.

The need for highly educated workers to man the knowledge economy is largely a myth. Much of the knowledge of the modern economic environment is embedded in the capital that workers use. That capital may take the form of computers, earthmoving equipment, laboratory gear or robotics.

The knowledge economy has meant that many jobs have become deskilled or redefined. The checkout operator no longer needs to add. Procedures once performed by doctors can now be done by nurses and chemists. The accountant can produce final reports at the push of a button.

What appears to have happened is that as more people have sought to gain higher qualifications this puts pressure on others to do likewise. An implicit function of any education system is to act as a sorting mechanism. As rampant qualification inflation has occurred the entry bar to various occupations has been raised, compelling people to seek higher qualifications.

 We now have more people studying and more qualifications they can study towards, but does more mean better? Karl du Fresne calls it credentials creep:

Credentials creep has been great for the educational establishment. It has enabled polytechnics to turn their backs on budding hairdressers and panel beaters and re-invent themselves as pretend universities. And it has provided careers for countless people who were nondescript practitioners in their chosen occupations but who now teach others: second-rate academics running second-rate courses.

The result is that academic qualifications have been degraded to the point where workplaces teem with technically well-qualified drones and dullards. I’m with the British writer Desmond Bagley, who once said: “If a man is a fool, you don’t train him out being a fool by sending him to a university. You merely turn him into a trained fool, which is 10 times more dangerous.”

Peter Lyons says that technological improvement has driven prosperity since the industrial revolution but doubts this has accelerated in recent years:

The massive technological changes from 1850 to 1950 dwarf more recent developments in their impacts on people’s daily lives. Consider such innovations as cars, planes, electricity, fridges, air-conditioning and the telephone.

These innovations were not the outcome of tertiary-educated workforces. They were developed by a core of thinkers, scientists and innovators then diffused by entrepreneurs through the marketplace for mass consumption.

Prosperity is determined by how well a society uses its resources to produce final goods and services. Pouring huge amounts of public funds into formal tertiary education may be a distraction from this goal.

A friend who was a specialist in three dimensional thinking used to ask students in his university classes why they were there. If, as usually happened, they answered so they’d make more money he used to tell them they were in the wrong place andif that was their goal they’d be better off working than studying.

That doesn’t apply to everyone and every job, but  he was asking them to seriously consider if the income forgone during three or more years study and the student loan incurred while doing it, could be justified by what they’d earn with their degrees.

It can for some but by no means all students.

This doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for tertiary studies.

We need our best and brightest to be very highly educated so they can develop the tools and technologies for the rest of us to use, so we can become more productive.

But not everyone can make the All Blacks. We don’t need people with management degrees driving taxis or diplomas of tourism running bungee jumps.

I have no problem justifying the money and efforts which go in to basic education. It is difficult, if not impossible, to cope day to day let alone prosper without a reasonable level of literacy and numeracy.

But more tertiary education isn’t necessarily better for the students or the economy.


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