Coding is more important than Shakespeare, says VC living in self-contained universe
Khosla joins list of people it's really worth not listening to
Close on the heels of Marc Andreessen's anti-colonialism comments about India, a second billionaire Silicon Valley VC has exploded his ego all over the internet.
But whereas Andreessen's offensive comments were restricted to a 140-character tweet, Vinod Khosla has written over 5,000 words to explain why kids should learn coding rather than Shakespeare.
Demonstrating the broad and inclusive mindset that billionaire technologists have become renowned for, Khosla's post Is majoring in liberal arts a mistake for students? notes that "though Jane Austen and Shakespeare might be important, they are far less important than many other things that are more relevant to make an intelligent, continuously learning citizen."
And you will be amazed to hear that key among those things is coding. Because nothing says "useful education" more than preparing a generation of people to work for companies that make people like Khosla even richer than they already are.
Khosla is of course a highly intelligent and thoughtful man, which is why he goes to some lengths to explain his thesis, which is centered around the idea of improving critical thinking.
Unfortunately, as with all too many of his fellow VCs, an extended period of living in a billionaire's bubble has separated his understanding of life from the rest of humanity and caused him to view everything in terms of a commodity to be revenue-maximized. In this case it is education of the masses.
A man of the people
While claiming to be focused on "the other 80 per cent" of people who aren't inherently brilliant, Khosla's treatise is perpetually focused on these brilliant people – who "will do well independent of what curriculum their education follows." He obviously includes himself among those whose brilliance can be most clearly measured by the size of their bank account.
That brilliance is swiftly put on display when Khosla coins his own new term and tells you he has just done so. It's "the liberal sciences" in place of "the liberal arts" and he even proposes a test for it: the ability to "understand and discuss the Economist, end-to-end, every week."
The Economist is, of course, an excellent publication. But as anyone who is not permanently focused on the potential money-making possibilities that exist in change going on around the world can tell you, it comes with an excessive bias and places little value on the experiences and values that drive most of the people living on the planet.
As subject specialists will also tell you, when the Economist does glance over their specific topic, the end result may be well-argued and attractively produced, but it is often distilled down to a catchy sign-off and misses many of the critical, finer points.
In other words, it is often wrong.
For Khosla, a world of Economist readers is a world of value, of realized potential, maximized brainpower. It is his Utopia: a glorious mirror of people like himself. And just like so many misguided and occasionally dangerous egomaniacs in the past, the answer is to use the educational process to forge as many people as possible into this mold.
Nothing is sacred in this reforging of society.
He writes: "Should we teach our students what we already know, or prepare them to discover more? Memorizing the Gettysburg address is admirable but ultimately worthless; understanding history is interesting, even useful, but not as relevant as topics from the Economist."
He is of course completely wrong. Topics from the Economist chop and change according to commercial whim. The Gettysburg address is about humanity. It is inspiring regardless of time or purchasing trends.
To Khosla, education is a financial investment that needs to be repaid. The acquisition of money is its most important reward. The value of education is external. Except it's not. The real value of education is internal and allows human beings to thrive within themselves and to go in whichever direction they find themselves falling in.
As incredible as it may seem to venture capitalists, the driving force for the vast majority of people alive is not to make more money. Money is often a necessary evil to acquire their basics – food, shelter, safety – and then something to be spent on gathering more of what makes them happy: human interaction, a sense of self, the experience of being alive and joyful.
It is no coincidence that time and again researchers – people with critical thinking who are also rarely driven by money – find that money plays a limited role in how happy people are, and that those driven to imagine that happiness will come with acquisition of goods are in fact the most unhappy. (And, yes, happiness is the true currency of life – ask anyone who is close to death. And yes, even the super rich die.)
Only when you confuse the reality of the human experience can you make a statement like: "It's not that history or Kafka are not important, but rather it is even more critical to understand if we change the assumptions, environmental conditions and rules that applied to historical events, that would alter the conclusions we draw from historical events today."