Posted in Miscellany

education is not a status symbol

Education is not a prerogative of the fortunate who have been born into comfortably well-to-do socioeconomic families or, if deprived, sponsored by goodwill fairylike patrons for splendidly expensive private higher education. It is not a status symbol to distinguish the fortunate from the melee in ostentations display of their supposedly high intelligence, dazzling scholastic aptitude, and a means to continue such expensive education as a symbol of confidence, competence, and cleverness.

But Joshua Angrist, an Israeli-American Nobel laureate in Economics of the year 2021, doesn’t think that way, not least because those who enter expensive elite schools are already brighter than their ordinary or troubled peers. The Nobel-Prized theory of education in the context of the selective admission process has become a concrete, incorruptible credo for the elite academic institutions and enflamed the already swelled up egos of the diploma holders doing well in their lives. When I read about him from today’s newspaper, I had to re-read his saying that “the reason graduates of those schools tend to do well has more to do with selective admission than education.” I understand his intention to demystify social legend that an Ivy-league diploma will guarantee you lifelong flowery roads to financial security and commensurate social status. However, it has more to do with his defense of continuous selective criteria to muster a pool of academically, and usually economically affluent, prospective students than anything else. What he argues is, “Don’t mess with the elite schools’ admission processing, for they select only the smartest ones!” Therefore, his argument calls for changing social agendas for changing such selective admissions to improve public education.

Angrist himself is a product of privileged education that some people wear like fancy hats on their pointed heads. He went to Oberlin College for BA and Princeton University for MA, Ph D. He teaches at Harvard University, which has become the infallibly supreme Ivory Tower in the States and most East Asian countries. Based upon Angrist’s focus on causality and effects on social impacts, it will be natural for him to defend the selective admission process, and I say go for it.

But it irks me to read from the Nobel laureate that supreme education is not for everybody. Since Angrist prides himself in employing real-world empirical evidence in his theory, does he marginalize those who have ambitions and aspirations to receive such quality education but are disadvantaged of the opportunities to learn the skills apt for demonstrating their minds? What about them, and how can he help them to access such opportunities? He’s not a social worker, which I don’t think he will not be pleased to be associated with even, but as an intellectual, he has a social responsibility to answer such vital issues. And if this unequal distribution of privileged educational opportunities is not worth studying, I wonder if those Nobel Prize panels thought his opuses deserve such international recognition. After all, Economics always comes last in the Nobel Prizes, with its being on the criteria most recently in the late sixties mainly begetting Americans.