Friday, April 20, 2012

Peter Thiel's Avalanche Effect on College Education

Peter Thiel is a successful entrepreneur, visionary, and venture capitalist. One of his recent investments involves sponsoring youth under the age of 20 years old, in the starting of their own enterprises. The young people must forego a college education during the time that they are engaged in their intensive entrepreneurial training and startup experience.

Interestingly, one of Thiel's young hopefuls -- 19 year old Dale J. Stephens -- has embarked on an entrepreneurial campaign in opposition of the phenomenon of excessive college education. The excerpt below is taken from Stephens' article in CNN: College is a waste of time:
I have been awarded a golden ticket to the heart of Silicon Valley: the Thiel Fellowship. The catch? For two years, I cannot be enrolled as a full-time student at an academic institution. For me, that's not an issue; I believe higher education is broken.

I left college two months ago because it rewards conformity rather than independence, competition rather than collaboration, regurgitation rather than learning and theory rather than application. Our creativity, innovation and curiosity are schooled out of us.

...College is expensive. The College Board Policy Center found that the cost of public university tuition is about 3.6 times higher today than it was 30 years ago, adjusted for inflation. In the book "Academically Adrift," sociology professors Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa say that 36% of college graduates showed no improvement in critical thinking, complex reasoning or writing after four years of college. Student loan debt in the United States, unforgivable in the case of bankruptcy, outpaced credit card debt in 2010 and will top $1 trillion in 2011.

... Learning by doing -- in life, not classrooms -- is the best way to turn constant iteration into true innovation. We can be productive members of society without submitting to academic or corporate institutions.

... We who take our education outside and beyond the classroom understand how actions build a better world. We will change the world regardless of the letters after our names. _College is a waste of time
Brave words, which will need to be backed up by braver actions. Stephens will receive $100,000 and access to expert advice and assistance in reaching his entrepreneurial goals. Stephens has already been signed by Penguin Press to write his first book, "Hacking Your Education."

What is most interesting about this phenomenon is that Thiel's initial investment is spurring a downstream expansion in interest in entrepreneurial alternatives to mainstream college education. And this downstream expansion is likely to spawn further downstream expansion, and so on etc. . . .

Wise people understand that school is not the education. Life is the education. The efforts of modern society to place emphasis on the educational effect of schools at the expense of the educational effect of life, has led to a society of Peter Pans and Cinderellas, perpetual incompetent adolescents of the psychologically neotenate variety.

Peter Thiel aims to change that emphasis back, in an effort to help save at least a few youth from wasting their time and lives. Peter Thiel aims to misbehave. And he is hoping that the attitude will be catching.

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