Why Not Skip College?

John Seiler:

Katy Grimes reported here at CalWatchDog.com on the protests against cuts in aid to college students. That means higher tuition — “fees” — to attend state colleges and universities.

Here’s an idea for how kids can cut the costs of going to college: Don’t go.

It’s a myth that going to college always leads to higher pay. Sometimes it does. If you want to be a doctor or lawyer, there’s no choice but to go to school for the better part of a decade.

But a degree in sociology or psychology or English is almost worthless. You end up with debt totaling maybe $50,000 and have wasted four years taking pointless classes between smoking reefers when you could have spent those precious years starting a career or a business — or getting married and having kids. And let’s face it, after Social Security and Medicare go broke, the only retirement security most people will have in 20 years or so will be their kids.

Do college people generally make more money? Yes, but that’s because they’re smarter in general. And smart people, in general, make more money. If the smart kids had skipped college, they’d still be smart at whatever else they did.

Look at Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs. They dropped out to start computer companies now worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Would they have done better if they had gotten degrees in postmodern poststructuralism posteverything studies?

The Altucher Plan

One of my favorite bloggers is James Altucher. He’s written a couple of times against college. He has a new blog up about it, “Did Obama Really Say He Wants Everyone to Go to College?” He writes:

“There’s a weird debate happening out there. Apparently Rick Santorum “accused” Obama of insisting that every child go to college. Other websites have said that Obama has never said this but instead has encouraged every kid to seek a higher education. I don’t care about Obama or Santorum. I don’t care about politics at all. But it’s interesting to me how this issue has again sparked a debate.

“Expect lots of lies and cutting and stabbing for the next few months until the election. Santorum clearly lied. Obama lies. Everyone will lie about everyone else. Which is why I hate politics, why I think Congress should be abolished, and why I think Nobody should be voted in as President.”

You can see why I like this guy.

“And now suddenly, and sadly, ‘to go or not to go’ to college has become a political issue. Yet another pressure trying to ruin the lives of our children.

“Then a friend of mine, Kathryn Schulz, the author of the book ‘Being Wrong’ suggested that I am the ONLY person who thinks kids should not go to college. This is clearly not true: Peter Thiel and Seth Godin being some examples and there are many examples of successful people in the arts and business who did not go to college.”

Put me on the list.

Six Reasons

Altucher lists six more reasons not to go to college. A couple of them:

“over the past 40 years, college tuitions have gone up 10 times faster than inflation and three times faster than healthcare costs. Healthcare costs is an ongoing national debate. Why aren’t tuitions? Why should we force our 18 year olds now to take on so much debt. Its three times as high now as when I graduated college and I graduated with about $70k in debt that I had to pay back….

“Many will say it’s about learning. However, the tools for learning are so much more advanced now (because of the Internet) that there are cheaper, more effective solutions for education than ever before. And yet, more than ever, kids feel coerced into going to college.”

Right. The Internet provides all you need to learn something. For example, the Khan Academy provides, free, the best math course going, as well as numerous other free courses. He has more than 3,000 videos up — with thousands more to come.

“Does anyone learn anything in college? Let me ask you a couple of quick questions. At some point you came across these facts in either college or high school. See if you can answer quickly and correctly without looking it up. They are very simple: When was Charlemagne born? Name the different types of clouds? Who was William Mckinley’s Vice-President?”

OK. How’d you do, without looking anything up? My answers: I remember Charlemagne died in 814, but can’t remember the date of his birth. My guess: 750. Turns out it’s around 742. I think I learned that in high school. Clouds: I remember cumulous, but forget the rest. I learned that in 8th Grade Earth Sciences with Mr. Smith. That was in 1968 back before Earth Sciences became politically correct Global Warming Humans Are Evil Sciences. Here’s a list of clouds.

McKinley’s VP: Teddy Roosevelt. I probably read that on my own when I was maybe 10.

See? College is worthless.

“a college education will fill your memory. Teach you a lot of facts. Maybe teach you basic analysis that conforms with your teacher’s opinions. But will NOT teach you how to really think. Will not teach you how to come up with ideas. How to sell ideas. How to be creative. How to navigate through interesting experiences so you won’t get hurt.

“Let’s not forget that high school and below are primarily advanced babysitting services. So what makes college different? You’re still with the same demographic of people. You still have homework and tests and memorization of facts. The only difference is now you (most likely) live on your own. Is college the safest environment to do that? Is that the wisest use of the highest tuition costs ever? I doubt it.

“Learn how to learn. Then go wherever in the world you want to go. Because the world will be yours then.”

I like how Altucher always ends his blogs with zingers.

Bull Sessions

One more thing. What about one of the best things about college, bull sessions with your buddies? Here’s how to take care of that. Get together at somebody’s house with some of your smartest friends. Get some Jack Daniels and some cigars (or Virginia Slims if you’re women). I won’t encourage you do do doobies, but some of you might do that anyway.

Sit around and smoke, drink and talk about philosophy, history, English, movies, books, the Internet … whatever.

Total cost: $50. Cost of college: $200,000. Your savings: $199,950.

— March 6, 2012






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