Re: How to Get a Real Education – WSJ

Apr 17 2011

Have u read this article on WSJ? How to Get a Real Education – Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert). If not, go ahead and read it before moving on.

Here’s a summary:

  1. The author proposed that we shouldn’t waste time teaching average B students things like chemistry, physics, etc, instead, we should teach them something more useful, like entrepreneurship.
  2. Then, he went on to talk about his entrepreneurial experience during college time.

Although the article is really good. There is 1 important thing I have to spot out: What he said in the introduction and what his story is about are completely different. The introduction is really irrelevant.

What he said in the introduction: “don’t teach the average B students maths, physics, literature, etc. Teach them something more useful, like entrepreneurship.”

What his story is about: him sharing his personally-molded experiences about entrepreneurship, and a couple of advices for entrepreneurs-wanna-be.

A quick reader would read through the article, feel really impressed by the story he told, and would inherently told himself: “oh yeah. So teaching entrepreneurship to average B students is the way forward” – which is essentially not the point.

Taking a bigger view from here, I think this sort of writing is dangerous. If readers are not careful enough, they would be impressed by the story he told, and inherently went on to believe the article’s title/abstract.

There should be some psychology trick/theory behind this sort of thing (use impressive A to convince them to believe irrelevant B). Any idea?

8 responses so far

  1. I think i took his article in discrete sections.

    1) Teach people who are not interested in Arts and Physics Entrepreneurship – A rather weak argument which needs more substantiation.

    2) His story – ok, looks like you had a fruitful college life

    3) Tips – some of them were good. some weren’t. Take the good ones, leave the rest.

    But yea, as a whole article was rather all over the place.

  2. I actually think that the article is fine. He first gets the readers’ attention by telling a story. Stories are always good. But it might be hard see lessons from the story so he goes on to tell you about what he thinks would be useful.

    I’m not sure I understand your objections to the article.

    What’s obvious true is this. To do education perfectly, we need to teach each student according to his/her ability. No education system/university can achieve this perfectly and it is quite likely that we’re making some students study things that are not quite so relevant to their future lives and they would be better off learning something else instead.

  3. Caveat emptor or rather readers beware.

    I think his article is insightful and I love this sort of articles where the writer shares his story. I can use it to get a sense of his thinking and environment and find application in my life.

    I’m less concern of where he is trying to lead his readers for readers should have their own judgement and thinking. Anyways, readers who follow blindly will end up realising their mistakes and learn from them. It’s the way we learn.

    You do have a point that such writings may be dangerous. I guess this is one of the few techniques of writing a sticky one.

  4. Hi Ben,

    I also think the story he told is really good. I totally went ‘wow’ after reading the story. And the advices, too. The advices are from his own experiences.

    My objection is simple, the first paragraph (the introduction) is irrelevant to the rest of the article (the story and advices). And somehow, at the first impression, after reading through the article, I was like ‘wow we should get down to teach B students more about entrepreneurship’. But that essentially not the article’s point.

    I guess what he’s trying to say is this: “you don’t need to follow the crowd by doing physics or science; you define how you want to take your own education, and colleges is the resources pool; as for me, I tried out entrepreneurship”

  5. I love this sort of story too, it’s specific, real (probably) and inspiring.

    But yeah I guess he’s not trying to lead his leader. Maybe he just tried to make a intro more abstract and general than his story is. And it also could be that the editor picks the wrong phrases to quote.

  6. well title can always be misleading and yea, only through that kind of title, you can attract attention, no?

    And not everyone is suitable for entrepreneurial ventures, so may not be the right thing for B students as well.

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  8. My issue with the article is that it hints at “If A students continue working on the arts and sciences, then B students should be given an opportunity to learn entrepreneurship.” To sum up my entire chain of thinking, Scot Adams is not a B student. Hes an A++ student. In the future, Dilbert is going to be taught in history books on corporate culture (even now, it already is in many textbooks) – and the reason why he risked his job at Bell labs to work on Dilbert is due to his entrepreneurial roots as he talks about in his story. So I think the article should change its “B Students” to “Frustrated B Students”. We still need an economy of drones and cogs supplied by the A and B students to fill up the industrial and corporate machinery. Until we invent robots that is. So this article isnt really about education and people should think critically whether his all encompassing lobbying for entrepreneurial education is really indeed helpful for everyone – it might not be.

    Saying all this, I DO think the article was very fun and nice to read and inspiring.

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