I have a city in my world, about with about the land area of Singapore and about 1/6 of its population. In my story, my government needs to passively encourage its population to not go to school. By passively, I mean by attending any educational facility, you have to pay an entrance fee, taxes, and a fine. This monetary amount is equivalent to about 2000 USD per student per year of education. In all, a 12 year education would cost about 30000, 24000 from fees, and $6000 for supplies.Because the government has imposed such a fine, much of the population receives only homeschooling or informal education from their parents. As such, many parents employ the following plan: One of the parents or an older sibling goes to school to receive an education, then comes back home and educates the rest of the family.

For what reasons would a government fine the educated?

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    $\begingroup$ See this answer. "trong showings are entirely attributable to huge leads among voters without a college degree" $\endgroup$ – JDługosz May 22 '16 at 19:51
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    $\begingroup$ Well, how much is $2000 relative to income? I would pay that to send my kid to school. $\endgroup$ – Azor Ahai May 23 '16 at 2:41
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    $\begingroup$ Is not this close to what we have now in real word? Are not people in many countries pay X usd per year to go to university? $\endgroup$ – Salvador Dali May 23 '16 at 3:47
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    $\begingroup$ According to your math, you have a city where someone provides education for free and then the government comes and fine people for attending free education. That makes little sense. You likely get more than 30000$ in cost for the 12 year education if the government simply wouldn't fiance education. $\endgroup$ – Christian May 23 '16 at 8:32
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    $\begingroup$ All the examples you gave are for actively encouraging people to not obtain an education. Here's a definition of passive: "accepting or allowing what happens or what others do, without active response or resistance.". Examples of this would be not enforcing a curriculum, not funding education, not advertising it, etc. $\endgroup$ – JBentley May 23 '16 at 8:45

20 Answers 20


Country leaders want to have ultimate power

What is easier to control? Educated group of people, or uneducated crowd which can be bribed by "bread and games"?

I know it is long term plan, but uneducated people tend to be easy to manipulate. Easy to entertain, easy to control.

Make state jobs required low to none education. Supplement paid education with free, state controled "education programme" in TV which will be basically brainwashing the masses to believe the government is second best thing after sliced bread.

In 50 years, you have everyone supporting your government

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    $\begingroup$ To make the brainwashing even more effective, the government could have free schools which teach students to read only at an extremely basic level so they cannot understand complex written works, teach no math or science, and teach only government propaganda in history and social studies. Then they maintain the illusion of freedom by fining those who get a real education. The social divide between those who can afford to get a real education and those who get a state education would ensure that the educated could never muster enough support for a rebellion. $\endgroup$ – Torisuda May 23 '16 at 2:41
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    $\begingroup$ This is sometimes done when a country invades another. The language, the history, and the religion, of the previous country all become illegal. The same goes with the Catholic church. Initially, it didn't want the bible to translated in a language the population could understand. But the thing I don't understand is why the government would need to fine people, when education already has a pretty significant cost. Is education free in that made world? If so, why? Is the church offering free education? Are the rebels offering free organized education? There must be a reason education is free. $\endgroup$ – Stephan Branczyk May 23 '16 at 7:16
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    $\begingroup$ An educated group of people is much easy to control if the government controls the lesson plan. The history of public education is about teaching students thought patterns that are desireable for the government. I'm not sure that any nation state succeeded in having it's population believe in it without eduction. $\endgroup$ – Christian May 23 '16 at 8:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Christian "I'm not sure that any nation state succeeded in having it's population believe in it without eduction" In Britain, children were required to attend primary education only after the Elementary Education Act 1880. And places like Imperial Russia were mostly illiterate and unschooled until the emergence of the Soviet Union. Nonetheless most Russian peasants believed the Tsar to be a living God. Britain introduced schooling in part to help the newly enfranchised working class decide who to vote for. Before 1880 Brits didn't believe in their country or king? And Russians the Tsar? $\endgroup$ – inappropriateCode May 23 '16 at 10:02
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    $\begingroup$ "...which can be bribed by 'bread and games'?" FWIW, there's a specific idiom in English for this: Bread and circuses. (The Wikipedia article says "or bread and games" but I've never heard a native English speaker say that.) $\endgroup$ – T.J. Crowder May 24 '16 at 12:44

The leaders of the country want to promote certain family or religious values.

In this scenario, the decision-makers in government believe that large-scale education (schools) is counter-productive, and education should be happening in the home or in informal, local co-ops (where like-minded parents with similar-age kids cooperate to share the educational duties and benefits). Why would they believe that? A few possible reasons (choose all that apply):

  • Out-sourcing the education of your children is Just Wrong; education is a core parental function.

  • It's not a good use of resources to build, staff, and maintain schools; we need that money for something else. So at the very least, if you insist on sending your kids out to school, we're going to charge you enough to pay for those costs and then some.

  • Education isn't a "sit in a classroom for 8 hours a day" thing but should be wholly integrated into household life.

  • Individual or small-group tutoring provides superior education and the government actually values education.

People today use private schools or home-school even though free public schools are available. To find further motivation for your government, look to the reasons those families choose and adapt them.

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    $\begingroup$ I can really see this, specially the first point. I hate that public schools now teach different values then I want to teach my kids. Homeschooling looks very attractive. 3 & 4 are very valid too. $\endgroup$ – coteyr May 23 '16 at 15:46
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    $\begingroup$ Love this answer. I genuinely didn't expect a positive perspective on why they might choose to penalise classroom education—though now I think about it, one would expect even oppressive regimes to make a token attempt to offer one. $\endgroup$ – Jordan Gray May 25 '16 at 13:42

They want to keep education valuable by keeping it expensive

Here's a crazy idea: We know that people with money are better off than people without money. Therefore, let's give a million dollars to everyone, and end the woes of poverty overnight! Anyone with even the most basic understanding of economics can take a single look at that and say "that's crazy, because inflation". Money is used as a proxy for labor and necessary resources, and putting more money into the system doesn't actually create more labor and necessary resources, so something has to give and it ends up devaluing the money.

What does this have to do with the question? Well, here's another crazy idea: We know that people with education get better-paying jobs than people without education. Therefore, let's give a degree to everyone, and end the woes of poverty overnight in 4-6 years! With the context above, it should be immediately obvious why this will not work. Education doesn't get you a good job; it simply helps you distinguish yourself from less-educated applicants. It can be thought of as somewhat similar to money in this sense, and putting more degrees into the system doesn't create more good jobs; it just devalues the degrees. (See: US education policy over the last few decades, leading to some places where they literally require a Master's degree to be a pizza delivery guy, because that's how high you have to set the filter.) Which means you end up with a bunch of people trying to pay off a Master's degree worth of student loans on pizza delivery guy wages! (See: current US student debt crisis.)

A government that's aware of the problems of inflation uses monetary policy to try to keep inflation down. A government that's aware of the problems of eduflation (yes, it's a real word, and it's a shame more people don't know about it) would use a restrictive educational policy to try to keep eduflation down.

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    $\begingroup$ Re: "some places where they literally require a Master's degree to be a pizza delivery guy, because that's how high you have to set the filter": Can you cite a source for this? I find it hard to believe: there may be places with enough people with master's degrees competing for pizza delivery jobs, but I don't see why pizza shops would prefer them over people with mere bachelor's degrees (especially to the point of categorically refusing to consider any of the latter). $\endgroup$ – ruakh May 23 '16 at 2:43
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    $\begingroup$ So you are advocating ignorance... to make what education you have more valuable. Well, it's hard to imagine anything more morally wrong. The major difference between knowledge and money is that knowledge gets more when you share it. $\endgroup$ – Burki May 23 '16 at 7:13
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    $\begingroup$ @Burki I'm not "advocating ignorance" at all; I'm discussing the real, counterintuitive consequences of short-sighted policies in pushing formal education on the masses. $\endgroup$ – Mason Wheeler May 23 '16 at 8:40
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    $\begingroup$ One area where the analogy breaks down is that education (depending on what you study) has an inherent value, potentially leading to more jobs rather than just higher competition for existing jobs $\endgroup$ – Jezzamon May 23 '16 at 8:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Jezzamon The key is "depending on what you study". A country full of engineering and science graduates is highly likely to have inherent value. A country full of philosophy and English lit graduates, less so. A lot of people (including the UK government, sadly) are under the illusion that uni qualifications will show whether they're worth employing for a completely unrelated job, because, look, they managed to do 3 years extra schooling. So the guy who wrote essays on fixing cars looks more employable than the guy who spent 3 years getting his hands dirty. :( $\endgroup$ – Graham May 23 '16 at 12:32

The government may want to discourage education for ideological or economic reasons. Ideologically speaking we've seen fairly nasty regimes go after education before, from Khmer Rouge's genocidal far-left anti-western philosophy, to Boko Haram's religious totalitarianism. In the former case they believed that formal education helped only to create inequality and was a deliberate ploy by their bourgeoisies enemies, and as such murdered anyone who was educated, urbanite, or even had glasses (because that apparently means they were definitely literate). Khmer Rouge's end game was to have a society where everyone was equal because everyone was a subsistence farmer. Similarly Boko Haram, which means western education is forbidden, believe that education which is not exclusively Islamic is used to discredit and attack Islam (they honestly believe that rain does not result from precipitation and water cycles but only and absolutely by the will of god). You may have a less extreme version of something like this at play.

Economically speaking the government may be trying to follow a "race to the bottom"; in which they have a pretty extreme view of the free market, in which the people's living standards have to drop (the masses of course, not the elite who order this*) in order for wages to be competitive, and also will reduce the cost of public services which further means the state can lower taxation and in theory attract more investment (lower corporate and/or income tax plus lower wages for workers). In practice as mentioned prior that's simply bad economics, but like any belief system, capitalism has its extremists and fundamentalists.

You can also look to the early history of public education at the turn of the industrial revolution. Britain for instance formalised public education for children because on the one hand business interests felt that the workers needed numeracy and literacy to make use of the more advanced technology they were creating, and also because the government was enfranchising more working class voters who needed to be able to read and thus reason who they should vote for. Formal education has also been used as defensive nationalism; to promote and preserve specific languages and thus group identity. So if your society didn't need skilled workers, or didn't have voters, or didn't have a unique ethnic group (or was seeing a major decline in all three areas), people may simply not feel there is a need for public education given the cost.

  • Side note: the royal families of Europe often didn't receive a formal education until recently because they were presumed to have been born with/divinely inspired with the skills needed to lead. That may be another motivation, that somehow people don't believe education works, or are against social mobility (like feudalism), or simply favour some sort of apprenticeship system instead.
  • $\begingroup$ Upvoted. These are excellent historical examples of exactly what you suggest. As an example of your "race to the bottom", Kansas is currently following a policy called the "March to 0" - meaning 0% income taxes. $\endgroup$ – indigochild May 23 '16 at 16:10
  • $\begingroup$ "in which they have a pretty extreme view of the free market", "In practice as mentioned prior that's simply bad economics, but like any belief system, capitalism has its extremists and fundamentalists." - I guess extream free market would be anarchocapitalism. This looks like a straw man capitalism with goverment running for the Evulz (or someone who might read discussion between a-caps and others and decided to turn some points up to 11). [I just object to use of 'free market' here - not capitalism]. $\endgroup$ – Maciej Piechotka May 23 '16 at 18:34
  • $\begingroup$ @MaciejPiechotka I'm curious now, what distinction do you draw between "free market" and "capitalism"? $\endgroup$ – inappropriateCode May 23 '16 at 19:31
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    $\begingroup$ @inappropriateCode usually capitalism is a very all compassing and 'politically loaded' word and depending on person speak it may mean free market or rule of people with money etc. depending on person speaking. Free market is a narrow term which means that markets run without interference and are based on volontary exchanges. One may discuss particular meaning of the words here but fining people for education is clearly not 'lack of interference' - it is almost like claiming that progressive socialists want to tax poverty to eliminate it (some elements are there but turned on their head]. $\endgroup$ – Maciej Piechotka May 23 '16 at 19:49
  • $\begingroup$ @MaciejPiechotka Ah! Okay. Well in my view free market and capitalism are equitable terms, as the point in either case is to allow as you say, free exchange between individuals. The extent and arrangement of policy, and how one thinks best to achieve capitalism/free market varies. So I don't see the distinction as sharply. $\endgroup$ – inappropriateCode May 23 '16 at 20:13

I'm new here, and I'm just gonna write this for fun.

Consider this, in the near future, where humans have advanced much in the field of computing power and data collection. Scientists can run simulations with artificial intelligence that would enable machines to be trained in undertaking tasks that are considered too complicated to do for our current computing standards.

In such a world, most jobs becomes depreciated, because machines can perform pretty much all the tasks. People can afford to live without jobs (or money), one can just go pickup their daily needs (produced by machines) such as food or any other product from some local warehouse.

It it then much better if you have a majority of less educated people.

For starters, it would be important to keep close control over the boundaries of AI development. Someone has to to make sure AI doesn't evolve in ways which would harm our existence. Those people needs to be highly educated and responsible (mostly responsible). And you just need a small number of such people (possibly monitored closely) so their actions are easily controlled.

This would be opposed to where if most people have high education, then you'd have no control over how AI might evolve. Some high school kid could be running a simulated virtual organism on his home computer, feeding it random data from the internet (or whatever more advance version we'd have in the future), without proper limitation on how it might evolve. Before long, people would be creating dangerous AI programs that would threaten our existence.

It would be better then, if say only 1% of people receive high enough education that would allow them to evolve and control the computers software. And the other 99% are only smart enough to happily play candy crush or posting selfies on facebook.

The other reason would be social unrest. When the computers take over our jobs. You'd be left with a lot of bored people. As it turns out, higher educated people are much harder to satisfy.

Ideally, people should be holidaying forever and spending more time to explore arts and music or their other none dangerous hobbies. But this only happens if they are dumb. e.g. people in the middle ages would be happy if all they did was partying and having sex forever, they'd even be happy if they worked as a blacksmith at the same place forever. But an educated person would be bored out of their mind. They'd be seeking ways for intellectual stimulation (such as the challenge of making killer robots, protesting and starting revolutions).

Lastly, why would you even need to educate people, 99% of the jobs would be taken care of, and it would be a waste of time and resources to train people when it would be better for everyone to be stupid. Sure, social values would probably degrade pretty soon, but it'd be a better alternative than total self destruction.

This might actually happen, think about it and have a nice day :).

Added thoughts:

Interesting point from @inappropriateCode with the human urge to teach and learn. One would think it'd surely be hard to enforce restrictions on education, especially in an advanced future society. But maybe this isn't as far fetched as it may seem. It might actually happen naturally to some extend.

Just to clarify, the machines in my proposed situation would be smart enough to carry out structured jobs efficiently. Say to design and 3D print cars, grow crops to the best yield. But maybe not efficient enough to run an program that trains an AI to "freely reason", in any manageable time.

The main motivation for a government who wants to dumb the population down would be to reduce the chances of someone from creating such AI programs (in which case it could force a man vs machines intellectual arms race which we'll probably lose because the human brain evolves slower).

It might take a few generations from now to reach that point. In which time people are going to get less dependent on having a job to make a living.

At some point (even now, in some countries) jobs becomes optional, and a percentage of the population would choose to not get a job or an education, as the "jobless living standards" improve, more and more people would fall into this category. And their kids would grow up in an education optional lifestyle, with no particular reason to break out of this bubble.

After some time, you'd be left with the fairly intellectually minded people, that would still choose to get an education. Now the government decides to give the dumbing process a nudge, it impose a high education fee. Remember that pretty much all the young people at this point would be born in to a job and education optional world, so unless if you're very motivated, you probably wont fight against it. Maybe most people would be redirecting their attention to some other none formal education required activity, such as arts and craft, to fulfill their intellectual needs.

We're now left with the really motivated people, who still wants to get formally educated, but even if they can pay the fees, they'd have to study really hard, with less teaching resources, and the seriously advance shit they'd have to learn. Their reward for finishing their studies would be to monitor the world and keep the machines in check (that'd pretty much be the only jobs available), while everyone else gets to party none stop or do whatever the hell they feel like.

The ones that can't afford to study but still wants to can do home learning and or form interest groups (it's their right, why not?). But if the government ban free access to teaching resources and compiling software for computing. You'd have seriously hard time trying to design code / hack into the system from scratch. Remember technology would be more advance in the future which increases the difficulty. While you're trying hack your way into AI advancement, you'd surely standout from everyone else and the government can put a stop to it before you become a problem. In that sense, there's no real need for the government to ban learning, plus you'd be fine if you don't touch AI, just learn accounting instead, that's like....fun too....

And if you've received a formal education and decides to not get a job after, you'd still have the restricted access to computing resources and you'd be watched for life probably. All manageable problems.

So there you go, that's how humanity would devolve in an advanced world, don't take it seriously..... but it might happen.....

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to worldbuilding lzl! I see this description orientet towards the current development of the world as a perfectly valid answer to the question. $\endgroup$ – Hohmannfan May 23 '16 at 10:13
  • $\begingroup$ Assuming the machines set us free (hopefully!) you perhaps underestimate how many bored people would choose to teach and study because it makes them happy. We've got to a point where most people don't work in the jobs they do because they need to per se, but because it keeps them busy and social as they choose their job. And if the machines do provide for the material needs of the society ("luxury communism") then why would education cost if most people's jobs are vocational rather than essential? The most expensive private schools today are so because people know they get you a good job. $\endgroup$ – inappropriateCode May 23 '16 at 10:16
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, what you're saying is right, but in the question the government is actively trying to discourage it. The fee would be for discouragement. The aim is to stop those bored people from teaching and studying. Maybe i should also add that there would be restrictions to free access of information. $\endgroup$ – lzl May 23 '16 at 10:32
  • $\begingroup$ I should also add that because hardly anyone worked and most stuff are free, then, money would be worth a lot more than their current value (there would still be trading, but not to the same scale as now). so 2000 USD would probably be like 2 mil (uneducated guess). That would be a very effective discouragement tool. in fact, the only people that can afford it would probably be those 1% ters, thus they'd probably keep their status for generations. $\endgroup$ – lzl May 23 '16 at 10:40
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    $\begingroup$ hahaha, I don't think the casual learners would be a problem tho, the world's on the last step before machines become free for all killers, and with restricted computing resources, it might take more than some math to reach it. read my added thoughts. don't take it too seriously though, it's just one set of possibilities. $\endgroup$ – lzl May 23 '16 at 16:22

They believe in a free market for education.

Public schools in industrialized nations can easily cost the taxpayer USD 10000 per student per year. The leaders might argue that a good education is an investment in the future of the child, so the parents had better take a credit and pay at least a small part of the cost.

This is short-sighted, since better educated kids pay more taxes later in life, but with the right propaganda of "look out for yourself" and "the skilled ones will rise to the top" such a policy might be popular with the voters.

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    $\begingroup$ It's not the government's job to collect taxes. And "better educated" has very little correlation with "long education" - on a market, there's a strong incentive to make education as efficient as possible, which includes making it short. In our so-called "basic schools", it takes 9 years to go through an education that only teaches a tiny bit of essentials (basic literacy, counting) and a huge amount of context-less data that will never stick to the students. The truth is, if you make prices free (as in freedom), they will give you information - is it worth it to invest more in learning? $\endgroup$ – Luaan May 23 '16 at 9:02
  • $\begingroup$ This is very important. Our basic schools could teach what they currently teach in about 3 years. The rest is just fluff. There has been a lot of push recently to change curriculum to a more "teaching how to learn" then "teaching facts" type of education, just because of this. $\endgroup$ – coteyr May 23 '16 at 15:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Luaan, I hope you realize that I'm answering in the context of a fictional world for a story or game. In the real world, I firmly believe that it is the job of the government to collect enough taxes so that all children can get a decent education, no matter how rich or poor their parents are. $\endgroup$ – o.m. May 23 '16 at 20:25
  • $\begingroup$ @o.m. Well, that's quite obvious from your second paragraph, so don't worry :) $\endgroup$ – Luaan May 23 '16 at 22:28

If the educational facilities are publicly funded, it sounds like the government is just trying to recoup the cost of the education.

Good reasons keeping the price of education high:

  • Prevent waste in spending by people getting an education when they don't need it. If education is "free", meaning it is paid for through everyone's taxes, some people may get an education when it doesn't make good economic sense to do so.
  • Prevent waste in education efforts. In America K-12 education is free for everyone. Since no one has to pay for it, a lot of people fail to appreciate it and don't make the most of the opportunity. High schools in particular become temporary housing for difficult students rather than educational facilities.

Good reasons for encouraging informal/home schooling:

  • Encourage the strength of nuclear families and local communities. Home schooling encourages people of communities to voluntarily work together for mutual benefit. In order to succeed in their efforts they need to get to know their neighbors and work with them. Public education encourages people to leave everything up to the state and lose their ability to form and maintain community organizations.
  • Encourage a diversity of ideas. Formal education requires formal standards. This requires that everyone learn pretty much the same ideas. It can even cause the creation of a learned class that actively discriminates against people with different ideas. Encouraging less formal education prevents this kind of echo chamber mono-culture.

So-so reasons for fining the more highly educated:

  • Redistribution of resources from rich to poor. Many nations today tax the rich more than the poor. This would be similar because the educated would be expected to earn more than the uneducated.
  • Encourage the educated to make the most of their education. "From each according to his abilities; to each according to his needs". An educated person obviously has more ability and should contribute more to society. What if someone with medical degree decided he would rather run a dairy farm? He might like farming, but sick people could die!

Bad reasons:

  • Prevent the rise of a middle class by keeping everyone poor. If everyone is poor, no one has time to agitate for rights and freedoms because they're too busy trying to earn enough to survive.
  • Prevent people from learning too much about ideas like individual freedoms and democracy. Keep them from learning about Milton Friedman, John Locke, George Mason, and Friedrich Hayek. People may be willing to pay high for education that has immediate economic payoffs, but they will be far less willing to pay for education that benefits the community especially when they don't know what those benefits may be before they get the education.
  • $\begingroup$ "Prevent waste in education efforts. In America K-12 education is free for everyone. Since no one has to pay for it, a lot of people fail to appreciate it..." Very true, this also leads to schools being forced to teach less, as they don't have enough to teach properly. I.e. "Why should I pay that much in taxes for that level of education, hell could teach that in a few months. I don't see why it takes them 12 years." $\endgroup$ – coteyr May 23 '16 at 15:56
  • $\begingroup$ "High schools in particular become temporary housing for difficult students..." This is true also at lower "grades". Most of the time primary education is just fancy day care. There are may reasons for this "problem" but the problem certainly produces waste. Reducing that waste, specially in time, could be extremely valuable. $\endgroup$ – coteyr May 23 '16 at 15:59

Many people have put up the negative view of Education discouragement. Here is utopian- Education produces people with worse abilities than they started with- philosophers who pontificate indefinitely, artists who produce horrid artworks, engineers who produce impractical designs. The world is currently endowed with a lot of awful university trained scientists- people who spot the most flawed scientific studies, there is a lot art and soft science graduates with the most flawed thinking ever. If those people had simply started normal jobs without an university or other formal education, they could have become highly competent and that's what the government really- not useless parasites who refuse work and do bad jobs. Just make your world have the worst institutions as being held up the best ones.


Reminds me of an old Dutch proverb:
"You keep them poor, I'll keep them stupid, said the priest to the Baron".
Knowledge and wealth equate to power.
The powers that be (church and government) don't like competition.
So best keep them poor and uneducated so they can't challenge the powers in control.

And by making education expensive you achieve both at the same time.
The poor can't get education. And the educated ones will be poorer afterwards.


Because other forms of education work better.

A lot of answers seem to be slanted towards "education good, no education bad", but that may not be true, even here on earth (for some societies).

As humans we buy into the fact that we will spend the first 1/3 of our lives gaining education, the next 1/3 working and learning a little, then the last 1/3 teaching in some form.

What if we lived longer or shorter lives. Would a structured education benefit us as well? What if our government structure was different? What if our values were different?

A lot of the other answers assume that if your uneducated your stupid, and easy to manipulate and control. What if a gerontocracy was in place? Then the education of the normal citizen would not matter much.

In fact, we have this problem today with (direct) democracies. In order for a voter to make an informed decision they have to have an education in the areas that they are making decisions in. Our society is currently "specializing", and this means that an educated voter, is really only educated in one or two topics and the rest is all opinion, or at most, "That makes sense".

Lets take that "theory" to an extreme. First the country was run by some form of Democracy. As time went on, problems arose because there educated citizens were only educated in their field of expertise. It was not possible to educate a person in everything. Bad things happened because of this, so the government changed, and became a form of gerontocracy. Things were turbulent for a time, but once the turmoil was over, the people realized that this was better. Ideas were adapted slower, but that gave time for people to adjust and created a more peaceful society.

At the same time, specialization continued. Now, with the government "problem" not really requiring everyone to know everything, it became far more valuable to train people in the field they wanted. There was no need for "core skills" they don't exist any more, and society doesn't need them to keep going. Instead value was placed in a guild like system. Apprentices, Juniors, Masters, and Experts. You gained knowledge in your field as you spent time in it. Formal education is being phased out, in favor of learning what you need. Not because someone is trying to keep you stupid, but the knowledge you need as a mathematics wiz doesn't include history.

Take a look at today, and look at the negative sides of formal education. Cost is one factor, but so is the indoctrination. There is also the grand idea that one person is smarter then another, because of formal education. While education servers a need in our society right now, it's not a need that has always been there. In fact, if you ditch the "I'm better then you cause I have a degree" feeling that exists on to of education today, what it really is, is core classes that everyone "should have" like basic language, science, and math skills, and then some specialized skills. If we remove the "should have" by having a society where you don't need those basic skills, or those basic skills are acquired differently, there is almost no reason for formal education. In other words if your society focused more on "I'm happy" and then imparted specific skills via another system, then the idea of formal education is much less appealing.

In short, one could make the argument that education is a "want to have so I can be better then my fellow man". We do this today. We look at people without education and consider them "less then" (not as an individual but as a society). If instead your society learned to value contentment and didn't place a negative on their fellow man for not knowing a thing, then the need for a formal education (as you describe it) goes away. A person can be very happy, not knowing a thing. If your society helped promote this kind of happiness, then your in good shape. Formal education exists to help people "re-train" or to keep them from falling into "a groove". You can only be a farmer cause that's what your parents were. You can't be a scientist. Then you could go to formal school, learn the basics of scientists and find an apprenticeship. Of course it's more expensive now, and there is a need to keep people "doing what they have always done" or that field will suffer when it becomes un-popular (but before it's phased out).


The country needs its labor force to tackle a problem that (it believes) can be better solved with sheer manpower than with education and ingenuity

For example, the country could be facing hunger and require its citizens to become farmers, believing that it will increase food production. You could look at an isolated country like North Korea as an example: Only talented people receive high education, whereas common folk are made to become soldiers and farmers.


The country is in debt and/or needs money.

Perhaps said country is in a state of war with the neighboring nation and needs more money for its military expenditures. Perhaps the country needs to repay the debt that it owes the United Nations 20 years ago. There are many reasons why a government would fine the educated.

One, the educated are the rich. Not only are the rich the most likely to afford education, the educated are the most likely to become rich. This pattern continues on in an endless loop. Second, if the country is in a desperate state of poverty, pollution, disease, and starvation, the government may be trying to utilize the wealth of the upper class to help repair the country's economy and infrastructure. (Or perhaps the government is just a bunch of greedy, corrupt bastards :))

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ While answering own questions is nowhere discouraged, I just want to point out that if own answer is the first one to be seen it might demotivate people to post their answers $\endgroup$ – Pavel Janicek May 22 '16 at 19:20
  • $\begingroup$ I sort of agree with Pavel Janicek's comment. The best uses of self-answered questions that I have seen were when the author wanted to present an essay-style answer as a resource for future worldbuilders, for instance CAgrippa's question and answer here: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/824/… (And that got closed, despite its high number of votes.) This self-answer by fi12 lacks that long term value. But I must admit that "Governments will tax anything they can get away with" was also my first thought. $\endgroup$ – Lostinfrance May 23 '16 at 9:31


For decades, formal education was touted as the best chance for a person to make a better life for themselves. No one is sure who started the mantra, but everyone is chanting, "Get your degree, no matter the cost"? The government got behind the schools and started handing out low interest loans to make it happen and went so far as to subsidize the interest in some cases.

The schools increased their costs and education costs tripled. The workforce abandoned skilled labor training in favor formal education. The result was catastrophic. The entire population suffered from debt overload as the jobs for the educated dried up. The skill labor population was decimated and basic carpentry and metal working skills were lost. Loan defaults were occurring faster than the planets birth rate and the government economy crumbled.

Enlightened economists and people with plain ol' common sense figured out the problem and determined to fix it, simultaneously boosting the economy. Formal education would be the least of people's financial concerns as general education took a back seat to skills education. The populace would be fined into oblivion before another college grad was produced to compete for a job at McDonalds.

Incentives and jobs were given to those who entered into cheap, skills centered training, that got them working and earning a living in months, not years.


A corrupt / incompetent stereotypical-third-world-style (maybe military) government/dictatorship.

There is no political will for the government to fund free education for all as it's not part of their priorities. They keep their supporters well paid and happy so they can afford the exorbitant fees. The more common people who can't, they simply don't care about.

The government recoups the cost (or perhaps even makes a profit) from education so they don't want to spend resources and threaten this situation, and either it has never occurred to them, or they don't care, that free or cheap education for all will have long term benefits.

The economy doesn't simply collapse perhaps because the country may be rich in a natural resource (e.g. oil) that they sell to more powerful countries in exchange for political, financial and technical support. Meanwhile, the lower class learns just about enough to be able to do the menial jobs of their parents to survive, or perhaps apprenticeships are common.


There are a lot of excellent answers here. I would like to add a political economics explanation.

In the real world, education policy is tied to the kind of government in place (what political scientists call regime). Different kinds of governments have different incentives for education.

Dictatorships (in this case - any government where leaders are not decided by free and fair elections) typically minimize education. There are a few ways to look at this:

  1. Dictatorships only require the support of key groups (for example, a military cadre or core economic elite). They government will be pressed to provide for their education, but not the public's. They might also need to provide rudimentary technical education, but won't if they can avoid it.
  2. Dictatorships don't want an educated public, because those people will demand better standards of living, more freedom, etc. The government might be more tolerant of limited technical education, but even those students will make demand better standards of living (by virtue of their better career choices).
  3. Dictatorships don't want to spend money on education, because every dollar spent on the public takes away from the wealth of elites.
  4. Dictatorships typically have concerns - such as suppressing the masses, fending off internal rivals, and creating symbols of legitimacy - which are more pressing than their nation's education or economy.
  5. Dictatorships are seldom worried about the future. Education pays off in the long run, but not while the current dictator is still alive.
  6. Elites and dictators may have never lived like the masses do (perhaps due to extreme wealth inequality, or they remain socially segregated). They may not understand the masses or their problems, or have an inkling they want (or need) to be educated.

I phrased all of these as being about "dictatorships", but you could repackage any of them to be about nearly any fictional government. For example, even a democracy might need only the support of a certain segment of the public. Only the needs of that segment need to be met, which could mean that only that segment is educated.

I will update this with journal citations this evening, to improve the answer.


This isn't really an answer to why the government would fine people, especially such a low amount. $2k a year for schooling is not unheard of.

Why fine the people when there are easier ways to keep people from getting educated?

They could either close most or all of the schools, with long queues to get into the ones that remain

Or they could simply make the schools crappy, with underpaid unmotivated teachers, overcrowding, bad conditions, access to drugs, and tons of standardized tests that take all the fun out of learning?
It's been working for the Detroit school system for years, so I don't know why it wouldn't work for your government.

But why waste such a great opportunity? Think about it, if you had year round schooling, 8 hours a day, you'd have the children as a captive audience longer than the parents would. It's a perfect opportunity to indoctrinate them with the values and ideas that the government wants to foster.
In fact make the schools such a great place to be that the students will resent having to go home where their parents can drone on and on about old fashioned values.

Having an ignorant population where parents get to decide what the children believe is really shortsighted for a totalitarian government.


Ok. Heres the problem: You are trying to get the people of your city to do something strange. Dont do that. Why would you even want that?

Instead, work with your imaginary people. Start from the basics, and go with that. If they think education is cool and you dont, go with the education instead. Dont try to think ways to do something silly. Try to think ways to do something smart.

So, why would they want people to stay uneducated? Dont know? Well, maybe they shouldnt want to keep people uneducated. Maybe they DO want it, but cant. Its not available? Its only available from abroad, and that makes it very costly. Or maybe they want people to get educated, but all foreign educators also bring new ideas they dont want to spread. So they limit the education to only those most loyal.

If you start with hard rules, with a square hole and a round peg, and you cant make them work even with a hammer, back down a bit. Maybe it doesnt have to be just like that. Maybe you need only one or the other. Soften the demands a bit. Maybe the leaders want people educated. Maybe they use different methods. Maybe its not the leaders, but EVERYONE who thinks education is bad, like a religious community that rejects some or all science.

Maybe education is not available, or everyone needs to work just to stay alive.

It not much more than hundred years ago, that even in the west many people thought that education makes people lazy and they cannot afford to allow children in schools, and instead they had to work the fields to grow food.

There are many options, if you can just relax your demands a little bit.


What a coincidence. I just saw this question, while this article was open in another tab.

Titled "A Turkish rector says “better to keep masses uneducated”", it describes a Turkish university rector who claimed the uneducated people will be the backbone of Turkey’s future and has said that “educated people are more dangerous than uneducated people.”

So, no need to imagine an answer - just ask this douche (Prof. Dr. Bulent Ari, Deputy Rector of the Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University) personally.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding, I'd suggest fleshing out your answer a little more so you can provide more detail. $\endgroup$ – fi12 May 25 '16 at 0:38

"Why would a government passively encourage its people to not obtain a formal education?"

The most obvious reason is that a Government plans to have the rich become an Educated Elite, 'User-Pays' so to speak. If education becomes the domain of a small privileged portion of society then that portion would be in a position of great power. "Knowledge is Power."

Edit: If schools are run down and basically became indoctrination centres, that discourages people also, so it may not be that Government is intentionally trying to dissuade people so much as the process being an end result of an attempt at mass mind control. People resist this and so are reluctant to send their children to school.


There could have been a malicious government back in the day. The schools founded by that government are actually indoctrination centers rather than learning centers; just like in our world currently. That government itself has been overthrown, but the fake schools are still there, and most of the citizens are still brainwashed and want to send their kids there. The new, not so malicious government, can't shut those schools down for some reason so instead they try to discourage people from going there.


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