Why do we even need college, critics demand? Can't we do it all on our own?
Peter Thiel, Silicon Valley entrepreneur, has urged students to drop out and has even subsidized them
including several of our undergraduates -- to leave college and pursue their individual entrepreneurial dreams.
After all, the logic goes, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates dropped out and they seem to have done OK.
Well, yes. But we should remember: Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg had Harvard to drop out of.
Harvard to serve as the place where their world-changing discoveries were born.
Harvard and institutions like it to train the physicists, mathematicians, computer scientists, business analysts, lawyers,
and thousands of other skilled individuals upon whom Facebook and Microsoft depend.
Harvard to enlighten public servants to lead a country in which Facebook, Microsoft, and companies like them can thrive.
Harvard to nurture the writers and filmmakers and journalists who create the storied "content" that gives the Internet its substance.
And we must recognize as well that universities have served as sources of discoveries
essential to the work of the companies advancing the revolutions in technology that have changed our lives
from early successes in creating and programming computers to development of prototypes that laid the groundwork for the now-ubiquitous touchscreen.
We are told, too, that universities are about to be unbundled,
disrupted by innovations that enable individuals to teach themselves, selecting from a buffet of massive open online courses and building do-it-yourself degrees.
But online opportunities and residential learning are not at odds; the former can strengthen -- but does not supplant -- the latter.
And through initiatives like edX and HarvardX,
we are sharing intellectual riches that are the creations of institutions of higher learning, sharing them with millions of people around the globe.
Intriguingly, we have found that a highly-represented group among these online learners around the world is teachers
who will use this knowledge to enrich their own schools and face-to-face classrooms.