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I’ve Been Asked to Teach a Class of Stanford Students - And I Feel Dirty About It

by | Apr 21, 2022 | Learning

Most people would kill another human if they got to work with Stanford.

Yet when I read the email asking me to come and teach their students about creativity, based on my experience of writing online for eight years, all sorts of wild emotions came out.

Here are a few thoughts that you’ll find incredibly useful.

I hate university

They’re blood-sucking vermin to me.

It’s hardcoded into my DNA. Towards the end of high school I applied for the equivalent of college.

They denied me. I became enraged.

So I had a word with one of the faculty members and asked if I could prepay my fees and be reconsidered (prepaying was possible thanks to my entrepreneurship skills, not family background or trust funds).

Money talks. They said yes.

I then preceded to study sound engineering, despite being 16 years old instead of the legal age of 18, and having not finished high school (another legal requirement).

I beat their stupid admissions process and won. But it left me with a bad taste for higher education.

I hate what uni does to young people by putting them in debt

As a finance guy, I’ve seen what college debt can do to people.

I hate it. Universities charge wild fees — $100K is not uncommon — to teach skills you can learn online for a lot less. Or if you have the patience, skills you can learn via Youtube and podcasts.

Trading your youngest years in for a job you probably hate, to pay off education debt, seems stupid. Especially since the internet democratized access to information.

Something about that feels criminal to me.

I hate the elitism

After the 2008 financial crisis, the job market became more competitive so people could find a way to earn more money.

This led to a massive increase in people getting degrees or MBAs. A degree from a high-profile university such as Stanford is seen as a status symbol.

Status eventually leads to elitism as we have now.

People that have these fancy degrees think they’re entitled to something. What that is, god only knows.

I saw it while working for a large bank.

A well-known Silicon Valley tech company I worked with was full of Stanford graduates. They thought they were smarter than everybody else. They treated some of my older bank colleagues like morons.

In the end, they believed that existing risk models in financial services were stupid. So they ignored them. They went around and signed up all the high-risk businesses most banks were careful dealing with.

All was great for a year…

Then those businesses started defaulting on their obligations as our risk models predicted, and they were left with their pants around their waists looking stupid.

Elitism is ugly in every sense. It causes IQ to block EQ.

What the hell do I know about creativity

This is another factor I’m considering when looking at this Stanford opportunity. I don’t feel that smart.

I understand the basics of online writing, but I’m no expert in creativity. It’s a big topic. Psychology and creativity are closely linked, and I’m no psychologist.

There are probably better options than me.

The truth I shouldn’t admit

Yet despite all this I’m bloody tempted.

Something about it strokes my ego. It’d be nice to tell people “I taught a class at Stanford.” The problem with saying yes is it betrays everything I’ve ever said or thought about elite universities.

I’d be selling out the tiny audience I have online who trust me — and myself!

And honestly, a few people I’ve got to know over the years went to Stanford. Somehow they skipped the a-hole virus many elite graduates get infected with and are cool people. Joining their little fellowship might be nice.

Perhaps I’ll get more invites to interesting events. God only knows I need more socializing. Writing online has made me a hermit crab. It’s why I hosted a twitter space with Sean Kernan recently to shake off the cobwebs.

Few creatives talk about this.

Loneliness just gets swept under the carpet. Or seen as a sign of weakness (worse if you’re a man).

I’m conflicted about the decision

The more I think about it the more my mind tugs me in different directions.

“You’re an idiot.”

“Why do you have to have these stupid values?”

“Just do it once. Nobody will know. Keep it quiet.”

Nope, I’ve decided…

I will not endorse elite universities.

If you want to learn creativity then write online. You don’t need to give me or Stanford University 6-figures to learn.

Follow Nike’s advice: Just do it.


Recently a guy named Dakota shared a story on Twitter.

He went on a date with a young woman. Currently she pays $60,000 USD a year for her writing degree. The program lasts for six years.

After graduation there is zero promise of a job. In fact, previous graduates have already told her how small the job prospects are.

Dakota says she could spend that $60,000 a year on testing different forms of writing online and still be further ahead.

He’s right. This story only strengthens my decision.

Screw universities.

The future of education is breathtaking

Let’s end on a high.

While the world is waking up to rip off college degrees and their blatant exploitation of financially vulnerable youths, writing expert David Perell shares some hope.

He says in a few short years teaching will become a lucrative profession again. Salaries will align with what he calls “The Power Law.”

The best teachers in the world will earn millions of dollars and have thousands of students. Bad teachers will be out of a job or forced to re-skill.

Students will look at the experience, not just the education, of the teachers they choose.

Subjects will cross-pollinate too, says David. Community learning will make a comeback as well. Eventbrite in-person meetups and Discord communities will allow students to share and learn with one another.

The focus will move to building and creating things. And abandon the sit-in-a- lecture-and-listen-to-someone-talk followed by memorization-at-home-model.

Education will become curiosity-led again.

All of this leads to the cost of education decreasing. That’s the future I want to support.

Sorry Stanford. My answer: Not in a million years.

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