Hire Ben Casnocha

by on September 28, 2006 at 9:14 am in Education | Permalink

Seth Godin…posed
an idea I call "Real Life University."  Seth questioned whether four
years in a place that teaches how to be normal filled with students who
are looking for a degree helps me.  He wondered aloud whether two years
on the road traveling in different cultures, and two years reading
books and meeting mentors, would be a better experience.

From that point forward my opinion on the matter became clear: I
want to spend four years of my life learning.  I don’t want to graduate
from high school and just start more businesses.  After all, business is
only kind of interesting.  I want to learn.  I want to explore.

"Real Life University" – four years of reading and exploration,
guided by a "board of trustees" of advisors and mentors – became a real
idea I refined and held in my back pocket.

Here is the post, here is Ben’s blog.  Here is Ben’s bio.  Here is Ben on his GPA and why not every good college will take him.  Tomorrow Ben will tell us where he will go in a year’s time.  But should he spend four years of his life at a college?

Hire Ben, in a job with real possibilities; if need be give him a "pre doc" to just sit around.  If need be, give him part of the year off.

Ben is a living test of whether college education signals the dedication of students to hard work.  If Ben does not get or indeed even start his degree, does it mean he is undisciplined?  And yes you can see a potential source of worry toward the end of his second paragraph from above.

I have met Ben and he is very nice.  I have read Ben’s blog.  I spent three minutes with Ben, but I will bet my reputation as a judge of talent that Ben will be a future star of some kind.  He is already a star.  And someday he will own you.

Hire Ben Casnocha, and test economic theory in the process.  Contribute to building a data set for the economics of education.

I’ll give you all an update a year from now.

By the way: I have always thought that the peer effects of college were the
biggest problem with the idea; ideally the smart kids should be sent to
a college full of adult students, if only this were possible.

1 albatross September 28, 2006 at 9:05 am

It may also be that going through the standard track of schooling is not so necessary for very intelligent, very driven people, but still benefits others. I certainly learned more outside my classes than in them when I was in school, and I’m guessing I’m not unique in that. But some stuff (accounting, say) I would probably have never studied without someone telling me I had to. That probably made me a bit more capable of understanding the world I live in.

2 Brian D. September 28, 2006 at 9:27 am

“I have always thought that the peer effects of college were the biggest problem with the idea; ideally the smart kids should be sent to a college full of adult students, if only this were possible.”

I don’t know why, but this statement reminded me of the marked difference I observed in commuter students and dorm residents. Dorm residents were likely to be more socially active, while most commuters were more reserved, had less to do with the college “social scene,” and tended to hold down a part time job.

I don’t know if this is true on a broad scale, but at the small college I attended it was an interesting phenomenon.

3 josh September 28, 2006 at 10:11 am

“I will bet my reputation as a judge of talent that Ben will be a future star of some kind.”

I will take that bet against a plate of my delicious home made snickerdoodles. He’s a smart kid, but smart kids are a dime a dozen.

4 earnest September 28, 2006 at 11:18 am

Isn’t it important that he learn “How to Think”, and isn’t that a valuable aspect of the academy anymore? Does anyone here think he does know how, at this ripe young age?

I, for one, am tired of hearing from people who think that skating through life on a thin ice of soundbites and platitudes constitutes thinking.

Go to a good college young man, and push past the limitations of your “dull professors” and “less talented peers”. Go to the library and the read things footnoted in your course assignments.

One of my best memories in life was seeing (live) the sweat on Gary Kasparov’s brow as he struggled in vain to defeat Deep Blue — for days. It gave me the inspiration to struggle — for eight hours — with A SENTENCE from the Talmud {the bankruptcy estate division problem}.

Encountering difficult material which does not easily yield to the type of quick analysis so common today would serve this young man well — be it Shakespeare, Aristotle, whatever — particularly if he does it in the presence of others committed to the same.

He can be a tourist and shopper later.

5 mobile September 28, 2006 at 11:54 am

ideally the smart kids should be sent to a college full of adult students, if only this were possible

Why not go straight from high school to the University of Phoenix?

6 joan September 28, 2006 at 1:27 pm

“I have always thought that the peer effects of college were the biggest problem with the idea; ideally the smart kids should be sent to a college full of adult students, if only this were possible.”
The problem is that although 18 year olds could profit from adult interaction, the adults have little to learn from them. They have been there and done that. For the most part, the only adults who interact reguarly with teenagers are either family or they are paid to.

7 Chris Yeh September 28, 2006 at 2:30 pm

By the way, it’s not that I can’t spell, it’s that the frickin’ right
column of books blocks out the right hand side of the text entry
window, so I can’t see if I’ve made typos. Can you do something about
that Tyler?

(posted with old-school linebreaks!)

8 Chris Yeh September 28, 2006 at 2:54 pm

Joel,

Good point. I misused the word “possible.” But I stand by my point–
so unlikely as to be effectively impossible.

After all, it is possible that Warren Buffett will decide to give me one
billion dollars, but I’m not holding my breath.

9 earnest September 28, 2006 at 8:20 pm

Joel,

…didn’t want this to get “snarky”, but your response to my comment proves MY point.

I, myself, didn’t study Logic or Rhetoric — but I have friends who did, IN GOOD COLLEGES, and who are brilliant. They could school you a bit: My point is not “ridiculous”, Joel, and then you go on to make all kinds of fallacious comments…

Shame. Shame. Perhaps people who haven’t had experiences with people who can, indeed, teach one “How to Think” might be skeptical about whether said people exist. They do.

And it is worth it to spend a few years of life exposed to those people, Joel — it does one some good. It might even help our young Ben Casnocha push a few more widgets down our throats — or at least make his widget ads more clever and palatable.

10 fling93 September 29, 2006 at 9:38 pm

“I have always thought that the peer effects of college were the biggest problem with the idea”

I think the other one is that college-age kids are typically too young to appreciate college — especially for schools that ask you to declare your major going in (this coming from someone who spent over ten years in software engineering and is now in a Master’s of Economics program).

Given that most people learn relatively little in the way of practical job skills in college (even for engineers like me), and that college serves largely as a signaling mechanism for intelligence and aptitude, maybe it’d make more sense for most high school students to go straight into the workforce for a few years before going to college? Delaying tuition payments makes a lot more financial sense, young people would learn exactly how important money is to them before choosing their major, and companies could still use SAT scores or whatnot as the signaling mechanism instead of degrees.

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