10 February, 2011

Is College A Waste Of Time?

James Altucher believes that attending college is a mistake, and that young people's time would be better spent starting a business or pursuing a hobby. His claim is that most students today don't really learn anything in college, and that achievement-minded people will succeed regardless of whether they go to college or not.

There are a number of things wrong with this. The first hinges on Altucher's idea of success, which I can only assume is defined by a high-earning private sector job. It's a safe assumption because (a) that's what he has, and (b) it's easy to come up with a number of jobs that really do require a college degree, no matter how smart and hard-working you are, and this goes against his generalization.

Take, for example, the combined industries of education and scientific research. You don't want your high school teachers to only have a high school diploma, and to do new meaningful research (i.e. stuff that wasn't discovered 100 years ago) you need to get beyond 10th grade biology. So these fields really do require a college education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2008 these combined industries made up 10.3% of nonfarm jobs in the U.S. That's a pretty signficant chunk to justify the sort of sweeping, unconstrained generalizations that Altucher is making.

The other argument I would make is that "achievement-minded" people end up with high-paying jobs because at some point early on they develop an interest in a field that happens to have high-paying jobs. When people find their "calling" can really vary from person to person, and is influenced by their exposure to different fields of work. Many people don't know what they want to do right out of high-school. Moreover, a young person is much more likely to be exposed to the right match for them on a college campus, where there is a tight clustering of experienced people from different fields actively trying to recruit new students.

One question is why do media outlets cater so much to people from the financial sector? If you include banking, insurance, securities, and other investments, people employed in this industry only account for 3.5% of all nonfarm jobs in the U.S. Yet, from watching TV news channels or listening to evening NPR programming one would gather that most people could benefit from the advice of financial gurus. In fact, their life-experience is pretty limited to maneuvering investments, and that's not really experience that you can extend to most people in the service industry, which accounts for most jobs in the U.S.

09 February, 2011

Raising Children Today

When you grow up, you mature physically and mentally. The thing that makes you "you" to most people, though, is your personality. Most people retain some core aspects of their personality throughout their life, but to varying degrees people's personalities can change noticeably between one's teen years and mid-adulthood.

There are not a lot of photos of my parents when they were in their teens and twenties. There are no videos of them that I'm aware of. So my concept of my parents as people begins with them in mid-adulthood - with a job, a house, children, and a lot of life experiences. I'll never know what they were like when they were 20 year old.

But my children will potentially have access to a great deal of photos and videos of me from my youth. Today, recording a video of you with your friends is as easy of as taking your cell phone out of your pocket. They will see what I was like (in all my silly awkwardness) before I had a job, a house, responsibilities, etc. Their concept of me will span my most of my life, not just from the moment they were born (or more accurately, around 10 or 11 years old).

Is this a good thing? Possibly. It might give me more cred when lecturing them about what things are not good ideas to do when you're 15, simply because they will have a visual picture of me at that age. What we can say is that raising children in the coming decades will be a very different experience than it was 20 years ago simply due to the availability of media-taking devices and the internet.