"A Reformation [in thinking about academic degrees] is coming, and its message will be the same as it was 500 years ago: Don't outsource your future to a big institution. You need to figure it out yourself." - Peter Thiel, "Thinking too highly of higher ed," in The Washington Post, November 21, 2014. Here is that article.
Flashback, at least for those who took the second part of Western Civ in college. There is that vivid image of Martin Luther nailing his challenges to Roman Catholicism to the church door. That helped trigger the Reformation or Enlightenment. This time, in the Luther role is Stanford JD and venture capitalist Peter Thiel. His focus is, as he puts it in his WaPo opinion-editorial, is higher education "as a kind of universal church, outside of which there is no salvation."
Further, Thiel sums up the current system of higher education as "a tournament that bankrupts the losers and turns the winners into conformists."
Instead of chasing after academic degrees, even the basic ticket of the BA/BS, Thiel recommends "figuring it out."
The trouble there is that figuring it out does not bring the conventional rewards, at least not right away, that being admitted to Harvard does. As we know, it's enough to get into an institution like Havard to create that unique force field which association with brandname schools does.
Currently, too many Americans simply can't do without that immediate sign that one is headed in the right direction. It's funny. When I received the fat envelope from Harvard Law School that I got in, everyone congratulated me. Some sent flowers.
Several years ago when I figured out to exit glut communications niches like journalism and social media and re-build my executive communications practice, no one noticed. I was simply in a survival mode. In America, the ability to survive carries no prestige.
Is the game Thiel questions really one embedded in the reward of prestige which can be an end-in-itself? That's what its consumers want. Damn what comes next. "I am off to Harvard, Stanford, Yale, and that's all that will matter, forever more." Ability to earn a living later, loans, and the self-defeating ethos of entitlement are irrelevant.