Monday, December 03, 2007

If you can get into Harvard, do you really need it?

This economist suggests that parents are better off spending education dollars on an expensive high school rather than an expensive college, if they are forced to choose (HT: Sullivan).

I'd go further and suggest that if you have limited resources, you're better off spending them on preschool and elementary school than on high school or college. By the time they're teenagers, they've already decided whether they like school or not. In the Montessori system (in which I was educated until 8th grade), the primary time for intellectual development is before puberty. Once the hormones kick in, many kids are more concerned with social, romantic, and worldly matters. (It would be interesting to see some data on the long-term effect of quality early childhood education.)

Of course, we have to keep in mind that parents' ability to determine what kind of person their children will be is quite limited. The right schooling can be a wonderful thing, and I am certainly grateful for the wonderful educational opportunities my parents gave me. But I think I would have been nerdy no matter what. Kids have their own personalities. The right school can help that personality flourish, but it's not a guarantee of success or happiness.


Anonymous Anthony Lim said...

Counterpoint - the assumption here is that the money spent is to give value in terms of education dollars. Places like Harvard and Yale don't thrive on the education they provide, they thrive on being able to build strong social networks.

So yes, there is a point to going to Harvard or Yale, for precisely the reasons you've pointed out - teenagers are more likely to be social creatures than kids.

6:12 AM, December 04, 2007  

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