Fair disclosure: I don’t have any higher-level education. At all (save for a corporate accounting course at a community college once). But twenty years have come and gone since the last time I had a job that didn’t “demand” a college degree. Skill, luck, a combination of those two…whatever. The point is, I’m not a neutral observer in what follows. But I’m not an ignorant or inexperienced one either.
Awhile ago, The Anchoress invited bloggers to define exactly what’s wrong with the world. My response was, among other things, that people as they exist in the here-and-now place too much emphasis on being something, and not enough emphasis on doing something.
Liberalism, if the substance resembles the packaging, ought to be a perfect antidote to this. An end to discrimination would mean that what people are doesn’t matter one bit. We would then turn our energies and interests toward what we, and everybody else, would do.
And yet, take a look at David Brooks’ slobbering Obama-…I’m really struggling to find a noun to place after that hyphen. I need something family friendly. Let’s just say his enthusiasm surpasses what one commonly finds in a G-rated enclave. He’s doing with the iPresident-Elect what Monica did with Bill. (Hat tip to Malkin.)
Jan. 20, 2009, will be a historic day. Barack Obama (Columbia, Harvard Law) will take the oath of office as his wife, Michelle (Princeton, Harvard Law), looks on proudly. Nearby, his foreign policy advisers will stand beaming, including perhaps Hillary Clinton (Wellesley, Yale Law), Jim Steinberg (Harvard, Yale Law) and Susan Rice (Stanford, Oxford D. Phil.).
The domestic policy team will be there, too, including Jason Furman (Harvard, Harvard Ph.D.), Austan Goolsbee (Yale, M.I.T. Ph.D.), Blair Levin (Yale, Yale Law), Peter Orszag (Princeton, London School of Economics Ph.D.) and, of course, the White House Counsel Greg Craig (Harvard, Yale Law).
This truly will be an administration that looks like America, or at least that slice of America that got double 800s on their SATs. Even more than past administrations, this will be a valedictocracy — rule by those who graduate first in their high school classes. If a foreign enemy attacks the United States during the Harvard-Yale game any time over the next four years, we’re screwed.
Ha ha! How droll.
First problem…does it not defeat all the talking points about January 20 being “an historic occasion” if these people really are the best-suited to “rule,” and it is their natural place to do so? If that’s the case then why was there any wait at all in getting this brain trust ensconced?
Second problem…it’s a case of being over doing. I’ve learned this is nearly always the case when the degrees are given too much importance — discussion about what these people do, comes to an abrupt halt. (In the case of Eric Holder, it is grudgingly acknowledged and then hastily shoved aside.)
The third and fourth problems arise from the second. Degrees are accolades affixed by strangers, usually strangers whose acquaintances will never be made, whose identities will never be known. It is a proxy evaluation of the applicant’s competence, which may be of about as much value as no evaluation at all. And the fourth problem is — as degrees are used as a stencil outline for determining who’s a good “fit” and who is not, the thinking observer cannot help but gather the impression that those deemed worthy, are not nearly as crucial to the exercise as those who are excluded.
I know I should be reacting with hurt feelings, a temper tantrum, some kind of rage when liberals drone on about the importance of degrees. It’s a dual attack upon my biography; I’m not liberal and I don’t have a degree. But my natural reaction is more one of genuine curiosity. Does anyone else see the glaring contradiction? The object of the exercise is to eliminate discrimination. How far we are to go with that, depends on which liberal you ask; there’s no shortage of the complete-utopian types who will soldier on tirelessly until everyone is on precisely equal footing, in all walks of life. Perfect flatness; no compromises. They want the Star Trek universe, except without Captains, Admirals and Ensigns. Everyone on an equal level.
Then their representatives get elected.
And not only are those officials discriminating with the elevation of being-over-doing; they have to. If we were to abolish these prestigious diplomas and degrees overnight, by seven o’clock the next morning they’d latch on to some other thing. They need a “club,” and there is no such thing as a non-exclusive club. Someone has to be left out.
I keep hearing these high SAT scores are indicative of drive, of the ability to “succeed” at all kinds and types of things. I’ve spent my twenty years in what should have been fifty-yard-line front-row-seats, positions that should have qualified me to see it in action, first hand. There is a glimmer of truth to it. I’ve met people with tons and tons of drive, who did of course have their Masters’ and such. I’ve also met people with more drive, who had no more education than yours truly.
And when you line people up according to who-built-what, who laid the bedrock upon which we’re laboring to put down that hot asphalt, who laid the floorboards before we started arranging the furniture…who’s on the heavy end of that spectrum? Who laid the groundwork for what is really used, what actually changed the tomorrow of yesterday? Who made a functional impact? It wasn’t the ivy-league crowd. It could not have been, you see, because they were too busy pleasing others. There’s the rub — that’s what these letters after the names, really are all about.
And on this fourth problem, this particular point, we come to something that is hard to communicate to people because it involves an ugly truth about all of humanity. We are not so much enamored of people who will “get the job done,” as we are of people who will attempt to get it done exactly the way we ourselves would so attempt if we were they. Fact is — when the time comes to make a choice, would you rather have it done your way, or would you rather have it done? — most of us would rather see the attempt fail. Just so long as things are done everywhere the way we would do them.
People do not value getting things done, over getting things done their way.
In fact if you set about a task differently from the way they’d do it, and succeed, they get pissed.
And college professors are people.
The student who says to himself “It won’t work that way, I’ll have to devise my own method if success is to be realized” — won’t graduate.
This leads to a paucity, within our higher ranks, of those who are gifted in thinking about cause-and-effect. If we do this, then these positive-or-negative consequences will be in store for us. The people-pleasers tend to crowd them out, in those extra-large cubicles and corner offices.
Yes, everybody has the foresight — even Harvard people! — to keep the tableware out of the electrical outlet, lest one receive a nasty shock. It’s not a question of having the reflexes to match Mark Twain’s cat who’d stay off the hot stove. The question is how much foresight. How early in the effort can these consequences be anticipated. This exercise in people-pleasing tends to wash that out, much the way your view of a much-anticipated meteor shower is obstructed if you fail to get away from the lights of the city. It becomes a “serving two masters” thing.
But the primary point I wish to make here, is that we do have the basis of a comparison.
Because we’re different. Thank goodness.
And those who have just been elected to rule over this nation, or govern it, whatever terminology you choose — want to eliminate those differences. They say. Everything they want to do is “for all” or “for everybody.” Everything’s possible for everyone. That’s just swell.
But a complete victory here would ruin them. Their public-relations methods have everything to do with showing us how wonderful they are, what a pristine, elevated, superhuman Mount Olympus they have up there above the clouds.
The membership is defined by elitism. Without a terracing of the human landscape, Mount Olympus could not exist, because nobody would be left out of it.
This is permanent and timeless. It matters not one bit if you have a cabinet or transition team you need to form. You have to leave people out before you can leave people in. “We Are Good People” is something that, to act upon an audience in a compelling way, can only be expressed as a comparative statement.