found drama

get oblique

on Thiel on the education bubble

by Rob Friesel

Sarah Lacy at TechCrunch writing about Peter Thiel (“We’re in a Bubble and It’s Not the Internet. It’s Higher Education.”):

But, he argues, that doesn’t mean it’s not an uncomfortable elitist dynamic that we should try to change. He compares it to a world in which everyone was buying guns to stay safe. Maybe they do need them. But maybe they should also examine some of the reasons life is so dangerous and try to solve those too.

I have a few issues with what’s being written but overall it’s a thought-provoking piece and Thiel’s conclusions (and proposals) are fascinating, to the say the least.

And I’ll reserve my critique of the whole “20 Under 20” program until we see how round one plays out. I understand the kind of disruption that Thiel is going for — rocking the boats with the highest impact and highest visibility — but (philosophically) dumping $100,000 at a 20-something just for leaving Harvard or Stanford or Yale or Columbia to go and start a company…? I can’t shake this feeling that the kids pulling up stakes from their respective schools to try their hands at starting a company would have done so and found the financing anyway. I get that it’s really more of a lavishly symbolic gesture on Thiel’s part but if we’re going to drop the “bubble” bomb on education, let’s take a step back from strictly our Ivy League Elitists.

See also: Lee Smolin’s discussion of the vetted academics in The Trouble With Physics.1

See also: Joshua Davis’ 2005 Wired piece, “La Vida Robot”.2

“Everyone thinks kids in inner-city Detroit should do something else,” Thiel says. “We’re saying maybe people at Harvard need to be doing something else. We have to reset what the bar is at the top.”

Condensed, the message is: “Snap out of it.” It’s a complicated question and I’m glad someone as high-profile as Thiel is asking it. Even if I think he’s incomplete in the asking.

  1. Previously discussed here in March 2011. []
  2. Previously discussed here in March 2005. []

About Rob Friesel

Software engineer by day, science fiction writer by night. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →

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