Matt Taibbi and College, the Sacred Cow

by Carter Brock
File under: Fake Labor 30 Aug 2013 15:57 EDT

It finally seems to be dawning on the American public that college is a scam. Price tags topping five and six digits are shocking them into awareness, and accordingly most criticism of higher learning these days revolves around dollars and cents.

Unfortunately, deeper truths at the core of the college scam are being ignored in this limited discourse. Point of fact, look no further than Matt Taibbi's latest feature for Rolling Stone, "The College-Loan Scandal."

Since the 2008 recession, Taibbi has established himself as a high-profile Progressive journalist covering Wall Street. In his latest piece, Taibbi turns to the unfolding student debt disaster and the shameful policies driving it. Obscene price inflation, lack of bankruptcy protection, and onerous debt collection powers are all touched on, yet Taibbi stays well within politically correct talking points.

He misses the heart of the matter, which is that colleges don't even deliver the supposed education for which they're charging so high a price. This is the truth that the mainstream cannot allow. Everyone knows that a college education is bullshit (party/alcohol culture; stale classes; pointless busywork). But for vested interests in the status quo, admitting this would cast their entire basis for expertise and authority into doubt.

It's plain to see that the education system does not educate. Actually, it turns out that this whole Prussian-industrial model was consciously devised in pursuit of useful, docile workers. This learning model instills “obedience, cooperation and correct attitudes, along with rudiments of literacy and official state myths of history,” as education-activist John Taylor Gatto puts it. Making you broken and impotent is the whole point.

This is what makes the mainstream arguments, as embodied by Taibbi, moot. Even if the costs were under control, it wouldn't change the fact that college is never meant to inspire true creativity or critical thinking. The product is fraudulent.

But the con has to keep running, and "The College-Loan Scandal" plays right along. The title alone says a lot about the presumptions behind the article. Notice that it's the college-loan scandal, meaning the problem here is merely loan policy and not the university system itself, which is sacrosanct.

The choice of “Scandal” for the title is also telling. In the higher-ed reform blogosphere, the word “scam” is the rallying cry, yet this word is totally absent from Taibbi's article. Before criticism of universities started going mainstream, it was bloggers who first asserted the message. Their webpages became known as the “scamblogs”, particularly those regarding the truly vile law schools.

Embracing the word “scam” was the line in the sand. You either acknowledged the scam and were ready to sacrifice the college sacred cow, or you denied it and remained an apologist for the system. This distinction in vocabulary is important. Whereas a scam is an act of violence with aggressors and victims, a scandal is just a few people doing something naughty. They want us to blame a couple of wrong-doers, not turn against the entire university apparatus, which we should.

In the end, despite his criticism of the “loan scandal,” Taibbi shills for the status quo:

If [young people] don't have the degree, then they have no chance at all. So if they even want a clerking job, they must dive face-first into the debt muck and take their chances... So, yes, a college education is a great thing, and you probably need one now more than ever – the problem is that it may very well be mandatory, may have less of a chance of ever getting you a job, and you may still be paying for it on your deathbed no matter what.

It's almost marvelous how Taibbi's assessment is so grim and binding. The article seems like it's trying to condition you into accepting your fate, rather than pose any real challenge to the system. You will get screwed, just take it. You have no choice!

The education complex is about owning you. Its false credentialing system reinforces existing power structures, belying the popular fiction that college actually promotes class equality. Your debt acts as a mechanism of coercion, forcing you to come begging for a job, desperate to sell out. It's really quite audacious — first you're employed for someone else's profit, then a major chunk of your paltry earnings must go to profit the lender.

But we do have a choice. We must be able to look our friends and loved-ones in the eyes and tell them what we know is true. If you want to do something legitimate with your life, you don't need college to do it.

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COMMENTS

Rusty Mason says:03 Dec 2013 15:31 EST
Efficiency and mass immigration are the main economic problems in the West. Real work is still disappearing. Most people are not smart enough to benefit from college. Higher Ed [sic] is just a place to warehouse the children until the boomers vacate the few remaining good-paying posts. Luring millenials into hopeless lifetime debt is gravy: they will be forced to work at the remaining shitty jobs.

It is time to return to a sustainable model of living and working, but few are ready for any change as serious as that. The generation that elected Obama is obviously still too ignorant to effect any real change of their own volition. But they are learning.
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