Education versus Schooling

Screw it, I’m not going to send my kids to university when they complete their schooling years. I’m going to send them travelling, and not only that – I’m going to make them pay for it.

When they inevitably spend a day, thankfully still in the distant future, throwing up violently, it will be while they’re stuck in some foul-smelling hostel in Bangladesh, where patrons have to trudge down the hallway to the communal toilets (something which would make anyone who isn’t already stoned wish they were).

Most importantly, they will be throwing up from a decent dose of dysentery, and not from binge drinking to much at a college party with snotty brats from upper-middle-class, “respectable” families.


The latter teaches poor habits while the former teaches a genuine appreciation for our world, and teaches one how to handle oneself under stress. I’ll bet they don’t offer that class at Harvard.

Side note: I’ve just had a business idea for a college kid – a morning after service. Offer to clean up the mess, provide morning coffee, re-hydration and a large breakfast of pancakes and greasy bacon. Total cost is probably $10 per patron. Sell it for $100 per patron, but I digress.

Universities, or at least those buildings that people call universities, are bad at preparing you for not only the world that exists, but importantly for the world that will exist moving forward. They’re dinosaurs, antiques… nice to look at but offering very little actual utility.

Being stuck with people of the same age demographic, similar cultural upbringing, and similar political and social thinking is simply destructive to intelligent, broad critical thinking. Universities might expand ones mind, but only if you’re used to spending your free time watching American Idol, The “X” Factor, playing Angry Birds or just don’t get out much. Otherwise they encourage myopia.

As a result it’s difficult for the average college kid to develop the resilience to come up with ideas that won’t be universally accepted by their peers. Equally as important though, it’s difficult to formulate ideas outside of the narrow spectrum of a university and its inhabitants.

While my kids are travelling the world looking at what is taking place and figuring out how they can add value, they will learn some critical skills.

  • First, they’re likely to get bullshitted AND probably fall for it. This will be one of the most valuable lessons possible. Something not in the curriculum of any university I’m aware of.
  • Second, they’re going to meet many people from varying age groups, religious backgrounds, ethnic and cultural backgrounds and thinking. They’re going to have to figure these people out (and the easy option of thinking them stupid and heading home with an element of superiority won’t be available… Dad will take care of that).
  • Third, they will learn how to create an idea, market that idea, sell it and execute on a plan. I don’t care if they fail miserably. It’ll be worth it.

Why would I do this?

Because they’ll learn to hunt and kill in order to survive and thrive. Funny enough, not unlike the real world.

Possibly most important is that they’ll learn that the world they thought they knew isn’t the centre of the universe, and much of what they thought they knew will need to be carefully rethought and challenged. (I’ve begun this process at an early age with my children, but when they go it alone there will still be surprises for them…)

Intellectually they will hit their 20’s with more critical thinking ability than a university student whose brainwashed psyche struggles to move past the bartenders breasts, or what the trendiest fashions to wear on a night out with the ladies might be.

I’m also going to do it because they will have way more fun – real fun. Good for the soul and spirit fun, and adventure… lots of adventure!

So, how are they going to learn all they need to know without the university drivel?

Learning on the ground from a young age is more valuable than any university education ever will be, no matter how good. Be that as it may, I’m certainly not against reading the classics, imbibing in literature or listening to intelligent, thought provoking people.

If you want a Harvard, Cambridge or Yale degree it’s actually available, and almost entirely free. You’ll be able to find many of the world’s top lecturers, in any field you desire, on the Web for nada, zero… sans maybe the cost of a few kilobytes or megabytes. Download their lectures and view them repeatedly, take notes, critique them with your peers who may well be sitting on the other side of the world. Geography and caste matter not in cyberspace.

We live in an open source world. We might as well embrace it because it’s revolutionizing our reality in real-time. The options are open to us. Paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to sit around with other kids reading books obtainable for next to nothing on, or in a half decent library impresses me as beyond stupid.

It’s already happening at places like the Khan Academy, and the trend is not a fickle one. Home schooling with resources such as this is, in our opinion, far superior to what passes for education in most of the western world these days.

We believe so strongly in a “real world” education that we are already hard at work de-programming a young 21 year old (the first in the lineup to start university) and instilling our version of the truth in his still supple young mind. He is heeding our advice and taking the next semester off (and possibly much longer) to blaze a path to Mongolia to launch a small business that we’re backing him in.

He’s leaving his family, friends, and country at an age when most of his peers are content to spend their time on far less important pursuits. But he’s also making a choice to forego a costly institutional education, which will saddle  him with a decade or more of debt repayment, to see how it’s really done.

Speaking of the “cost” of education, later this week I’ll show you something that a subscriber sent to me. It’s an excellent visual depiction of the student loan cycle (or should we say the student loan “fraud”). It’s just another reason to forego university and get your experience in the real world. The system is ridiculously dangerous, and in our opinion is resulting in the “enslavement” of an entire generation of young people.

– Chris

 “Most people go to college today because they actually think someone is going to give them an education, when in fact, an education is something you have to give yourself.” – Doug Casey (Speculator, best-selling author and subscriber)


This Post Has 20 Comments

  1. Simon

    Yeah maybe. I like a gist of your ideas. But you know, there’s barely a day goes buy that I am not grateful for my combined law and finance degrees. I don’t work in law or finance, but I can honestly say I picked up some useful skills. Sure I learned more in my first year of the job (when I tried my hands at both banking and law) then in university, but let’s face it, I would not have been able to get either job without the relevant degree. So … I would not deny my kids that opportunity. I would totally send them off to see the world and learn the hard lessons, but I don’t see that as an alternative to formal education. I suggest both not either/or.

  2. Mark S.


    Do you think you can become a doctor or engineer without a formal/university higher education? I don’t know.

    1. Mark


      I think Chris is speaking generally here. Of course you aren’t going to self-educate yourself to be a doctor, lawyer, engineer, etc. However, you can certainly supplement that education with real world experience. I would add to Chris’s arguments that most 18 year old “children” are not equipped for university. Some are, certainly, but most are not. I attended university and graduated in 4 years. I lived through it and I had a blast. However, in retrospect I think I should have gone out into the world for a couple of years first. I, and a good 90% of the people I observed, spent waaaaaay to much time puking our guts out most Saturday and Sunday mornings. A few years outside the structured system would have matured me to the point where I would have likely not needed to experience that part of university.

      BTW, I actually think university is a great idea for most people, it’s just the timing and the way you pay for it that need to be adjusted in my opinion. I say do it all! You’re only young once.

      1. Keith


        My father-in-law is a self-taught engineer. He owns a mining equipment company that manufactures and distributes all over China and in Vietnam. He learned how to design, develop, and manufacture through experience working at a factory ever since he was 17. Sadly, he is encouraging his kids to stick their heads in the sand and go to school for life.

        People don’t learn how to be doctors in undergrad or even in medical school. The true learning does not begin until you enter residency and receive real-life experience and mentoring from real doctors.

        You think Harris learned how to be a great investor, businessman, and hedge fund manager from school? I’m glad Simon and Mark S. can find a lot of emotional value from their degrees. I, for one, wish I never even attended high school or college. They were the biggest waste of years in my life. All I did was get influenced by mediocrity and party all the time. I only learned how to get by by being average because I knew trying so hard in school just for grades was not worth it.

        I turned out fine. I now work with Harvard and Wharton MBA graduates and MIT and Standard PhDs. But soon, I will be throwing my career down the drain to pursue my dream in Mongolia and perhaps other frontier markets.


  3. djamel

    I feel sorry for your kids. Uni consisted of some of the best days of my life: I met my sweetheart (which is as far as I’m concerned, the best thing that has and will ever happen to me), made what will probably be life long friendships, and gained all kinds of useful experiences. The qualifications are also unfortunately a necessary requisite for many careers these days. Il agree with you that the teaching itself has much to be desired for, but I would still strongly recommend most kids to go to uni. You can travel as much as you like later, or even during the holidays–they get plenty!

  4. Jonathan


    I agree with your view on college education even though I graduated in May 2010 with a BS in finance. I worked full time in a small business and experienced all aspects of a business while I attended school. At heart, I’m an entrepreneur. I graduated with zero debt but really didn’t learn very much from my formal education. On the contrary, I learned a lot from my self education and real world experiences. The university system is very over-rated in my opinion. Unfortunately, society has created a college degree standard which most of the business world implements. This standard makes it very hard for the typical job seeker to get a job in the business world without a degree of some sort. In my opinion, one must look at the ROI of a college degree in determining if it is worthwhile in this day and age. Unless you are intending to enter a field that is highly specialized such as medicine or engineering, I don’t think a college degree is going to provide a good ROI. We have a bubble in a student loan debt with an over supply of college grads and a declining demand for them.

    For those students who have no interest in dropping the college path and puruing the path of entrepreneurship, I think it would best to learn trades or skills to survive this economic crisis. A business degree which are in abundance will most likely land you with a pile of school debt and no job. Just go to a restaurant and spark a discussion with your waiter/waitress. There are numerous MBA’s waiting tables and working jobs that they could have probably received without a business degree. We live in interesting times and those who don’t separate themselves from the masses will have a hard time surviving. My younger brother is currently earning a marketing degree but I told him a few years ago to get a minor in Mandarin since a marketing degree alone will not provide him with any advantage. At the very least, a minor in Mandarin will at least open up doors since not too many college grads have any interest in learning Mandarin and most multinationals are investing in Asia.

    Overall, I agree with your analysis and views on college education. I think if one has the opportunity to utilize the money to start a business overseas in China or Mongolia or elsewhere instead of pursuing a college degree, the ROI potential goes up substantially. I’m a fortunate college grad who has a great job, no debt, and investments but I’m certainly the minority of recent college grads. Throughout my studies in college, it was hard to have even one intelligent conversation with a colleague. I had to attend investment conferences, read blogs, and associate with much older individuals than myself to have any intellectual conversation. I’m not saying I was smarter than everyone but rather had an interest and drive that was abnormal in comparison to my peers. I guess one could define “abnormal” differently but the university system does not endorse independent thinking so I was certainly not the prototype college student. Most college students don’t understand the concept of education and therefore, just do whatever it takes to “pass” and earn the degree. We need to change our view on formal education. We shouldn’t rely on a piece of paper to determine our future but rather our ambition and independent thought.

  5. Joy

    Great article and very challenging to what one perceives to be the norm in educating our children. It comes down to personal choice, yes if you would like to be a doctor, lawyer or accountant, then you have to follow the standard education system available. You also choose to earn a high $ package which ties you to that industry, long hours, following the system, very little family time or pleasure.

    Alternatively you could experience and learn through travelling, learning online and starting your own business. This could also mean long hours and very little family time but there is the element of choice – you call the shots, follow your passion and feel worthwhile in what you contribute.

    But if you can make the 3rd choice to travel, learn, absorb and put into practise skills that enable you to leverage your time and earn money at the same time, that would be my choice! Good on you Chris, sounds like you have a healthy balance and I am sure you children will only benefit from their experiences.

  6. Cory

    I am interested in hearing more about what business Mark’s nephew plans on starting in Mongolia.

    1. Mark


      It’s top secret for now 😉 However, we will discuss it at some point in the near future once we feel more comfortable. We may also open the opportunity up to some friends and family in the next couple of months.

  7. Jonathan


    The fundamentals in Mongolia look great. My brother graduates from college in summer of 2013 and I’ve been talking to him the past year about the future in Mongolia for entrepreneurs. We are thinking about exploring the option of starting a business in Mongolia. There is just so much money that will be poured into the local economy in the next decade and we want to capitalize on the opportunity. We originally were focused on China since he is studying Mandarin and business in college but Mongolia looks like a better option from an upside perspective. I think eventually Mongolia will form into a bubble and that will be the time to sell the business or businesses and get out. I’m thinking it wouldn’t be extremely capital intesive to start a retail store in Mongolia. We could lease a spot and start out selling consumer items. I have many ideas of different businesses we could start up but my question to you is, do you think Mongolia will be a better play than China for an entrepreneur for the next decade?

    1. Mark


      ABSOLUTELY. I don’t know what more to say than that. We have a couple things in the works as well. From what I’ve learned from our on-the-ground contacts, your idea could fly. Keep in mind that rents are increasing rapidly. Getting a prime location won’t be as easy as it once was. That being said, there are more than a few ways to skin that cat.

      Keep us posted!

    2. Keith

      Jonathan, I’m an American who is fully fluent in Mandarin and I’m heading over to Mongolia rather than China. What’s great about Mongolia is that they are very restrictive to let Chinese businesses take over in Mongolia, which offers Western entrepreneurs and business owners tremendous advantages.

  8. Jonathan


    I will keep you posted. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to get anything going until the summer of 2013. I hope by then Mongolia won’t be too expensive. For the most part, it is still under the radar. If we seriously puruse some of the ideas I have, one of us will be living there for sometime. My strategy is focusing on building successful well run small businesses and then eventually selling them. We don’t have much capital to play with so we won’t try to get cute with any ideas at first. If we can start something from scratch for fairly cheap and build some cashflow, we might be able to pursue my bigger ideas.

    My main worry will be the language issue and I still have a lot to learn about the laws in Mongolia regarding ownership. We don’t want to partner with a Mongolian unless we absolutely have to. I still have a lot of research and I’d like to make a 3 week trip out there in the next year to witness the economic activity first hand and meet with some people there so I can cover some important issues.

    Thanks for your input in regard to Mongolia versus China. My brother can speak and write in Mandarin so I have some ideas that may allow us to still utilize that asset while doing business in Mongolia!! Keep me posted on your nephew’s pursuit in Mongolia.


  9. Francisco

    Good article and bottom-line idea.

    I am with Simon that a combination of school of life & travel and a formal education is, in general, the best choice. As anything in life, it comes down to what you consider most suited to your personal context/situation.

    In my case, after high-school I decided to move out of home (and of my home country) and go out and travel/experience the world. Back then I felt it was the right thing to do. After traveling some, I settled down in one country where I learned the language and culture from scratch, and where by the way I earned my engineering degree while having 3 jobs at the same time.
    After that, I kept moving around on a global basis (8 countries so far), because of personal interest and fortunately because professional opportunities were in place, and later on I earned an MBA as well.

    It has worked out for me, and I would recommend any young guy to go out and figure this world (and yourself) out – I’ve had amazing experiences (good and bad), met people and learnt languages, that have made me grow as a person, and that reflect in my business skills, in my professional compensation, and in my general way of life.

    Right now I am in Mongolia where I relocated recently, coming from Shanghai. Yes, I agree that this is the place to be. HOWEVER, not only rents are increasing rapidly. So is inflation, an anti-foreigner general sentiment within the population, AND the start-up capital requirements (before it was US10K, recently it was changed to 100K, soon it’ll be 250K).
    So, Mongolia is a super interesting place with lots of opportunities -and a super harsh winter-, but it is definitely not for everybody.

    1. Mark Wallace


      Thanks for the comments. It’s great to hear from people that have acted on their passions and taken a different road. We’d love to hear more about your experiences in Mongolia, please feel free to keep commenting.

      Also, just an FYI, we are planning our first Capitalist Exploits meet-up in UB in late July, early August. It would be great to meet you and chat directly about your experiences in Mongolia.



  10. michael

    To the person that stated that you cannot become an engineer without a degree. I can tell you that is not true.

    Why? Because I work as a security engineer with absolutely no university at all. I spent all my time in my teens and through twenties learning assembly, C, C++, networking, operating system internals, exploitation techniques.

    I make far more then most people that went to college to learn only half of what I was able to learn. I advise several government agencies on a weekly basis.

    It can be done, and I intend to do it with my children.

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