by Michael Ellsberg
“Will Dropouts Save America?” written by Michael Ellsberg for the New York Times highlights the ideas that millionaires such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg amongst many others were all college dropouts and yet managed to not only create notorious companies, but also jobs for many Americans. Ellsberg, also the author of “Education of Millionaires: It’s Not What You think and It’s Not Too Late,” strongly believes that the those who drop out of college will use their street-smart skills and real-world networking to create new businesses and therefore a job market for Americans. The issue Ellsberg is concerned with is there are not enough jobs in the American market and concludes students who do not want to become doctors, lawyers, engineers, or professors should drop out of college and become entrepreneurs by starting their own business. This would then result in many job opportunities for American. He believes startup businesses are a great engine of job creation in America.
Ellsberg provides an array of reasons why students should drop out of college. He argues that our education system is hindering future entrepreneurs by not teaching them skill sets to be used in the real world. “Street-smart,” as is he says, cannot be taught in a classroom. Given the National Bureau of Economic Research’s findings that nearly all job creation in America come from startup businesses, Ellsberg feels skills like sales, networking, and creativity cannot be learned in the classroom. In addition, without a wide network of advisers, clients, vendors and talent, a start-up business will not get off the ground. You do not learn how to network “crouched over a desk studying for multiple-choice exam” as he puts it. Finally he states entrepreneurs must embrace failure; without knowing what is not going to work, one cannot succeed.
Since further clarification was needed before I could judge the adequacy of Ellsberg’s reasoning, I examined some of his ambiguous phrases. The term ambiguous refers to the meaning’s uncertainty in the context of the argument. Observing Ellsberg’s reasons why students should dropout of college to become entrepreneurs, he mentions, “The National Bureau of Economic Research findings that nearly all job creation in America comes from start-up businesses” (Ellsberg
1). What does he mean by nearly all job creations? Since there was a study done on such a topic, they should provide the percentage of the surveyed to clarify what is meant by “nearly all.” Using such words, we are given the impression that close to 100% of the job market is created through start-up businesses and thus, further research is not necessary to conclude that is not the case. Ellsberg presents another form of ambiguity when stating, “Very few start-ups get off the ground without a wide, vibrant network of advisers and mentors” (Ellsberg 1). Again I would argue, how many percent is very few? When Ellsberg speaks about a “wide, vibrant network” how many advisers, clients, vendors and talent is considered wide? Ellsberg leaves us with a vague feeling of the weight these words carry varying for each individual. When speaking of being “comfortable with failure,” he is not clear as to what failure is. Each individual defines failure in a certain way. A CEO of a company whose stocks are plummeting might presume they are a failure while a middle-class worker looks up to the CEO as their hero for making it to the top. Failure can be defined differently and thus remains ambiguous word to use.
At first glance, the reasons given in the article seem to make sense. The glue that holds Ellsberg’s reasons together is made of invisible links in his reasoning structure. Certain ideas will not be stated and will be left up to the reader to “read between the lines.” These unstated ideas are referred to as assumptions. There are two kinds of assumptions, value and descriptive...