and “the biggest lesson I’ve learned is how to fail faster”—but unfortunately too often the people and their rags-to-riches tales are no more
stirring or memorable than reruns of The Lawrence Welk Show. And
missing from these tales of degreeless success is the fact that many of
them did attend some college and had access to the high-end facilities
that colleges provide. If pushed, they would have to admit that the likelihood of the ubersuccess of dropouts is like the possibility of high school
basketball players getting drafted by the NBA and the drama geek being
cast in a summer blockbuster—it rarely happens. Saying no to college
is only reasonable for the rarely talented and ultralucky few—but what
about the rest of us?
Aside from providing a forum for the author to thumb his nose at academia, Ellsberg’s book is a rather standard “how to succeed in business”
motivational work. When he does get around to offering his “very specific plan for living a very meaningful life” it comes down to marketing,
networking, sales and leadership. Granted, he puts a little meat on those
bones as he tells us more or less how to invest in being better at these key
skills. His advice swings wildly from the eccentric notion that you are
to develop a “kinetic sense in your body of how it feels to have money
to pay your rent, to pay your bills on time, and to take your sweetie to
a nice restaurant” to the more mundane “don’t forget to create room to
experiment” (at what, he doesn’t say).
The Education of Millionaires oozes with unbridled anti-intellectualism.
Ellsberg reduces a college education to self-exploration with expensive,
fancy books or a long break before adulthood. Maybe that’s what he
got at Brown in the ’90s, but times have changed. College is no longer
the pastime of eccentrics, as he seems to think. Ellsberg’s rant that universities are hopelessly sclerotic and removed from the “real world” is
ultimately tiresome, dull and self-serving.
In the extremity of their arguments and the passion with which they
are written, Professor X’s and Ellsberg’s books are sometimes entertaining, on rare occasions informative, but mostly maddening as they
focus too fixedly on the authors’ personal experiences and biases. They
seldom pull back and provide a big-picture view. Jeffrey J. Selingo,
editor at large for the Chronicle of Higher Education, offers in College
(Un)Bound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means to
Students a more reasonable, balanced and informed discussion of the
current state of education. His problem is not that students are going to
college but that for a number of complex reasons, they do not finish. Only