Saturday, June 4, 2011

On College, UnCollege, and Why you should get a math degree

I think about education because I believe that education is powerful ... if effective. I feel that most of a person's college education is ineffective toward producing skills needed for the future (afterall, we can't predict the future). I was reading about UnCollege, and generally I accept the premise.

A majority of students that go to the majority of colleges are not getting a good education; they are paying people to teach them shit that isn't relevant to the future. They are paying people to deem them worthy as a cog.

Is college a waste of time? No. If you love learning, then you can learn things from brilliant people. This is why graduate school is so awesome. However, here in lies the con game. Smart and brilliant people realised that the majority of people don't like to learn, most people just want to have a good job so they do whatever it is that makes them happy (typically: sex, drugs, kids). So, the academics tell industry that college will make your workers better, and industry introduced it as a requirement.

This turns most of the college experience for those that don't love learning into a marathon. If you complete it, then you are worth hiring.

The sucky thing is that this inflates the number of gear-check courses which tend to not be interesting to smart brilliant people since they can master the material fairly quickly. There were a number of courses in my past where I showed up just for the tests and got As. Why was I paying for that? Well, that's a gear-check course for "normal" people.


I love math. The majority of undergraduate math classes are gear-checks for engineering students. However, they are interesting enough to brilliant people. If you want to be brilliant, then surround yourself with brilliant people. Once you get past differential equations, you will be immersed in a new level of mathematics that will surprise you. It isn't a gear check anymore, it's fun stuff that is centered around learning.

For me, I found the math program to be an oasis of smart people doing clever things. It's an oasis because it's hard, and this means the supply is limited to those that have the love of learning.

So, if you go the college route and you are smart, then you should do a math degree.


Problematically, good hackers don't have time to deal with the bullshit gear-check courses. They need to hack and get high off their brain. I'll be honest, I can do more and get more with a enthusiastic hacker with a GED than I can with a freshly minted CS graduate that started programming as a freshmen.

I've been exploring this problem, and I have my name picked out (and it's cool). Now, I'm trying to figure out the strategy and how to make it successful. I hope UnCollege will solve this niche because I know the war for talent is waging on now, but if we want to get more talent, then we need to invest in innovative ways of training people (namely by providing opportunities to learn effectively) well in-lieu of stupid bullshit gear-check courses.

What I want

I want a cheaper alternative to College that increases the supply of quality talent that is marketable. The more talent we can produce that's easier to hire means the more cool shit we humans can do.

1 comment:

  1. A lot of people with a degree know as much about a subject as they did after the first year. I'm not talking about a small subset, but more of a G_\delta dense subset of maths students, ranging from friends to former students in my classes. A lot of people just "pass" and go get a job, knowing absolutely nothing.