The Astounding Failure of the US Educational System, Part 3 (And Why Entrepreneurship Can Save America)
This is the third and final installment of my three part educational series called “The Astounding Failure of the US Educational System”. Far too many people equate the pursuit of advanced educational degrees
with intelligence and an increased likelihood of success. I know this is
conventional thinking, but I highly disagree with this theorem. If the information you learn in higher education is false, then what good is the pursuit of higher education? For example, sailors knew that the earth was round long before the general public became aware of this fact simply because they witnessed ships disappear below the horizon when they were out at sea. Were those students that learned the earth was flat in school more intelligent simply because they possessed higher educational degrees than the sailors? Some probably were but some probably were not. Direct experience is much more valuable than academic experience in learning how the world really works. Still, a lot of direct experience gained in the corporate world is useless as well. For example, unless you work in the upper echelons of Wall Street, Wall Street will never tell you about the fraudulent practices that really control market pricing behavior. Thus only a few key positions at Wall Street firms are valuable for learning how things really work, positions that will probably take many years to achieve if you can manage to break the “old boys” network that determines who learns Wall Street's wealth secrets.
To contend that someone that attends Oxford, Yale, Harvard, Princeton or the University of Pennsylvania is more intelligent than someone that did not attend these universities encapsulates society’s mistake in how it perceives “intelligence”. Today society mistakenly equates academic knowledge with intelligence. Even at an early age, children are conditioned to mistake academic excellence with intelligence. Teachers praise students that quickly spit back the right answers while ignoring the brilliant student that rejects the rigidity of traditional academia and that quietly may be a genius. In addition, when young children seem disconnected from the academic process and act up, instead of considering boredom or other possibilities as the root cause, in the US and in particular, in Western societies, we leap to conclude they must have Attention Deficit Disorder and that the solution is to medicate them with Ritalin. According to the UK Independent, in 2008, it was estimated that 10% of all children in the US had been prescribed Ritalin. I have also read statistics that in some US cities, 20% to 33% of children in some grades are prescribed Ritalin. That’s an astounding percentage if they are accurate estimates.
During my 13 years of primary, middle, and high school years, I can recall only one child that was on medication for hyperactivity. One. Either something is wrong with education today or something was wrong with medicine back then. I tend to believe the former, not the latter, is true. When I was young, I was the focus of a lot of praise from adults because of my high level of academic aptitude. By the time I was 15-years-old, I had already finished the most advanced Calculus program my school had to offer. A couple of years later, I achieved a perfect score on the math portion of the college-entrance examination test, the SAT. As a result, I was the recipient many times of the societal mistake of equating academic knowledge with intelligence. Consequently, I was repeatedly praised for being “smart”. But how smart could I have really been if none of the knowledge in my brain gave me any understanding about the true history of the world, insight into other cultures, or insight into the mechanisms to accumulate wealth? I believe that most people would include in their definition of a better quality of life, the aspect of wealth accumulation and the possession of financial freedom. School provided me with zero of the knowledge to achieve this. At this point in my life, I had a lot of false academic intelligence but none of the “important intelligence” that really mattered.
Yes, back then, I believed, as does every other person that is unduly praised for academic intelligence, that these accomplishments meant I was uniquely more qualified for employment than nearly everyone else and that I was smarter than most others. I couldn’t have been more wrong! When I attended an Ivy League university, I discovered that nearly everyone one of my fellow students believed that they were smarter than everyone else. Only after I earned my two Master degrees and gained much more experience in the real world did I learn that all the complicated theories I learned in business school had practically zero utility in the process of building wealth. When I started the process of self-education about 15 years ago, I finally began to learn not only how much I didn’t know, but also how much I had learned in school that was downright erroneous, especially in regard to the concepts of money and economics. The truly scary part of this equation is that if I had chosen to rest on my academic laurels instead of probing for the truth on my own, I would still be among the sleeping subset of the population today that holds advanced business degrees and possesses none of what I call “important intelligence”.
There’s a sense of arrogance that society instills in people that have achieved advanced degrees at elite universities that then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me “Where did you go to school?” and then heard the reply, “Oh, you must be smart!” when I answered that I attended an Ivy League university, I’d have a big fat stash of cash from this singular question. Society constantly reinforces the false beliefs of higher intelligence upon those that attend elite institutions of education, and in turn, people with advanced degrees start believing in this empire of illusory intelligence. Consequently, when global economic leaders like Paul Krugman and Ben Bernanke truly believe that they know more than anyone else because of all the undeserved praise society has heaped upon them during their academic careers, society suffers tremendously from the propaganda they disseminate. In fact, how often have any of you heard the all-too-quick-to-judge response, “Oh, so you think you’re smarter than a Nobel Prize winning economist?” when you've told a friend of yours that Krugman’s theories and analysis are all wrong? My guess is quite a few. This fundamental flaw in how society perceives intelligence is exactly why millions of parents in America continue to send their children to be indoctrinated in the business concepts taught in the academic halls of America, just like cattle that stand on a conveyer belt as they wait for their imminent slaughter.
Right Knowledge V. Wrong Knowledge (aka Smart Knowledge V. Dumb Knowledge)
A high-school dropout can certainly be more intelligent than someone that has earned an MBA from a prestigious university. This is a fact although anyone that has attained an MBA from a prestigious university would likely vehemently oppose this view. I’m sure that after I attained my double Masters, that somewhere in America, there was a teenager beginning the process of self-education that had accumulated a small amount of “smart knowledge” that was much more valuable than the voluminous “dumb knowledge” that was rattling around in my brain. Were I to try to explain the concepts that have given me the vision to make the very accurate series of economic predictions that I discussed in Part 2 of this series, I am very confident that, on average, a high school teenager would begin to grasp and fully understand these concepts much more quickly than a Harvard PhD in economics. Is this because a teenager is more likely to be more intelligent than a Harvard PhD? In my view, with regard to economic reality, yes. Society would say that the Harvard PhD is much more intelligent than the teenager because of his advanced degree and much greater accumulation of knowledge. However, I would argue that the teenager’s ignorance of the “wrong" or "dumb" knowledge graduate business programs confers upon students grants him a much greater advantage in being able to grasp the concepts I use to make my financial and economic predictions. The teenager’s mind, in a lot of ways, would be much more free than the Harvard PhD’s because it has not been hard-wired with false concepts and made rigid with arrogance. So the teenager possesses two advantages in the intelligence battle. One, the absence of “dumb knowledge”. And two, the ability to learn new concepts foreign to him or her at a quicker pace due to the absence of “dumb knowledge”.
As I stated in Part 1 of this series, the information the institutional academic system teaches you is not the reality of how this world operates, whether the information being transmitted to the student is history, business, or the banking system. Just as the Rothschild banking cabal has stripped their name from many of the large global organizations they control in order to hide their ownership network across varied economic sectors from the public, the men that founded the modern academic system have hidden the real secrets to building wealth from all university curricula. If you were one of the elite families that controlled the business curricula at many of the world’s most prestigious academic institutions (via donations of huge sums of money to these schools), would you not ensure that the secrets to your accumulation of wealth were never taught? Just as monetary stability is not a goal of Central Banks, teaching concepts to help young adults achieve wealth is not a goal of MBA programs. If it were, then every MBA program would offer at least a dozen courses that help students understand the fraud that is pervasive in capital markets. Instead, students across the world are taught concepts about free markets and supply-demand dynamics that do not exist in the real world. The difference between the concepts business schools teach and the reality of capital markets is as marked as the difference between the mark-to-market accounting values and the mark-to-fantasy accounting values of many global banks' real estate portfolios today.
Thus, it is not the QUANTITY of knowledge nor the amount of money we pay for this knowledge, but the QUALITY and UTILITY of knowledge that grants someone true intelligence. A person that holds 1/100th the business knowledge of his colleague can truly be more intelligent than his colleague if he holds a greater quantity of “smart knowledge” than his colleague. For example, someone that studies the financial literacy concepts of compound interest, budgeting, and retirement contributions accumulates a great deal of the wrong type of knowledge. On the other hand, someone that studies Austrian economics, the deceit of government statistics, the mechanisms of Central Banks, and the money trails among Central Banks, corporations, and governments accumulates the right type of knowledge. If one believes an official government statistic of 5% inflation is honest when real inflation in one's country amounts to 13%, then one may make the mistake of following financial literacy knowledge and doubling one’s IRA contributions if he believes he can attain 8% returns every year. Thus someone that studies financial literacy concepts and makes this choice will end up believing he is doubling his wealth if he achieves 8% returns every year when in reality he will be accelerating his wealth destruction.
As I stated in Part 2 of this series, attaining an MBA definitely filled my head with much more information. But none of this information ever taught me how to make money. If there were a correlation between prestigious MBA programs and the secrets to wealth, then every Harvard, Princeton and Wharton MBA should be a multi-millionaire within several years of graduation.
Your Education Process is Incomplete if You Have Never Educated Yourself Outside of the Traditional Academic System
Earlier, I stated that I believe that intelligence is definitely identified by the capacity to learn more quickly than others. However if one pursues the wrong type of knowledge, then this ability becomes self-defeating as the accumulation of more and more knowledge only makes this person become more and more stupid. So how does one accumulate the right type of knowledge? When it comes to business knowledge, it is impossible to gather this knowledge within the realm of institutional academics so one must engage in the process of self-education. When I first started the process of self-education after completing my double Masters, it took me a full year before I finally was able to completely shed my belief patterns of the many lies I had learned in business school. When I realized that I had been duped by the institutional academic system and that the academic system had taken so much of my hard earned money and only provided me with wrong knowledge in return, it was very difficult to accept this rude awakening. “How could I have been so dumb to waste my hard-earned money on this useless information?” I thought.
As Morpheus states in the Matrix, “We never free a mind once it’s reached a certain age. It’s dangerous.” Likewise, once a person has been conditioned through advanced business courses, it’s extremely difficult to teach such a person the reality of how the business matrix really operates. In this sense, the higher education system provides the perfect system to perpetuate lies, specifically with regard to monetary and business constructs. We, as humans, have a need to validate the price we pay for items with the value we gain from it. Thus the more we pay for education, the more valuable we believe it to be, and the more rigid our belief system will likely become. This is precisely why many alumni will defend the business constructs they have been taught in school with the same level of vigor as if they were defending the honor of their children. I can recall arguing with a colleague of mine about the Reserve Ratio Requirement of banks in the fractional reserve US banking system. He adamantly and repeatedly insisted that it was 10% until I finally extended my hand and said, “I will bet you $10,000 right now that the majority of the largest banks in America keep nowhere close to 10% of deposits as reserves, and I can prove it.” His reply? He finally surrendered his position and stated, "Well, that's what we learned in business school."
You Don’t Need Higher Education For Access or For Success in Life
If the attainment of advanced academic degrees does not necessarily produce higher levels of intelligence or even grant one the skill set needed to thrive and succeed in life, are advanced degrees really necessary? When considering specialized degrees such as those in law, medicine, engineering, architecture et al, advanced academic degrees will serve one well. However, the attainment of a specialized advanced degree still does not make one automatically more intelligent than one that has not attained this degree. Furthermore, when considering an MBA, this advanced degree is absolutely not necessary to succeed in life. In considering an MBA, many young adults will conclude that they need to pursue this advanced degree for the access it will provide them. They believe that networking with the sons and daughters of powerful politicians and businessmen is reason enough to spend lots of money to attend a prestigious graduate program. Furthermore, they believe that corporations will not hire them unless they have an advanced degree. All of these beliefs are misguided.
Attending a prestigious university certainly does provide access. That is unquestionable. When I first graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and desired a job in health care, I wrote a fellow alumnus that was on the board of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia. Upon receiving my letter, the board member contacted me and suggested that I contact the CEO of a health care corporation that was a personal friend of his. Just like that, I was hired and had a new job. However, the more important question to entertain is whether I could have received the same access had I not attended the University of Pennsylvania? The answer is yes.
One can join business or trade organizations that immediately provide access to multi-millionaires and/or movers and shakers in the industry. Many of these organizations may have hefty dues that can run in the range of $5,000 to $10,000 for admission. Even so, these dues are still a tiny fraction of the cost of attending a prestigious 4-year university. Consider that a four-year undergraduate Harvard University education (tuition, room & board, fees) presently costs upward of $200,000. Because I have joined some of these organizations with expensive dues in the past, I can assure you that the access provided by these organizations is on par with the level of access provided by many prestigious universities. Furthermore, many times the access provided by professional clubs and networks may even be more specific and more suited towards one's needs than the access provided by a prestigious university.
Education is Big Business – Don’t Confuse Needing a Diploma to Succeed in the Corporate World With Needing a Diploma to Succeed in Life
But what about the belief that you need an advanced degree to get ahead in life? This too is a false belief that is a by-product of the educational system. Education is big business and it is the job of university deans all over the world to scare young adults into believing that they will be jobless and homeless without securing that precious piece of paper called a diploma. While it is true that a young adult may need an advanced degree to get ahead in the CORPORATE WORLD, a young adult definitely does not need an advanced degree to get ahead in LIFE.
Many of us whom were educated in the Western world will never consider the pathway of entrepreneurship because of the conditioning we receive throughout our academic careers to pursue a corporate life. This is a huge mistake. Western universities may offer a class in entrepreneurship, but most certainly do not promote the entrepreneurial pathway with the same vigor that they promote the corporate pathway. Furthermore, most universities do not match the monetary and resource contributions dedicated to the promotion of the corporate pathway in their promotion of the entrepreneurial pathway. Think of the enormous resources that every Western university deploys towards pushing their graduates into the corporate world – the act of bringing corporate recruiters to campus, the provision of free sessions with interviewing counselors to sharpen interviewing techniques and skills, the provision of internships to steer students toward that perfect corporate job after graduation, etc. Now think of the resources, or lack thereof, that universities dedicate towards the promotion of entrepreneurialism.
Entrepreneurialism Will Lead to Less Debt, Better Job Security, and a Better Chance of Survival During the Next Decade of this Global Monetary Crisis
As an entrepreneur, it is my sincere belief that the much safer route
for young adults to seek during the next decade will be realized through
the entrepreneurial pathway versus the traditional pathway of “climbing
the corporate ladder”. Why? To begin, the second phase of this monetary crisis is likely to be so severe that the risk of taking a corporate job during this time will likely equal or exceed the risk of becoming an entrepreneur. Therefore pursuing higher academics in business will only burden a young adult with the hardships of debt while providing no more job security than an entrepreneur possesses.
Imagine that you are a 21 year-old young man that has just graduated from Harvard undergrad with a US $150,000 debt to repay and the dim prospects of a bleak job environment in which you have to compete with older, more experienced employees with more advanced degrees for a decreasing number of jobs. Furthermore you must compete in an environment that erroneously places an inordinate amount of weight on the possession of an advanced degree. Now imagine that you are a bright 18 year-old young woman that skips a college business education, interns at a prestigious company for a year, joins industry trade organizations and spends the next two years building contacts while learning the ins-and-outs of the business game, and then starts her own company with no debt at age 21 in a world where holding an advanced degree provides no competitive value over someone that does not. Both are 21 but with uniquely different prospects in life at this point. Who would you rather be? The 21 year-old young man with a massive debt burden, bleak job prospects, and a prestigious degree that is worth not quite enough, or the 21 year-old-woman with no diploma, almost no debt, and complete control over her success or failure in the future? If a young adult in Western society chooses the corporate pathway and then changes his or her mind after graduating school, due to the enormous expense of attending Western universities, it is quite possible that the selection of corporate pathway may remove a young adult's option, after graduation, of choosing an entrepreneurial pathway.
The most successful entrepreneurs I’ve encountered during my lifetime are those that hold a very high level of passion for their business. I don't believe that it will be easy for entrepreneurs in this type of
economic environment but I do believe in the ability of passion to trump
economic difficulty. Rarely have I ever encountered anyone that works
in the corporate world that is passionate about their job. I have
encountered plenty of entrepreneurs that are passionate about their
business, and I do believe that a passionate entrepreneur will
eventually become a successful entrepreneur. With passion often comes sincerity, and with sincerity often comes a high degree of customer loyalty. An entrepreneur’s most loyal customers often serve as a second unpaid marketing team for the entrepreneur, extolling the virtues of the entrepreneur’s business to friends and family. During the extended period of economic uncertainty that will prevail during the next decade, this type of customer loyalty is as good as gold and can provide an entrepreneur with solid job security and control over one’s destiny. Remember in the corporate world, career advancement is often based upon a formula that consists of 10% ability and 90% politics, not a favorable equation if one's politicking skills are not up to par with colleagues that may possess better politicking skills but less true ability.
The Backbone of Creativity, Innovation, and Greatness is the Entrepreneur
Besides better job security and better financial stability, are there other reasons to forgo the traditional route of pursuing advanced academic degrees and climbing the corporate ladder? Again, the answer is a resounding yes. At one point and time, the backbone of American creativity, innovation, and greatness was the entrepreneur. Today, this greatness has been replaced with the inflexibility and rigidity of cookie-cutter advanced degree thinkers that all think alike and that are responsible for the stagnation of the great American business. If one desires America or any other country to return to greatness, then that country is going to have to discourage the traditional route of advanced business degrees that mire young adults in the quicksand of debt and encourage more young adults to become entrepreneurs. However, for the most part, this encouragement will never come from the universities themselves, so young adults must come to this realization on their own. Small business and entrepreneurialism will return America or any other country to greatness again, not huge multinational corporations that choose greed over morality and that view employees as expendable, identical, replaceable cogs in a machine.
The Greater Social Benefits of Entrepreneurialism
Entering the world of entrepreneurialism was simply the best decision of my life. Not only do I have better job security now than ever before but I also have more flexibility in my life than ever before. Perhaps the most important reason why many should turn their back on the traditional corporate route and turn towards entrepreneurialism is the much greater social benefit that I believe entrepreneurs provide to society. If you haven’t yet watched the documentary “The Corporation”, I highly recommend doing so. In this documentary, the filmmakers argue that large corporations fit the profile of a psychopath, exhibiting highly anti-social behavior in the pursuit of their singular goal to maximize the profit of corporate executives and shareholders.
The filmmakers have generously allowed the entire documentary to be posted on YouTube. As one commenter noted of this video on YouTube, "I find it sad that this video only has 554,000 views when a
cat flushing a toilet can get over a million in a couple months on this
Years ago, when I languished within the confines of a Wall Street firm, I was never able to use my strengths to shine within the corporation because I simply was unwilling to compromise my morals to get ahead and climb up the corporate ladder. Furthermore, I witnessed a LOT of people that I considered to be generally good people engage in unethical behavior because the corporate payout grid encouraged unethical behavior for career advancement. Those that choose to remain in the corporate system often don’t have a choice but to engage in unethical behavior to survive. If they don’t engage in unethical behavior, others will be advanced over them. However, if one day in the future, these same people chose to leave the corporate world and become an entrepreneur, I sincerely believe that much of their bad, unethical behavior would disappear.
I’m not arguing that entrepreneurs by nature are more moral than the rest of society because there will always be a percent of entrepreneurs that exhibit anti-social, greedy, criminal behavior as well. However, at least entrepreneurs have the choice to truly operate a business in the manner that they desire without having to bend their morals to fit the mission of a huge corporation. But this is the point where the education system may fail entrepreneurs and society.
On October 25, 2010, the Wall Street Journal printed an article titled, “Advisers Try to Tame Investor’s Appetite For Gold,” that quoted several independent, entrepreneurial financial advisors. This is what they said:
"I am not a gold bug, but I have a couple of clients that have just insisted," said Jim Heitman, a financial planner in Alta Loma, Calif. "Even as they objectively recognize the threat of a bubble, they just don't seem to care." Mr. Heitman says he sometimes uses commodity-sensitive stock funds such as PowerShares Dynamic Basic Materials Sector ETF but doesn't like making direct bets on a single commodity like gold. To clients who walk in the door craving gold, he makes two arguments. For one, long-term gold prices merely keep pace with inflation, and investors should concentrate instead on their broader goals like what kind of income they would like to generate. For those that won't be swayed, he points toward SPDR Gold Trust, but he keeps the exchange-traded fund at no more than 5% of their overall portfolios.
George Middleton, a financial adviser in Vancouver, Wash., says the current fascination with gold began in 2009, spurred in part by desire for a safe harbor. As the price of gold has climbed steadily, investors have remained interested, if not always for the same reasons. While many of his clients own iShares Gold Trust, he has been selling small lots to keep the metal from becoming too big a part of their portfolios. Clients "check to make sure they own it; then they ask should I buy more?" Mr. Middleton said. "The answer is usually 'No.'"
Financial adviser Bob Kargenian, in Orange, Calif., has gone a step further and begun to sell. For instance, for his moderately aggressive clients, he has cut exposure to Van Eck International Investors Gold Fund, a mutual fund that focuses on gold miners, to about 1.8% of investment portfolios from about 3.5% at the end of September. Investors have hired him to protect them from their own worst instincts, he explains, particularly in situations like this. "If clients start calling us up and saying, 'We want to see gold,' that is like the kiss of death," he joked, noting the general public's tendency to arrive at good investment ideas too late. "It's like seeing it on the cover of Time magazine."
In addition to some of the wrong information and poor advice provided above, a quick perusal of the chart below should quickly dispel any notion that gold (or silver) is a bubble right now.
Whenever a gold or silver correction has happened during the last nine years, those financial advisers with traditional education and traditional training always state that a gold/silver bubble is in the process of bursting. In fact my Wealth Secrets course, which is a compilation of courses that business schools fail to teach you but that I believe you need to build real wealth, includes courses about “The Monetary History and Investment Value of Gold and Silver" as well as “Understanding Austrian Versus Keynesian Economics”, “How to Properly Interpret Official Government Key Economic Indicators”, “A History of Central Banks and Their Motives” and How Money is Created, How the Monetary System Operates, and The True Definition of Money”. Perhaps if the advisers referenced by the Wall Street Journal above learned how money and capital markets truly work, they would stop calling every correction for the last nine years the bursting of the gold/silver bubble and be able to analyze the gold/silver bull market in its proper framework and perspective.
Perhaps, the above is the perfect evidence for my argument that many entrepreneurs should choose to remove themselves from the formal academic system. Accumulation of the wrong type of knowledge in academia can lead to a misunderstanding of how capital markets truly operate and the provision of horrible advice to clients, as unintentional as this may be. The flip side of this equation is that finance and investing is, of course, just a tiny slice of the entrepreneurial world. In many other entrepreneurial endeavors, academics would not be such a great hindrance, and may even serve as a catalyst toward the deliverance of a product or service that is far superior to one delivered by a corporate entity. In the end, entrepreneurialism alone will not save the world economy. However, I believe that entrepreneurialism combined with a recognition of the failures of the traditional academic system, and a negation of these failures with self-education by entrepreneurs CAN save the global economy and right many a sinking economy.
UPDATE: We believe that the points of this article are much better understood within the context and framework of the ENTIRE series; otherwise some of the above points may be taken out of context. You may find Parts 1 and 2 of this series below.
About the Author: In 2006, JS Kim founded SmartKnowledgeU, a unique, niche investment research and consulting company that uses Mr. Kim’s proprietary strategies to help Main Street thrive despite the fraud of Wall Street. SmartKnowledgeU provides an investment newsletter, research and consulting services that have provided wide margins of profit over the returns of global market indexes, often by margins greater than 25% to 40%. Follow us on twitter at http://twitter.com/smartknowledgeu