The U.S. education system trains students to follow the rules and collect degrees, writes Michael Ellsberg in a New York Times op-ed. Dropouts are the job creators who can save America, he argues.
I typed these words on a computer designed by Apple, co-founded by the college dropout Steve Jobs. The program I used to write it was created by Microsoft, started by the college dropouts Bill Gates and Paul Allen.
And as soon as it is published, I will share it with my friends via Twitter, co-founded by the college dropouts Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams and Biz Stone, and Facebook — invented, among others, by the college dropouts Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz, and nurtured by the degreeless Sean Parker.
American academia is good at producing writers, literary critics and historians. It is also good at producing professionals with degrees. But we don’t have a shortage of lawyers and professors. America has a shortage of job creators. And the people who create jobs aren’t traditional professionals, but start-up entrepreneurs.
From kindergarten through undergraduate and grad school, students learn few entrepreneurial skills or attitudes, Ellsberg writes. Students don’t learn about sales, unless they take a class on why sales and capitalism are evil. They don’t learn to network with others. Creativity is stifled. Worst of all, they don’t learn how failure can lead to success.
Our education system encourages students to play it safe and retreat at the first sign of failure (assuming that any failure will look bad on their college applications and résumés).
While some jobs require a college degree, many people find jobs in the informal market, where who you know and what you’ve done matter more than paper credentials, he writes.
Parents could refuse to pay for useless degrees, but most are “caught up in outmoded mentalities about education forged in the stable economy of the 1950s (but profoundly misguided in today’s chaotic, entrepreneurial economy).”
Employers could overturn the system “if they explicitly offered routes to employment for those who didn’t get a degree because they were out building businesses.”
OK, for the exceptionally talented and self-educated few. But most college dropouts aren’t Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. And some people do learn useful things in college.