In the last decade, quite a few billionaires turned out to be college dropouts. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Steve Jobs are the most famous among this group. How does this affect your view...

In the last decade, quite a few billionaires turned out to be college dropouts. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Steve Jobs are the most famous among this group. How does this affect your view regarding the importance of school?

Asked on by wei-ching

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accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

This is a fascinating question to consider, and does raise some very relevant questions about the importance and function of compulsory education. The usccess of such figures show that success in school is the only way to ensure success in later life. Rather, it is possible to argue that compulsory education is less about imparting knowledge and more about limiting creativity and teaching students to think about things in a certain way. Such a functionalist approach to education argues that the process of education is merely teaching students facts with limited relevance to life and then basing whether students are a success or not on whether they could remember those facts.

The success of people like Steve Jobs indicates that the education system does not fit everybody, and that some people actually find it very restrictive and limiting. It also raises questions about whether the education system properly prepares students for life in the workplace.

However, at the same time, it is important to remember that not all college drop outs becomes billionaires, and indeed, the vast majority don't. Therefore it is not simply enough to make a causal connection between Steve Jobs being a drop out and therefore school is not important. There are of course many more billionaires who have college degrees and are products of the system. It is therefore important to take a more nuanced view of education and perhaps to argue that it will never fit everybody, and there are ways in which it could definitely be improved.

chrisyhsun's profile pic

chrisyhsun | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted on

The most important thing to keep in mind in this debate, I think, is not just the incredible success of these college dropouts, but what all the other college dropouts have been up to. Have they also seen success, even if not on such a public and large scale? It is unreasonable to expect that Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Steve Jobs accomplished what they did purely because of their college dropout status. Instead, I think it was that they had a distinct vision for what they wanted to do, and college was just not the right place for them to accomplish what they wanted in terms of their vision.

As such, the fact that these great individuals have seen such fantastic success and are college dropouts doesn’t deter my view about the importance of education. I personally don’t have as directed a vision as they most likely did, and I think school plays a big role in terms of self-discovery and deciding what I want to do with my life. Challenging classes in a variety of subject areas will help broaden students' perspectives on life and perhaps shape them into visionaries like the people you listed. Not everyone can be a visionary, and college also does a great job in preparing people to accomplish great work in their respective fields, even if the work isn’t termed “breakthrough”.

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