Dilbert creator Scott Adams had an essay in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend that chronicled his entrepreneurial ventures as a college student: “How to Get a Real Education.” Mr. Adams parlays his experiences into recommendations for teaching entrepreneurship at B-Schools. While I support his topic suggestions (e.g. taking chances, developing effective oral and written skills, overcoming fear, etc.), I cannot support his thesis:
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?
My cat has a better chance of properly doing my taxes than many research professors have in successfully teaching entrepreneurship. Mr. Adams commits an error described in Albert Jay Nock’s 1931 Theory of Education in the United States — confusing education with training. Higher education should develop the mind; trade schools and work experience should develop vocational skills.
I wish Mr. Adams would take the Peter Thiel route and advise students to step back from college to learn business skills. Given the potentially large student-debt loads of the 21st century, the Thiel path seems like a safer investment.