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1

Death by Degrees

Against the credentialed class

1
terms
4
notes

, n. (2012). Death by Degrees. n+1, 14, pp. 1-5

3

As the credentialism compulsion seeps down the socioeconomic ladder, universities jack up fees and taxi drivers hire $200-an-hour SAT tutors for their children. The collective impact may be ruinous, but for individuals the outlays seem justified. As a consequence, college tuitions are nowhere near their limit; as long as access to the workforce is controlled by the bachelor’s degree, students will pay more and more.

locally optimal, but globally absurd

—p.3 by n+1 1 year, 1 month ago

As the credentialism compulsion seeps down the socioeconomic ladder, universities jack up fees and taxi drivers hire $200-an-hour SAT tutors for their children. The collective impact may be ruinous, but for individuals the outlays seem justified. As a consequence, college tuitions are nowhere near their limit; as long as access to the workforce is controlled by the bachelor’s degree, students will pay more and more.

locally optimal, but globally absurd

—p.3 by n+1 1 year, 1 month ago
3

[...] As union jobs have disappeared, participation in the labor force, the political system, and cultural affairs is increasingly regulated by professional guilds that require their members to spend the best years of life paying exorbitant tolls and kissing patrician rings. Whatever modest benefits accreditation offers in signaling attainment of skills, as a ranking mechanism it’s zero-sum: the result is to enrich the accreditors and to discredit those who lack equivalent credentials.

Jean Baudrillard once suggested an important correction to classical Marxism: exchange value is not, as Marx had it, a distortion of a commodity’s underlying use value; use value, instead, is a fiction created by exchange value. In the same way, systems of accreditation do not assess merit; merit is a fiction created by systems of accreditation. Like the market for skin care products, the market for credentials is inexhaustible: as the bachelor’s degree becomes democratized, the master’s degree becomes mandatory for advancement. Our elaborate, expensive system of higher education is first and foremost a system of stratification, and only secondly —and very dimly —a system for imparting knowledge.

hell yeah

—p.3 by n+1 1 year, 1 month ago

[...] As union jobs have disappeared, participation in the labor force, the political system, and cultural affairs is increasingly regulated by professional guilds that require their members to spend the best years of life paying exorbitant tolls and kissing patrician rings. Whatever modest benefits accreditation offers in signaling attainment of skills, as a ranking mechanism it’s zero-sum: the result is to enrich the accreditors and to discredit those who lack equivalent credentials.

Jean Baudrillard once suggested an important correction to classical Marxism: exchange value is not, as Marx had it, a distortion of a commodity’s underlying use value; use value, instead, is a fiction created by exchange value. In the same way, systems of accreditation do not assess merit; merit is a fiction created by systems of accreditation. Like the market for skin care products, the market for credentials is inexhaustible: as the bachelor’s degree becomes democratized, the master’s degree becomes mandatory for advancement. Our elaborate, expensive system of higher education is first and foremost a system of stratification, and only secondly —and very dimly —a system for imparting knowledge.

hell yeah

—p.3 by n+1 1 year, 1 month ago
5

Quadrupling the supply of gold stickers is one way to devalue the credential; getting rid of the sticker system altogether is another. In our pay-to-play society, many of those toward the bottom of the educational pyramid are getting fleeced; others, though, are getting a leg up. Because it’s callous and unreasonable to ask the disadvantaged to decline opportunities to advance, subverting credentialism must start at the top. What would happen to the price of a bachelor’s degree if the 42,000 high school valedictorians graduating this spring banded together and refused to go to college? And is it too much to ask the Democratic Party to refrain from running any candidate for national office who holds a degree from an Ivy League school?

Then there are our own credentials. Che Guevara once declared that the duty of intellectuals was to commit suicide as a class; a more modest suggestion along the same lines is for the credentialed to join the uncredentialed in shredding the diplomas that paper over the undemocratic infrastructure of American life. A master’s degree, we might find, burns brighter than a draft card.

maybe the thiel fellowship is praxis

—p.5 by n+1 1 year, 1 month ago

Quadrupling the supply of gold stickers is one way to devalue the credential; getting rid of the sticker system altogether is another. In our pay-to-play society, many of those toward the bottom of the educational pyramid are getting fleeced; others, though, are getting a leg up. Because it’s callous and unreasonable to ask the disadvantaged to decline opportunities to advance, subverting credentialism must start at the top. What would happen to the price of a bachelor’s degree if the 42,000 high school valedictorians graduating this spring banded together and refused to go to college? And is it too much to ask the Democratic Party to refrain from running any candidate for national office who holds a degree from an Ivy League school?

Then there are our own credentials. Che Guevara once declared that the duty of intellectuals was to commit suicide as a class; a more modest suggestion along the same lines is for the credentialed to join the uncredentialed in shredding the diplomas that paper over the undemocratic infrastructure of American life. A master’s degree, we might find, burns brighter than a draft card.

maybe the thiel fellowship is praxis

—p.5 by n+1 1 year, 1 month ago
5

[...] major political questions are rarely complex in that sense. They are much more likely to be complicated, in the Avril Lavigne sense, meaning that they involve reconciling disagreements among competing stakeholders —or, as the situation may demand, ratcheting them up.

—p.5 by n+1 1 year, 1 month ago

[...] major political questions are rarely complex in that sense. They are much more likely to be complicated, in the Avril Lavigne sense, meaning that they involve reconciling disagreements among competing stakeholders —or, as the situation may demand, ratcheting them up.

—p.5 by n+1 1 year, 1 month ago

relating to a church parish; having a limited or narrow outlook or scope

5

The inclusive vision that once drove the labor movement has given way to a guild mentality, at times also among unions, that is smug and parochial.

—p.5 by n+1
notable
1 year, 1 month ago

The inclusive vision that once drove the labor movement has given way to a guild mentality, at times also among unions, that is smug and parochial.

—p.5 by n+1
notable
1 year, 1 month ago