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Despite predictions of its imminent demise — whether or not its inefficiencies can be overcome by new technology — it seems to me that traditional education is not in danger of extinction. The reason for this has less to do with the way students learn, or even with the value of education as a form of signaling.

The thing is that education has never really required lectures or professors — only books, time and a certain level of ability. Moving books online changes only the method of delivery. The reason that students have been enrolling in universities since the Sorbonne first opened its rather grimy doors has been twofold: first, the stamp of approval by an established authority that the graduate is made of the “right stuff”, but — even more importantly — the relationships the graduates form with one another, their professors and senior peers, the relationships that smooth their way into lucrative positions far better than any level of academic training. It is a truism after all, in business as it is in other disciplines of learning, that real learning comes out not of books but rather on-the-job apprenticeship.

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