Elle

I Quit College!

74 posts in this topic

A university typically includes a number of colleges or "schools", each with a specialty like science, liberal arts, architecture, religion, etc., but a college can exist by itself, such as an engineering or liberal arts college. Schools that used to be only a college, however, are often now calling themselves universities so the distinction isn't so meaningful anymore. Some "universities" are little more than mail order diploma mills. A Bachelor's degree typically takes 4 years of courses. There are also "junior colleges" or "community colleges" that take 2 years with their own "degree"; they are typically glorified high schools. There are also the technical colleges you mention, which are for the trades.

Before college (or university) is elementary school, middle school and high school, the latter being grades 9-12 and required before going on to "higher education".

Thanks for the explanation. By "graduate", does one mean higher than Bachelor degree?

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Thanks for the explanation. By "graduate", does one mean higher than Bachelor degree?

Yes. A "college graduate" is someone with a Bachelor's degree. "Graduate school" means beyond that.

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One thing I noticed about school is that they generally try to force a specific curriculum down peoples throats. I didn't want a certificate to prove I was good at X job. I wanted to learn a set of specific subjects(and even there, specific areas of each of those subjects) that do not appear related at first but are carefully chosen to accomplish my central purpose in life. I wanted the knowledge, not the certificate.

That attitude "I want the knowledge, not the certificate" was exactly my view of the matter. I really didn't care about the hardware. I wanted to achieve my goals. That was my reward. Now, to be sure, in retrospect I now realize that the hardware can come in handy with others who want proof of what you can do, and it can give you a boost knowing that you made it through a tough gauntlet.

Still, at foundation, it's the knowledge that is important to me, because that's what gives you the ability to accomplish your goals.

To put this in perspective, Thomas Edison was born in 1847 when hardly anyone in the US attended a university and there was practically nothing available for his field of engineering and applied science.

That's a good point, but what is interesting is how brilliant his work was despite not attending a university.

As Thales pointed out above (our Thales, not the Greek father of philosophy), attending college is not optional for science or (applied science), and it seems that Edison would have agreed with that even in his time.

I don't really agree with this. You can educate yourself in the sciences without the benefit of a university degree, but I would not recommend it as a course of action. My point was that humanities professors hit you harder with PCism and that can make your experience at university less pleasant than it would otherwise be. To be sure, you'll get it regardless of what career path you choose, it's just that with the sciences (unless they're now foisting environmentalism on people) there should be much less of it, and most of the time you're getting solid knowledge to build your future on.

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To put this in perspective, Thomas Edison was born in 1847 when hardly anyone in the US attended a university and there was practically nothing available for his field of engineering and applied science.

That's a good point, but what is interesting is how brilliant his work was despite not attending a university.

Everyone else did it the same way. There were no engineering courses in the sense we have today and very very few people went to college at all. But once the knowledge and educational system became available, it was no longer possible to ignore it and be a success. You can't compare the formal education required at one point in history with what came after it. Brilliant individuals make enormous discoveries based on the context of knowledge in their time, but once a field develops you need an efficient, systematic approach to learning it. With that, even people with far less talent than the founders can go on to build on their work and contribute to progress far beyond what the originator could do.

A similar situation is modern times is the rise of computer science and engineering. It was developed by people who had no formal education in computer science because there was no such thing. Even by the 1960's there were only a scattering of computer courses taught in math or EE departments. Today you couldn't get very far in the field without taking advantage of the systematic and comprehensive educational approach to the subject now available. 10 year olds can pick up rudimentary programming and figure out very clever things, but if they want to enter the profession they had better go to college and systematically learn the field.

I do believe it's quite different for people who are getting a degree in the sciences versus those who are getting a degree in the humanities. The more humanities courses you have to take, the more painful I'm sure it must be given how postmodernism is dominant today.

As Thales pointed out above (our Thales, not the Greek father of philosophy), attending college is not optional for science or (applied science), and it seems that Edison would have agreed with that even in his time.

I don't really agree with this. You can educate yourself in the sciences without the benefit of a university degree, but I would not recommend it as a course of action. My point was that humanities professors hit you harder with PCism and that can make your experience at university less pleasant than it would otherwise be. To be sure, you'll get it regardless of what career path you choose, it's just that with the sciences (unless they're now foisting environmentalism on people) there should be much less of it, and most of the time you're getting solid knowledge to build your future on.

You can read science if you know what to pick up in what order, and have enough material and/or enough people to discuss it with to properly put it all together, but without a comprehensive education and an advanced degree in science you can't get through the door to make a career out of it. In engineering you need at least a Batchelor's degree.

All engineering and science programs include some requirements in the "humanities", but you can carefully pick a school that minimizes it and which has the flexibility to avoid the worst of it while still fullfilling requirements (and then also avoid "environmental science" perpetrated in the name of science).

But, I'm a big believer in self-learning. Life is a constant adventure and quest for more knowledge. The important thing, I think, is to keep your long range goal(s) in your sights, and make sure you’re on a course to achieving it.

All of that is absolutely necessary. Once your working career begins it doesn't make any difference how good a school you went to or what your degrees are. All that matters is what you can do. You wouldn't be there at all without the necessary basic requirements, but that is not sufficient to continue to grow and succeed. Your field and the requirements to do useful productive work in it are not standing still. One of the things you learn with a good education, especially in graduate school, is how to continue learning what you need to keep growing.

There are all good people on this forum and I would hate to see anyone make a bad choice on his education in the name of "independence" without the knowledge and experience required and without knowing the difference. Dropping out of college as such should not be regarded as some kind of accomplishment. It may or may not be the right thing to do, either temporarily or permanently, for any given individual, and it may be a secondary form of accomplishment to correctly identify that, but in all cases the focus should be on positive goals and the means for achieving them. Dropping out of college, if you do that, should only be a consequence of that.

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There are all good people on this forum and I would hate to see anyone make a bad choice on his education in the name of "independence" without the knowledge and experience required and without knowing the difference. Dropping out of college as such should not be regarded as some kind of accomplishment. It may or may not be the right thing to do, either temporarily or permanently, for any given individual, and it may be a secondary form of accomplishment to correctly identify that, but in all cases the focus should be on positive goals and the means for achieving them. Dropping out of college, if you do that, should only be a consequence of that.

Well put.

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You can read science if you know what to pick up in what order, and have enough material and/or enough people to discuss it with to properly put it all together, but without a comprehensive education and an advanced degree in science you can't get through the door to make a career out of it. In engineering you need at least a Batchelor's degree.

I think as a rule this is true, but I know of engineers who became engineers by working up through a company. A guy starts out as a techie and by hard work and study learns enough to be able to do design work. One person I know got his degree well after he'd been doing design work. He already had a prominent job at APC doing design work for them. What is probably true is that if you don’t get a degree your life will be more difficult.

There are all good people on this forum and I would hate to see anyone make a bad choice on his education in the name of "independence" without the knowledge and experience required and without knowing the difference. Dropping out of college as such should not be regarded as some kind of accomplishment. It may or may not be the right thing to do, either temporarily or permanently, for any given individual, and it may be a secondary form of accomplishment to correctly identify that, but in all cases the focus should be on positive goals and the means for achieving them. Dropping out of college, if you do that, should only be a consequence of that.

I agree. I don't know the specifics of Elle's situation. I wish her the best and hope she's thinking long range about her career.

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If I could add one more thing from my own insight. Getting a degree might help someone get a job or even move up in the one that someone already has. But, that does not always mean that a person will achieve more or get to the top of the company. From my own study of great wealth creators, I have found them to be very smart in many fields but almost never a genius of just one. In other words they can grasp an immensely large picture and also tie it back to certain technical aspects within many fields without fully grasping every part of every technical aspect.

Jack Welch, for example, has a PhD in chemical engineering and started working for GE in the early 1960's. He has not used his technical insight in that field since getting promoted to Regional Director around 1970. He does not know how to build an airplane engine, nor does he understand all about GE Finance, nor does he know how to build a refrigerator or many other things that GE builds or develops. He did and probably still does have the great insight to see how they all fit into GE and how to make them profitable.

A person needs to know what direction it is that they want to go to achive their goals. Once a person knows their goals and direction they can set a path to achieve them whether in futhering one's education through a college/university or through life experience and self-education.

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Would I be out of place in this thread for arguing about the virtues of college education? And not college training in technical skills, for which a technical school is even better suited, but for growing of a man's character and understanding, i.e. the old liberal education principles now almost entirely out of use? "Universitas" literally means, versed completely (in things pertaining to man).

I don't mean to diminish the accomplishments of all of our members who achieved laudable results on their own, and indeed should be commended completely for achieving such high degree of education by themselves. But with so many saying how university is marginal or nigh irrelevant, I thought I'd say something. Maybe some colleges now are getting bad, but I'm not ready to surrender the principle.

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Dimitri,

I don't really think that arguing for a University or College education is really necessary. I don't really think that anyone here is completely against it. If anything some people (including me) are against the deterioration of today's education.

I do not begin to doubt some of the advantages of a Formal education, such as structure, professional intellectuals to skillfully explain the material, up to date textbooks with invaluable information, skillfully structured tests, and exams to make sure your knowledge is up to par, etc...

I think it is highly appropriate for someone who wants a career in Engineering, Philosophy, Physics, Teaching to go to an institution that can provide the necessary knowledge and skill.

But all those advantages cannot exist with the deterioration of Modern education. When you place writing "papers" above the quality of your teachings, when you place your reputation above the precious value that is Objective knowledge, you have ripped the meaning of a "higher education."

But, it is not the only way to achieve education and to be competent in ones work.

Anthony Robbins, who now lives literally in a castle, and goes to work in a helicoptor, has not had University training. It was his intelligence, his passion for his work, keen observation and drive that has made him almost a household name.

He is an extremely successful Motivational speaker and aside from his Mystisicm and Altruism, I have learned a lot from his intense passion and knowledge about Human motivation.

And not college training in technical skills, for which a technical school is even better suited, but for growing of a man's character and understanding,

If you don't mind Dimitri, would you please clarify what exactly you meant by this statement?

~C~*

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You can read science if you know what to pick up in what order, and have enough material and/or enough people to discuss it with to properly put it all together, but without a comprehensive education and an advanced degree in science you can't get through the door to make a career out of it. In engineering you need at least a Batchelor's degree.

I think as a rule this is true, but I know of engineers who became engineers by working up through a company. A guy starts out as a techie and by hard work and study learns enough to be able to do design work. One person I know got his degree well after he'd been doing design work. He already had a prominent job at APC doing design work for them. What is probably true is that if you don’t get a degree your life will be more difficult.

A few do that, and their later ambition is admiral, but they don't accomplish what they could have. It's not just that it's harder to do it that way; it's the wrong approach for anyone who has a choice. Their experience and self-education based on work as technicians and limited design, aside from taking longer with repetitive work, tends to provide a narrow background in a single subject. That is only later corrected with subsequent education.

The engineering educational breakthrough in the 19th century was in providing an integrated, science-based approach to engineering in which all the fundamental branches of the physical science, all the engineering displicines and major subjects, and applied mathematics were covered and related. This made it possible for the graduates to enter almost any field and pick up the specialized knowledge they needed, and to progress into areas that embraced several fields in systems, whether or not they ever had to do detailed work in any one of them.

Very rarely someone like Bill Gates comes along who has a vision of something new and who jumps on the opportunity to lead a new field which may have been lost if he had stayed in college. But you have to have the intelligence, motivation and the vision first; it doesn't come as a consequence of dropping out while having only a feeling of independence.

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A few do that, and their later ambition is admiral, but they don't accomplish what they could have. It's not just that it's harder to do it that way; it's the wrong approach for anyone who has a choice. Their experience and self-education based on work as technicians and limited design, aside from taking longer with repetitive work, tends to provide a narrow background in a single subject. That is only later corrected with subsequent education.

The engineering educational breakthrough in the 19th century was in providing an integrated, science-based approach to engineering in which all the fundamental branches of the physical science, all the engineering displicines and major subjects, and applied mathematics were covered and related. This made it possible for the graduates to enter almost any field and pick up the specialized knowledge they needed, and to progress into areas that embraced several fields in systems, whether or not they ever had to do detailed work in any one of them.

Very rarely someone like Bill Gates comes along who has a vision of something new and who jumps on the opportunity to lead a new field which may have been lost if he had stayed in college. But you have to have the intelligence, motivation and the vision first; it doesn't come as a consequence of dropping out while having only a feeling of independence.

In my company I see a lot of different types of people, from janitors to MD/PhDs and almost all of them have limited education and understanding of any field outside their own. Maybe where you work or teach you see something much different, but I do not. I find that life experience is what changes someone's narrow focus and not a college education. For example I have an older gentleman that is 64 and has a degree from a mid-western university. When he graduated he was a full fledged "social-democrat" (his words not mine), now he is a "non-conservative republican." He stated that all that he learned about the government and it's proper functions began to change as he started working in his first job which was at IBM. He had to discard the irrational ideas that he was taught at his university. I do not think that this will help someone to get ahead any faster than someone that knows they need an education and lays out an independent plan to get that education. Does the degree help someone get a certain job? Yes, but that does not make them any smarter than someone that is self-educated.

I could go on and on about clients that I have that have graduate degrees who are not very smart outside their own field nor have they integrated much of their knowledge. I also see the same within my clients that do not have more than a high school diploma, there is not much difference in outside knowledge. With that said, I would like to add that I am not against a college education. But a college education does not guarantee that you will have integrated your ideas long before someone that does not have one.

An example of two of my high-school and college friends, that are non-Objectivist. One has two degrees, one in business finance and another in mechanical engineering. He came out to visit and spend a week with me almost five years ago and was so impressed with what he saw that he was motivated to start his own business just six months later. Today when he runs into problems that he is unable to overcome he gives me a call and ask for guidance or infomation to help him integrate his business and his ideas.

The seoncd example was a high-school and college friend who actually has an MBA from a prestigous university. After years of failing at many jobs because he tried to skate through everyone with out actually doing much work, he decided that this was not going to get him to where he wanted to go. He took some of his savings and bought into a franchise where now he is learning more than he ever did in college and as an employee. He is also now having to deal with people that are just like he used to be.

I again would like to finish by stating that a college education can help you to get ahead if you know where it is that you want to go and if the degree or graduate degree is needed to get you in the door or further. But, it does not guarantee that greatness will happen for anyone with a degree. And if people look back through history they will see that is not always needed to be extremely productive, wealthy and wise.

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Very rarely someone like Bill Gates comes along who has a vision of something new and who jumps on the opportunity to lead a new field which may have been lost if he had stayed in college. But you have to have the intelligence, motivation and the vision first; it doesn't come as a consequence of dropping out while having only a feeling of independence.

Twice you have referred to a superficial sense of "independence" as a factor for one's choosing to discontinue college. Moreover, while referring to THE FORUM's drop-outs. I did not read in any of the accounts from the drop-outs in this thread a sense of "independence" as a factor for one to drop out of college.

The other drop outs had other, more complex, reasons for dropping out. You might have a case for accusing non-Objectivist modern day beatniks for dropping out of college for the superficial feeling of being independent. But the young Objectivists here, in my own observation, are not likely to make such an error.

The possibilities in life are many--and a college drop out need not have the aspiration or vision needed to be another Bill Gates in order to be successful and happy and without regret. (A drop-out may only think of Bill Gates because he is a prominent example that success and happiness do not require a college degree--contrary to what most adults, who a child is likely to trust, will lead them to believe. This does not mean the drop-out will think that leaving college will automatically lead to independence and success, but perhaps help him reinforce a new idea: College is not always necessary.)

I dropped out of high school when I was 15

Me too, actually. Although I got my GED to attend college at age 17.

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Twice you have referred to a superficial sense of "independence" as a factor for one's choosing to discontinue college. Moreover, while referring to THE FORUM's drop-outs. I did not read in any of the accounts from the drop-outs in this thread a sense of "independence" as a factor for one to drop out of college.

The other drop outs had other, more complex, reasons for dropping out. You might have a case for accusing non-Objectivist modern day beatniks for dropping out of college for the superficial feeling of being independent. But the young Objectivists here, in my own observation, are not likely to make such an error.

The possibilities in life are many--and a college drop out need not have the aspiration or vision needed to be another Bill Gates in order to be successful and happy and without regret. (A drop-out may only think of Bill Gates because he is a prominent example that success and happiness do not require a college degree--contrary to what most adults, who a child is likely to trust, will lead them to believe. This does not mean the drop-out will think that leaving college will automatically lead to independence and success, but perhaps help him reinforce a new idea: College is not always necessary.)

Me too, actually. Although I got my GED to attend college at age 17.

No one has been accused of being anything like a beatnick. The reasons and suitability for attending, quitting or postponing college have all been discussed, with no requirement that anyone become a Bill Gates. The value of a college education and the fact that not going to college should be a consequence of a positive plan and not just a rejection of college because bad things happen there has been emphasized. Elle herself has indicated elsewhere that she has already begun a successful career in business.

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I am suprised to see how many high school and college drop-outs are on the forum.

EVW mentioned that dropping out, on its own, is not an accomplishment and I absolutely agree. The accomplishment is in recognizing what it is that you want and going after that value instead, and breaking away from a path you were on that may have felt like a comfortable and safe one.

A few people asked for my story, and it is this:

I started college in the Fall of 2003 at a local community college. I was supported by my parents and they told me they would only continue to support me if I would attend college. I was working at McDonald's at the time and also for the family business and I liked it a lot and didn't want to quit either job. I had no idea what I wanted to do career wise or what major I wanted to pursue so I felt it would be better for me to select a less expensive school until I had things sorted out, to avoid getting into debt or costing them a lot of money. My parents agreed to pay my tuition up front.

I attended school for the first year and did alright, averaging around a 3.0 GPA. My third quarter was particularly remarkable for me and I got a 3.6 However, by the second year I was ready for something more challenging and I wanted to get out of the military town I was living in. I moved back to my home town of Bainbridge Island and rented a condo , and for the first time I was financially self-sufficient. I was working two jobs and starting a website development business on the side so work would often get prioritized over school - work was just more fun.

Spring quarter I of 2005 I decided to take the quarter off to take an internship with a larger corporation, since I felt I had worked many jobs and wanted exposure to what that was like. I was set on getting a business degree by this point and thought a good internship on my resume would help me get into the University of Washington. I interviewed for the summer internship and convinced them to hire me ASAP and I completed a 3 month interview and was offered a full time job. I took it, not knowing how long I would stick around but loving it. Here I am, 2 years later, and I have my own intern working for me on cutting edge projects and things that will impact a multi million dollar branch and I have a hard time imaging going back to school. I feel like I am getting more of a business education here than I could possibly get from school. Sales, project management, process management, quality, accounting, transportation, software development, you name it - I'm getting my hands in it.

Still, I was worried that I might be missing out on something so I registered for the first of the accounting course in the series last quarter - but, as I had expected, when it came down to deciding to go to class or do something for work, I chose work every time without any guilt.

I read a lot and have a rich life full of interesting people and experiences so while I might struggle to impress certain people, I feel like I will be able to be successful without obtaining a degree. If I had time, I would like to audit classes because I do think having a teacher can make a great deal of difference when it comes to organizing large amounts of complex information.

I think choosing to advance my career, which was the real purpose of going to college in the first place, is one of the best choices I've ever made.

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Elle, if you are going to be an entrepreneur or salesperson, then a college degree probably doesn't matter much. Maybe at Expeditors, people don't care about degrees. But in a lot of companies, degrees and GPA are part of a signalling process that tells people about capability, perseverence, etc. If you are going to work for yourself, or within one company all your life, then maybe it doesn't matter much that you don't finish a degree. But I think it could limit your options down the road, switching companies, or getting promoted to higher levels of management. I hear Expeditors is very merit-based, but not all companies are like that. Some companies expect/prefer top people to have MBA's, and if you don't have an undergraduate degree, you can't get an MBA. An MBA can also help you make a career change down the road of you want to. Even Carly Fiorina, who was focused on sales/marketing, eventually went back to school to get an MBA.

If you're good, people who know you should recognize it, and a degree won't be a problem. But there may be times in the future when you deal with people who don't know you, don't trust your references or self-reporting of success on the job. Down the road you may need to pass through "gatekeepers" like HR who don't know you from 10 other applicants, and your resume may get thrown out of their pile because they can't check all of the boxes they want for you.

I work in a field, investment management & research, where people do care a good bit about school, school GPAs, MBA degrees, GMAT scores, certification programs, etc., because they see these as proxies for both talent and dedication, and because self-reported investment skills and track records are fairly suspect and difficult to measure. My success in university certainly did help me win jobs and some key interviews over the years, and did help me perform on the job as well.

Overall, if it's potentially of use down the line, and is doable without great sacrifice, I recommend completing a college degree while you're relatively young. I simply don't see much downside to getting it done.

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I don't really think that arguing for a University or College education is really necessary. I don't really think that anyone here is completely against it. If anything some people (including me) are against the deterioration of today's education.

...

I think it is highly appropriate for someone who wants a career in Engineering, Philosophy, Physics, Teaching to go to an institution that can provide the necessary knowledge and skill.

Well there's two issues here -- a mere technical school, and a univeristy and the notion of humanities (at least as a dream now, if not actual practice). I think we all agree about the benefits of structured professional education in some technical skill. Everyone understands the benefits of up-to-date books and organized teaching plans. I'm talking about the liberal education that is hard to receive outside of the university, at least in my experience. See below.

Anthony Robbins, who now lives literally in a castle, and goes to work in a helicoptor, has not had University training. It was his intelligence, his passion for his work, keen observation and drive that has made him almost a household name.
A good point that others have raised before is that this path is in practice extraordinarily difficult, and most people would not have been able to achieve it in the same way. And while we're spending the years of our life experimenting with this path that most likely will not succeed in providing education for most people, what will we do when we have received little education ourselves, while everyone around us has already received such education, and are now well on their way to a successful life?
And not college training in technical skills, for which a technical school is even better suited, but for growing of a man's character and understanding

would you please clarify what exactly you meant by this statement?

It's difficult to expand on this huge topic in our narrow thread here. Briefly, and as I understand it and have received it myself, there are two components here: education about man, and education about ourselves. Both are the mutual goals of the lofty principle of humanities education, the kind that universities have provided for the West, from the early Renaissance to the early 20th century. The goal of this education was to learn about the world, man, human nature, a proper life, drawing primarily from history and philosophy but augmented by many other humanities disciplines. The other half of the goal was to provide a platform for learning about yourself, in an environment where for a time you are relieved from every-day stresses of a job or a family, that will surround a person before, and after his college education. This absence of outside troubles, along with disposable time, allow a person to think about the world in ways that he won't be able to, before or after. It would be a folly to say that anyone can learn philosophy at any time. Aristotle himself said -- philosophy can only be a viable subject to study for those who have free time on their hands.

A proper humanities education ("humanitas", the study of man), in a university ("universitas"), provides the platform where the person can learn how to live the rest of their lives. Even the names involved, humanitas and universitas, give hint of this lofty premise. Even if this old ideal has suffered lately, like I said I am by no means prepared to give it up.

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I agree with Andrew. Having done significant work, you're better placed than 99% of undergrads to know what courses to take and what not to take, so you should be able to benefit tremendously from formal education.

Work is always going to be more fun than learning accounting, but accounting is a tremendously useful, and under-represented, skill in business and would help you tremendously over the long term. So would basic and mid-level statistics, and so would basic finance and marketing. All those can be studied independantly, but a class is a very good environment to learn. One thing you may consider is evening programs, where your peers would have the same drive than you would. I have a tremendous amount of respect for people who complete their education while working full time.

With this said I agree with others here that if you are going to be an entrepreneur it might be less meaningful / useful. For a job in a corporate environment, I think it can be very useful.

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When this discussion began I already missed Stephen's insights and had hoped he would be back later to contribute. I was reminded of this again with Betsy's description of his educational background.

... Stephen was born on December 13, 1939 in New York City. When he discovered Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand, in the late 1950s, its vision of man's heroic potential inspired him his entire life -- an ideal he shared with Betsy, his loving wife of forty years.

Stephen's first career was as a computer programmer who rose to be Vice-President of Programming Methods, Inc., the largest independent computer software consulting company in the world. He then returned to school earning a BS and MS from Columbia University in Structural Mechanics... [After 1978] He was also accepted into the PhD program at CalTech where he studied with Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman.... [After 1988] Stephen began a 14-year career at CalTech as a Scientific Researcher in Computational Biology creating software tools for the Human Genome Project and stem cell research... Stephen explained everyday science when he was "Mr. Science from CalTech" on KGIL morning radio. As a recognized authority on relativity, he contributed to the Einstein Papers Project and was chosen by CalTech to discuss relativity for a PBS science special.

Stephen began work in computer software engineering at a time when not many went to college, the pioneering field was so young there was no such thing as a computer science major, and very few worked in the field -- and then returned to college and graduate school to study engineering science and physics. I'm sure he found his work experience useful when he returned to college, but it would have been valuable to read his own account and recommendations based on his own direct experience and that of others he encountered later at Cal Tech, one of the top science schools in the country. Maybe later on Betsy can provide more details on what he did and why, and what he had to say about it.

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I think the key item one must ask themselves is, what is it that I want to do and will college help me obtain that?

As I have said before, there are many examples of people in history that have had very little formal education and still rise to the top. Arthur Jones the creator of Nautilus Exercise Equipment and MedX Medical Equipment left high-school after the ninth grade. Vert Mooney, M.D., who in the early 1990's was a researcher at the University of California at San Diego and worked with Arthur Jones called him the smartest man he had ever met.

Ken Iverson, while running NuCor hired non-union people and then trained them how to do the work. He once hired a former trucker who worked his way all the way up to General Manager of one of NuCor's plants.

Greatness does not come from a universtity/college it comes from the individual that never stops striving to accomplish their goals while enhancing and integrating their knowledge. But, it is the individual's own long-tern goals/values that should decide whether it should be part of the plan.

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I think the key item one must ask themselves is, what is it that I want to do and will college help me obtain that?

As I have said before, there are many examples of people in history that have had very little formal education and still rise to the top.

That is true, especially in business - all of your examples are of businessmen. But it very much depends on the field. I attended 3 weeks of "higher education" myself and have done well in a wide variety of real world programming/database projects over about 25 years. But to do serious work in the sciences or many professions does require a college degree and often a PhD or MD. A self-taught doctor, if that were even possible these days (I would say it's virtually impossible now), would not be taken seriously in the end anyway. Same with anybody in the sciences such as biology or physics, short of another Einstein.

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I don't really think that arguing for a University or College education is really necessary. I don't really think that anyone here is completely against it. If anything some people (including me) are against the deterioration of today's education...

I think it is highly appropriate for someone who wants a career in Engineering, Philosophy, Physics, Teaching to go to an institution that can provide the necessary knowledge and skill.

Well there's two issues here -- a mere technical school, and a univeristy and the notion of humanities (at least as a dream now, if not actual practice). I think we all agree about the benefits of structured professional education in some technical skill. Everyone understands the benefits of up-to-date books and organized teaching plans. I'm talking about the liberal education that is hard to receive outside of the university, at least in my experience. See below.

I have to object to the characterization of "mere technical school" in comparison with a liberal arts university. Whether intended or not, this formulation smacks of the invalid practical/theoretical dichotomy reflecting a Platonic view of the highest ideal as not related to practical matters here on earth. There is nothing "mere" about a thorough education for a profession, and such an education is in fact the whole context of this thread: the relevance of a college education for a career, which is not inferior by nature to a supposedly lofty liberal arts education.

Furthermore, it would be practically impossible to not take several required "humanities" courses in such a focused, career-oriented curriculum. This is obviously so for a major like philosophy, but is also true for anything else, including engineering. (We are talking about a college education, not trades schools, although there is nothing wrong with them either for the goals they are intended for.) The 19th century American educational revolution for a broad integrated, science-based engineering education already incorporated this approach, unlike the European technical schools of the time, deliberately including an emphasis on liberal arts courses in addition to science, engineering and mathematics.

As a practical matter though, such liberal arts courses are no better than those in a full-time liberal arts curriculum. The vague promises of a lofty "liberal education" somehow inducing "character", etc. turn out to be nonsense. I could not wait to enter a science and engineering college where I would not have to waste time on the kind of chaotic, educationally pointless subject matter and approach that permeated high school. But I was at the time open to and looking forward to the promises of the required college "humanities" courses, one per term for all four years, supposedly designed to lead to the "well-rounded", "educated engineer", etc. -- only to find that they were useless wastes of time. (Early in my first term humanities course the professor told us with a cynical smile on his face, "I had to suffer through geometry and now you have to suffer through this." And that was a course on ancient Greece and Rome which much potential and which I had looked forward to. It was very discouraging.)

The "humanities" courses could have been better and more useful in principle if properly taught, but they generally are not. (There are not many Leonard Peikoffs out there.) Such courses, with rare exceptions, do not deliver on the lofty promises, to say the least, and in many cases amount to destructive brain washing. Gary Hull's Founders College aims to reverse that, as does the pre-college education at the Van Damme Academy. If that approach works in practice and eventually catches on if enough educators are capable of implementing it, perhaps it will spread in the future so that whether one goes to a professionally oriented school or spends full time in a liberal arts curriculum, the courses that one encounters will become more valuable. For now students have to choose from what is in fact available without regard to lofty-sounding but vacuous promises.

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Would I be out of place in this thread for arguing about the virtues of college education? And not college training in technical skills, for which a technical school is even better suited, but for growing of a man's character and understanding, i.e. the old liberal education principles now almost entirely out of use? "Universitas" literally means, versed completely (in things pertaining to man).

I don't mean to diminish the accomplishments of all of our members who achieved laudable results on their own, and indeed should be commended completely for achieving such high degree of education by themselves. But with so many saying how university is marginal or nigh irrelevant, I thought I'd say something. Maybe some colleges now are getting bad, but I'm not ready to surrender the principle.

What I think you are advocating here is something that should have been accomplished first in college. To me college is higher education, and should only be pursued by men of a developed and mature character. College is expensive, difficult and unforgiving--it is not the kind of atmosphere for a blossoming youth that is maturing and finding himself (I sure did figure that out the hard way!).

I think this could better be accomplished in a secondary and high school that emphasized a rigorous understanding of the core subjects of History, Science, Mathematics, Literature (/and arts), English/Linguistics, and some kind of physical fitness or sport, obviously preferably Jiu-Jitsu, because we are trying to build men here aren't we? :)

But seriously, if I ran a private school I would require a physical fitness elective for a core-requirement, because I don't think your mind can ever reach its full potential in a not optimum body.

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Whoops! I goofed my sentence:

What I think you are advocating here is something that should have been accomplished BEFORE college.

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The "humanities" courses could have been better and more useful in principle if properly taught, but they generally are not. For now students have to choose from what is in fact available without regard to lofty-sounding but vacuous promises.

That's why students have to try to find the best among what's available, not abandon all hope altogether. I had the worst high school experience perhaps amongst almost all people here, and my liberal arts education in college was woefully inadequate. But that does not prevent me from admiring the idea which I eventually learned about on my own, and the personal growth I experienced in college has been -- irreplaceable; some of you on this forum had been witness to it, from my ignorant beginnings.

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That is true, especially in business - all of your examples are of businessmen. But it very much depends on the field. I attended 3 weeks of "higher education" myself and have done well in a wide variety of real world programming/database projects over about 25 years. But to do serious work in the sciences or many professions does require a college degree and often a PhD or MD. A self-taught doctor, if that were even possible these days (I would say it's virtually impossible now), would not be taken seriously in the end anyway. Same with anybody in the sciences such as biology or physics, short of another Einstein.

Although I agree with a lot of what you have to say Phil, a degree in the sciences/research is not always needed. Arthur Jones was more than a business owner he was also a very intelligent researcher. Arthur Jones started doing his own research around 1950 and until he retired from MedX just a few years ago he kept up his own research. Another example is Alfred Lee Loomis who did have a degree, but not in science. He made his wealth in many areas including Wall-Street/Stock Market and then started his own research lab. And, although Mr. Loomis called himself a hobbyist/novice his comtemporaries said that he was one of the most brilliant scientist they knew.

Yes, some companies or positions will require a certain type of degree and this is where a rational person would decide that the degree is in their best interest to achieve.

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