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MobilityBundle
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At the outset, I suspect the observations below are probably most relevant in America, but I'd be interested in hearing the perspective in the rest of the world.

In America, a university education is, first and foremost, expensive. If one goes to a top tier private school, then tuition alone can run $50-60K / year, with public schools approximately half that. Moreover, there appears to be some creeping problems -- grade inflation, erosion of standards, and the like -- that at least arguably are making university education less meaningful.

At the same time, there's currently an explosion of free (or at least, cheap) access to high-quality educational materials. For example, there's MIT OpenCourseWare and similar efforts at other schools. There are hacker spaces where one can often get access to industrial grade equipment and face-to-face contact with some highly knowledgable people.

A few years ago, a Silicon Valley muck-a-muck named Peter Thiel introduced his "20 under 20" program. He gave 20 kids who are under 20 years old each $100K if they either dropped out of college or didn't go to college. Instead, their task was to use that money (no strings attached) to do... something. Start a business, solve a problem, build a machine. Just do something. He also offered some infrastructure -- mentoring, networking, and so forth.

These 20 kids were all pretty successful, but it's unsurprising. He carefully chose the kids who were the best and brightest, and they probably would have succeeded in virtually any environment.

So here's a concrete question for the forum:

Suppose you're a parent of a high-school aged kid. He's not the best/brightest -- he's not deciding whether to go to Harvard or Stanford on a scholarship. But he's reasonably smart, has reasonably good judgment and discipline, and has a reasonably concrete interest in, say, computer programming. Not 99th percentile, but say... 85th percentile.

You've financially prepared to educate him to the tune of, say, $200K. He got in to a reasonably good school, but no scholarship. If he goes, he'll study computer science, and he has a relatively concrete ambition to become an app developer after college. Suppose you don't know much about computer science in general or app development in particular.

Do you either (a) send him to the reasonably good school, or (b) tell him that you'll buy him any book, any software or hardware, any course, send him to any conference, etc., spending up to $200K, and let him become the best app developer he can become?

To be sure, suppose you're confident enough in his character that you're not afraid he'll just blow the money on partying and trips to Cancun.

What do you do? Is it even a close decision?

I posed the flip side of this question to a friend of mine, who is on a hiring committee at Google. I asked which is the better candidate: a recent college grad with a good transcript but no real tangible experience, or a kid of the same age with no formal education, but a good portfolio of work? He identified concerns in each case, but at the end of the day he didn't think it was possible to answer in the abstract. To me, that suggests they're both at least reasonable candidates (again, at least at this level of abstraction.)
stoneunhinged
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I believe in university education in the abstract. It provides a wonderful opportunity for "soul growth" (as I usually put it): broadening one's horizons, seeing what's out there in the world of ideas, making a certain kind of friends and celebrating a certain kind of friendship.

But in general, I'd say no, it's not worth the money. The job-training elements could be reduced to two or three semesters, usually. The "soul growth" culture (still possible, of course) competes with indoctrination in liberal arts classrooms and weekends of drunken debauchery.

Here's a rant I made a few years back: http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/searc......=5589964

In typical unhinged fashion, it's somewhat over-the-top. But I think it makes a pretty valid point.
landmark
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Great question, and one I deal with often in my work.

Capitalism in crisis, having devoured what it could from homeowners and workers ( yes, it's now legal in the US to steal deferred compensation from workers, isn't that grand?), is now turning to students, saddling them with enormous student debt. It will be an effective social control in silencing the voices of millions of unhappy citizens who might wish to express dissatisfaction with their exploitation.

But it's a difficult decision. Let me list what I feel are the pros and cons of going to college.

Pros:
Deeper learning in selected areas, along with the opportunities to find a mentor.
Meet people with more diverse views, find others who you can fit in with, interact with those who are different from you.
Exposure to academic ideas that had not been on the student's radar before.
Credential for future work opportunities.
Building of lifelong friendships and contacts.

Cons
Can be very expensive and burden the student with lifelong debt.
Specialization leads to knowing more and more about less and less.
Student is underexposed to non-academic ways of approaching life.
Curricula are narrowing and re-defining valuable learning as only existing in those disciplines that can earn dollars.
With the general devaluation of learning, becoming more educated does not necessarily lead to increased compensation in the workplace. (e.g. North Carolina's extraordinary decision not to grant teachers with higher education more compensation).

It's tough, and I don't think there's a universal answer. For the most part, on a case by case basis I think the pros still outweigh the cons, especially if there's no Plan B. But if a student does have another vision that seems reasonable, then I think the days of "get a college education to fall back on" are over. I think it's the other way around now. Do what you need to do to express your vision of your capabilities, and then if that doesn't work out, you can go back to school later. I know too many Ph.D. Students who are making sub-minimum wage teaching adjunct courses. And it's not clear that that will be only a temporary situation. There's paying your dues, and then there's lack of well-compensated work.

If I were hiring at Google, I'd pick the kid with experience and pay for his education while he works for me.
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You know, Bill Gates dropped out of college in his first year to pursue a computer business career. Make no mistake about it, he worked his butt off in those early years for the success he has today. But how many people can claim this? Most college drop outs end up in some job or other, but we don't know their names, and what ever success they did or did not have in life we don't know about. Most people who drop out of college go nowhere in life, or at least not so far.

People who don't go to college at all vary in where the end up. Most probably have jobs, some military, some labor etc. This is not wrong, it is not bad, I put no value judgement on it, it just is there path.

I think what it comes down to is that people who are willing to put in long hours and hard work will get some success in their chosen field. Not necessarily Bill Gates level success, but a descent career of some type.

College is a tool. IMHO a good one. Still just one of several.
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balducci
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Quote:
On 2013-12-05 06:44, MobilityBundle wrote:

A few years ago, a Silicon Valley muck-a-muck named Peter Thiel introduced his "20 under 20" program. He gave 20 kids who are under 20 years old each $100K if they either dropped out of college or didn't go to college. Instead, their task was to use that money (no strings attached) to do... something. Start a business, solve a problem, build a machine. Just do something. He also offered some infrastructure -- mentoring, networking, and so forth.

These 20 kids were all pretty successful, but it's unsurprising. He carefully chose the kids who were the best and brightest, and they probably would have succeeded in virtually any environment.

You may have bought into some hype here. Several analyses of the program showed that results were not as fantastic as Thiel and his people advertised.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/singularity/......e-spray/
Make America Great Again! - Trump in 2020 ... "We're a capitalistic society. I go into business, I don't make it, I go bankrupt. They're not going to bail me out. I've been on welfare and food stamps. Did anyone help me? No." - Craig T. Nelson, actor.
tommy
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I would say yes it is worth it if you pass: Many waste their time just having fun their and drop out and still have to pay.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

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mastermindreader
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I agree that the costs of higher education can be prohibitive. But I don't agree with the prevalent idea that the sole purpose of a university education should be to prepare a student for the job market. I'm a firm believer in education for education's sake, and think that a liberal arts studies are invaluable to anyone's growth as a person.

Sadly, though, that no longer seems to be the focus and classical educations are rapidly becoming a rarity.
tommy
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The top schools, for the elite, focus on classical educations. There is a reason for that.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rsL6mKxtOlQ
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

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Slide
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Plus one, bob. I had a liberal school education. I was a theater major, but almost everything I know and the interests I have all stemmed from those 4 years. Theater background came in handy when I had to present in front of hundreds of people and later when I was performing music. My career didn't even exist when I was in college. Undergraduate studies should be focused on a broad liberal arts education, imho, you can specialize in grad school.
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You didn't know that a classical education is based on sacred science did you?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AszYrxtzNQE
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

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I know very well what classical educations are based on. It's unfortunate that so many people today are ignorant of philosophy, comparative religions, world literature, the social sciences and foreign languages. While our educational system focuses more and more on narrow specialties, primarily designed to enhance ones worth in the job market, graduates are becoming increasingly dumber than previous generations and far less able to think critically in areas outside of their own fields.
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Up until the 20th century, a university education was a means by which the monied- or leisured-class prepared its heirs for a lifestyle of ownership and class-exclusive activities. The liberal education was the sign of the cultured mind--the unspoken truth was that it was a means of demonstrating class-inclusion. Young men who were unlikely to have an inheritance could enter the clergy after a university education.

In the 20th century, scholarships for promising members of the underclass became available. Simultaneously, professions such as medicine, law and engineering began to require high-level education, and the modern university was born. It was a mix of liberal arts for the mind and professional training for professionals who would greatly out-earn their professors (who had family money anyways.) In the USA, bible colleges were created, removing much of the (new, protestant) clergy from the liberal arts tradition.

By the second half of the 20th century, post-secondary education became available to a wider array of people, including working-class young women and minorities. Not surprisingly, much of this generation found the university stifling, foreign and, ultimately, not useful for their future non-leisured, non-professional lives.

Now, here we are in the 21st century. Post-secondary education continues to have status, but it is more widely available. Graduates need economic prospects more than they ever have, and society continues to struggle with what it all means.

If the university survives to the 22nd century, it will most likely look very different from what it does now.
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.--Yeats
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I'll have to ask my local mini-mart clerk. He recieved his degree at Washington State University about a year ago but is still working as a clerk. I think it is worth the cost if you use that education to get a high paying job that you enjoy.

I know several people who never used the education that their Parents paid for. Not because there was no jobs at the time. Maybe if they paid for their own education, things would have been different.
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Admittedly I did not use the education my mom paid for, at least not the way I expected to. I don't regret my B.A. I don't regret my four years and what I learned.

I majored in Political Science at a liberal arts school. I minored in Psychology with the plan being for a law and politics career.

I went back and studied Science. (on my own dime) Amazing how much more important my grades became when I was paying for it myself. I love teaching Science, it is a great career and it is one I earned.

Ownership makes a huge difference.
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RNK
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Quote:
On 2013-12-05 14:16, mastermindreader wrote:
I know very well what classical educations are based on. It's unfortunate that so many people today are ignorant of philosophy, comparative religions, world literature, the social sciences and foreign languages. While our educational system focuses more and more on narrow specialties, primarily designed to enhance ones worth in the job market, graduates are becoming increasingly dumber than previous generations and far less able to think critically in areas outside of their own fields.


This is not the university or colleges fault. This is the mentality of the generation. I feel a large part of this falls back on the parents and the fast paced society we live in today. My niece just graduated college and I couldn't believe all the social classes they had to take, i.e. philosophy, religion, world literature etc... They have to take a lot more of these social classes in today's colleges than 10-15 years ago. I know because that's when I graduated and never did I have to take the amount of these social classes as she did. I think in part the decline of critical thinking is due to the increase involvement of kids in the social media available in today's society. The facebook, twitter etc. all which consume the kids time.

RNK
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When I was kid I was sent to an what the call an approve school, which is what you guys might call boys town over there. This school was owned by Eaton which an elite school. The difference between the two and I know from spending some time at Eaton, that we were being trained to do various jobs. rather than taught to think as they at Eaton were. We ere being taught trades and there was nothing wrong with that if all you want is to earn a decent living. It was run as if was Eaton except for what subjects they were teaching. Our teachers top chiefs, carpenters, engineers and so on. I am an educated fellow but I can cook. If could read and right and do some simple mathematics that was all one needed learn to handle a trade. I don't think it was bad idea, as most of there would left with no qualification without any skill neither. At least we had a way making a living when left there. It was very unlikely for one us to become the prime minister. Someone has to do the job of being the chief. Such was there thinking. The difference there was clear but not so clear in the ordinary school system outside. However the thinking is the same more or less. In the state schools the idea is training rather than education.
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"They have to take a lot more of these social classes in today's colleges than 10-15 years ago."

Social class? Is that a term. I don't think I've ever heard it. Back when I was in college in the 70's everyone took art, music, philosophy: the humanities are a big part of the curriculum regardless of your major.
MobilityBundle
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Thanks for all the responses so far; too much to reply to individually.

In this discussion, one thing to keep in mind: a university is not the only road to an education. (Indeed, as Mark Twain exhorted, one shouldn't let school get in the way of one's education.) When I suggest that someone consider passing up college, it's really more about the price tag than the content. I'm all for being well-rounded. But if "well rounded" includes understanding philosophy, is it that much better to take a few psychology classes for a few thousand bucks, compared to reading the exact same works without the imprimatur of college credit for a couple hundred? If "well rounded" includes speaking a foreign language, is it better to study the foreign language in a classroom, or, for the same price, spend a year in a country where that language is native?

Similarly, I absolutely agree that one makes important (and sometimes life-long) friendships and contacts in college. But I suspect that's more about being an 18-22 year old, and not necessarily so much as being in college. Take an 18-22 year old and put him anywhere beyond his parents' watchful eyes, and I suspect he'll replicate a lot of what the college experience is about.

I asked about the "85th percentile" above, but what about lower on the scale -- say, the 40th to 50th percentile? Suppose you have a high school kid with very little academic curiosity or drive. Your choices are to, (a) send him to college for $200K, with the reasonable certainty that he'll pick classes based on not having to wake up before noon, he'll pick a major that involves writing the fewest term papers, and will probably get (at best) middling grades throughout; or (b) give him $100K to open a pizza place, keeping $100K in reserve for when he screws something up.

For my part, I think the pizza place is the way to go, even if I were confident that it would fail after four years. With the pizza place he'll learn how hard it is to run a business (whether it fails or not). He might also learn some practical stuff: basic accounting, basic business economics, marketing, responsibility, and possibly even how to make a good pizza.
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I must say it depends.

What exactly do you want to do with your life? What are the goals and ambitions set forth before you. Often a University education can further those goals and indeed is the ONLY way to do so.

Is it a guarantee of success? ABSOLUTELY not. Many have them and fail, many don't have them and succeed. An education is a tool. No better or worse than the person who uses it. Having the tool is a great thing. Knowing how to use it is invaluable.
Danny Doyle
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landmark
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The pizza shop is tempting MB, and I'm not saying you're wrong--but I have also experienced mediocre high school students who absolutely blossomed in college and went on to academic and professional careers. It's really hard to know what is going to happen.
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