Scott Adams on how to get a real education.

Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert)says in this wall street journal article,

I understand why the top students in America study physics, chemistry, calculus and classic literature. The kids in this brainy group are the future professors, scientists, thinkers and engineers who will propel civilization forward. But why do we make B students sit through these same classes? That’s like trying to train your cat to do your taxes—a waste of time and money. Wouldn’t it make more sense to teach B students something useful, like entrepreneurship?

Some good comments from readers also.

I didn’t see any other threads on this on dope.

Most people don’t want to be entrepreneurs; in fact, deep down I think a sizable percentage of people don’t want to be rich or have anything more than comfortably middle class 9-5 job. For B students like that, I’d say vocational school might be more fulfilling & have a better payoff.

B students are average students. There’s nothing wrong with teaching entrepreneurship or whatever else to anyone, but the idea that B students aren’t smart enough to understand art or classic literature is pretty obnoxious. You don’t have to be dazzlingly brilliant to get something out of culture or science.

It’s true that the motivated students will find something of value in every class they take, but Adams is actually arguing that college students (and especially business majors) should gain practical experience in entrepreneurship through relevant coursework and other work and leadership experiences, instead of taking esoteric classes like art history. I don’t think he’s specifically saying that B students are not capable of handling art history or science, just that it’s not essential. (FTR, I’m all in favor of mandatory science requirements, even if it means taking classes like “Physics for Poets” or “Rocks for Jocks.” After all, future middle-managers should know something about how whatever product their employer makes works.)

Frankly, I think his argument has some merit. I went to college (and I’m willing to bet you did, too) with people who were fantastic in the more practical, work-related classes and who sought leadership positions, but who floundered in math or music appreciation. Why not allow them to develop their strengths a little more and focus a little less on classes that might be enriching but otherwise meaningless?

That’s the eternal question- what is the purpose of a college education?

It has many purposes: intellectual growth; educating a literate citizenry who can make reasoned decisions on a variety of topics; job preparation; mental flexibility to be able to shift as the job market needs shift away from your specific degree content area; critical thinking skills on a disparate range of topics; global perspective etc.

Having students who will not be going into esoteric areas have a sampling of those disciplines may not serve job preparation, but it serves the other areas well. While students should be advised to choose classes wisely, exposure to areas outside of their preferred career path is actually critically important for having an educated population. In others words, enriching students does have concrete meaning for a truly functioning society.

And I don’t have a problem with that. But right there in the first paragraph says there’s no point in teaching some of those things to anybody but the A students because there’s just no hope they will understand it. I do think it makes sense for people to get experience in a wide variety of subjects even if it’s not going to be useful for their careers. It certainly makes sense to work on getting practical experience once you know what you want to do. But that’s not the same as ‘teaching art, literature, math or science to B students in college is like trying to teach your cat to do your taxes.’

It’s a complex issue. On the one hand, a traditional liberal arts education isn’t for everyone. Some people aren’t prepared for it, some people aren’t motivated to do the necessary work, and some people just aren’t capable of handling it. There’s a lot to be said for encouraging those students towards a path of study that’s going to have a bigger payoff for them.

On the other hand, we don’t want to become a society of intellectual haves and have-nots. As much as a college education acts as a signaling mechanism for skills you already had coming in, it’s damn near impossible to do well in a rigorous program without refining those skills, and there’s a big payoff to that. That sort of training should be able to everyone to the limit of their ability.

That’s why I’m a big fan of the community college (at least in theory). What I’d really love to see is a program that mixes vocational training with the first two years of a liberal arts education. It’s not going to be the same as an college education, but it’s still going to be better than just high school.

Scott Adams, “certified genius”, just admitted last Friday that he has spent the last few years trolling sites like Reddit and Metafilter as a sock puppet named “plannedchaos”. Today, he posted on his blog whining that it was all a form of publicity, which he can’t do openly because he’s hounded by feminists and Men’s Rights advocates and if he offends anyone, it might have economic ramifications. Also, his words get taken out of context, just like that poor GOP official’s actions were when she sent out the “Obama in a chimp family portrait” last week.

I wonder what GPA he thinks one would need in order to be assigned the study of douchbaggery?

This is one of those Scott Adams lines that sounds smart at first glance and then you realize what a nitwit he is if you think about it for longer than, oh, four seconds.

  1. How do you know for sure which are the A and the B students?

  2. Who says you have to be a genius to be a scientist, engineer, or professor?

  3. Who says that an understanding of those subjects can’t be useful in other jobs?

  4. Why is learning not a valuable skill in itself?

  5. Aren’t those subjects intertwined with OTHER disciplines and therefore of value to learning other things?

Remember that Scott Adams, certified genius, is the guy who doesn’t believe in evolution and doesn’t understand that gravity is proportional to mass, not volume.

As a prose writer, Scott Adams is a good cartoonist.

I’m so glad I’m a Beta. The Alphas work much harder than we do, because they’re so frightfully clever. The have to learn complicated things like physics and history and chemistry and art. I’m really awfully glad I’m a Beta, because I don’t work so hard. I get to learn how to be an entrepreneur! We’re much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green and go to vocational school instead of college. And Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don’t want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They’re too stupid to be able to read or write. Besides they wear black, which is such a beastly color. I’m so glad I’m a Beta.



Just sayin.

Scott Adams also believes in the Law of Attraction. I give him full marks for not being a boring, mediocre wage slave (any more), but he’s kind of nuts.

I don’t know, hon, you might be a mite generous there. I think he’s kind of nuts in much the same way that salt is kind of salty.

Dimwitted tripe. Punishment: swift kick in the nuts by a Renaissance Man.

Exactly; he increasingly comes across as a very grouchy old man.

I once read something I found interesting. It said that the purpose of a college education was getting a degree. And no, the author was not making a joke. He said that getting a degree - in any major - showed that you had the ability to formulate a multi-year plan and execute all of the steps along the way to achieving your goal. That the skills you demonstrated in obtaining a degree were often more valuable than the knowledge you acquired about some specific subject.

I used to think there was a distinct difference between an entrepreneur and a con artist. Thanks to Scott Adams, I know better now.

No, he’s just a colossal dick. And an unfunny hack cartoonist.

What a prince. From the third link:

ETA Is it wrong that, reading these links, I’m wondering which Doper he might be?