I occasionally re-read my recent posts, just to check that I wasn’t talking U.R. I have just done that with last week’s. Glad to say, I didn’t come to that conclusion, and the talk of the staffroom this week has appeared to bear out what I was saying. But I was drawn to Dylan Wiliam’s quote of Lleras-Muney (2009) who “estimated that one additional year of school adds 1.7 years to one’s life”. At the time, I was more concerned with constructing my own argument, but on reflection, does this not have to be edu-rubbish of the most utter kind?
I think the give-away is in the word ‘estimated’, and I’d be interested to know what methodology said worker used to reach this conclusion, particularly given the precision of the figure.
We in education have been subjected to some drivel over the years, but this takes the biscuit. I concede I know little of this ‘research’ but common sense is surely all that is needed to debunk it. To begin with, it is impossible to know what age any individual ‘would have lived to’ in the alternative scenario with or without education. While mass-statistics may yield some insight, as always the disconnect between macro-data and the specific experience of any one individual is too great to make any meaningful claim of this sort. Secondly, causal density is so high that isolating any one factor with the necessary precision is impossible. I can accept that educated individuals may make certain choices or have certain opportunities that increase their chances of a longer life – but does holding a PhD really reduce the risk of getting cancer or motor neurone disease, or of being run over by a bus?
Within my own circle, my highly-educated mother was dead of cancer at the still-young age of 67, while my in-laws who had limited education and who smoke and drink heavily are still going strong in their eighties. My former academic tutor was killed in a car crash that was not his fault, and Stephen Hawking’s cerebral abilities can only indirectly have impacted on his remarkable survival.
It is risible that such claims are still being made as a serious attempt to justify specific educational practices, and very concerning that people like Dylan Wiliam are prepared to cite them in support of their own work.
If I am missing something essential here, I will happily stand corrected!