The Ministry of Rites and the Compassionate Man

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Christopher Beirn
Christopher Beirn
1 year ago

I would describe Rick Singer’s operation as a kind of affirmative action for the 1% — something that allows the merely rich and the nouveau riche to level the playing field with the .1% and its legacy applicants. However, your analogy with ancient China and your somewhat labored effort to shoehorn this scandal into the narrative of the Nudging whatever appears to suggest that the status quo in higher education is an immutable fact of life that we all must learn to live with.

No so, I think. In fact, this ugly series of events may turn out to be the trigger for an equally ugly process of disruption driven by the necessity of restructuring $1.5 trillion in student debt — a significant part of which can’t be paid and therefore won’t be paid. Don’t be surprised to see the formation of a Joint Congressional Committee on Inequitable Academic Practices which quickly moves beyond admissions to expose the “waste, fraud and abuse” that is endemic to a system that has grown accustomed to zero accountability. Big Ed may never be the same.

Rusty Guinn
1 year ago

What party is going to launch this Joint Congressional Committee? The GOP? They’re going to convene special committees to come to the defense of people who took out $200K to get a Bachelor of Arts in Intersectional Literature from Elite U? The Dems? I suppose you can hang your hat on the theory that the political left will identify the universities – one of their strongest bases of consistent support and the base of their “party of science” claims – as the culprit, but when you can just blame lenders or MMT it?

C’mon.

2cents
2cents
1 year ago
Reply to  Rusty Guinn

There are numerous Law graduates saddled with hundreds of thousands of debt who want to know why their slots at elite universities were taken up by less qualified applicants. What better way to start a law career than to seek justice. What is that phrase about a woman being scorned? I think this has legs.

Christopher Beirn
Christopher Beirn
1 year ago
Reply to  Rusty Guinn

No, Rusty, the GOP will use debt relief as a pretext for launching an investigation into the ideological and cultural predispositions of the academy that have infuriated the Party’s conservatives for decades. And the Dems who would normally rise to Big Ed’s defense will bite their tongues as their constituents make it clear that debt forgiveness takes precedence over ideological solidarity. The outcome will be be debt relief paired with regulation — lots of regulation.

Rusty Guinn
1 year ago

Sorry, Christopher, but I think this is movie stuff. You’re asking us to accept as a given, first, that Lori Loughlin’s kid getting into USC is going to be attached in the public’s mind to these other problems with higher ed. The second thing we have to accept as a given is that the GOP will have enough power to launch investigations into private educational institutions while also stipulating that the Dems will simultaneously have enough power to force the issue of student debt relief. All the while, we sort of put the fact that university donors and big campaign donors are nearly perfectly overlapping Venn diagrams to the side?

I WANT what you want here. I want to end Elite U’s cultural hegemony. I want to diminish all cultural emphasis on signaling. But I fear that trusting in a grand alliance-type solution in this Zeitgeist is just a recipe for disappointment.

Christopher Beirn
Christopher Beirn
1 year ago
Reply to  Rusty Guinn

Do you really think 200 FBI agents routinely spend almost a full year on a $25 million fraud case? Can you imagine the kind of hatred the White House harbors for an institution that elevates someone spewing the ad hominem vitriol on display here: https://www.newsweek.com/jared-kushner-corrupt-evil-trump-administration-1357606 The intoxicating brew of academic freedom and tenure has left too many academics with the notion that they are free to make enemies without regard to consequences. There are a lot of unhappy campers out there with stories to tell who will welcome the opportunity to testify at a Congressional hearing. Payback is a bitch — especially when you’re as dependent on the Federal Government as Big Ed is.

Peter
Peter
1 year ago

I’ve railed against both the “privileged class” and the “preferenced class” for years, opposite side of the same coin. Both are anathema to merit and excellence!

I’m reminded of the increasing number and variety of discrete “set-aside” spaces in parking lots…handicapped (ok…tho the majority of which are unused most of the time…where do they come up with the required number?) spots, EV parking spots, mothers with children spots, purple heart recipient (unnecessary unless so wounded as to be handicapped…then ok by other means) spots, veterans (I’m one) spots, etc. We need look no further than the common parking lot to see one by one our collective loss to un-used/unnecessary set-asides…and why everyone is gaming the system for some form of preference or set-aside.

BobK71
BobK71
1 year ago

It seems to me, ‘elite’ education may be an even more powerful machine than the institution of money for preserving the gains of the privileged. To question the true nature of such education is to question a good part of the personal worth, not just the wealth and power, of members of Team Elite. That will never do!

Ben is right. Small-time cheats will be punished. It helps maintain the meritocratic mystique. And that’s as far as it will ever go.

BobK71
BobK71
1 year ago

The comparison with Imperial China is apt, but we have to keep in mind a fundamental difference between that and our system in general.

China was a homogeneous country with much more concentrated and streamlined power. When its paper money began to lose the trust of the public, transacting with anything else was made a capital offense. The modern Western system is much more pluralist, where power must be exercised by forming alliances which tend to be more temporary and shifting in nature. In such a world, the elites need more soft power, because they don’t have enough hard power.

Translated into investment strategy, this means the Western elites themselves will want to burst each bubble eventually. Financial inflation can’t go on forever. The bigger the bubble becomes, the more unsavory the choices facing the elites. And this has pretty much been the history of the modern West.

The final joke came around 1500 when, after a half millennium of paper money, China saw fit to adopt physical silver as sole currency. That also turned out to be the West began to learn to use monetary ‘engineering’ to scrub wealth from all corners of the world, including China.

Peter
Peter
1 year ago

Didn’t Sigfried get mauled and killed by a tiger in his show in Vegas?

Rusty Guinn
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter

I think it was Roy, and I think he survived. As I believe Chris Rock later put it, “That tiger didn’t go crazy. That tiger went tiger.”

ET82
ET82
1 year ago

Have to raise a warning about advising others to simply take a path that is immeasurably easier. If turning others into instruments is to be avoided, then it is requisite to be aware of where the struggle to make this existence more free ends and the selfish desire make one’s own kids lives easier begins. In fairness, I cannot accurately precisely identify where the dividing line between those two lies. And neither would I presume to instruct a young person where their own line between convention and independence is to be found. But regardless of the immutability of what IS, adopting it is still very likely to end up being a disempowering path. Even with eyes as wide open as possible along the way. Although I will readily admit that taking easier paths is a great way to construct a nice life. Going for a free life? Insert trope about forks in the road here. Truth in commenting, I do not have any qualms saying that a lot of what IS is bad. Rotten even. On the topic of credentials, here is a fun way to scrape away the surface to reveal the rot. On the next occasion you partake in the delicate ballet of adult socializing, suggest your group play a round of Unpopular Opinions. It is a simple game where each individual voices a controversial viewpoint that comes from a place of genuine conviction. Whomever receives the most opposition wins. If you happen to agree, try throwing out… Read more »

Christopher Beirn
Christopher Beirn
1 year ago
Reply to  ET82

Lani Guinier made this lottery suggestion at a my local Tier One U. some 25 years ago, shortly after Slick Willie backed away from her nomination for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. She also derided the notion of “meritocracy” and referred to members of our two allegedly opposing parties as “Demublicans.” She seemed radical at the time; now she simply looks prescient.

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