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October 5, 2011 / compassioninpolitics

The Truth Behind Peter Thiel’s Speech at Harvard about Higher Education, Innovation, Technology.

I think the folks at Stanford University and IDEO would disagree with him. They might suggest that a healthy dose of humanities are necessary for T-shaped people.

On a practical level, your innovation will go no where if you don’t have someone who can communicate and lead and market and understand human psychology (ie EQ style skills and proficiencies). That isn’t to say our humanities degrees are always delivering on such skills, but they do at least a decent job.

The root of the problem is that universities have poor feedback loops. They may listen to what customers have…but pay zero or microscopic attention to what happens afterwards or what is coming on the horizon. And equally problematic, have lagged far behind educational research for the better part of the last century. While this might be somewhat necessary in technical areas, its a tragedy of educational malpractice on both accounts.

I would suggest an alternative, which solves the problem Thiel speaks to, while allowing the humanities to flourish.

Policy Alternative 1:
Students in the humanities should have to graduate will skill-based or technical classes under their belts perhaps as an innovation minor around entrapreneurship & entrepreneurship which would include issues
• career
• business
• info overload
• decision making in an uncertain future
This is based on some of the work that the University of North Carolina is doing with their entrepreneurship minor, so it has some degree of traction in the academy and hopefully will mature quickly as intelligent university administrators and department heads wake up.

Policy Alternative 2:
Teach innovation as part of a humanities curriculum. This would fulfill on the promise of. This would transcend just technology in the traditional sense, but include innovation in government and nonprofit, along with business innovation in both products & services.

Peters idea, a per usual, is an example of throwing the baby out with the bath water. If evolution has taught us anything, it is that diversity is key to our survival, and that technology and innovation fit in a more comprehensive package of learning.

Thiels thesis here is both intentionally hyperbolic and awareness raising at the same time. Perhaps his sensationalist tactics will result in university administrators waking up to what is a ticking time bomb for universities.

One Comment

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  1. compassioninpolitics / Nov 28 2011 11:21 pm

    Dale Stephens critiques the current state of higher ed….and proposed the French Salon as an alternative:

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