Friday, October 5, 2012


On October 12, the Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley and the Curatorial Practice at the California College of the Arts are partnering to host a live-streaming of the Creative Time Summit, an annual conference in New York that brings together cultural producers--including artists, critics, writers, and curators--to discuss how their work engages pressing issues affecting our world. To jump-start the conversation in advance of the event, attendees have been asked to submit a paragraph on a keyword associated with one of the summit themes: Inequities, Occupations, Making, or Tactics. This posting is by James Liu, American Cyberculture student at UC Berkeley.

Keyword: Inequities

Education: The Great Inequalizer

One of the more obnoxious memes today is the notion that equal access to university education is a right. While this may sound plausible as stated, there are several troubling implications in accepting it. Firstly, is it really about education? The same education can be obtained cheaply and easily through the internet or libraries, and indeed auto-didacticism was once a prized trait. Rather, the gains from university are mostly prestige, which by definition is advantage through inequality. This fact has been misunderstood, and as a result society has an over-saturation of college degrees, which have moreover been devalued as a result of their proliferation. Capitalism is blamed by those who consensually took out loans for an overpriced and poor product, and their solution is a further subsidization of their misinvestment. In other words, public university education is nothing but an especially inefficient form of wealth redistribution. Unfortunately, there are many today who believe that wealth redistribution is laudable, though perhaps they are too dishonest to say so. This puts the education meme at odds with, say, the anti-lobby and anti-war interests, as lobbying and warfare are also driven by the desire to exploit government power to redistribute resources. In fact the prime recipient of the benefits are not the students, but the educational industry, the ivory tower professors who enjoy being able to propagandize to captive audiences, and finally the financiers who attract much of the top talent. More importantly, wealth redistribution is itself just a form of government violation of the right to private property. This makes public university education actually harmful to a democratic society. In conclusion, if the promoters of this meme have their way, everyday citizens will suffer more loss of the fruits of their labor, students will continue to be out of work, and the powerful will continue to exploit us in new ways.

Rather, a healthier approach is to promote things like online education and the DIY movement. Encourage the youth to find their own ways of making it in life, and in freely aiding each other in educations and clever ideas. Design effective and decentralized forms of education that the government will not think to co-opt. It is better for the public to see the worthlessness of the paper degree rather than to over-value it, for then they will not be enslaved by the system, but rather find ways to navigate and bypass the elements of the system that seeks to keep them down.

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