There’s Only One Argument for College (and it’s wrong)


My good friend and colleague TK Coleman is launching an 8 stop tour of bad arguments for college this week, taking on a different argument each week.  Follow it here.

I'm glad it's TK and not me.  I don't have the patience to engage arguments for college anymore, because all of them but one fall apart instantly.

The only argument for paying tuition and completing college is the old, "You need a degree to get a decent job."

That one's worth engaging, and it's easy.  A few bullets:

  • Around 65% of grads have no job or one that doesn't require a degree, so it's not working.
  • A degree is a signal to employers of some base level of ability. You can build a better signal. We do it all the time at Praxis.
  • Jobs that say "degree required" don't mean it. We've helped hundreds get just those kind of jobs without one.

There's one good reason to get a degree and one only: if you know for certain you want a job that legally requires a degree.  Government protections and monopolies are the only justification.

"How can you be so dismissive of all the other arguments for attending college?"

Because there aren't any.

Let's look at a few contenders:

  • "It's about learning and being exposed to ideas"
  • "It's about making friends and networking"
  • "It's a unique social experience"

Of course, each of these is hard to justify if you spend any time on a campus.  If you think world-class learning, socialization, and networking are happening, you might lack imagination...or eyes.  But forget that.  Let's completely accept the premise that four years in college absolutely produces these things and these things are absolutely valuable.  If true, no one should pay tuition.

Why would you?  Every single item but the rubber-stamped paper can be had without paying tuition.  You can sit in classes, attend parties, even do homework without registering or paying a dime.  If all those vague, fuzzy things are the real value of college, then tuition is unnecessary.

The fact that no one does this reveals that consumers of college do not see those "intangibles" as valuable at all.  If some professory type wants to argue that they should value these things that's just fine.  It's also an argument against paying tuition.  If you want the bundle of stuff other than the paper, move to a college town and get it for free.

Don’t Miss It!


https://discoverpraxis.com/bad-college-arguments/

Less Voice, More Exit


It's cheaper and easier than ever to express your voice.  Information is so cheap to create, distribute, and consume that for the first time in history everyone can (theoretically) broadcast instantly to the whole world.

Hot takes are common.  You don't need to write out and submit to an editor your review of a movie.  You can Tweet it right from the theater before the credits roll.  Resistance to political oppression or unhappiness with proclaimed leaders are faster and easier too.

This is a good thing.  Voice and exit are two powerful tools to improve the institutions under which we live.  The fewer barriers to each, the better.

The fact that voice has become 1000x easier, while exit has become only maybe 2x easier in the last half century is interesting.  It means, I think, that things are better overall, but the relative ease of voice over exit seems to have tilted culture heavily towards a "say something about it" vs a "do something about it" mentality.  In fact, I'd argue most modern ideas of what it means to "do something about it" are really just versions of voice.  To me, the really powerful "do something about it" is exit.  Or, as Frank Chodorov put it, "not doing something about it."

Consider a pop-culture example.  Star Wars The Last Jedi wasn't a good movie.  Most people didn't like it.  When a product isn't very good, you just don't buy it, right?  Not in an age of voice > exit.  It seems the main response by people unsatisfied with the film was to watch it, then spend countless hours telling the fans and creators that you hated it, and furthermore, that they never should have made it and they should be using their creative energies in a way you like more.  Voice, voice, voice.  So much voice, exit seems the forgotten option.

Sometimes it's better to forget protests and Tweet wars.  Just exit the stuff you don't like.  Vote with dollars, not voices.  It's more empowering, positive, enjoyable, and effective.

Products That Are Delightful to Use


It's common in the world of bits to talk about delightful products that just make you happy when you use them.

It's a little less common in the old school world of atoms. I got to thinking about this today when I used a tie-wrap to fix a broken dishwasher rack. Tie-wraps and electrical tape are two boring, practical tools. But they are absolutely delightful to use every time. That's quite a feat.

Sticky notes are pretty delightful. The Pilot G2 07 pen is too. Starting a car engine with a key is a delightful experience, but driving itself is only sometimes.

There aren't many more off the top of my head. Maybe paper shredders. These examples are all designed for utility, and the delightfulness factor is a happy byproduct. I wonder what people would come up with if there was an entire R&D lab that did nothing but try to invent physical products that create delightful experiences. Maybe fidget spinners and stress balls, which are cathartic but don't quite have the same type of delight. Is it because they aren't utilitarian enough? Is delight enhanced when it just so happens to coincide with a productive function?

Maybe the constraints of utility are the best path to joy.

Don’t Be Passive Aggressive


Ask for what you want.

Don't ask by implication.

I had a recent experience that's pretty common.  Someone asked for something, I told them the conditions under which it could be delivered (which were, as most conditions, just my made-up best guesstimate of what made sense).  They replied, "Oh, that's disappointing.  I thought it would be different."

I almost flipped my shit.  It rubbed me the wrong way on the wrong day.

What's the point of replying to my proposal with your emotional state?  What's the point of telling me it's not what you expected or wanted?  Why not just tell me what you do want?  Why not make a counter-proposal?  Why not just say, "That's a little more onerous than I'm ready to accept.  Would you consider this instead?"

Don't make other people interpret and navigate your emotional state and intuit solutions.  Say what you want.  Offer your own solutions.

Isaac Morehouse


Isaac Morehouse is the founder and CEO of Praxis, a startup apprenticeship program making degrees irrelevant for careers. Isaac is dedicated to the relentless pursuit of freedom. He’s written some books, done some podcasting, and is always experimenting with self-directed living and learning.

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There’s Only One Argument for College (and it’s wrong)


My good friend and colleague TK Coleman is launching an 8 stop tour of bad arguments for college this week, taking on a different argument each week.  Follow it here.

I'm glad it's TK and not me.  I don't have the patience to engage arguments for college anymore, because all of them but one fall apart instantly.

The only argument for paying tuition and completing college is the old, "You need a degree to get a decent job."

That one's worth engaging, and it's easy.  A few bullets:

  • Around 65% of grads have no job or one that doesn't require a degree, so it's not working.
  • A degree is a signal to employers of some base level of ability. You can build a better signal. We do it all the time at Praxis.
  • Jobs that say "degree required" don't mean it. We've helped hundreds get just those kind of jobs without one.

There's one good reason to get a degree and one only: if you know for certain you want a job that legally requires a degree.  Government protections and monopolies are the only justification.

"How can you be so dismissive of all the other arguments for attending college?"

Because there aren't any.

Let's look at a few contenders:

  • "It's about learning and being exposed to ideas"
  • "It's about making friends and networking"
  • "It's a unique social experience"

Of course, each of these is hard to justify if you spend any time on a campus.  If you think world-class learning, socialization, and networking are happening, you might lack imagination...or eyes.  But forget that.  Let's completely accept the premise that four years in college absolutely produces these things and these things are absolutely valuable.  If true, no one should pay tuition.

Why would you?  Every single item but the rubber-stamped paper can be had without paying tuition.  You can sit in classes, attend parties, even do homework without registering or paying a dime.  If all those vague, fuzzy things are the real value of college, then tuition is unnecessary.

The fact that no one does this reveals that consumers of college do not see those "intangibles" as valuable at all.  If some professory type wants to argue that they should value these things that's just fine.  It's also an argument against paying tuition.  If you want the bundle of stuff other than the paper, move to a college town and get it for free.

Don’t Miss It!


https://discoverpraxis.com/bad-college-arguments/

Less Voice, More Exit


It's cheaper and easier than ever to express your voice.  Information is so cheap to create, distribute, and consume that for the first time in history everyone can (theoretically) broadcast instantly to the whole world.

Hot takes are common.  You don't need to write out and submit to an editor your review of a movie.  You can Tweet it right from the theater before the credits roll.  Resistance to political oppression or unhappiness with proclaimed leaders are faster and easier too.

This is a good thing.  Voice and exit are two powerful tools to improve the institutions under which we live.  The fewer barriers to each, the better.

The fact that voice has become 1000x easier, while exit has become only maybe 2x easier in the last half century is interesting.  It means, I think, that things are better overall, but the relative ease of voice over exit seems to have tilted culture heavily towards a "say something about it" vs a "do something about it" mentality.  In fact, I'd argue most modern ideas of what it means to "do something about it" are really just versions of voice.  To me, the really powerful "do something about it" is exit.  Or, as Frank Chodorov put it, "not doing something about it."

Consider a pop-culture example.  Star Wars The Last Jedi wasn't a good movie.  Most people didn't like it.  When a product isn't very good, you just don't buy it, right?  Not in an age of voice > exit.  It seems the main response by people unsatisfied with the film was to watch it, then spend countless hours telling the fans and creators that you hated it, and furthermore, that they never should have made it and they should be using their creative energies in a way you like more.  Voice, voice, voice.  So much voice, exit seems the forgotten option.

Sometimes it's better to forget protests and Tweet wars.  Just exit the stuff you don't like.  Vote with dollars, not voices.  It's more empowering, positive, enjoyable, and effective.

Products That Are Delightful to Use


It's common in the world of bits to talk about delightful products that just make you happy when you use them.

It's a little less common in the old school world of atoms. I got to thinking about this today when I used a tie-wrap to fix a broken dishwasher rack. Tie-wraps and electrical tape are two boring, practical tools. But they are absolutely delightful to use every time. That's quite a feat.

Sticky notes are pretty delightful. The Pilot G2 07 pen is too. Starting a car engine with a key is a delightful experience, but driving itself is only sometimes.

There aren't many more off the top of my head. Maybe paper shredders. These examples are all designed for utility, and the delightfulness factor is a happy byproduct. I wonder what people would come up with if there was an entire R&D lab that did nothing but try to invent physical products that create delightful experiences. Maybe fidget spinners and stress balls, which are cathartic but don't quite have the same type of delight. Is it because they aren't utilitarian enough? Is delight enhanced when it just so happens to coincide with a productive function?

Maybe the constraints of utility are the best path to joy.

Isaac Morehouse


Isaac Morehouse is the founder and CEO of Praxis, a startup apprenticeship program making degrees irrelevant for careers. Isaac is dedicated to the relentless pursuit of freedom. He’s written some books, done some podcasting, and is always experimenting with self-directed living and learning.

Featured on -

Occasional Email Updates

Looking for something?


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