Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Education as Placebo

by Andrew Gillen

Ben Casnocha finds a thought provoking idea in a new book by Tyler Cowen. HT: MR

In his new book, which I review here, Tyler Cowen writes:

Placebo effects can be very powerful and many supposedly effective medicines do not in fact outperform the placebo. The sorry truth is that no one has compared modern education to a placebo. What if we just gave people lots of face-to-face contact and told them they were being educated?

He reluctantly provides the terrifying conclusion: Maybe that's what current methods of education already consist of.


capeman said...

I don't know who either of these guys is, never heard of 'em.

But let me imagine someone in a novel I'd like to write someday. A super-type libertarian economics professor who's ended up at a second or third tier public university, drawing good public pay, all the while being cynical about the goods being delivered, the students, feeling discomfited, if not guilty, about his own role in the whole busines.

This is the kind of person I imagine cooking up the idea of a placebo effect in education, and then imagining himself as "the Doc" actually administering the placebo!

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