Friday, February 29, 2008

Quote for the Day

From Randall Collins, "Credential Inflation and the Future of Universities," in The Future of the City of Intellect: The Changing American University, ed. by Steven Brint (Stanford Univ. Press, 2002), pp. 27, 29:
The development of the high-tech economy has also been affected by educational credential inflation. For example, as the competition for managerial positions increased among B.A. holders in the 1960s and 1970s, M.B.A. degrees became increasingly popular and eventually the new standard for access to corporate business jobs. Holders of these degrees have attempted to justify the credential by introducing new techniques of management; often of a faddish quality, they nevertheless have given a technical veneer to their activities. Credentialed workers tend to redefine their jobs and eliminate noncredentialed jobs around them. Thus the spiral of competition for education and the rising credential requirements for jobs tend to be irreversible.

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Education is also legitimated as democratic equality of opportunity; here is another quarter-truth, since the massive expansion of educational access through the twentieth century has not reduced the association between occupational attainment and family background, and sociologists have extensively documented how educational advantage and disadvantage are passed along through family culture and economic means. We all know these latter points. Yet it is striking how virtually all ideological factions in the United States embrace education as the favored solution to social problems. It is a kind of secular religion, keeping alive the ideology of equality because we go through the motions of having our children in public schools in which they are superficially treated as equal.



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