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.