Response to “High School And Status in America”

“One for the money,
two for the show,
three to get ready,
now go kids go
I went to school six years,

but I never graduated,
Like so many others,
All over the nation,
’cause my parents were poor,
Now I’m undereducated
’cause the government’s
Saving up all the education”

“Money” – KMFDM

This post is in reply to Giovanni Dannato’s excellent piece found at https://colonyofcommodus.wordpress.com/2017/08/26/high-school-and-status-in-america/ in which he cites “The Judgment of High School“.  Both the above referenced post, as well as Giovanni’s post, should be read before reading the below.

The USG primary and secondary educational systems are a foundation for most of the USG’s young. If one incorporates the population of parochial and state-funded schools, the vast majority of young spent many of their formative years in “The System”. Giovanni makes the express comparison of the educational system to Prison, and I do not think he is in error.

Both the Primary and Secondary education systems (“Schools”) and the Jail/Prison (Corrections) system are artificial environments.  I don’t think anyone who’s met your median jailhouse “guest” would expect that they could build a functioning environment with each other.  And, I’ve written before, “No sane society can tolerate handing authority to children, Lord of the Flies was not an instruction book.”.  In fact, if one believes official statistics on the matter, it’s entirely possible that the average county lockup is safer than the at least urban schools, and the later don’t seem to have a Protective Custody unit.

Some commentators have suggested that this is in part caused by a growth in the “Prole” values of the working and lower-middle classes.  I’d argue that the “Prole” culture is the logical result of a completely artificial and effectively worthless system.

For political reasons, let us first review the USG correctional systems.  As a scary story to keep the middle and upper-middle class in line, it’s still effective.  As a way to save us sob stories from relatives of violent criminals that used to be executed out of hand (with or without trial), it’s extremely effective.  As a way to stockpile violent criminals away from taxpayer citizens, it’s still somewhat functional.  For anything else, it’s a waste of money and the moral authority of the State.  It does not seem to deter violent crime, it possibly increases crime in general, it encourages a highly dysfunctional view of the world, and it is increasingly a financial drain on the system.

One of the reasons why said system is counter-productive, except for it’s remaining purpose of deterrence against the middle and upper-middle class, is that it’s not a bad deal for those locked up.  Food, clothing, shelter, and basic health care are provided to them, most establishments won’t allow open daily open violence, unlike some outside jurisdictions, and they can socialize with their peers and get “street cred”.  Some Red Pill commentators claim that ex-cons are actually at a considerable advantage in the Sexual Marketplace (SMP) upon release, and it is known, through officially denied, that some industries prefer ex-cons as employees.  Having a parent in custody results in increased benefits from some government programs, and jurisdictions cannot collect much child support from someone who’s not earning much.  While some jurisdictions do bill inmates for their time in custody, it appears to be fairly low on their list of outstanding collection activities.

Compare that to the middle and upper-middle class, whom are expected to pay for everything themselves, to pay taxes for everyone else, and whom receive limited police coverage if they are not wealthy enough to live in a “good area”.  The disadvantages faced by those individuals, in the SMP, in daily interactions with other classes, are covered fairly well by other commentators.  Many of them are so afraid of police involvement that they are afraid of even a parking ticket, for fear that official attention will result in the loss of their professional status.

Now we turn to the Schools.  As previously discussed, in the Schools, violence is accepted from fairly early. Much like Prisons turn their eyes away from drug gangs maintaining a docile population, Schools turn their eyes away from aggressive children establishing dominance over a schoolyard.  With the involvement of the even more dysfunctional Scholastic-Athletic Complex (SAC), quick maturing children with high testosterone and few inhibitions are desired as athletes to make the coaches look better. Even if the SAC is not involved, the paperwork for dealing with an aggressive child is considerable.

As Martin van Cleveld reminds us, a society will always find excuses for it’s men if it needs them.  A coach, who is generally hired by a School, has his or her entire working day to find excuses for his or her athletes, and presumably at least the tacit support of an entire Athletic Department in a School (“State within a State”) behind him or her.  A bully only needs one teacher to either be weak or a tacit supporter to drive an innocent child out of contention for social status, and sometimes out of the race for Pre-Selection altogether.

And just like the Correctional environment, it is completely artificial.  As Bill White once pointed out (paraphrased) in relation to both subjects, “It is very hard to secure someone in an environment they don’t want to be in”. Children, and that is what we are talking about, are coerced, by threat of legal action to the parents or being transported to a juvenile facility, to go to an environment where the bureaucracy implicitly will reward violence, where they are separated from their friends and family into an age-segregated environment that favors the early biological maturity of some standouts, but disfavors the ethical and intellectual maturity of others.  It is sustained by immense legal and moral authority, and massive amounts of taxpayer dollars.

And the result does not seem to justify this immense moral and financial expense. The system requires more funding each year to achieve weaker performance.  Our Elite Business Executives agree it does not work, Politicians fall over themselves to talk about reforms and fixes, the Media has been making after-school specials on bullying for decades, but nothing ever seems to change.

Perhaps there is a reason.

 

Rise of the PRONies (Part II)

“You will not give, I’ll take!”
Joey Zasa, The Godfather, Part III (1990)

In Part I of this piece, we reviewed the pre-selection factors that limit entry into the Elite Undergraduate and Graduate Programs, from which the non-inherited Ruling Elite are drawn.

The not quite top-level but high elite positions draw from a comparatively lesser, but still highly pre-selected pool of Programs.  For example, the US State Department and those gathered around it heavily select from George Washington University, while Silicon Valley heavily recruits from some otherwise minor education institutions.  While those programs are not as tightly pre-selected as the likes of the Ivy League and the Top 12 Law Schools, they are still heavily selected.  Again, there is no practical way for someone outside at least the respective local elite to get into these schools without the active and dedicated support of their home educational institution.

Enter the PRONies, PROspective Near Elites.  They are born, usually middle to upper middle class, into what by historical standards is immense cultural capital, unlimited access to the modern assemblage of historical knowledge, offered all sorts of fame, money, power, women, or whatever fortune they desire, all of it as easy as showing up to do “The Right Thing”.  It is entirely possible for PRONies to get good grades in school, follow the applicable rules, not get caught doing anything stupid, and yet run afoul of some local educator.  The author has heard stories of students losing out on recommendation letters for daring to confront a bully.  Without the support of the local institutions, our hypothetical PRONy may go to a local public university, get good grades, pass a background check, show aptitude, but may get a position that really doesn’t suit them.

Perhaps they end up in one of the great USG seats of power, working at a regulatory agency, or working at a biotech firm.  Perhaps they go to lesser seats of power, working for the local large company or government.  One of the ugly parts about USG pre-selection is that it is final.  There is no admission to a “higher track” if one has been in lesser organizations or positions, the official reason usually being some variant of “won’t be a good fit”, the unofficial reason being that a prior organization passed you over, so there must be a reason you’re damaged goods (1).

And what do our PRONies think at this point?  Speaking realistically, they are stuck.  The people above them either are in place until retirement, or the “upper ranks” would be replaced by people who had their profession’s “golden ring”.  Corporate Law departments, for example, are heavily dominated at the top by people who come from the White Shoe firms.  One very large manufacturer selects many of it’s new managers from one department, whom in turn are recruited from a fairly limited number of institutions.

Outside of work, they are limited to social circles who also weren’t selected for better things.  They must keep to a narrow list of interests, or face expulsion from those circles, and/or removal at work.  Since they are rule-abiding, they are at an automatic disadvantage to compete for women outside their social circle.  Since they must work for a living, they are taxed to pay for benefits for their own social competition.  They don’t have a way to construct a stable family for their children, or sufficient status to protect their own children in increasingly unstable and status-driven educational Institutions.

You see several ways of dealing with this situation.  Depending on the field, they may leave their organizations to build their own, with or without connections.  They may travel the world, try to become successful expatiates, write books.  Some come to the realization that the system, even when they behavied, studied, followed the rules, did everything as they were told, no matter what they did, it would still not reward them.  To paraphrase the works of my fellow blogger, Giovanni Dannato, they realize the system “Lost the Mandate of Heaven”.

Let us look at this from a game theory perspective.  Our PRONies have more than enough skill, talent, and education to get positions inside the system(s), and to keep those positions.  They cannot be removed without disruptive internal witch-hunts.  The system will not reward them as they’d like, or they wouldn’t be thinking about these things.  Presumably, they aren’t getting money, power, or the women that they want.  They aren’t getting a family under the current regime.  In short, they have little to lose.

And what greater game could be played, and for what grander reward, than paying back those who made them in their own coin?  If you have nothing to lose, and a chance at gaining everything, it actually becomes a logical decision to defect, to turn against the system.  However, our hypothetical PRONies didn’t get this far by being reckless.  To topple a ruling faction takes time and skill.  Careful, and deniable, signaling will take time to find allies.  Their enemies seem almost invincible and must be weakened from the shadows.  A war of a million paper cuts must be waged in the shadows, with few friends other than a bottle of Scotch.

How would we see these people?  We’d see it in blogs, written by people who got close enough to power but not allowed to possess it, who strike at the very core of our society and point out how destructive it is, how it rewards “Chads, not Dads”, that “Beta Bucks” are what finance the regime, that felons get more status than taxpayers.  We’d see it in men traveling the world, creating an alternative eco-sphere of heterodox ideas.  We’d see it in writers who bring attention to the system’s abuses in our daily lives. We’d see it in individuals building resilient organizations, both online and offline.  We’d see people chiseling at weak spots in the system, one tiny rock applied at a time (2).  No single one of these acts would be definitely against the regime by themselves, but collectively, they are the foundation from which dissidents now have an opening to take what they have long desired.

Many of the modern alternative factions have their origins in the PRONies.  From a young teenage child of government employees in suburban DC in the late 90s, to international expats and bloggers in 2009, to the leaders of emergent political factions in 2016, we see the rise of the PRONies.  If it seems too much to think that disgruntled PRONies can create so much of an opening, remember the following:

One disenchanted member of the Elite felt he wasn’t given the proper respect to join a dance club in 1970s, and nursed a grudge for decades against the Manhattan elite.

That man is now President of the United States of America.

 

(1) You see denial of this theme on blogs written by people who entered the workforce in the 70s and 80s.  The factors that drive the modern environment were not as strong back then, and there’s also a considerable survivor bias in some of those stories.

(2) Some individuals have been combined for this section.

Rise of the PRONies (Part I)

“Do you think I’m special, do you think I’m nice
Am I bright enough to shine in your spaces
Between the noise you hear and sound you like
Are we just sinking in the ocean of faces”

“All the Right Moves” (One Republic)

The prior post referenced the major three controlling ideologies of the regime, Egalitarianism, Individualism, and Meritocracy, focusing on the third, and it’s intertwined sub-concept, pre-selection.  There are many things that can be said about pre-selection, but the topic today is that it functions mainly as a “filter”, to exclude people, not as an inclusive system.

Throughout history, there have been a number of powerful societies who applied a very sharp line to determine in-group status, even to people we would consider children.

The Spartans probably have the most brutal pre-selection process ever implemented in history, and unsurprisingly, had trouble maintaining their society after only two defeats, one of them comparatively minor.  Their issue was that once a person, no matter how young, was considered “not good enough” for Sparta (1), that was the end for them, they had no chance at redemption.  They could hope to be treated as a non-citizen with limited protections, or they could go into exile.  If they were bad enough to be striped of even that, they would become a helot slave.

While not as brutal as Spartan citizenship, the USG also has a sharp form of pre-selection.  As mentioned before, a large number of organizations use pre-selection to fill their own ranks, some more than others.  While this could be explained as administrative necessity, where it becomes destabilizing is when one realizes how strong the pre-selection machine has become.

For those not born into the elite, access to the very top positions in society, CEO positions, Federal Politicians, Cabinet slots, Judgeships, White-Shoe Law Firms, Big Four Accounting Firms, Hedge Funds, Silicon Valley start-ups, is taken from a fairly limited pool of Undergraduate and Graduate programs.  Read the profiles from the organizations, and you will see the same schools over and over again.

Contrary to the theorists of a “Cognitive Elite” or a “Creative Class” (2), while it’s likely that membership in the “recruiting classes” of these institutions requires above average cognitive skills, it’s not a perfect correlation.  Because of that, believing that the “Cognitive Elite” has already separated themselves from the hoi polloi into enclaves is premature.

There is a reason for this lack of a correlation.

Pre-Selection relies on the group before the level one is examining.  For the elite Undergraduate programs, that means the American Secondary Education System, in short, High School.  To oversimplify the end result, no one outside the Elite, who presumably would be in private schools to begin with, is going to get to Harvard, or any other elite Undergraduate program, without the active and dedicated support of their “home” educational institution.  For students, and these are legally children, who have somehow displeased their educational institution, for whatever reason, they are already banished from the pool.  It does not matter why they displeased them, how rational that displeasure, or if there are any outside factors.  There is no appeal from that judgment.

Let us be absolutely clear what this means.  The highest ranks for the children of the near-Elite are determined by a system that relies on the American High School and all that goes with it.

 

(1) One story indicates loss of citizenship for having too many eating plates.

(2) The author has mixed feelings about the author of the first reference.

The Judgment of High School

“For that, Major, I will accept the judgment of posterity.

-Karl Stromberg, “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977)

Modern American cultures, even the otherwise heterodox sub-cultures, generally hold to at least some variant of the major three controlling ideologies of the regime, Egalitarianism, Individualism, and Meritocracy.  Oddly enough, even the most heterodox among them cling to a particular variant of meritocracy, despite some of these same sub-cultures overtly denouncing almost every other element of the modern culture.

Meritocracy, at least in it’s modern usage, can be reasonably broken down as “People reach their position on their own merits”.  In it’s more applied version, pre-selection, it is an extremely powerful force that works in ways that often defy common understanding or even official codified policy.  It might not be overstating the case to indicate that an understanding of Meritocracy and Pre-Selection, as they actually function, accounts for the majority of the otherwise questionable decisions made by large organizations.

To use an example that is fairly non-controversial, nearly the entire active roster of the NFL comes from the ranks of collegiate football programs of the so-called Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), previously known as “Division I-A”, generally the football programs of the major 5 conferences.  These programs, in turn, each have their own recruiting programs, many of which end up chasing the same pool of prospective students.  This pool, despite the most sincere beliefs found on ESPN, is not comprised of the most genetically gifted and/or hard working students available, it is a pool selected by a number of other programs, be they existing “scout” programs, a University’s own “scouting” program, or the tradition method of High School coaches sending in video.  With modern social media, one presumes highlight tapes are even easier to provide than in prior years.

In any event, the High School, either Public or Private (which creates other issues) coach has already been subject to the same “recruiting pool” issues, only on a much smaller scale.  He will have had to filter out candidates that didn’t meet his standards for whatever reason, presumably had to remove students who had academic or disciplinary issues, and, presumably, only made decisions made on the basis of his coaching position for the best interests of his players in accordance with his local School’s policies*, not by any undue influence from other stakeholders.

This “pool”, which is already limited by geography, policy, and age limitations, was already sorted by yet another set of prior forces.  In short, if someone is not playing at some sort of age-appropriate or age-accelerated level by age 14 (sources vary) at the latest, then they would not be selected for the high school pool without stakeholder intervention.

The author uses this example, which is fairly well understood, if not always appreciated by the relevant parties, as the introduction to the concept of “pre-selection”, as applied in the modern regime.  Where the understanding occasionally fails, even in the most heterodox of sub-cultures, is that versions of this pre-selection occur in almost every conceivable facet of modern society.

Contrary to what elements of the educational elite profess to believe, even the so-called “Public Ivies” aren’t even doing admissions by impartial academic standards, they are doing them based on the SAT/ACT score, which is at least reasonably impartial, but they are using various combinations of weighted GPA, “extra-curriculars”, and whatever “Holistic” measurement the admissions department uses to keep their jobs another year.  Higher on the education food chain, the weighting is such that even children of the near-elite are unlikely to be looked at without extraordinary fact patterns.

However, large portions of our society, even the heterodox sub-cultures, at some level, are willing to accept “The Judgment of High School”.  Be it fitness advocates who would splinter over scholastic athletic careers, political partisans who talk about “X party supporters got picked on in high school”, or even the self-selected followers of the “Red Pill Movement” who fairly openly consider the acquisition of social skills at the secondary education level to be a fundamental prerequisite(2) for successfully navigating their world of competitive social circles.  Even some of the most radical elements of the most radical sub-cultures, some of which otherwise reject the legitimacy of modern educational institutions, can be found comparing themselves to other parties based on their self-reported scholastic achievements (3), be they academic, social, sexual, or athletic.

To briefly discuss a possible, but not exclusive counter-argument, this argument is not saying that there is no such of thing as differences in talents and achievements, this argument is pointing out that many people, including those that would otherwise reject the legitimacy and/or existence of the modern secondary education system, actually accept it’s “Judgments”, and treat them as final.

(1) The author will assume that the reader can understand sarcasm and some knowledge of how this field really works.

(2) Judging from commentary over the years, it appears some individuals involved in that field do not mention this before accepting payment for their instruction.

(3) No names in the comments.

Bullying (Part I)

“What I don’t know, I don’t like
What I don’t like, I don’t want
What I don’t want, I waste”

“Waste” – KMFDM

The original blog posts on which this was based on can be found on PA’s blog here: (First) and (Additional commentary).

Bullying, stripped of the “current year” political uses, is…

Bullying is the de facto appropriation of power by a party who does not have that power de jure.

No sane society can tolerate handing authority to children, Lord of the Flies was not an instruction book. However, we, as a society, have effectively delegated authority to “manage” other children down to young children, after all, who does the average age-segregated child spend more waking hours around, biological family members, an individual teacher/instructor/day care employee, or other age-segregated children? In the modern litigation-friendly environment, schools, day cares, programs, (Henceforth referred to as “Institutions”) all are limited in what levels of “care, custody, and control” they can exercise, but the same logic applies to other children, after all, if one child hits another, that is obviously not assault in the mens rea sense.

That leaves a vast gulf between the perceived and actual physical power of the Institutions, and more importantly, their front-line personnel. To paint an all too realistic situation, if a child is perceived as troublesome, how hard is it for an underpaid employee to “turn a blind eye” while another child hits them? The victim, whatever their “offense” is, has no review, no appeal, no recourse to the courts, the event never took place as far as our society is concerned. Project this logic outwards and you end up with a “Lord of the Flies” situation.

Before our current social atomization, these situations was partially mitigated by family and traditional neighborhood structures. While it was not quite an interlocking series of relationships like the Roman Clientele system, presumably anyone living in a village or neighborhood had blood or marriage ties to other people, or as our economists might say today, Detection and Reputation Risk. In a socially atomized world, there aren’t any structures other than Institutions, and the State to deal with these situations, to the extent that people even know or are willing to accept that they occur in the first place.

In recent decades, it has generally been understood that avoiding physical violence, outside scholastic or collegiate sporting fields and State employment, is a requirement for status. Since at least the 1940s, one did not get good job offers with a reputation for street fights, making avoidance of any paper trail a requirement. The “Zero Tolerance” movement of the 1990s actually made things far worse, turning into a way for administrators to remove or otherwise neutralize “disruptive” children and blaming higher authority. It turned out that neutralizing “disruptive” students from status-seeking families was far easier when violence against them would result in an administrative proceeding to threaten their future status, or as it used to be referred to as, “The Permanent Record”. For those that the respective personnel did not want to neutralize, there was always appeals, fact-finding, and the simple expedient of never reporting the incident.

In the above examples or situations, there was fairly little malice, as it is commonly understood, by the Institution proper, only decisions, perhaps made in seconds when dealing with children, made by front-line personnel that may or may not be employed by that institution, may or may not have their own legal, moral, and family obligations, and may or may not rely on that institution for their status and/or livelihood. There does not need to be a formal decision on a memo that “we will make Chad king of the playground”, there only needs to be quiet indifference from one or two front-line personnel that Chad may engage in violence without effective response. In fact, if another child engages in defense, that would create an altercation that must be responded to, which makes that front-line personnel’s day more difficult. The incentives are for these problems to go away.

From an individual actor perspective, the issue has been resolved by the simple expedient of not becoming an issue in the first place. From a legal perspective, there is no issue. From Chad’s perspective, violence worked. From a social and systems viewpoint, the de jure authority of the institution has been effectively de facto usurped by Chad without any response.

Polis Architecture, now and then

“The entire character of a base and its inhabitants can be absorbed in a quick trip to the Rec Commons. The sweaty arenas of Fort Legion, the glittering gambling halls of Morgan Bank, the sunny lovers’ trysts in Gaia’s High Garden, or the somber reading rooms of U.N. Headquarters. Even the feeding bay at the Hive gives stark insight into the sleeping demons of Yang’s communal utopia.”

-Commissioner Pravin Lal, “A Social History of Planet”

We live in an era of unprecedented engineering accomplishments.  A member of the Western Middle Class, bearing the right passport, can eat breakfast in their hometown, and have dinner on another continent, time differences permitting.  All but the smallest and most remote regions of the developed world are served by a regular and reliable set of transportation nodes.  Modern construction equipment can move literal mountains in months, assuming one has the proper paperwork (or bribes).

Historically, most city-states, the polis as the Greeks (and later Romans) termed it, have had some form of public architecture.  In fact, as late as the 1940s, it was considered rather unusual for a city not to have a distinctive architecture, see much of the negative commentary directed towards Orange County developments in California, and the negative public views towards the sprawl of post-war London.  From Egypt, the Forbidden City, Palatine Hill, the Hagia Sophia, Westminster, to Wall Street, the powerful Polis of the day has always had architecture to demonstrate it’s power, and to provide key services.

To the great medieval cities, perhaps not on the level of the Imperial Capitals of the day, constructing a Cathedral was the act of becoming a major city, to stop up to being poleis, and they moved the proverbial “Heaven and Earth” to get there.  Venice’s great bridges could take years of taxation and contributions, and Cologne, perhaps not wanting to be outdone in the history of construction project overruns, took 632 years to finish to the original plan.  By comparison, the most impressive construction projects of the modern Western World, in dollar value, are either pork barrel projects like Boston’s Big Dig, or Casinos, most notably in Las Vegas.

Polis, in the traditional sense, do not exist in the modern western world.  If an urban center wished to spent 10 years of tax revenue to build a public building, it could only be a sports arena, and it would be conveyed to a private, connected interest.  Even then, this arena would be divided into different classes and sliced and diced like a mortgage backed security into so much ticket inventory.  While many of the most elite corporations and organizations in each city are willing to buy skyboxes, they are meant as tokens of their power to be shown to prospective clients or to family members, not to show their membership in the greater civic fabric.

While people generally do not value what is given to them, marketing everything to the price of a basic ticket means that entertainment must be marketed to the lowest paying denominator.  Tens of thousands arrive, masticate greasy food, cheer for a given set of mercenaries, and leave with little or no more connection to the polis then when they arrived.   Whatever else can be said about the great civic works of the past, they do not lack for inspiring some sort of feelings towards the polis.

 

Overture

“A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct.”

“A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct.”

Dune, Frank Herbert

This blog is meant to explore themes of our daily lives and the grand performance that is the opera of the current year.  As time goes on, this blog will fill up both with my “musings”, but also with the views of our fellow travelers and commentators.  For those who know of my writings and my views, welcome aboard.  For those of you not familiar with them yet, enjoy the ride.