Sunday, October 23, 2011

"Dropout" as a state of mind...

Michael Ellsberg thinks that college dropouts will save America. Sure, it's true-- Zucker, Gates, Jobs etc. form the upper-stratum of the 21st-century technologically savvy social order, but this doesn't prove that the maximal mix of intelligence, creativity and (testosterone dependent?!?) confidence occurs between the ages of 18 and 21. Has no one with a BS, MS, or PhD ever had a profitable Eureka! moment?

The author seems to declare the American dream--as it was sold to us smart and aspiring GenXers--dead. A degree can no longer be equated with security, but does Ellsberg support a mass-exodus of today's college students? (Imagine OccupyHarvard, OccupyStanford, OccupyOleMiss!) Although I risk offending productive college dropouts as well as un(der)employed and un(der)paid degree holders, I still contend an education is the way to go. On balance, the world is better off with a more highly educated population and individuals are better off holding a degree.

Ellsberg speaks truth, however, when he says, "Assuming that college was responsible for ... success gives higher education more credit than it deserves." True that! And for PhDs, I'd say, the problem is twofold...

PIs breed their minions to be arrogant and self-laudatory just like they are (how many times were we told that we just need those "three little letters" and we've got it made!). But once bestowed with a doctorate we immediately turn the most venerable of institutions, inflated ego in hand, looking for full validation of our worth and intelligence in the guise of research dollars and a full professorship. A growing majority of us, of course, do not succeed (I dare not say "f*il").

Ellsberg claims f*ilure is a good thing, providing valuable life and business lessons. Looking on the bright side, I wonder what the world would look like if PhDs rebelled, embraced their f*ilure, and engaged their inner "dropout"! Could we, without tenure, save the world?!


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