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American Economy to be Saved by College Dropouts?

American Economy to be Saved by College Dropouts?

 

Living in the Silicon Valley, I have heard this argument for a while now.† To be a real creative force in the technological world or to create jobs to better the economy, you have to drop out of college, sometimes the best colleges in America (Zuckerberg and Moscovitz dropped out of Harvard ) or not even go at all† (Gates and Allen).† Many other big names can also be mentioned, Flickr, Twitter and Etsy among them, as being founded by college dropouts.

Lately I am also seeing this argument all over the internet, with authors like Michael Ellsberg, Joel Mathis and Matt Drudge chiming in. Michael Ellsberg authored the new book The Education of Millionaires: Itís Not What You Think and Itís Not Too Late.

One angel investor says that he has funded college dropouts because they simply didn’t need the rest of their degree to finish their ideas in the real world.† And he argues, isn’t that what college was meant to do in the first place? To teach the fundamentals of a science so that new innovations can then be made?

Furthering the argument is the idea that colleges are degree factories where the manufacture date is the graduation year.† Sir Ken Robinson, an educational revolutionary, has described it as a Fast Food Paradigm.† He goes on to say that creativity has been killed in the American school system. The ability to handle failure, too.† Many of the entrepreneurs mentioned here speak passionately about their business failures leading to success. Our education system asks students to play it safe and give up at the first sign of failure (assuming that any failure will look bad on college applications and resumes).

Add to this the sages who remark on the lack of social interaction in the competitive schools and note that all businesses rely on someone buying something from someone.† Salesmanship isn’t taught in most educational systems, and this is what has made the Bigs so big. †You have to know how to talk face to face and academia is not big on collaboration, even as it is in their best interest to be.

Perhaps it is a safer bet to point out that all of these people have had a middle to upper class white background, and because of that have a fundamental understanding of how college works, and how the American system works.† After all, they had to get into college to drop out of it. And we do know that it is much easier to get into college if you are from this type of background.

What about their mentors and advisers?† They are usually college educated, as are the angel investors.† And we as a nation are still telling our children to get good grades, do well on their SATs and spend an average of $45,000 on tuition ó after accounting for scholarships ó while taking on $23,000 in debt to get a private four-year college education.

I am not sure that there is not an argument to be made for the dropouts, but I also don’t think we as educators should advocate throwing away a Harvard education, even if it did work for one guy named Zuckerberg.

 

Related Stories:

Low-Tech Learning in a Tech-Obsessed World

Teach Your Child Self-Discipline Without Tiger-Parenting Her To Death

Why We Need to Encourage Curiosity In Students

 

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Photo credit: Dr. Starbuck

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36 comments

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5:13AM PDT on Nov 5, 2011

I think that Devon N makes a good point. Perhaps that has something to do with why some people get more out of college than others. I've met many people with degrees up to and including PhDs who apparently focused like a laser beam only on their profession.

As a result they missed out on the "higher" part of higher education. The part where an individual gets a well rounded understanding of the world around them - gaining knowledge about history, economics, philosophy and science such that they can make intelligent decisions about who would best represent our great country in the halls of congress.

It's sad when I have a conversation with such a person and find that they are ignorant of so many things outside of their profession. When discussing important issues of the day they are no better informed than some high school dropouts!

12:21AM PDT on Nov 3, 2011

How many people with college degrees or certificates have those men had to employ to get their businesses as big and flourishing as they are?

9:44PM PDT on Nov 2, 2011

Dylan T. Right. And I also do not want a Dr. with many doctorate degrees to perform open heart surgey, if they are only doing it for the money.

8:15PM PDT on Nov 2, 2011

because a handful of people out of 7 billion were able to become billionaires without a college education isn't an excuse for one not to get a degree. some people have no desire to become a billionaire, but to live a decent life doing a service to the world and to do what they enjoy doing. that's what the problem is with the world, everything has to be greed and money motivated.
do you want to have open heart surgery performed by a guy who only took a class in anatomy, biology and first aid?

7:33PM PDT on Nov 2, 2011

Indeed, one doesn't need to go to college to have a happy life. And no one IS hiring. Still, the debts must be paid. A mess.

12:18PM PDT on Nov 2, 2011

There will always be those with a great idea that is able to take that idea to realization. The truth of the matter is that most people are followers and will not make it without collage. It's the doers in this world that don't need collage.

10:41AM PDT on Nov 2, 2011

What Devon N. had to say about the quality of K-12 education got me thinking about my experience when I went to public school eons ago. I've had some good teachers, but also had some downright awful ones who never should have been allowed to set foot inside a classroom, much less a school. It seemed that more time was wasted in class checking to see whether a person was tardy to class (or how tardy they were), not to mention some teachers actually announcing the students grades, including the bad ones. Also, if a kid did not fit a certain "profile", forget it. Looking back, it is a wonder I actually made it to college. I did have to work hard, but the private liberal college I went to was far more agreeable academically for me, than the high school and junior college I went to initially. It really depends on who is doing the teaching, and whether the skills are in place to utilize the newer information.

9:53AM PDT on Nov 2, 2011

(Disclosure: I teach college English, first- and second-year level.) An undergraduate degree
(B.A., B. Sc., etc.) is not intended to certify that the holder is ready to start as a CFO. It shows that the graduate (a) has learned the basics of a given discipline--its techniques, its history, its current condition--and ready to begin work in that field "in the mail room," so to speak, and (b) that the graduate is capable of learning the basics of such a discipline. It is probably true that a commercial portrait photographer does not need a college degree to carry on his business; it is likely that a person who constructs catalytic fractionators will do well to get at least a master's degree in chemical engineering, and some experience, before opening his own business. Apples and oranges compare WAY better than apples and turnips.

9:19AM PDT on Nov 2, 2011

If this is a second posting, my apologies.
I want to offer an hypothesis: What if it is not the quality of a college education that is deficient, but rather the quality of the K-12 education that is deficient? Currently many colleges have to offer remedial English and math courses to entering freshmen because they are not capable of doing college level work do to deficiencies in these areas. We have a school system that is literally being financially starved to death by political parties and corporate/religious agendas. We teachers who are nothing more than coaches to a test and as dependent on computers as students in the classroom. We do not teach a rounded education that would foster critical thinking or creative thinking skills in K-12 anymore, and we have abdicated our responsibility to future generations in that failure. It is time for a new educational approach for K-12 so that no matter what a person does - college, trade school, or entrepreneur - they have the knowledge and skills to do it well and successfully. I suggest a new program called Every Child Wins in my book (available at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/devon_noll) that addresses these needs. Maybe then articles like this one will be unneeded because we will have met the needs of all students, not just college bound ones.

9:17AM PDT on Nov 2, 2011

I want to offer an hypothesis: What if it is not the quality of a college education that is deficient, but rather the quality of the K-12 education that is deficient? Currently many colleges have to offer remedial English and math courses to entering freshmen because they are not capable of doing college level work do to deficiencies in these areas. We have a school system that is literally being financially starved to death by political parties and corporate/religious agendas. We teachers who are nothing more than coaches to a test and as dependent on computers as students in the classroom. We do not teach a rounded education that would foster critical thinking or creative thinking skills in K-12 anymore, and we have abdicated our responsibility to future generations in that failure. It is time for a new educational approach for K-12 so that no matter what a person does - college, trade school, or entrepreneur - they have the knowledge and skills to do it well and successfully. I suggest a new program called Every Child Wins in my book (available at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/devon_noll) that addresses these needs. Maybe then articles like this one will be unneeded because we will have met the needs of all students, not just college bound ones.

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