Originally published here.
If it’s a four year social experience, it seems really overpriced. If it’s to gain knowledge, why not learn from better teachers and do it free online, and at coffee shops with friends? If it’s to prepare you for a successful career, it’s the most absurd format imaginable: You are supposed to learn how to be successful in the marketplace through a system mostly sheltered from the marketplace, from people who mostly hate the marketplace and have chosen a career that protects them from it.
If we taught bike riding like we prep for careers, you’d spend twenty years reading about bikes without riding, until you graduate, at which point you’d be dropped off in the middle of the highway and be told, “Good luck!”
So what is college for? For some specialized careers, it’s illegal to work without a degree (medicine, law, etc.), but most people get degrees in generic fields like business, communications, marketing, or political science. Most people go to college to feel normal, and to signal to the world that they are normal.
The education system rewards obedience. It rewards compliance. It rewards following the rules, no matter how arbitrary and valueless they may be. No one ever changed the world by obeying.
Alternatives change the world. Alternatives to the status quo institutions that constrain and oppress. It takes entrepreneurs to create alternatives. Yet entrepreneurship is the very quality the education system is designed to beat out of you.
You go to college to signal to the status quo that you are no threat. You did what you were supposed to.
It’s said that a degree signals to employers and the world that you are above average. You are smart. You are hard working. You are driven. You are worth investing in, or taking a chance on. That may have been true at one time. But look around you and consider your classmates. Are they any of these things? Would you clamor to hire them if you ran a business? Yet all of them will walk away with a degree.
A degree signals that you are now 22 years old. Congratulations, you’ve floated downstream. No one acts impressed that you graduated high school, because everyone does, by doing little more than existing for 18 years. College has become a mere extension of high school. For most, it takes more work and effort to not go than to go.
So what’s the alternative to college?
Drop out. Don’t get a degree, get an education. Do something different with your life. You were born an entrepreneur; a creative problem solver who overcomes through trial and error. That’s been smothered by years of schooling. What would happen if you broke free?
That’s why I launched Praxis. I want to awaken your inner entrepreneur. I want you to get out of the classroom and into the world. I want you to learn by doing. I want you to change the world.
I was tired of complaining about college. How can we bring the cost down? How can we improve the quality of instruction? These questions accept the existing paradigm and try to tweak it. The real question is how can young people get from where they are to a career and life that they love in the best way possible?
Four years and $150,000 dollars is nothing to sneeze at – the time even more than the money. Is that really the best way?
Why not work with creators and innovators and learn what it’s like by doing? Why not get the best, most essential ideas and theories, delivered without cinder blocks and fluorescent lights? Why not gauge your success on the value of your working knowledge, and on what you can create, not the facts you can memorize?
Why not break the mold?
It’s scary. It’s hard. It’s painful. But so is the status quo. The difference is, the pain you endure for breaking the mold and creating something is a pain with great reward. Even if you fail, what you learn and who you become is of immeasurable value. Even the pain has some sweetness. Contrast that to the monotonous pain you experience by following the rules. There’s no reward. There’s no prize at the end. There’s no, “Congratulations. You followed the rules. You endured depravations and frustrations and shut up when told to shut up. Here’s your Good Serf Award.”
Break the rules. Do what makes you come alive. Make the world better and freer by first freeing yourself.