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robertogreco : lizafeatherstone   3

Luxury Interiors – Popula
"The question of “U.S.C. versus A.S.U.” in this piece was unclear to me; to what extent was Hess underwriting this hierarchy? I wrote to ask her, and she replied that she wished she’d had the space to elaborate in the piece. And for good reason:
I’m from a Sun Devil family. My mom worked at Arizona State… I don’t think any of the jokes about ASU are based on a real understanding of the kind of education you could receive there; it’s based on the number of people who can access that education […]

The same people who surely believe that every child should have access to a college education also make sure to rank some of those educations as enviable and others as embarrassing. The idea of an elite, high-class education must be hoarded by a select few, because if everybody had it, it would lose its value to the elite.

Which just begins to explain why someone like Mossimo Giannulli might want to be able to say, “my daughter is at U.S.C.”

***

When people are willing to drown themselves in debt and even commit literal crimes in order to obtain an elite college education for themselves or their kids, what, really, what exactly, do they they think they are buying?

Or selling. What are people thinking, who are selling an “education” that is actively harming a whole society; that wrecks the fabric of a city, that causes people to lose their grip on their conscience, their sanity; that makes them set so catastrophic an example, somehow both before, and on behalf of, their children. All this makes a mockery of the Enlightenment values—by which I mean the egalitarianism and erudition of Alexander Pope, and not Edmund Burke getting himself in a lather over Marie Antoinette—that a Western education was once imagined to represent.

Reaction to the admissions scandal has so far centered on these rich parents and their unworthy spawn, whose lawyers now prepare to spin a tale of misguided, but forgivable, parental devotion. No less a cultural authority than the playwright David Mamet wrote an “open letter” defending accused admissions cheat Felicity Huffman; according to him, “a parent’s zeal for her children’s future may have overcome her better judgment for a moment.” Except that the “moment” went on for months, according to court filings, and involved Huffman’s paying $15,000 to ensure that her daughter would have twice the time to complete her SAT exam that an ordinary, non-bribery-enabled kid would have. Also to hire a crooked proctor afterwards, who could change some of her daughter’s wrong answers to correct ones.

In any case, Hess is right: You can get an ultrafine education at A.S.U. That place is an R1 university, positively bristling with Nobel laureates and MacArthur fellows. Walter V. Robinson, who led the famous “Spotlight” newsroom at the Boston Globe, teaches there. It’s wild to think anyone would be willing to blow half a million dollars to ensure an admission to U.S.C. over A.S.U.

Anyone who has been to (any) college can tell you that the proportion of enlightenment to hangovers varies greatly from customer to customer. It’s something else altogether that calls for the half-million bucks.

***

Coming from a quite different angle—and on March 27th, the very same day as Hess’s piece—Herb Childress, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, asked: “How did we decide that professors don’t deserve job security or a decent salary?” (“This is How You Kill a Profession.”) Childress is one of tens of thousands of Ph.D.s in the United States who failed to find a place on the tenure track, and who were slowly forced out of a professional academic career as their prospects faded year by year in the academic Hunger Games, as this brutal process is not uncommonly described.

You might assume that people like Childress just “didn’t make it” through some fault of their own, but you’d be wrong. Over the last fifty years academic work has come to look more and more like indentured servitude: Grad students and postdocs are a species of flexible workers in a gig economy, toiling in low-paying jobs waiting for their once-a-year chance to play the tenure track lottery.

Please note that these are the very people who work in the “good schools,” who are compelled to “teach,” for insanely low pay—like, a few thousand dollars per class—people like Mossimo Giannulli’s daughter Olivia Jade, a famous YouTube “Influencer.” This lady’s dad paid hundreds of thousands to put her in the orbit of hugely educated, committed, job-insecure people like Childress. She, meanwhile, impishly bragged to her legion of YouTube followers that she doesn’t really “care about school.”

And yet scholars like Childress can’t let go of their romantic notions of the academy, and their sense of vocation, which can easily be exploited; unfortunately they’ll agree to live the dream even at cut rates, as Childress himself openly admitted in the Chron.
The grief of not finding a home in higher ed—of having done everything as well as I was capable of doing, and having it not pan out; of being told over and over how well I was doing and how much my contributions mattered, even as the prize was withheld—consumed more than a decade. It affected my physical health. It affected my mental health. It ended my first marriage. […]

Like any addict, I have to be vigilant whenever higher ed calls again. I know what it means to be a member of that cult, to believe in the face of all evidence, to persevere, to serve. I know what it means to take a 50-percent pay cut and move across the country to be allowed back inside the academy as a postdoc after six years in the secular professions. To be grateful to give up a career, to give up economic comfort, in order to once again be a member.

Consider the benefits-free, pension-free pittance paid to the vast majority of people providing the elite education, who never saw a dime of all those millions in bribes, and a more complicated and larger picture than we’ve yet seen emerges."



"I wasn’t nearly as much of a paragon, but as a brown-trash “gifted” kid who came up poor and went to fancy schools I can easily understand how listening to this brilliant lecturer dazzled my friend, and changed the course of his life. This feeling comes to students anywhere, everywhere, in every school with a good teacher with time and attention to give us. There was and still is something vital, something good and real, to want out of an “education,” something quite beyond the ken of the kind of people who would pay an SAT proctor to cheat.

Then there’s this other angle. I first went off to college already inured to the idea that I was involved in an economy; that we were trading. Everything had been made easier for the rich kids, of course, and it wasn’t their fault, all had been bought and paid for by their parents and grandparents, but also—a crucial thing—they had also lacked our luck; they lacked certain desirable qualities, qualities as randomly distributed as wealth, things with which some of us had won a different lottery, had skipped grades with and been celebrated for: the sort of “intelligence” that made school easy. There seemed to be a natural symbiosis in this structure, crazy and shameful as the whole business of “meritocracy” appears to me now.

But also like all college kids we mainly didn’t give a fuck about any of that and just got to be friends for true reasons, just loved one another. The rich kids happened to be able to teach the poor ones what fork to use and how to ski, and the poor and/or brown kids of halfway reasonable intelligence gave them books, new kinds of food and family, music and art, a view of the other side of the tracks, new ways to have fun. We poor ones brought, say, a taste for Lester Bangs, arroz con pollo, Brian Eno and Virginia Woolf; they treated us to foie gras and Tahoe and big old California cabs on our 18th birthday. Gross, right? Really gross. But the (grotesquely mistaken) idea was that we were bringing each other into a better world, a different world, and a little at a time the true, good world would finally come.

This may sound a bit tinfoil but now I suspect that the problem may have been, all along, that all the college kids started to realize together (as I think they are still) that there was something sick at the roots of this tree of knowledge as it was then constituted. Strangely, dangerously healing, egalitarian ideas began to take hold; demographics changed, and the country began to move to the left. The 90s was the era of the tenured radical on campus, and the culture wars grew white-hot. Al Gore was elected president, and was prevented by the merest whisker from taking office. Even a barely left of center President Gore would have made things a little too parlous for the powers that be, who are on the same side as the Giannullis of the world.

Hess told me that some people think there’s one kind of education within the purview of everyone willing to work to get it, the “embarrassing” kind, and then there’s another kind that is luxury goods, strictly for “elites” from “elite” institutions—however corrupt the latter may be—served tableside by an underpaid servant class.

But the egalitarian view of education and the luxury view are mutually exclusive. Pulling up the drawbridge around your ivory tower only cuts it off from the global commons, which alone can provide the intellectual atmosphere in which a free society, and its academy, can breathe and thrive. Power wants its “meritocracy”: thus the eternal cake-having rhetoric around higher education, the queasy mingling of “exclusivity” and “diversity.”

Note too that the ruling class protects its interests as starkly on the fake left of the centrist Democrats as it does on the right, where the Koch brothers have long bought professors like they were so many cups of coffee. In Jacobin, Liza Featherstone’s … [more]
education  elitism  highered  highereducation  2019  mariabustillos  culture  society  smartness  petebuttigieg  operationvaristyblues  meritocracy  us  capitalism  competition  scarcity  lizafeatherstone  donaldtrump  centrism  herbchildress  academia  colleges  universities  rankings  admissions 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
Have You Heard? Pete Buttigieg Is Really Smart
"He holds degrees from Harvard and Oxford. Like many Ivy League grads, he also worked as a consultant for McKinsey. He won a national essay contest in high school. He speaks eight languages, including English, Norwegian, Maltese, Italian, French, Spanish, Dari, and Arabic. He learned Norwegian to read a favorite author in that language, and at a recent press conference, spoke with some Norwegian journalists in their native tongue. He was a Rhodes Scholar.

He’s been precocious all his life — no wonder that at only thirty-seven he’s running for president. Pete Buttigieg, son of two professors, is a classic Smart Dude, and there is nothing journalists love more. His followers even have a proudly know-it-all approach to his name, showing up at his rallies with signs explaining, “It’s Pete BOOT-Edge-Edge.” He says he’s all about “bringing forward good ideas.”

For the upper professional-managerial class (PMC), guys like this represent a dreamy ideal of human supremacy. That’s because for them, all of life is an Ivy League application. Well-rounded “smartness” is everything, even in the wake of recent news that this is not necessarily what elite college admissions are based upon.

As a result, BOOTedgedge has been the focus of a media frenzy, despite polling far behind Sanders and Biden (even 538 is skeptical of his recent much-ballyhooed jump in Iowa). CNN’s Chris Cillizza finds his resumé “remarkable.” Some call him “bookish.” Queerty.com exults that he “represents the best and brightest of our country.” A New Republic headline uses the word “Genius.”

Liberal feminists have rightly bristled at the collective ecstasy over the mighty dome of BOOTedgedge. When economist boy-wonder Alan Cole tweeted this week, “Mayor Pete seems head and shoulders smarter than the other candidates running and IMO that should count for quite a lot,” he was widely and correctly rebuked for sexism. What about Elizabeth Warren, asked Katha Pollitt, Jill Filipovic, and many others. The Twittersphere weighed in with lists of Warren’s accomplishments. Others pointed out that the tweet was possibly racist as well as sexist; Julian Castro holds degrees from Harvard, Harvard Law School, and Stanford, and Cory Booker was, like BOOTedgedge, a Rhodes Scholar, among a pile of other academic achievements.

The question of what “smart” even means and why this type of smart should matter in a presidential race got less attention. One person rightly asked, “are you sure he’s not just smart in the ways you also fancy yourself to also be smart.” No one asked why this particular form of well-credentialed “smart” should “count for quite a lot.”

That’s because while the PMC are often eager to be more inclusive about who gets to be “smart” — women, black people — they have tremendous faith in the concept itself. They love rich people whose intelligence has made them prosper: they may cringe at the science-denying Koch Brothers but they went into deep mourning when Steve Jobs died. They devour Malcolm Gladwell’s veneration of the wisdom of genius entrepreneurs over the plodding, clueless masses.

This notion of “smart” allows elites to recast inequality as meritocracy. In this narrative, you’re rich because you did well in high school and went to Princeton, not because capitalism has taken something from someone else and given it to you. Yet the culture of smart is not all smugness; it also contains a heavy dose of fear. The PMC understands that while it’s fun to brag about having a kid like BOOTedgeedge, it’s not optional (like, say, having a pet that can do weird tricks, a cat that can use a human toilet, for instance). In the neoliberal order, if you’re not born into the top 0.1 percent, you have to be “smart” and unusually talented and motivated, otherwise you will not only lose what privileges you have, but possibly not even survive. As New York Times columnist Tom Friedman once gleefully proclaimed, “Average is over.”

The PMC therefore tries hard to make their children “gifted” and to nourish their talents, an effort that is supposed to culminate in the kind of august institutional validation that BOOTedgedge has enjoyed. Because they have, all their lives, felt a certain panic about the need to be college-application impressive, the PMC has come to see such impressiveness as somehow morally admirable. For people like this, the recent college admissions scandal, exposing corruption at institutions like Yale and USC, occasions not eye-rolling and wisecracks, as it does on dirtbag Twitter (this writer is guilty), but earnest hand-wringing about fairness and social justice. Smartness, to them, makes some people more deserving of the good life than others. Smartness culture is social Darwinism for liberals.

This obsession pervades the politics of the PMC. Trump’s proud ignorance and shameless pandering to the nation’s dumbness often seems to gall them more than his inhumane, death-drive policies. This class always seeks a Smart Dude as savior. Obama, of course, represents successful fulfillment of this dream, and they can’t wait to repeat it. Beto, after some initial signs of promise, has now revealed himself to be a dummy who has to ask his wife on the proper usage of “subconscious.” Hence, BOOTedgedge mania.

The quest reflects a theory of change in which, as political scientist Adolph Reed Jr remarked years ago, describing the worldview of some of his academic colleagues, “all the smart people get together on the Vineyard and solve the world’s problems.” Davos is the fullest expression of this: elites get together and showcase how smart they are, advertising how fit they are to be our ruling elites.

It’s oddly banal, the culture of smart. Like most of the detritus of “smartness” culture, from Freakonomics to TED Talks to NPR, BOOTedgedge is politically underwhelming. What good ideas he has are shared by other candidates in the crowded field, some originating from politicians to his left, like Bernie Sanders. His bad ideas are hardly edgy, either: capitalism can be good while government regulation can be bad.

This Democratic primary lineup is not the worst, and within it, neither is Mayor Pete (the term used by those not quite smart enough to pronounce BOOTedgedge). He seems to support Medicare for All and the Green New Deal in some form. He invested in infrastructure in South Bend. He won office as an openly gay man in Mike Pence country and has a record of connecting with voters who voted for Trump. And there’s no question that he’d be a better president than Trump or some of his Democratic primary competitors. We do need a president capable of reading a book, not one reveling proudly in his ignorance like the current occupant of the White House, who seems to reflect our dumbest tendencies insultingly right back to us. (When Trump this week fantasized that a Hillary Clinton victory would have turned the power grid over to solar energy and deprived us of the joy of watching TV, the writer Tara Rose aptly observed, “He’s so perfect for the kind of stupid that we are.”) A BOOTedgedge presidency would reassure those of us who believe in things like science and logic that we have stepped back from the braying idiocy that now envelopes us like a toxic plume. Of course, that would be a pleasant reprieve.

But the obsession with his kind of ostentatious intelligence is deeply unserious and anti-democratic. “Smart” is not going to save us, and fetishizing its most conventional manifestations shores up bourgeois ideology and undermines the genuinely emancipatory politics of collective action. Bernie Sanders, instead of showing off his University of Chicago education, touts the power of the masses: “Not Me, Us.” The cult of the Smart Dude leads us into just the opposite place, which is probably why some liberals like it so much."
elitism  meritocracy  2019  petebuttigieg  smartness  lizafeatherstone  inequality  berniesanders  politics  elections  saviors  merit  liberalism  socialdarwinism  malcolmgladwell  genius 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
Elite, White Feminism Gave Us Trump: It Needs to Die - VersoBooks.com
"In False Choices: The Faux Feminism of Hillary Rodham Clinton, I and many other writers argued that the bourgeois feminism Clinton represents works against the interests of the vast majority of women. This has turned out to be even more true than we anticipated. That branding of feminism has delivered to us the most sexist and racist president in recent history: Donald Trump."



"Working-class women knew perfectly well that for all Clinton’s “listening tours,” the only listening that mattered took place in conversations with her high-end funders, in the living rooms of the Hamptons and Beverly Hills– or in the Q&A sessions after her $250,000 speeches to Goldman Sachs. In the fall of 2016, she was spending most of her time with the super-rich.

Her tone-deaf campaign didn’t even pretend to transcend such class divisions. Once she had secured the nomination, Clinton offered few ideas about how to make ordinary women’s lives better. That’s probably because what helps the average woman most is redistribution, and Clinton’s banker friends wouldn’t have liked that very much. #ImWithHer was a painfully uninspiring campaign slogan, appropriately highlighting that the entire campaign’s message centered on the individual candidate and her gender, rather than on a vision for society, or even women, as a whole. She wrote off huge swaths of the population as “deplorables” and didn’t even bother to campaign in Wisconsin. Among union members, her support was weak compared to other recent Democratic candidates, and, according to most exit polls, significantly lower than Obama’s was in 2008."



"Clinton simply didn’t inspire enough people – especially women and African-Americans — to come out and vote for her.

Obama inspired Americans by talking about change and hope. Clinton couldn’t do talk about change because that’s not what she believes in, and she couldn’t talk about hope because hope is dangerous. Indeed, when Bernie Sanders, her Democratic primary opponent, suggested major changes in policy, Clinton responded with the class rage of a committed one-percenter."



"Feminism now has an opportunity to move beyond the go-girlism of the Sheryl Sandberg set. Left feminists must organize to protect women’s rights under Trump/Pence. We should work together to protect immigrants’ rights and religious freedoms, and prevent a likely assault on abortion rights. We also need to work on environmental issues at the state and local level, recognizing that nothing good can be achieved at the federal level under a regime of climate denialism. We need to strengthen institutions of the left: organize unions in our workplaces, join independent left parties, run progressive candidates for local and state offices, make and disseminate left media. We should work especially to help existing feminist efforts that are squarely focused on women’s material realities, whether that means joining local and state campaigns demanding paid sick days and family leave, single-payer health care or – especially right now – the Fight for $15.

I thought the ruling class would ensure victory for their candidate, but this turned out to be more than even they could arrange in a democratic system, given the widespread dissatisfaction with everything she represents. I have argued that Clintonism would not defeat Trumpism in the long run, because (as the UK found with Brexit) aloof, corrupt elites and cruel neoliberal regimes nourish right-wing populism. But it turns out that even in the short run, Clinton and the politics she represents are finished."
lizafeatherstone  feminism  2016  elections  hillaryclinton  class  classism  racism  inequality  economics  sherylsandberg 
november 2016 by robertogreco

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