How do we prepare Acton Academy graduates to change the world?
That’s a question we’ve been pondering over Winter Break, in preparation for a Parent’s Meeting on Friday to discuss our plans for high school.
Is a prestigious college degree the answer? Our Eagles will be armed to excel at the best colleges, and their portfolios may lift them above the teeming mass of commodity applicants, who clingto sterile GPA’s, test scores and class ranks.
But in world where too many college graduates are asking: “Would you like fries with that?,” a $300,000 diploma looks increasingly like a prestigious Ponzi scheme.
Google’s chief hiring officer, Laszlo Bock, quoted in Thomas Friedman’s Sunday New York Times column, seems to agree: “G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless. … We found that they don’t predict anything.”
For Bock, too many colleges “don’t deliver on what they promise. You generate a ton of debt, you don’t learn the most useful things for your life. It’s [just] an extended adolescence.” So the “proportion of people without any college education at Google has increased over time.”
A prestigious college degree? Maybe it’s still a good bet, if you can afford it. But our Eagles need a 21st century back up plan, perhaps working at a company like Google.
So what does Google care about? Three key attributes, beyond technical skill:
- General cognitive ability. The ability to make decisions in real time, with disparate and often conflicting information. This trait has no correlation to traditional test score IQ. Think of Socratic Discussions and Quests.
- Emergent leadership skills: Emergent leaders are a far cry from being President of the Chess Club. Emergent leaders assess opportunities, assign roles and lead when necessary, but who are just as willing to listen, ask questions and relinquish power to others. Think of Eagles running their own learning communities.
- Humility and ownership. The humility to learn from failure; the humility to ask questions instead of trying to be “the smartest person in the room;” the courage to own your mistakes, to get up and dust yourself off, and try again and again. A perfect description of the Hero’s Journey.
The least important trait for Google is “expertise.” Too many experts cling to a false sense of certainty, rather than a willingness to take on the difficult, unstructured problems that lead to breakthroughs and sustained growth.
So are our Eagles impressed that they are qualified to work at Google? Not hardly. As one Eagle put it: “Work at Google? I’m planning on launching the company that destroys Google.”
Sergey and Larry, look out. Not so long ago, Bill Gates might have wanted to interview you for a job.