This is a question that probably runs across the minds of many attending colleges and universities across this country at some point during their undergraduate tenures. There are of course many among us who have some understanding that the diplomas we are to receive give us some sort of “proof of worth” that in turn allows us beter access into the job market. And indeed, this is perhaps the true case of our modern times in complex societies.
But taking that truth within the context of the financial realities that come with it (see: an almost certain future of debt) highlights what can only be described as a perverse internalization of the “higher education” concept by society: It is an accepted convention that we are supposed to whip out large amounts of cash in order to be able or allowed to receive some decent amount of cash in the future (and even that’s not guaranteed).
This appears to me nothing less than a clear example of an absurdity made normal. And so it does to Peter Thiel (pictured) – co-founder of Paypal – as well who, as chronicled in a recent article by TechCrunch, is seeking to undermine this convention. Thiel is part of a project called “20 under 20,” where the idea is quite simple: Pick the best twenty kids they could find under 20 years of age and pay them $100,000 over two years to leave school and start a company instead.
In vouching for the notion of diploma-free success, Thiel is fighting what he calls the “Higher Education Bubble,” which he sees as having irrational and detrimental social processes that are quite similar to what we saw with the housing bubble that greatly contributed to the late-2000’s financial crisis. Fascinating stuff.
You can check out the article here.
[Thanks to Anike Arni ’13 for the tip!]