The 'Nasty, Narcissistic' Perils of a Facebook Style Education

Facebook investor Peter Thiel is planning to give college students $100,000 each to drop out and launch startups. The editor of Slate is pretty disgusted with the concept. This idea will destroy "white boys" and "middle class values!"

Thiel's plan, in a nutshell, is to offer $100,000 grants to up to 20 college students each year, on the condition that they "stop out" of school to work on their startup. This plan of replacing tuition debt with actual investment dollars makes Jacob Weisberg very angry, because suburban kids go to college for the "love of knowledge for its own sake" and this would ruin the pristine experience:

Where to start with this nasty idea? A basic feature of the venture capitalist's worldview is its narcissism, and with that comes the desire to clone oneself-perhaps literally in Thiel's case. Thus Thiel fellows will have the opportunity to emulate their sponsor by halting their intellectual development around the onset of adulthood, maintaining a narrow-minded focus on getting rich as young as possible, and thereby avoid the siren lure of helping others or contributing to the advances in basic science that have made the great tech fortunes possible. In fact, we may be on the verge of the opposite, a world in which too many weak ideas find funding and every kid dreams of being the next Mark Zuckerberg.This threatens to turn the risk-taking startup model into a white boy's version of the NBA, diverting a generation of young people from the love of knowledge for its own sake and respect for middle-class values.

Thiel's philosophy demands attention not because it is original or interesting in any way-it's puerile libertarianism, infused with futurist fantasy-but because it epitomizes an ugly side of Silicon Valley's politics.

Points to Weisberg for writing such a carefully controlled flame — and especially for the line where he calls Thiel's plan for lawless, free-floating "seasteads" the "most elaborate effort ever devised by a group of computer nerds to get invited to an orgy". But since when is giving six figure donations to college students "nasty"?

[Photo of Thiel via TechCrunch 50/Flickr]