Unemployment Rate

2-4-6-8, Who Do We Appreciate! Dropouts! Dropouts! Yaaaaaaaaaaaaay DROPOUTS!

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Get a job!

Though I would probably like it anyway for reasons of self-affirmation, this Michael Ellsberg op-ed in The New York Times valorizing our country's noble college dropouts does contain some food for thought:

If start-up activity is the true engine of job creation in America, one thing is clear: our current educational system is acting as the brakes. Simply put, from kindergarten through undergraduate and grad school, you learn very few skills or attitudes that would ever help you start a business. Skills like sales, networking, creativity and comfort with failure.

No business in America — and therefore no job creation — happens without someone buying something. But most students learn nothing about sales in college; they are more likely to take a course on why sales (and capitalism) are evil. […]

Start-ups are a creative endeavor by definition. Yet our current classrooms, geared toward tests on narrowly defined academic subjects, stifle creativity. If a young person happens to retain enough creative spirit to start a business upon graduation, she does so in spite of her schooling, not because of it.

Finally, entrepreneurs must embrace failure. I spent the last two years interviewing college dropouts who went on to become millionaires and billionaires. All spoke passionately about the importance of their business failures in leading them to success. Our education system encourages students to play it safe and retreat at the first sign of failure (assuming that any failure will look bad on their college applications and résumés).

Certainly, if you want to become a doctor, lawyer or engineer, then you must go to college. But, beyond regulated fields like these, the focus on higher education as the only path to stable employment is profoundly misguided, exacerbated by parents who see the classic professions as the best route to job security.

There is a pretty unconvincing to-be-sure graf about wage disparities in there, plus some half-hearted policy proposals; read the whole thing.

Tangential point that I've wanted to make for a while now: Remember that great Steve Jobs commencement address at Stanford in 2005, the one where he talked about how he "couldn't see the value" in an expensive liberal arts education, and how dropping out "was one of the best decisions" he "ever made"? Here is how Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum characterize the speech in their we-need-to-do-SOMETHING-about-education book That Used To Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back:

There are two messages contained in Jobs's speech. The first is the importance of a liberal-arts education.

No really, that's what they say.

I wrote about That Used To Be Us last month, and also in a forthcoming Reason cover essay.