Christopher Langan and Corporate College
The story of Christopher Langan is a strange one. So strange in fact that I’d suggest you check out wikipedia and, as previously mentioned, the book Outliers. The story of his experience with college mirrored mine to such an extent that it actually depressed me on my drive home.
Both he and I were completely alone in our dorm areas, surrounded by folks more interested in smoking pot and orgy’s than they were learning (and no, I don’t blame or fault them, it just wasn’t my gig). A series of misfortunes lead him to not having any financial aid and when it came time for the college to step in and help him in even the smallest of ways it didn’t.
I’m not suggesting that like Langan I’m a genius, give me a half hour and I can prove to you that that isn’t the case. But I have shared his experience with higher education. That revelation that the university itself isn’t interested in you or your education. They are, as Langan put it, a glorified corporation.
Many of these colleges are million or billion dollar industries. Colleges in the United States are largely for profit industries that happen to peddle learning. For them I suspect that it is a necessary evil to generate revenue. Everything about college grows costlier with some factors increasing up to (and surpassing) 800% that of inflation. This is not because it is necessary or because it is preventative.
They do this because that is the primary goal. They being everyone involved with the industry. Colleges are a system for accruing debt. That isn’t to say that I think people shouldn’t go, but college matters a whole lot less than who you know. As the book mentions, and anecdotally as I’ve experienced, every great leap in life seems to be fueled by a series of unlikely but fortunate events. Some of these events are agonizing and hurt me in ways I could never have predicted (nor wished for myself) but inevitably they lead me to something greater.
Whenever it comes time for my experience and education to represent me for a new path in life, I find that they fall flat. It is when someone knows me and knows what I can do that I am given a shot. We’ve hit a point of maximum talent while simultaneously hitting critical ignorance on what works for analyzing people. Everyone has their little games, their puzzles, their algorithms, but every college, every business, every country, has no better odds with their practices than they would merely randomly selecting people who are minimally qualified.
We ignore all our failures and praise all our successes, prolonging this fantasy that we can predict how good our new hires will be. If these systems actually worked, there would be no business on hard times. But they don’t, and they likely never did.