Scott Adams on a “real” college education

The Dilbert creator writes occasionally for the Wall Street Journal and has had some great pieces.  This past week’s entry hit on the mismatch between college student and curriculum:

I understand why the top students in America study physics, chemistry, calculus and classic literature. The kids in this brainy group are the future professors, scientists, thinkers and engineers who will propel civilization forward. But why do we make B students sit through these same classes? That’s like trying to train your cat to do your taxes—a waste of time and money. Wouldn’t it make more sense to teach B students something useful, like entrepreneurship?

The entrepreneur’s knack — “the strange art of transforming nothing into something”  — is exactly what a clever, but not brilliant, person should cultivate.  Adams helpfully includes a list of behaviors this B-student curriculum should foster: Combine Skills, Fail Forward, Find the Action, Attract Luck, Conquer Fear, Write Simply, Learn Persuasion.

My initial reaction was “ditto”, though I had some qualms about “Combine Skills”.  You know the saying “jack of all trades, master of none”?

I still like the idea of having at least one deep skill, but I’m coming around to Adams’s perspective.   It is very dangerous to just have one specialty, especially if you’re not truly a master.  Thousands of sorta adequate [fill in the programming language] developers have lost their jobs because management decided it was cheaper — and just as effective — to send commodity app development offshore.

After all, would you rather pay an in-house Wally $50/hour when you can buy two offshore Wallys for $20/hour?

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