It’s not just Peter Thiel — that is to say people with advanced degrees — who question the system, but also professors and university administrators. Those who work in academia are sometimes most in tune to its problems. They realize that if universities want to stay competitive in an age where technology changes faster than bureaucracy they will have to innovate. Michael Crow, the president of Arizona State University, the largest public university in the United States, prominently states on his homepage: “American higher education cannot assume that its competitive position in the world is unassailable.” It’s inspiring to see that administrators are reaching out to me — I’ve been invited to MIT, Stanford, and Harvard to see how the uncollege learning philosophy can help inform the next generation’s educational experience.
3. If children aren’t learning the science, technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects when they’re in school, what’s to say they will learn them outside of the classroom?
Innovations: The 5 Questions Series
This question assumes that STEM subjects are more important than other subjects. While STEM subjects have been deemed critically important to economic development, I’m not convinced that what one studies in school has anything to do with what one does after school.
Education is undergoing a transformation, thanks to the explosion of available data online. Universities and libraries no longer have a monopoly on information. Education is going from being about the acquisition of information to being about the application of information. I believe we mistake the pursuit of STEM subjects in academia with the general need to have people pursue scientific knowledge for practical applications. The latter, underlying need is the definition of “technology” almost word for word. And it’s worth noting that, although Facebook and Microsoft may have started at universities, the innovation took place outside the classroom.
4. How do I convince a prospective employer that my uncollege experience is just as valuable as another person’s college degree?
With an increasing number of students acquiring degrees, employers are finding it more difficult to evaluate potential employees. This is one reason why academic inflation is rampant. It’s easier to say “this job now requires a master’s degree” than to qualitatively evaluate every interested applicant. Although requiring people to get advanced degrees currently works, over the long term we face the potential for a degree-saturated market. Global demand for education is skyrocketing. According to UNESCO, India would have to build a new campus every two weeks between now and 2025 just to meet the demand. In 2025, will we require low-wage workers to get two PhDs? While the scenario might seem ridiculous, that reality might not be far off.
The hiring process is also changing, thanks to the Internet. Résumés show where you worked, and where you went to school, but not what you can actually do. Innovation in hiring is happening for both the creative and technical professions. This is not because these are subjects easily learned outside of college, rather it’s because the product of one’s labor is tangible and easy to evaluate. Job posting and networking Web sites Krop and Behance allow creative professionals to showcase their work, meanwhile code-hosting site Github and technology Q&A platform StackOverflow serve technical professionals. These networks both host job boards and allow recruiters to search talent databases. Other career verticals, such as sales or media, are ripe for disruption because, like creative and technical professions, you can easily demonstrate your knowledge in a digital format.