The System

Of course we need to change the education system. I don’t think anyone who pursues a degree beyond undergrad in the field thinks it needs to remain exactly the same.

But for a moment, let’s think about how many things need to change. Let’s start from the very top.

Ultimately, all the prestige and pomp and circumstance is about power, right?

Schools want to be able to say they helped create wealthy people (who then donate to the schools), and wealthy people are powerful, either literally because of their money or because they have prominent roles (in politics, say).

So, at the very top, we need to change who is allowed to get lucrative jobs, change the fact that people hire (and vote for) people who resemble them, change what jobs earn the money in our society. I offer no solution to this, but if this part doesn’t change, nothing else will, because it all leads to this.

But IF we change who gets to have the power – that “if” is doing a lot of work – then we might be able to change post-graduate education.

Not every powerful person has extra degrees, but many of them do, and the fact is that, even though many are pushing for free or affordable undergrad tuition at public schools, graduate school remains either very expensive or has an extremely high opportunity cost in preventing many such students from working.

But IF we change who gets to have the power and IF graduate school were more accessible, then maybe people wouldn’t be as competitive during undergraduate programs. And then maybe there would be less of a gap in outcomes for students from different backgrounds.

And then if everyone really did have the same chance at success once they got to college – any college – maybe getting into the “right” college wouldn’t dominate childrens’ lives for the decade beforehand.

I’m not even really going to talk about the scandal in detail. I’ve said enough about it. Suffice it to say that it’s a hell of a lot of work to do instead of helping your kids achieve the grades and scores required for acceptance.

But maybe this sort of nonsense wouldn’t happen if getting a college education itself was more important than the name of the school.

And in order to change that, though, what do we need to change? We need to change people. We need to change the conversations people have in certain circles, where pride is tied only to achievement. Because we could change the entire system, but if we don’t change the pressure people feel to make sure their children are good enough to be bragged about, then nothing will matter, and we’ll stay in the same position forever.

Some folks try to change the entire system, and I commend their idealism. It would be much better if we had a different system, one where education really did matter but wasn’t so tied to “prestige” or lack thereof, but the best our current students can hope for is to be allowed a chance at accessing the system that exists.

And that’s a shame.