15 August 2012

Coming Full Circle

So here’s a proposal to eliminate the current university system:
Amazon has started paying for their employees (even warehouse workers) to get degrees in things like IT and logistics. How long before they decide they don't want to spend money for their people to sit through 45 hours of dubious quality lectures at the local community college and decide to offer courses themselves? 

If two people came up to you with degrees in information systems, one from LSU and one from Amazon, which would you put more faith in? On the one hand, LSU is an actual school — I should make a crack about them being a football program with a school attached — whose core competency is educating people. On the other hand, Amazon knows a metric ton more about IS than the random assortment of over-worked grad students, itinerant lecturers, and professors distracted by their upcoming grant applications that are teaching at most schools. Do you know anything about the quality of education in IS from LSU? I don't. Maybe it's good? Do you know anything about Amazon and IS? Yeah, you know that they know it backwards and forwards, left, right and center.
So basically, the idea is that instead of going to school for “advanced studies,” you instead enter into what is basically a certified apprenticeship.  Sort of like how it was several centuries ago when most people learned a trade directly from a practitioner and only a few people went to university.  It’s amazing that we had to experiment with dumbing down higher education in order to come to the conclusion that the old way worked just fine, but here we are.  Of course, we’ll now take credit for our new idea of certified apprenticeship, and try to pass it off as new, when in reality it is simply a recycling of a very old tradition.

At any rate, I’m very excited about this development, even if it isn’t exactly original, because it means the eventual death of the altogether silly notion that one must go to a university to learn how to run a business.  I’ve been to B-school, and I’m currently running my own business, and I can say with certainty that B-school is completely worthless if you want to learn how to run a business.  For some reason, left-leaning professors that have never worked a real job in their entire lives are remarkably ill-equipped for explaining how to run a business.

Incidentally, the only valuable classes I took in college were accounting and quantitative analysis.  The former was taught by a retired head of GM’s accounting division; the latter was taught by a former head of the Abrams’ tanks manufacturers’ quantitative analysis division.  In other words, these professors knew of what they taught.  These are the only two classes that I have thus far put to use in the operation of my own business.  I wish I had learned jobsite management from a former practitioner, but that was never an option.

The point I’m getting to in all this is that the university system is really only suited for those who wish to live in a world of abstractions.  For those who wish to live in the decidedly more concrete real world, an apprenticeship, or any other form of direct experience, is far better since it is more practical.  Hopefully it won’t be long until others begin to feel the same way.


  1. It'd be great if this leads to university being about higher knowledge once more (with fewer people attending), and not High School 2.

  2. I read business school as "bee minus school." Which was always my impression of their best and brightest. Present company excepted, of course.

  3. @Anon.- agreed. High school was awful enough the first time around; I don't see how very many people would want to repeat it.

    @Aethefrith- Your impression is, in my estimation, largely correct. There aren't very many imaginative people in B-school because those who have a knack for running a business are generally already doing so. (Note: I did find business law and accounting classes to be quite practical. Math was useful to some degree. Everything else was pretty much B.S. or a sideshow).