Off to See the Wizard of Ed

ASV.   I am sitting in the office of Warren Bernie, Founder and President of OZ University.  Tell me, Mr. Bernie, what is the significance of the name Oz.

WB.   That’s actually O-Z, it stands for “On to the Zenith".

ASV   Well there goes my best joke.  I was going to call you a wizard.  Oh well….On the Zenith.  And that refers to…?

WB   The Zenith is an astronomical term referring to the top of the top, which is where all our students will end up.

ASV   The top of the top.  So this is going to be an elitist school, recruiting the best students and educating them for success.

WB  In some ways yes, but in others, decidedly no.

ASV  Let’s start with the “No.”  So either you’re not going to train the students for success or you’re not erecting high entrance standards.

WB   We have no entrance standards.  We don’t believe in them.  

ASV  You don’t believe in high standards?

WB   We don’t believe in any standards.  They’re un-American.  I can see you’re shocked."

ASV  Maybe not shocked, but I wonder what educational background you have, President Bernie.

WB  I got an ED--no jokes, I heard them all from Bob Dole, when I was special assistant for public relations to Bill Bennet.

ASV   Ah, no wonder.

WB   Still making the jokes.   Haven’t you heard that in America anyone can grow up to be President?  You believe that, don’t you?

ASV   After the Bushes, Clinton, and Obama, how could I not?

WB.  Exactly.  In the bad old days, only men of intelligence, character, and education could be president.  Men like Jefferson and Adams or even Teddy Roosevelt.   That was all because of prejudice.  Lincoln was right.  We have a government for the people and to have that it has to be government by the people.  The average guy.

ASV  What about neurosurgeons and engineers?

WB  What about them?  You think they’re special just because they have degrees from fancy schools?

ASV But they had to study hard, master difficult subjects..

WB Naturally, that’s what they always say, but I don’t buy it.  What they have are credentials, degrees.  At OZU, anyone can  receive whatever degree  they want.

ASV I believe you mean “he wants.”

WB. That’s just more elitism.  It’s everywhere.  You’re a grammar snob, and there are food snobs and music snobs.  Who are you to say that some opera singer is better than Miley Cyrus?  Or Mozart is better than that guy who you know, writes the songs?  Wayne Newton, yeah, Wayne Newton.

ASV I think you mean Barry Manilow.

WB  There you go again—you’re also a fact snob, as if remembering that World War Two ended in 1972.  It’s not important.  You think Barack Obama knows that?  Or Joe Biden?  Or Bill Gates.  Or George Clooney.  You know, the people who really count.  Fact nerds like you don’t rule the world or get things done.  People made fun of my old boss Bill, just because he referred to "the published works of Socrates". As if anyone could care about Socrates!  He made so much money he could afford to blow piles of it in Atlantic City, playing video poker in his room.  That's what you can do with a real education!  Guys like Bill spit on facts.  If you don't believe me, take a look at his doctoral dissertation--a hundred pages, including notes and biography.  Not a fact in it.

ASV  So facts don’t matter.  Wouldn’t that mean that con artists could just make things up as they go along?  I could pretend to be an obstetrician, and you could be the Pope or—and here I am reaching—a Native American Princess.

WB. So now you’re also an ethics snob.  Listen, I can be anything I want to be, like in that Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie Bronco Billy.  And don’t try to correct me on that, because if there’s one thing I know it’s Hollywood movies.  Tinsel Town is the real America, America that way it oughta be and will be, once every gets their MDs and PhDs from OZU.

ASV OK   Let’s say you’ve sold me on your dream.  Isn’t it a little impractical?  I mean from the Bill Bennet perspective.

WB   How so?

ASV   Bear with me as I play logic snob for just a moment.  Presumably you’re not going to spend all this time without getting something out of it…

WB   Say, you bet I’m not.  I’ve put myself down for a salary of $300 K to start, with housing, car, travel budget and living expenses.  I figure the package adds up to half a mill.

ASV  But where will this money come from?  You think students and parents are going to pay serious tuition for a school that says up front it’s just a storefront diploma mill?  

WB   You’re dumber than I thought, just like all you grammar snobs and virtue-shamers.   Don’t you read the papers or watch CNN?  The next President’s gonna be a Democrat—probably either Bernie or Liz Warren.  Bernie says he’s going to forgive all college debts, and the little Princess—she’s some smart cookie, even if she did teach at Harvard—is going to guarantee a free college education to everyone in the entire country.  And we haven’t even heard from Pete and Beto yet.  No debts, free college, guaranteed graduation.  I don’t think even community colleges are ready to hand out degrees without classes and exams, and that’s where OZU comes in.  We’ll charge $250,000 from the degree, and the government will pay every penny upfront, no questions asked.  It’s the American way.

ASV  What happens if Trump wins the election?

WB  You’re singing the same old song, but now you’re just a number snob.  This is what the people want, what the people need.  You actually think  they’ll let a little thing like vote totals get in the way.

ASV  I'm beginning to see your point, and,  since you’re a movie buff, I’m sure you’ll remember another innovative college president who declared, 

Why, anybody can have a brain. That’s a very mediocre commodity. Every pusillanimous creature that crawls on the Earth or slinks through slimy seas has a brain. Back where I come from, we have universities, seats of great learning, where men go to become great thinkers. And when they come out, they think deep thoughts and with no more brains than you have. But they have one thing you haven’t got, a diploma.  Therefore, by the authority vested in me by the university comitiartum e pluribus unum I hereby confer upon you the honorary degree of Th.D..that’s doctor of thinkology.

Sir, I salute you.  You really are a wizard.


After being blacklisted from all the usual news outlets, A.S. Vaught spent ten years as the star reporter for SNO News, covering the world from the top down.

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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

3 Responses

  1. Raymond Olson says:

    The founder–nay, creator–of Oz, Frank Baum, would be so proud and pleased by Warren Bernie and his enterprise! Quite exemplary of his American Progressive Paradise.

  2. Robert Reavis says:

    Trump is beginning to sound more and more like a normal republican which should spell doom for any second term. Not that it matters at this point but if Bolton and his fellow travelers get their way and another new war in Iran, it will be a new beginning for the Dems and the beginning of the end for Trump. He has fired most of those who helped put him in office and hired a bunch of those who hated him which is a very old practice for The GOP and one that has proven to fail at the presidential level but has always worked well at the congressional level for both parties.

  3. Robert Reavis says:

    Dear Dr Fleming,
    I think you reached the right pitch for the prevailing philosophy at almost all of our American schools. Having raised a number of children who attended various prep schools and colleges from the Ivy leagues to state universities the underlying philosophy was always the same only the rigor by which the dialectal ( or scientific relativism )was to be mastered differed from one school to the next. And that only by degrees— as in engineering, nursing, liberal arts, etc