n+1 has a tidy little piece on the graduate degree as regressive tax:
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.
Credentialism actually goes much further than just the graduate degree, the upper limit for college/University tuition is nowhere near being met – as the article points out, as long as access to the workforce is controlled by the bachelor’s degree, students will continue to pay increasingly ruinous sums. Now, the article is speaking of the American situation, but as our Quebecois compatriots have demonstrated, we aren’t that far behind. Its time to start staring this beast in the face. As the n+1 piece points out – this is a problem that the left needs to address. The likes of the tea-party, while often using anti-intellectualism to disguise shocking levels of ignorance, have focused in on this credentialized elite in the entourage of Obama and probably not wrongly. Its an elitism that is just as pernicious as any other – its a 1 percent of a different flavour.
It occurs to me that this is the crux of liberal democracy – it pits oligarchical blocks against each other – and the rest of us are supposed to choose the flavour of the shit sandwhich we have to eat. We get to vote on it? Hey that’s democratic right? So it must be okay …