Is the “20 under 20” Thiel Fellowship the future or simply one option?

Given the success of the Peter Thiel innovative “20 under 20” fellowship program, it is not surprising that there are over 56,000 plus entries on Google on the topic.

Yet, the first I heard of this post-secondary option was last night when I watched Paul Hunter’s piece “Class Dismissed” on CBC The National — although it was first presented on June 5th, 2013 when this blog was on hiatus.

Wow! What an eye opener. Young people under 20 by the hundreds trying out for this once in a lifetime opportunity — $100,000 to research and develop an idea or concept from start to finish with the guidance of one or more mentors.

As a former secondary teacher and post-secondary instructor, I have to say I am not surprised this program is popular. I met dozens of such students over the years — young innovators and geniuses who are bored with stuck-in the-classroom-book-learning.

Often,  they appear as underachievers. Yet, talk to them and their eyes light up when you ask them what they are interested in.

I can recall one young fellow who just wasn’t motivated in the learning activities going on around him. So, I asked him what he was interested in and he said skate boarding. So, I asked him to research skate boards and design the ultimate board – which he did with 100% enthusiasm. The last I heard from his mother, he eventually went into an engineering specialty where he could continue that kind of work.

The question many are wondering is whether this is proof the college and university systems are out of touch with young learners today. I would say no, it is not, although that is not to suggest that post-secondary administrators couldn’t learn from its uniqueness. In other words, It is simply one option among many that should be available to learners who are not interested in formal education or want to learn what they are interested in and good at before they go the formal route — which was exactly what one young woman in the CBC video is doing.

The crux of the matter is that the “20 under 20 Fellowship” program proves that readiness for life and making a living should not involve a post-secondary or apprenticeship cookie cutter approach to readiness — something all parents should be aware.

However, as Nate HIndman suggested in a 2012 Huff Post column, the “20 under 20” type of program is definitely more likely to find the next Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook’s founder).

Speaking of education innovations, have my regular readers heard of Coursera, the latest in free online courses. Referred to as MOOC’s (massively open online courses), they definitely seem to take distance education to a whole new level? More on that soon.

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Endnote: The logo is uploaded here courtesy of thielfellowship.org media centre.