[Marxism] Death by Degrees

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Oct 18 09:23:41 MDT 2012

N+1 No. 14

Death by Degrees
by the Editors

[T]he AMA owes its authority to America’s most notorious robber barons, 
who invented philanthropy as we know it by establishing foundations 
capable of long-term, organized interventions in the country’s political 
and cultural life. The first foundations poured money into medical 
schools — but only if those schools followed the example set by Johns 
Hopkins, which in 1893 had introduced what’s now the standard formula: 
students attend four years of college, then four years of medical 
school. Institutions that didn’t follow this model did not get 
donations, and they also got denounced in a 1910 report sponsored by the 
Carnegie Foundation. After the Carnegie survey published its “findings,” 
scores of medical schools — schools whose students could not afford the 
additional years of study now required, and nearly all of the schools 
that admitted blacks and women — closed.

Today, we take it for granted that practicing medicine or law requires 
years of costly credentialing in unrelated fields. In the law, the 
impact of all this “training” is clear: it supports a legal system that 
is overly complicated and outrageously expensive, both for high-flying 
corporate clients who routinely overpay and for small-time criminal 
defendants who, in the overwhelming majority of cases, can’t afford to 
secure representation at all (and must surrender their fate to local 
prosecutors, who often send them to prison). But just as a 
million-dollar medical training isn’t necessary to perform an abortion, 
routine legal matters could easily, and cheaply, be handled by noninitiates.

The standardization of these professional guilds benefited undergraduate 
institutions immensely, a fact that was not lost on university 
administrators. College presidents endorsed the Hopkins model and the 
AMA’s consolidation of medical authority for good reason: in the 
mid-19th century, bachelor’s degrees in the United States were viewed 
with skepticism by the private sector, and colleges had a hard time 
finding enough students. The corporate-sponsored consolidation of the 
medical establishment changed undergraduate education from a choice to a 
necessity. Where once there was indifference, now there was demand: “I 
want to be a doctor when I grow up,” the child in the PSA says. “I want 
to go to college.”

full: http://nplusonemag.com/death-by-degrees


The Baffler No. 20

Adam Wheeler Went to Harvard
by Jim Newell

Wheeler came to Harvard to study English and left as a bit player in a 
twisted Dreiserian tragedy, exaggerated to hammy effect by a humiliated 
university covering its ass. He bought into Harvard’s great enabling 
social myth at face value: the notion that twenty-first-century 
meritocratic advancement is available to all through the procurement of 
a college diploma. Like any rational economic actor, he sought to 
procure a diploma from the finest college, with maximum efficiency. 
Wheeler’s crime, in the institution’s eyes, was that he saw Harvard 
degrees for what they are—items for purchase that cloak the owner with a 
manufactured prestige that, in our pretend meritocracy, automatically 
raises one’s market value upon the deal’s closing. The only thing 
propping up that value is the admissions office’s carefully maintained 
scarcity of supply—a luxury good ostensibly awarded to society’s most 
able. So Wheeler once more called the bluff of the Harvard admissions 
crew: he gave them whatever song-and-dance they were looking for, and, 
shockingly, came close to completing the purchase.

It’s quite apparent that Harvard administrators couldn’t merely expel 
Wheeler and demand he return the money when they finally noticed the 
obvious lies on his academic résumé. There was an urgent example to be 
set here, after all: enterprising young minds watching the news coverage 
might have reasoned that the people who run Harvard are utter morons who 
caught Wheeler only after a final fabrication so flamboyant that he must 
have wanted to get caught. With the great meritocratic ruse at last 
exposed in the light of day, young strivers might well give it a go 
themselves. Even better, forget going to Harvard—why not simply throw 
“BA, Harvard” on the ol’ résumé right now and start making tons of money 
playing financial computer games tomorrow? All Wheeler did, anyway, was 
spot major systemic inefficiencies and disingenuously exploit them for 
personal financial reward. And if Harvard is a place that would expel 
such a Capitalist of the Year, then it’s everyone else’s moral duty as 
Americans to pick up where he left off, and continue looting the place 
until it reaches a competitive market-clearing equilibrium: when looting 
a Harvard degree would no longer be worth the trouble—when Harvard, 
horror of horrors, becomes but one college of many!

full: http://thebaffler.com/past/adam_wheeler_went_to_harvard

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