Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Peter Thiel Versus the American Education System

Graduates and their families celebrate achievement and recognition as they toss their tassels and march with seas of caps and gowns to accept diplomas at universities across the nation. Will these eager graduates and aspiring job seekers ever realize their dreams? Will they make enough money to pay off their student debt? According to Peter Thiel, the outlook is grim.

Peter Thiel, self-made billionaire and venture capitalist, has stirred up an ongoing controversy about the value of education. He claims college degrees may not be worth the inflated tuition costs and meager job outlook following graduation. He cites Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates as examples of college dropouts who became visionaries and made millions while helping society advance.

The Problem: With student loan debt toppling $1 trillion and only half of recent graduates landing full-time jobs, Thiel proposes that many students would be better off investing their time and money into developing their ideas rather than wasting them on an education.

He claims, "When you do something entrepreneurial, the credentials are not what really matters. What matters is having the right idea at the right time, the right place."

To prove his theory, Thiel started a yearly program that pays 20 college students $100,000 to drop out of school and develop their ideas for the betterment of society.

Educators Speak Out: Is dropping out of school the answer to the problem? According to professor and entrepreneur Vivek Wadhwa, "If you don't even have a bachelor's degree; if you don't even have basic education, basically you are beyond hope."

Wadhawa is one of Thiel's foremost opponents appalled by the "anti-education sentiment" developing in the United States as a result of this educational paradigm shift. He agrees that students should take their ideas and develop them to enrich society, but he also advocates education as the avenue to help students get there.

Wadhawa says, "Ideas are a dime a dozen. Everyone has them. What makes you successful is being able to take that idea and turn it into an invention, and then turn that into a company. Those skills you only gain through education. You're not born with them. There might be one Mark Zuckerberg out of a million. But there aren't five Mark Zuckerbergs."

Incriminating Evidence: Education advocates have studied Thiel's actions under a magnifying glass, which has led to some interesting observations. One of his hedge fund companies published a job posting which cited a high GPA from a top-tier university as a preferred requirement, not exactly what one would expect from someone who advocates dropping out of college. Thiel has also accepted a job at Stanford University teaching the course, "Computer Science 183:Startup."

In response to Thiel's new teaching venture, Wadhawa sarcastically states, "On the one hand, he's telling these kids to 'drop out, you're wasting your lives.' But then he comes back to teach. The question to ask him is: Will he pay students to drop out of his class on the first day?"

The Debate: Whether more aspiring entrepreneurs drop out of school to pursue Thiel's ideas is yet to be seen. But the debate is far from over. Most people would agree that the education system is far from perfect, but according to educators, the flaws do not necessitate dropping out of school. Though Thiel is known for turning new ideas into promising outcomes, his latest venture may not make it past the proverbial drawing board. Only time will tell.


The shifting tide of education and the popular opinion of education as an insitution is being challeged by entrepreurs like Peter Thiel. But is the debate more of an academic excercise than a practical approach to education reform? Article Courtesy of SNHU.EDU's online college program.

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