Schooling the Academics
As I write this Cinemax is running the 1986 comedy Back to School.
The movie stars Rodney Dangerfield, the brilliant stand-up comic whose theme was always, “I get no respect.”
The theme of Back to School is Dangerfield’s, who co-wrote the story, about a successful self-made multi-millionaire whose only schooling is the School of Hard Knocks, versus snobbish and entitled academics with no real-world accomplishments who give the real-world achiever no respect. As Dangerfield’s movie portrays, the feeling is mutual.
I dropped out of college, the only community college that would accept me based on a certificate of completion from a private tutorial academy, in my second semester. It wasn’t only that I was bored by instructors who couldn’t write or argue as well as I already could from what I’d learned in my own reading and teenage entrepreneurial pursuits, but the academic atmosphere itself offended me. A psychology course expected me to share my personal life with other students, all strangers, as if this were group therapy. I’d already undergone several years of private psychiatry which had been personally beneficial and knew what issues were mine to resolve, but nobody else’s business.
As well, after years of sitting in classrooms that taught me far less than days reading books I’d chosen from visits to libraries, I was impatient to test myself in the real world. I’d already achieved minor success as a photo-journalist who beginning at age 14 had sold photography to local newspapers and portrait photography to individual clients. Now, pursuing writing as my new profession, I was more interested in making sales to newspapers, magazines, and book publishers. Delaying this by sitting in classrooms that had nothing to teach me that I couldn’t teach myself more efficiently had no appeal to me. The social approval of others who would judge me not on my actual work but on academic degrees struck me as remnants of an aristocratic Old World that I thought the American Revolution was fought to disestablish.
Today, after decades in the real-world marketplace, I can acknowledge lost opportunities because I didn’t pursue academic degrees. I wasn’t entirely allergic to classrooms and audited Murray Rothbard classes in economics he taught in Brooklyn. I’ve taken extension courses in subjects that interested me at UCLA. I achieved a certificate from college courses in police work that qualified me to become a California peace officer, though I never was offered employment in the field. And I even taught a graduate course in digital publishing for the New School, based on my own early entrepreneurship in the field, to students seeking a Masters degree. One of my students was a vice-president at Prentice-Hall publishing.
Nonetheless, when in the 1990’s I applied for a full-time editorial position at Reason Magazine after having been published in Reason, National Review, the Orange County Register, the Los Angeles Times Book Review, the Los Angeles Times Op-Ed page; had two award-winning novels published by major New York publishers; and had written for prime-time network television, Reason editor Virginia Postrel told me in a phone follow-up to my job application that I didn’t even make her top-ten for the position because I didn’t have a Bachelor’s degree.
The only paid editorial office position I ever scored in my career was working for a soft-core porn pulp magazine published by Screw Magazine’s Al Goldstein.
Today — even having achieved endorsements and praise on my writing from numerous doctorate-wielding university professors — academics with no publishing credits nearing my own in both popular media and academic journals, dominate conferences from the Independent Institute, Students for Liberty, CATO, the Reason Foundation, and conferences like PorcFest leaning to the left and FreedomFest leaning to the right — and I haven’t received a main-program-track speaking offer at any of these events for years.
I have friends like Brad Linaweaver — who holds a Masters Degree in English from the ivy-league Rollins College — who has real-world publishing credits as long or longer than my own. Academic achievement does not preclude real-world results.
But my disgust and contempt for supposedly libertarian publishers, conference organizers, and organizations that give out grants and awards for writing, publishing, and producing serious works encompassing free-market and libertarian ideas — preferencing academics over marketplace achievers like myself — makes me want to aim projectile vomit over their revanchist Old World Class.
This, alone, loses the libertarian future, and don’t think this autodidact doesn’t hate their guts because of their discriminatory lack of respect.