The College Caste

by Jonathan Edwards
File under: Fake Labor 21 Feb 2013 12:38 EST

The New York Times today decided to profile the self-fulfilling circularity of the educational and professional lives of young Americans.

Once, one may have gone to college to become somebody: an engineer, biologist, astronomer, or man of letters. There was a connection between the efforts of the classroom and the personal and professional stature of the graduate; the stamp of a college education flowed from the eloquence of their diction and the polish of their craft. By their fruits you knew them.

But living through the most inflationary bubble in world history tends to skew reliable indicators, both of finances and of persons. I am sure you have met many a college graduate who speaks the same illiterate txt spk as the less educated -- if you haven't, please check your Twitter feed. So why did they even bother with the cap and gown? It's kind of like riding the stock market to the latest 'all time high', leveraging the former prestige and good name of desiccated institutions in the hopes of cashing out before it all collapses.

Gambling always implies losers, however, and the social problem of having a large class of people constantly in debt to the degree slot machines. Now we could look at some institutional reform and let careers and institutions based around gambling on little more than the prestige of a piece of paper fail, but that would mean a dose of reality. It is much more convenient for those who have already cashed out to look to hire others that bought into the same system. In fact, the Times reports that one Atlanta law firm, which prides itself on adapting to the shifting, uncertain sands of modern law, has taken the radical step of only hiring college graduates, all the way down to the office runner!

This prerequisite applies to everyone, including the receptionist, paralegals, administrative assistants and file clerks. Even the office “runner” — the in-house courier who, for $10 an hour, ferries documents back and forth between the courthouse and the office — went to a four-year school.

“College graduates are just more career-oriented,” said Adam Slipakoff, the firm’s managing partner. “Going to college means they are making a real commitment to their futures. They’re not just looking for a paycheck.”

So what we have here is a new kind of caste in society of people who aren't really any more qualified than anybody else, but have proven their devotion to debt and careerism, and so are attractive to employers who don't want any enterprising outsider reminding them that their time at State U was just an extended hazing ritual the people who gave them their post put them through. Thus the prestige of the caste -- not the class of really educated people, but the caste -- is maintained. After all, who would want to be around, oh, dear God, it is painful to say, someone with a GED?

Besides the promotional pipelines it creates, setting a floor of college attainment also creates more office camaraderie, said Mr. Slipakoff, who handles most of the firm’s hiring and is especially partial to his fellow University of Florida graduates. There is a lot of trash-talking of each other’s college football teams, for example. And this year the office’s Christmas tree ornaments were a colorful menagerie of college mascots — Gators, Blue Devils, Yellow Jackets, Wolves, EaglesTigers, Panthers — in which just about every staffer’s school was represented.

"You know, if we had someone here with just a G.E.D. or something, I can see how they might feel slighted by the social atmosphere here,” he says. “There really is something sort of cohesive or binding about the fact that all of us went to college.”

Follow us on Twitter
SEND TO A FRIEND
Friend's email:    Your email:  

COMMENTS

WHO THE.... says:01 Aug 2013 22:52 EDT
Mr. Slipakoff: F*** U: How's that for a university?!

Your life around college (quasi-pro) sports is pathetic.
Name: (optional)
Comment:
Verify: