Education and economic output
July 1, 2011 § Leave a comment
In “Hollowing out of the ivory tower” Tim Black addresses Prof. Alison Wolf’s Does Education Matter? Myths About Education and Economic Growth. Prof. Wolf’s biggest criticism is that higher education has become far too mechanized and is merely an instrument to drive economic growth. She warns
An increase in the quantity of graduates will neither create a dynamic, wealth-producing economy nor will it create the conditions for the emergence of lots of dynamic, wealth-producing individuals. Universities are not what they are currently being cracked up to be.
This leads to another problem
Higher education has become central to the economic wellbeing of nations and individuals’, that it is becoming increasingly difficult to recall what the purpose of institutions of higher education might be. Their autonomy as academic bodies, in which one ought to be free to pursue an interest in a subject area to a higher level, has been effaced by their thoroughgoing instrumentalisation as drivers of economic growth and social mobility.
I’d say the correlation between education attainment and income potential is pretty well documented (its a pet example for instructors when picking social science data upon which to draw elementary formal models). However, this idea that the unintended consequence of viewing education attainment as an economic activity rather than a humanistic or perhaps political activity is worth note. Prof Wolf has written this book in the context of the UK but I think this warning readily applies to most advanced higher-education contexts, including the United States.