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December 17, 2012 / compassioninpolitics

Criticism of 10 Reasons Not to Go to College by James Altucher

The following is a critique of James Altucher’s article “Ten Reasons No To Go to College.” (link)

Let me point out:
1. Observation: This is blatant link bait. Although, moderately well argued. I think he is more interested perhaps in making an argument (and getting links) rather than finding the truth just from this one post. Admittedly, it will be the chorus or dialog which will help establish or clarify the relative “truth” of his premises, arguments, and conclusions.

2. Marketplace of ideas & debate. The article by James Altucher doesn’t consider the full value of critical thinking or exposure to multiple idea frameworks (aka worldviews) and seeing them clash in class discussions is helpful for thinking for life, democracy, or entrepreneurship.

3. Doesn’t assume any career except entrepreneurship. Doesn’t assume college as gateway to being a lawyer or an MBA or be a teacher or any other career that actually requires a college degree. (admittedly, this one is a bit of a hyperbole on my part, but his article isn’t short on hyperbole or assertions)

4. College may just have been the precondition to this moderately well argued article. James can’t split-test his life. He went to college, which is perhaps causally connected with his ability to write now

5. Social Cues and Recruiters. There is some evidence on the signalling value of an education (which doesn’t include issues like network value).
Mr. Altucher doesn’t seem to take this into account.

6. Worldviews & Culture. College might actually inspire people to change their beliefs or to refine them. I think he vastly underestimates the value of cultural socialization at college–at least for our communities and society. As an economic proposition–I’m not entirely sure what I think of this argument (ie end value to the student is perhaps that you fit with other people better….rather than being a ideological zealot who doesn’t understand how ideas interact or have compassion). In a world of globalization & international trade this seems like a good idea.

7. Ignores 30 to 40% of our high schools. Many US high schools are terrible or at least sub-standard. We need college to make up for that. My guess is James went to an above the average high school. I went to an incredible high school & till think college took me to another level (despite having no idea what I wanted to do with my life).

8. Extreme lack of representativeness. He’s an anomoly (Google says this is spelled correctly–odd). He’s probably in the 1 to 2% of top driven & smart individuals (at least the top 5). He’s probably a driven individual. Maybe he could have done without college.

9. Alternative causality. Flip the responsibility in this case. Maybe CS at the college he went to was the wrong idea. Rather than indicting the whole system of education–maybe he should look. Also, its quite possible that James didn’t take advantage of the full cornucopia of learning options his college offered.

* You may also want to see his alternatives to college, which is linked to in this article.

** Let me say…this isn’t to say that big changes don’t need to be made in higher education.

*** Also, I have no ill will toward James Altucher. I just think his rhetorical flourishes and some ungrounded arguments needed to be reined in a bit. I realize being provokative was perhaps 1/2 the point of the article in the first place.

What are your thoughts on “10 Reasons Not to Go to College” by James Altucher????? How good is his argument? What is the the real truth about the value or Return on Investment (ROI) of a college eduction?

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