Saturday, August 30, 2014

Academic Credentialism: The Pyramid Scheme Inside a Pipe Dream

A guest post from our Agent Alex.

Let me start off by saying that if you're a reader of Captain Capitalism, you don't need me to tell you that the whole academic gig is a scam. Heck, you might have even realized it before you even stumbled upon his works. It's really not that hard to pick up on. You go to class, and it seems like the professor isn't even there. Chances are good that he's an adjunct, commuting between three different campuses a day and earning less than minimum wage, ruing the day he decided to waste seven years studying Medieval English Poetry. Say he's not one of the growing army of “professors” making burger flipping wages. Still, the lucky bum getting a living wage looks over the classroom and sees fifty to a hundred people who really don't care about what he has to say, and distract him from his need to publish or perish, or conduct far more interesting graduate seminars.

    The first college I ever attended was one of those crappy for-profit degree mills they advertise on daytime television in between reruns of “Little House on the Prairie” and Judge Judy. The kind of school that a person who sells his plasma for money or needs a pay day loan goes to, or in my case a naive kid just wanting to get out of the boondocks and into the city. The first day of class, the English professor goes up to the podium, introduces himself and says “I am a playwright. Unfortunately, no one gets paid for being a playwright in Arizona, so I am paid to stand here and teach you how to write papers on books you'd rather not read. If you want to get your degree in computer programming or electronic engineering, you will listen, you will write, and you will get graded on it. Maybe you might use this later in your career, but most likely not. However, it's the hoop you have to jump through. Let's try to make this whole thing less painful for the both of us by just accepting that.” Of course my bad luck started when I found out I liked reading books and writing about it better than crunching C++ and Java, but the tale of how I became an academic ghostwriter, or as I prefer to call it; “a phantom of the Ivory Tower” is a story for another day.

    The fact is, most professors don't give a shit. They're going through the motions just as much as the students are. So what does that mean for you? Well, unless you're a tradesman or one of the lucky guys who figured out it was going down the tubes before you had a family and all the financial obligations that it comes with, you're likely stuck in some sort of office job that requires certifications to climb one more rung up the side of the crab bucket. Certifications means taking classes. Taking classes means... you guessed it; jumping through hoops. Here's the thing. Jumping through those hoops takes time.

    Say you're a systems administrator who wants the certs to add information system for business operations to your resume. Is it really worth your time to take those classes on business writing seriously, when it has nothing to do with what you're really aiming for? Take it from me. Even if you're good at writing papers, good enough to get paid to do it for others, it's still hellish to look out that window and realize you're trapped inside in front of a screen while the sun is shining outside. Life is finite. Go out, play with your kids, have a nice cigar, and go to the beach. Why waste that weekend agonizing over a paper that doesn't matter to you, doesn't matter to the person grading it, and is ultimately pointless to the world at large?

    It's all pretty much a sign of the decline. Professors teaching things they don't care about to students who don't need it (and in the case of the aforementioned degree mill 2/3rds couldn't comprehend it), all so that... well... what, really? We're educated? Well, if you're smart, you do learn something, but it has nothing to do with the pointless lectures and time wasting papers. You learn that academic credentialism is nothing but a pyramid scheme inside a pipe dream. It's a demoralizing soul-crushing grind for everyone involved, in which money and time is extracted in return for meaningless pieces of paper, which, if you're smart enough to choose pieces of paper that serve as a marker of desirable skills, leads to future monetary returns. In better times, education used to be about enrichment of the mind and of the character.

It sure as hell ain't that anymore.

So why not let one of us phantoms do the heavy lifting for you along the way, hmmm?


Anonymous said...

Where I work we hire people with PhDs (it's the new Bachelors dontchaknow). We finally had to institute an hour handwritten essay as part of the final interview process just to weed out the hacks.

It's remarkable how many people are walking around with advanced degrees and yet are still barely literate.

Old Broad said...

Great post, Agent Alex. Wish I knew this when I was a young broad.

dustydog said...

I was a teaching assistant for Chemistry for Non-Majors. I was preparing the lab for class, and found we didn't have a reagent needed. I asked the professor, who didn't care and told me to ask around. I asked other chemistry professors in the building, who cared even less. I ended up putting water bottles and writing fake labels. There was no way anyone could finish the lab with water instead of the chemicals they needed.

All but one team turned in lab reports claiming that everything worked fine. The course used the same experiments year year, so the students used the same fake lab reports year after year.

The professor wouldn't let me fail anyone for academic dishonesty.

Half the class failed anyways - which is a good thing for society, because only morons take Chemistry for Non-majors instead of Biology for Non-majors.

Matt Jensen said...

Hey, at least you didn't go t culinary school...
$2500 per semester, to be a cafeteria lady (slave), serving fancy-pants food no one ever ate. Well, we had the privilege of eating much of it. The next day as leftovers. We had to pay $150 per semester. To eat food we had cooked several days before. The course I took on "international cuisine" was complete and total HORSE SHIT. The chef was just reading fucking wikipedia articles about a different cuisine every week. When I asked one of these "chefs", for tips when cooking a dish (for other students) they would get all pissy and tell me to talk to another student. They wouldn't even take the time to teach us anything practical about cooking. We would be given a recipe, one day (printed from the internet), and be expected to cook it in large quantities the next day. If we screwed up, we got yelled at. If the food was late, we got yelled at. We made cakes, from cake mix. The food was so unpopular, and out of budget for college students. They had a seperatly staffed brigade of actual cafeteria ladies, cooking food college students actually ate. Burgers, pizza, fries, etc.
I don't know who was eating our food, honestly. In the end, it was a massive waste of time and money. It could've been worse though, some of my fellow students were fucking old timers. People who had already worked 20-30 years in the restaurant industry and were looking to "expand thier career prospects". Financed of course, with student loans. Those old geezers are so fucking screwed, they will never get a job as a "chef". They were burned out and broken to begin with. Nobody wants to hire a 60 year old with hepatitis, to command the line. Degree or no degree. I'm really glad I got out of that scam on the cheap. Apparently, I have to complete an "internship", to earn my degree and take some bullshit classes (math, business, HUMAN RESOURCES). The internship equates to me working at a job unpaid, for 6 months. In the real world, no self-respecting restaurant gives a flying fuck about my culinary school education. They mock the culinary graduates, and send them to the dish pit. There is no point in going to culinary school, the education is useless. The industry is over-saturated with wannabe chefs. You don't need a college education to cook, ask your grandma. Hell, you don't even need to speak english. They will hire immigrants from Ukraine, before they hire joe-blow-culinarian.

Robert What? said...

I have an acquaintance who is a tenured law professor at a private university in the northeast. He told me that short of committing a crime of moral turpitude (whatever that might mean - probably voting Republican), he cannot lose his position. So then, why should he give a sh*t?

It will be interesting to see what happens as more and more young 'uns - especially men - catch on that going to college (not to mention grad school) is a total waste of time and money. Even a tenured professor can't keep his position if a school goes belly up.

Why will it be interesting to see? Because most faculty and administrators who have spent more than a short time in academia are virtually unemployable outside the "bubble". Certainly not at anywhere near the compensation, benefits and perks they currently enjoy. Can you say "Do you want fries with that?".

Oops. Never mind: that will soon be done by robots due to minimum wage laws. Ironically promoted by the same professors who will soon lose their jobs. Ok, can you say "Five bucks to wash your windshield?".

Phil Galt said...

My Dad graduated with a BSEE back in the 60s, when education meant something. He told me about a lab course he took, where the final essay was graded twice: Once for technical accuracy, and once for correct grammar.

Please note that Dad is currently volunteering to teach advanced math at a 'unique' high-school.

The moist robots I dealt with in the tech industry, are not capable of communication. Its rhetorical, but sometimes I scream "what happened?"

Anonymous said...

The truth about Masters and PHds is that 99% of the time it does nothing but put you in line to teach. A Masters in Engineering does nothing for a guy who is already employed as an Engineer.

Wandering MGTOW said...

Learn a trade. High demand trades pay better than most white collar jobs, and they do not force you into crippling student loan debt!

Here is one of millions of hits (no kidding) that a search on learning a trade turned up:

JoeAmerica said...

Sometimes the whole education thing reminds me of the Imperial Examination. This was a civil service examination system in Imperial China.

Initially it was a good idea, people were employed based on ability and merit. And China reaped great benefits from this. But over time it progressively became more and more corrupt.

China was in fast degeneration by the mid 18th century, the 19th had a long succession of extremely bloody wars to shake off the rotten corrupt old system. The final blow was from 中国共产党 The Communist Party of China.

A quote from Mao Tse-tung,
"Politics is war without bloodshed, while war is politics with bloodshed."

Lazer said...

I used to take college seriously until I almost got expelled for writing a a full fledged ethnography on Dead Heads. It was so great it fried the ego of the feminist teaching the class and she initiated a warlock hunt against me. One of the other students wrote a similar paper which half the size of mine and turned in a week late. Not only that he never came to class. I even have a copy of it and he blatantly admits to drug use multiple times. Whereas mine was objective, scientific, cited, and played by all their rules, but the message was one not of the party i.e. it was the truth.

Mind you this is a woman who considered herself an "expert" on the Grateful Dead while never having even seen them or The Dead in concert. Not only that she had never even seen the members own spinoff bands.

I am currently working on turning it into a book as it makes Hells Angels by Hunter S. Thompson look like the simulation of NYC in Las Vegas. Jean Baudrillard fans will get the reference.

I wound up petitioning the grade she gave me as well as the clearly covert harassment, which could never be proven in court if one even tried. Luckily the department chair was sympathetic to my cause, and my ranting and raving about the first amendment basically stalled the issue before anything serious happened.

From then on I, and only I (which I have numerous reality checks to confirm) was watched and clear hints were constantly given that if they wanted I could easily be brought in for questioning by the campus police.

Ive even seen doors blatantly slammed in other students faces to keep the conversations my professor and I were about to have completely private. Mind you this is stuff they would not dare discuss in class or with the other students, and not an assertion of my inalienable right to privacy.

TLDR: Quackademia is a hen house run by foxes.

Michael said...

The late comedian Richard Jenni described college as "Amway with a track team." He graduated back in the 1970's, so this isn't all that new a conundrum.