Following on yesterday’s post, we see that the Left has inadvertently gotten another one right (there is a small kernel of truth in all the bullshit they excrete): Capitalism turns everything into a commodity.
Sometime in the Sixties, we noticed that many successful people have college degrees. Because “correlation isn’t causation” is a truth we seem hardwired to ignore, we went on to infer that because successful people tend to have college degrees, a college degree causes success. And since college degrees can be bought, we decided to buy them for our kids. After all, what parent doesn’t want his kids to succeed?
The consequences were predictable to anyone who has ever seen a consumer fad. Furbies, Cabbage Patch Kids, Tamagotchis, pet rocks, mood rings, coonskin caps, whatever (I dare you not to spend the next two hours on that site). First everyone wants one, then the prices jack into the stratosphere, then everyone has one, then nobody cares anymore, because when it comes right down to it you’re carrying a fucking rock around in a box.
That’s what college is these days.
Universities were never intended to be jobs training programs. Nor were they intended to be research centers. Both of those are parasitic on the bad “college causes success” inference from the Sixties. With all those kids flooding onto campuses — and paying a pretty penny to do it! — military contractors like Dow Chemical realized they had a huge supply of trained labor sitting around, in the form of all those new-minted science PhDs churned out to meet the consequent demand for professors. Why give some egghead a GS rating, a lifetime pension, and a security clearance, when Football U. will foot the bill for you?
Colleges are conduits for Elite values. That’s it. That’s all they’ve ever been.
As you probably know, the university system developed in the Middle Ages to train churchmen, the managerial class of their day. Primitive as they were by our standards, medieval governments were too complex for the nobility to handle, especially because the nobility were a fighting class — generally speaking, the kind of guy who is great at besieging castles and looks to solve problems with a broadsword is notso hotso at the paper-pushing that even a backassward feudal monarchy requires. The kind of guy who is good at paper-pushing tends to be scrawny and lacking in blue blood. That kind of guy went into the Church, who sent him to college, and the result was a match made (forgive me) in heaven. Sir Jousts-a-Lot got to keep doing what he was good at, churchmen did what they were good at, and — this is the important part — since the guys handling the paperwork all spoke the same language, had the exact same education, and probably all knew each other from their undergraduate days, such diplomacy as was required to keep a crazy quilt of fiefs together in some kind of order got handled no muss, no fuss.
The Renaissance university operated on the same principles — minus, in some cases, the holy orders — and that’s the system we have today. Here again, the idea was to train a universal managerial class. Whether it was the second sons of the nobility (who would’ve gone into the Church in the Middle Ages), the sons of the nouveaux riches, or ambitious commoners on “scholarship” (= patronage from a blue blood), a university graduate was a pen-pusher, a lawyer, a minor diplomat, an accountant, a scribe, an all-around gopher, factotum, Man Friday. What he most definitely was NOT was a researcher, an entrepreneur, or a Customer Service Specialist.
The Renaissance had the equivalent of those things, of course, but they’d laugh you out of the room if you suggested one needs university training to do them. You think you’ve got what it takes to be a professional historian? Go hit the archives and tell me the first guy to achieve something in a research field — medicine, say — who did his major work while serving as a university professor. I haven’t done this exercise myself, but I’ll bet you an Obamacare premium you’ll get well into the 18th century before you find one, and probably into the 19th. Try the same thing with business leaders and inventors. Generally, the more important the figure, the less formal schooling he had, until well into the 19th century — Carnegie had a 6th grade education; Edison was mostly self-taught; so was Michael Faraday who, along with Edison, basically invented the 20th century. The guys who kept Edison’s books and vetted Carnegie’s contracts, though… those guys were college grads.
Which makes sense if you think about it. A management class is, at bottom, a maintenance class. Managers aren’t expected to innovate. They’re expected to consolidate, to facilitate, to — at most — tinker around the edges of established structures, to make them maximally efficient. Those are vital skills; the modern world couldn’t exist without them. BUT…..
… to effectively maintain a system, one must know that system. It’s not strictly necessary to like the system — I doubt even the most rah-rah middle manager has warm fuzzy feelings deep inside for GloboCorp — but it’s necessary not to hate it. And that’s the problem with the modern university system.
Professors are convinced they’re not maintenance workers, because working with one’s hands — the image “maintenance worker” invariably conjures up in modern America — is très gauche. They’re intellectuals, damn it! And to prove they’re so much Smarter Than You, they must, necessarily, bite the hand that feeds them… and train their students to do the same. This is like GloboCorp hiring a bunch of dreadlocked antifa noseringers straight into middle management but, thanks to the “degree = success” category error, we’re all perfectly ok with it. So what if all they’ve got to show for their degree is a tattoo and some fugly polysyllabic ways to say “white people are evil”? Studies have shown that people with college degrees make seventeen gazillion more dollars over their lifetime than those without. Scoreboard, baby!