Writing a post trashing a college degree is low-hanging fruit.
And I get it.
Last week, my daughter, a high school junior, was invited to attend a recruitment event at a fairly prestigious university near us. My daughter is my daughter, so I am biased, but she's an amazing kid. Next year she'll be student body Vice President (where she'll be more of the Dick Cheney power-behind-the-throne Vice President, rather than the Mike Pence step-aside-rather-than-get-mowed-over Vice President, or so she tells me). She has a 3.9ish GPA, and participates in every club she can.
Despite her resume, at this university her likely aid package and the $50,000 tuition would necessitate my wife and I having to borrow more than $20,000 a year to bridge the gap.
Which is not going to happen.
Still, I want my daughter to attend college, so we will look at other options.
I want her to attend college because the data shows that a degree is still the most likely path to a good job and a rewarding career. Further, recent research by economists Angus Deaton and Anne Case shows that Americans without a bachelor's degree are starting to die younger than their counterparts who have a degree.
I also want her to attend college because, contrary to popular opinion, during my college education I learned the single most important skill I've used throughout my career.
I learned how to construct an argument that considers the counter-argument of someone who may disagree with me.
Basically, when writing essays, or my master's thesis, I had to construct an argument that could withstand someone telling me I was full of crap.
It might not sound like much, especially in today's world. Cable news, no matter what channel you're watching, has devolved into putting multiple people onscreen while they see who can talk the loudest and longest without ever recognizing that the person on the other side of the split screen may have a point.
Not only is it awful to watch, but our world is fundamentally worse off because of it.
While shouting over the opinions of others may be a way to drive ratings, success in business or in life requires you to take a moment, consider why you might be wrong, and build your own argument with the counterargument in mind.
Considering a counterargument is also about more than just writing essays. It's a way of thinking that allows you to poke holes in your own ideas--including products and startups. It helps you recognize and fix flaws before those flaws become fatal.
For me, though I learned a lot in college, the skill I continue to use on a daily basis in my consulting business is the ability to look at my own argument or point of view and examine why someone else might have a different perspective.
Should gaining that skill cost $250,000?
No, and the notion that the only way to get a degree is by incurring hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt is wrong. Still, there is a lot that colleges, universities, and the government could do to reduce the cost of a college degree--and they need to reduce that cost before a degree, for all its benefits, becomes completely unaffordable.
But there are things that colleges and universities do well.
And one of them is teaching people how to be right by recognizing you might be wrong.