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A good part of the workplace is exactly the same: part of your work and part of your evaluation ( not always the same %) is absolute performance with your boss not knowing both your potential in fulfilling the task and the possibilities that were available, part of your task relative , part totally random.
All in all, the education system is tasked at giving you training in using your abilities as well as teaching how the system work.

Jacques Rene - "All in all, the education system is tasked [with] teaching how the system work"

This, I think, is one of the greatest benefits of going to public school rather than private school. Public school is a pretty good lesson in how life works. Private schools, to the extent that they have the philosophy "our job is to make you happy, the customer is always right, and we will make you succeed in life", are not such a good preparation for the real world.

Public schools do prepare us for the life of middle-class mid-echelon grinds who makes the world turn ( with the help of the working class whose being directed by us is our perk.).
Private schools , if we understand high-end one such as UCC, prepare you for a world where you're always right and everybody else is your always admiring sycophantic underling. Magnificent preparation for your upper-class role. ( Of course after a few generations, you are ripe for a lunch date with the business end of the guillotine or in its modern western benign form, losing the presidential election and blaming it on the moochers.)
A bit like the difference between military college and ROTC...

Jacques Rene - my thoughts on that might be better left unsaid!

COTC is what we have in Canada, I knew a few friends who were taking that plan. RMC accepts anyone, I don't think we have a "military class" in Canada that sends it offspring to RMC generation after generation. We're just too small and too cheap for that.

I knew I should have held out for private school. I just never know what to do with my sycophantic underlings.

"RMC accepts anyone" yes, provided they meet its rather demanding entrance criteria.

There is something of a military class in Canada - it was interesting to learn how many of my brother's classmates were the sons or daughters (but typically sons) of military men. But, by virtue of our small military, it is inherently small. Then again, I suppose the same proportion of law students or med students are the sons and daughters of lawyers and doctors.

This is valid beyond the world of education and it is valid to any area where information asymmetry plays larger role. Such areas can be identified as ones dominated by consumer tests where alleged proffesionals set their own criteria to select a "winner". In such areas firms don't have to do the "best" they can be in absolute terms, they just have to be better than their competitors. And even here they don't have to be the best at what they actually offer to customers, they just have to be the best at the test. And that is many times something completely different.

Determinant: in my own times,when I wanted to enlist at CMR St-Jean and RMC Royal Roads with the goal of becoming a carrier pilot, ( I am so old that I remember when the CN had a carrier), it was ROTC. I am not losing memeory, I simply have old ones...

theoretically the equillibrium in case of the low cost for shirking would be that Alice will work some percentage of the time to make Betty indifferent to work and vice versa, so that the solution is always on the edge.

Makrointelligenz - yes, you notice that I said "there is no ***pure strategy*** equilibrium." A mixed strategy equilibrium is definitely a possibility.

Determinant: in my own times,when I wanted to enlist at CMR St-Jean and RMC Royal Roads with the goal of becoming a carrier pilot, ( I am so old that I remember when the CN had a carrier), it was ROTC. I am not losing memeory, I simply have old ones...

Yes, HMCS Bonaventure. I came across a book on it in my town's public library, as any 14 year old boy would when browsing the military section.

I then went to a job interview with a recruiter who had a picture of it on the wall. I asked it that was the Bonaventure, and his eyes lit up. He asked how I knew, I said I saw the book. I had him eating out of the palm of my hand.

Then I went to the actual company and they cancelled the job right there in the interview. It was a very weird day.

They call it COTC now. Somebody may have done a branding exercise a few years back.

@ Frances: Yes, i did not mean to imply that you were wrong. It was just a thought that came immediately to my mind as i have been thinking about game theory a lot and as I am one of those lazy guys I just wrote it down without any explanation ;).

Makrointelligenz - I figured there was probably a mixed strategy equilibrium, and was just hoping that someone would explain the mixed strategy equilibrium in the comments!

I thought you were going to discuss a real dilemma. As in, what skills should US students pay $200,000 to acquire in order to have a stable middle class future. With surging imports and unstable economic policies, it is silly for most US students to invest in skills because the industry-specific skills they acquire will be useless if the industry dies. A case in point is aerospace. Boeing will probably die or be bought off in the next five years, so it would be a shame for any American to pay to study aerospace engineering. Those jobs will be in China, or in Europe, and he will be out $100 k with nothing to show for it but non-dischargeable debt.

John - I agree with you that there are serious issues about how well students are served by universities both in the US and in Canada (though the US situation differs from the Canadian one in important respects). This isn't something I like to blog about, but it is something that, over the next three years, I'll be working on internally at Carleton.

John, Frances: if we want mobility, either geographically or professionnaly, we will have to face a reality: everything that smacks of infrastructure should be somehow "publicly" "owned" ( quote marks around both terms as it does not necessarily means government provided.

But in the same wat that there are public faucets, there should be universal wi-fi (and even some ) phone access.
The concept of "owning your home" make no sense if you want a mobile workforce as it means investing your own capital in risky asset. Same for education. If you want society at large to benefit from professional mobility, society should shoulder the costs.
Moreover, asking an 18-year old to make a forecast of what the economy's requirement will be for the next 40 year while no sane economist would dare make one ( unless he is very well-paid...or work at IEA where they forecast the oil market in 2050... oh yeah they are well-paid)), is insane.

So: tuition is free but stiff success requirements. Housing is publicly provided but you pay rent covering the cost. Or something to be worked out.
But we have to stop modeling our society as if we were hunter-gatherers or medieval turnip growers who never go farther away than two kilometres from their birth mud hut.

In case of the mixed equilibrium, it depends on costs and benefits how often each person will shirk or work. Lets say the cost of work is 1 for both and the benefit of getting an A compared to B is 2 for both. Then Alice will work 50% to make Betty indifferent to work (working will lead to -1 and +1 50 % of the time) and Betty will work 50% to make Alice indifferent (working will lead to +1 50% of the time, -1 50% of the time). When the benefit for Alice is bigger c.p., Betty will work less often while Alice will keeping working the same.

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