Peter Thiel: It's not causal. You know, Harvard does a great job at picking the winners, and therefore it should get very little credit for turning people into winners.
Morley Safer: Well, the same could be applied to your program.
Peter Thiel: Yes, but the difference is that my program is not-- does not involve charging people a quarter of a million dollars.
[Vivek Wadhwa: Believe it or not, U.S. education is by far the best in the world.]
Vivek Wadhwa has debated Thiel on the value of higher education.
[Vivek Wadhwa: If you don't even have a bachelor's degree, if you don't even have basic education basically you are beyond hope.]
He is a successful entrepreneur and professor who teaches at Duke and Stanford. When he heard about Thiel's plan he was appalled.
Vivek Wadhwa: How can we now be sending a message to children that they don't need to go to school?
Morley Safer: Did the idea gain any traction at all?
Vivek Wadhwa: In Silicon Valley, it spread like a wildfire. I was shocked. What is going on with this country? Why is there such an anti-education sentiment brewing in this country?
Morley Safer: But what's wrong with a kid who's got a really bright idea and feels, "Why should I waste my time and money going to school?
Vivek Wadhwa: Morley, ideas are a dime a dozen. Everyone has them. What makes you successful is being able to take that idea and turn it into an invention, and then turn that into a company. Those skills you only gain through education. You're not born with them. There might be one Mark Zuckerberg out of a million. But there aren't five Mark Zuckerbergs.
Thiel's fellowship winners seem confident enough to take their chances...
[Fellows retreat: We're going to pretend we are at a networking event.]
...yet are geeky enough to have to take a short course in tough subjects like hand shaking and eye contact.
[Fellows shake hands: Hey, I'm Bun...Dan]
They are skills that winners like Jim Danielson will need to get his idea on the road. He won his $100,000 when he electrified a junkyard Porsche with a motor he says is cheaper and more efficient than what Detroit has to offer.
Sujay Tyle was an 18-year-old junior at Harvard when he won a fellowship with a plan to create cheap bio-fuels.
[Eden Full: I'm developing a device called the Sun Saluter and what it does is rotates your solar panel.]
Eden Full was at Princeton.
She invented a more efficient way to capture solar energy.
Morley Safer: I'm just curious what your parents made of this decision of yours.
Sujay Tyle: My parents weren't that supportive at first.
Eden Full: Both of my parents never had a chance to go to college. So having a kid graduate from an Ivy League institution would have been kind of a big deal. So they were a little upset at the beginning.
Morley Safer: Did you feel that you were being fully challenged when you were at university?