Faithful readers the Review know of our view that America’s inability to deal with its problems is not just a matter of politics; it is heavily related to the rise in our government of can be called a gradocracy – government by the higher degree in which data, process, theoretical allegiance, regulatory complexity and other such traits take over from social intelligence and common sense. As I put it in in my book, Why Bother, “We have seen the type in our time: the professors promoting the Vietnam War, the Henry Kissingers simultaneously playing conqueror and egghead; the Arthur Schlesingers still hard at work preserving the myths of the New Frontier; the Council on Foreign Relations; the nearly one-third of top Clinton aides who went to Harvard, Yale, or Georgetown, helping to drive the country far to the right and away from social and economic justice; the ‘conservative intellectuals’ in the Bush administration spinning as hard as any PR flack.”
And in the 112th Congress over a quarter of the Senate had Ivy League degrees and nearly half graduated from Ivy League or similar schools.
The culture is also bipartisan. During the collapse of the First American Republic, beginning three decades ago, four out of our five presidents have been Ivy League graduates, with two going to Harvard or Yale Law school and one to Harvard business School.
Then, of course, we have Hillary Clinton and, among her potential rivals, Ted Cruz, of whom Talking Points Memo reports:
The profile on Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in next month’s issue of GQ yielded a detail about his lofty standards in law school.
Cruz, who earned his undergraduate degree at Princeton University before attending Harvard Law School, evidently only accepted the most elite study partners.
From Jason Zengerle’s piece:
“The elite academic circles that Cruz was now traveling in began to rub off. As a law student at Harvard, he refused to study with anyone who hadn’t been an undergrad at Harvard, Princeton, or Yale. Says Damon Watson, one of Cruz’s law-school roommates: ‘He said he didn’t want anybody from ‘minor Ivies’ like Penn or Brown.’”
Having graduated magna cum probation from Harvard and having served as news director of the college’s salon des refuses,aka the campus radio station, I can tell you the best advice to stay far away from such people. Knowledge without wisdom can be extremely dangerous.
N+1, 2012 –
Over the last thirty years, the university has replaced the labor union as the most important institution, after the corporation, in American political and economic life. 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…The confirmation of Elena Kagan marks the first time in history that every single justice on the Supreme Court has attended Harvard or Yale. And Supreme Court justices (with the exception of Thomas) barely consider clerkship candidates who failed to go to a top-five law school. Until the 1980s, Harvard and Yale never accounted for more than half the justices, and until the 1950s, never more than one fifth.No administration has embodied credentialism as thoroughly as the current one. Of Obama’s first thirty-five cabinet appointments, twenty-two had a degree from an Ivy League university, MIT, Stanford, the University of Chicago, Oxford, or Cambridge. No one would advocate staffing the country’s ministries with wealthy imbeciles, as was the custom under George W. Bush; but the President — a meritocrat himself — has succumbed to what might be called the “complexity complex,” which leads us to assume that public policy is so complicated that you need a stack of degrees to figure it out. But 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….
Americans have been affluent enough for long enough that it’s difficult to remember there was once a time when solidarity trumped the compulsion to rank. 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. To narrow the widening chasm between insiders and outsiders, we must push on both ends. Dignity must be restored to labor, and power and ecumenicism to labor unions. On the other side the reverse must happen: dignity must be drained from the credential. Otherwise, the accreditation arms race will become more fearsome. Yesterday’s medals will become tomorrow’s baubles, and the prizes that remain precious will be concentrated in fewer and fewer hands.
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.