Kling On School

Arnold Kling:

In a hierarchy, signaling respect for the hierarchy is very important. That is another similarity between academia and government, which I have discussed before. That is, part of the process of getting ahead in academia is showing respect for the academic hierarchy.

I think this offers a potential insight into the signaling role of education. It does not just signal intelligence or conscientiousness, which could be signaled more cheaply in other ways. It signals respect for hierarchy. Thus, large organizations will tend to value educational credentials, while small organizations may not need to do so.

There is no cheap alternative to educational credentials if you want to signal respect for hierarchy. … Any attempt to evade the educational credential system inherently signals a lack of respect for hierarchy!

This sounds to me pretty close to my emphasis on school as training kids to accept industry-era levels of overt ranking and dominance, with Bryan Caplan’s emphasis on doing the usual things to avoid seeming weird, since folks that are weird in some ways also tend to be weird in other ways. I’m not convinced folks care that much about your overall respect for hierarchy, but they do care that you go along with their local system, and defer to superiors.

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