Will Dropouts Save America? Probably!


Michael Ellsberg, the author of the new book The Education of Millionaires: It’s Not What You Think and It’s Not Too Late, has a very good op-ed published in last week’s New York Times: “Will Dropouts Save America?”

Ellsberg argues, “American academia is good at producing writers, literary critics and historians. It is also good at producing professionals with degrees. But we don’t have a shortage of lawyers and professors. America has a shortage of job creators. And the people who create jobs aren’t traditional professionals, but start-up entrepreneurs.”

I heard Ellsberg present his personal story and his ideas at a webinar a few weeks earlier and was impressed by his understanding about the limits and roles of higher education and I look forward to reading his book. This op-ed is a great condensation of some of the major issues we face as institutional interests, using government funding and persuasion, continue to insist that in order to get ahead in life, the roughly 73% of Americans without four-year college degrees must mortgage their children’s future earnings for costly college degrees. The world Ivan Illich described in Deschooling Society, where compulsory education creates deep class divisions in society based on where you attend school, is heavily upon us. I used to think it was just a small group of homeschoolers, alternative schools, and some intellectuals that saw this as a serious problem; now I think the situation has gotten so bad that people like Ellsberg get it without needing to read Illich or Holt (Ellsberg admitted he hadn’t read either of them at the webinar). This gives me hope that our numbers will grow and that common sense and new alternatives to college will stand a chance in the face of institutional resistance to change.