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Five Questions With an Innovator: Nikhil Goyal

Nikhil Goyal

Nikhil Goyal is an international speaker and the author of “One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessment of School”.  He is currently penning his second book, scheduled for release next year. Goyal’s work has appeared in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, he was selected as a member of Forbes 30 under 30, won the 2013 Freedom Flame Award, which counts Martin Luther King Jr. as a past recipient, and was called the “future Secretary of Education” by Diane Ravitch, the former Assistant Secretary of Education, and the Washington Post last year. He is also 17. We had the opportunity to ask Goyal a few questions for the inaugural edition of our new interview series, Five Questions With.


Micah: When did you first realize that there were major issues within the American education system?

Nikhil: I first realized that there were major issues within the American school system when I moved from Bethpage to Syosset, Woodbury — from a middle-class district to a high-ranking and competitive one. I became very bored in school and felt that taking part in the rat race of high school was a waste of time. I felt my voice didn’t matter in the eyes of the administration and that young people were left on the sidelines.

At 17, you authored a book entitled ‘One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessment of School’ in which you call for a number of changes in the education of America’s youth, including getting rid of standardized tests, the elimination of tenure for teachers, and an increase in their pay. How many of the changes you proposed can and will be implemented in our schools over the next few years, and how will your organization, Learning Revolution, play a part in that shift?

Of the changes I’ve proposed, the most promising one that will likely going into effect is the abolition of standardized testing. There is a growing national movement among students, teachers, and educators that are opting out and boycotting these tests all the way from Portland to Providence. My organization Learning Revolution will play a role in this by organizing students to walk-out and rally together. One initiative that I’m currently working on is reinventing college admissions to push colleges and universities to go SAT and ACT optional and implement portfolios and other assessments into the admissions process.

Attending and graduating from a college or university is a major aspect of the American Dream, and one of the biggest goals for high school students across the country. With tuition costs on the rise across the board, at its highest points sailing past $250K for a bachelor’s degree from Harvard, should a four-year degree still be considered an essential component to lead a successful life in the eyes of American youth and their parents?

Absolutely not. What will matter most is where you received your degree from and what your major was. The Ivy Leagues will likely not disappear, but many “no-name” institutions will be forced to close their doors due to rising tuition costs and more alternatives to college. Programs, like the Thiel Fellowship, Enstitute, and others are part of the alternatives to a four-year degree.

Do you think the U.S. will regain the top spot as the most educated country before the end of this decade?

A better question is: should we even be striving to be the most educated country in the world? No. We don’t need a glut of college graduates. Look at South Korea and China, for example. The college bubble is bursting in those countries and many college graduates are doing menial jobs and work that doesn’t require their degree.

Who is the smartest person you have met so far, and what made you choose them?

Monika Hardy is the smartest person I’ve met so far. She’s working on the in Loveland, Colorado. She’s always at the cutting edge of things and is always open to hearing about crazy, radical ideas.