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The education bubble and the charisma gap
by Michael Patrick
Jun 03, 2012 | 965 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Now that victory has been achieved over the Washoe County high school graduation rate, it is not too early to erect a bronze statue of Heath Morrison, a bureaucrat of tremendous charisma and tremendous talent for the clever use of Arabic numerals.

While we’re at it, perhaps we also should erect a bronze statue to honor Arabic numerals.  It’s rather difficult to perform long division with those clumsy old Roman numerals, and without long division it’s tough to commit acts of science that have proven to be very beneficial to humankind. On the other hand, it would be a lot easier to win the lottery if we reverted to Roman numerals. Of course, the jackpot distributions wouldn’t be very exciting and that could lead to apathy, which everyone is currently working very hard to avoid via Facebook.

The big education bubble has been brewing for a long time, and the worrisome thing is that it could pop like a cheap dorm room beer and rain smelly stains all over what started off as a good idea.

These days with a bachelor of arts degree and $2.75 plus tax, a recent college graduate can walk into any anti-corporate, yet very corporate (as well as publicly traded) coffee house on the NASDAQ and order an Italian word for 20-ounce coffee.  The only trouble is that the degree itself costs thousands of dollars and this raises the price of the average beverage to approximately $25,252.75 plus tax and interest. Due to the current state of the economy many liberal arts majors are starting to realize that it would have been much wiser to fill out a barista application than a college application.

Science and engineering graduates are having slightly less trouble finding work in their chosen fields, however their degrees are no longer the sure fire career tickets they once were.  Their jobs are being outsourced overseas at ever-increasing rates and the latest data shows that American employment in science and engineering is at its lowest since 1950.  The message from corporate America is clear:  Don’t bother with all of those formulas and calculations. We already have people who will work much cheaper than you.

In the 1950s, American education began to focus heavily on science mainly due to the Soviet launch of a satellite called Sputnik. Realizing that Sputnik signaled a tremendous technological advantage over the United States, President Eisenhower swung into action. He ordered that every wannabe beatnik put down Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” for a few minutes to think about more important things like getting annihilated by the commies.

Incidentally, Jack Kerouac is still one of America’s greatest writers even though he was a college dropout.

Bill Gates is a college dropout.  Steve Jobs was another one.

America’s greatest test pilot, Chuck Yeager, never went to college. By today’s Air Force educational standards, he would not even be allowed to enter flight school. It’s difficult to imagine how modern undergrad electives, such as Philosophy and Star Trek (Georgetown University) or The Phallus (Occidental College), would have helped Chuck break the sound barrier.

Higher education will never acknowledge the working class heroics of a guy such as Yeager. Academia is more concerned about breaking other barriers.  The main one is the revenue barrier.  This is why college campuses don’t have cigarette-type warning labels on their facades.  The last thing any administration wants new undergrads to think about is student loan debt because this is the invisible green monster that paves the road to tenure. Besides, patriotic government printing presses are always running at top speed.

As the big education bubble reaches its zenith, the age-old charisma gap is narrowing to the point where everyone with a Facebook account is almost on a level playing field.  Some people believe that we live in the Age of Narcissism, which is a rather cynical way to look at things. A more accurate description is that we live in the Age of Somewhat Evenly Distributed Charisma.  Anyone can be a super jerk.

In the past, a person either had charisma, or had none. This was the true age of the haves and the have-nots. Of course, there were speakeasies, bars and family get-togethers where temporary elevations of charisma from booze could turn the commoner into a socialite. Many babies were made this way.  Some of them are now in college incurring loads of bad debt.  As Kurt Vonnegut once wrote, “So it goes.”

Like Heath Morrison, the larger-than-life super-bureaucrat who flew in and out of Reno, Mark Zukerberg and his IPO shenanigans will also soon be gone, perhaps back to Krypton, or North Carolina. Mark once stated, “Language really isn’t a perfect idea transmission vehicle.”  It’s true.  The middle finger is the perfect idea transmission vehicle.

Michael Patrick is a freelance writer from Reno. He can be reached at
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