Recently, I was reading an article on TechCrunch by Sarah Lacey entitled: “Peter Thiel: We’re in a Bubble and It’s Not the Internet. It’s Higher Education.”
In a nutshell, Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, has fairly accurately predicted the bursting of both the .com bubble and housing bubble, making money in both instances. He nows claims the next bubble is higher education.
“A true bubble is when something is overvalued and intensely believed,” he says. “Education may be the only thing people still believe in in the United States. To question education is really dangerous. It is the absolute taboo. It’s like telling the world there’s no Santa Claus.”
He doesn’t say that higher education is unneccessary of even that it is of no value. What he warns is that the belief that a college education equals security is being pushed to unhealthy levels, leading young people to trade their future life for the education that is suppose to give them that future to begin with.
He is not alone. As he points out.
“It used to be a given that a college education was always worth the investment– even if you had to take out student loans to get one. But over the last year, as unemployment hovers around double digits, the cost of universities soars and kids graduate and move back home with their parents, the once-heretical question of whether education is worth the exorbitant price has started to be re-examined even by the most hard-core members of American intelligensia. ”
“Thiel’s thinks it’s fundamentally wrong for a society to pin people’s best hope for a better life on something that is by definition exclusionary.” Thiel has a unique response – his 20 under 20 competition. Read about it.
This made me think even further about education and how it will interact with life in the future. I have come to see education as having a serious flaw of being hopelessly narrow and unimaginative. In a terrifyingly industrial manner, it seems to try to push everyone into an assembly-line, practicality-based dynamic. Tragically, in an attempt to make sure everyone gets the same education, the current paradigm excludes the unique and wealthy potential of huge segments of the population, both “special needs” and “gifted”.
Recently, Yahoo News published a story about what kids are actually accomplishing in school. In a study that followed 2,300 students through 24 four-year universities, sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa found that about 45 percent of college students performed no better on a reasoning and writing test after two years of college than before and more than 35 percent of students showed no improvement on the test even after four years of college.
Additionally stories about the ever-widening oppotunities for and incidents of outright cheating like those told in an article entitled “The Shadow Scholar”, published in an educator-targeted publication The Chronicle for Higher Education” make me wonder, “What is the actual worth of a college degree that can be bought?”
As the cost of college soars, I think the traditional value placed on a college degree must be balanced with the costs and realities of the experiences gained. However, this news gives me hope.
I hope that the economy will consciously look for innovators instead of simply degrees. I hope that employers will find value in the unique abilities offered by those they recruit. I hope that in such an environment, there will be a willingness to make the accommodations necessary to allow the brilliance of our now atypical children seem like less of an inconvenience and more of a reasonable trade-off. Ultimately, I hope that this will push our educational system to either reform or even a complete rebuilding resulting in quality education and talent-development for every child.