Who Needs an Elite University?
The Education Wars Part VI
"A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library." -Shelby Foote
Education Wars articles can be found here at the Campfire.wiki.
This is not an article where I'm going to tell you that the university system is completely useless. Honestly, there are a small handful of professions where I think (or I think that I think, but should update my research) that it's best for young people to gather for some period of time for intensive training. Of course, that could happen on a corporate campus, or anywhere else. But I do think maybe those studying…something intensely technical might maybe sort of still benefit from the university system.
Then again, a combination of other technologies has made a tremendous amount of learning easier from essentially any locality. You can learn to code from your bedroom. Unless your work involves rare materials, it's hard to imagine the purpose of a university beyond the claimed "stamp of conscientiousness" which is strangely never delinked from the "stamp of credulity of a sociopathic system", but whatever.
Yale's Newest Graduate
"Study without desire spoils the memory, and it retains nothing that it takes in." -Leonardo da Vinci
A little while ago I saw one of my former students post on Facebook about graduating from Yale. The post amused me. He included an amusing picture of himself, but I'm leaving him unidentified. But most of my Dallas client families will guess. I'll call him Nav in this article, but do not confuse him with the B-list rapper of the same name.
I chatted with Nav a bit after I saw his post and he explained that he graduated in 5 semesters, but only spent 2.5 on campus. I think he shaved off a year with AP exams, and an additional semester with cobbled together credits of various kinds or heavier per semester work loads. He moved to Austin to work on cryptocurrency for a semester and, as he put it,
…nobody noticed I was gone (I was exempt from mandatory COVID testing because I had contracted it, and I took classes which didn't take attendance and only had final exams which I flew back and took at the end of the semester [that was this Spring]).
So, did Nav even need Yale?
I asked Nav to give me the rundown on the positives, and here is what he had to say:
The most important thing I did was join a research group - that's where I learned scientific programming, how to learn many different things at once, and it's also the only thing which pushed me to gain intuition vs. rote memorization or even olympiad-style proof-mapping. I didn't learn much in any class except statistical mechanics, which I learned very well because I had a fantastic professor who was kind. My entire sophomore year was spent online due to the pandemic and I taught myself everything I know about cryptography and economics in that period.
But, by far the most important thing that happened to me in college was feeling true friendship. It is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.
Kudos to the statistical mechanics professor.
Nav made a few other comments around which I'll leap to my own set of thoughts, which I understand better for young men than young women: it is easier to explore the world of adults a bit at a time with a pack of friends at around the ages of 18-2x, for some value of x. Eventually, that need dissipates as the lions form their prides, perhaps.
Good luck, Nav!