Varsity Black & Blues

“The mania about status is a marker of our new Gilded Age.”

— Viet Nguyen

Political corruption is so pervasive that it is almost a given. It is the exception that stands out. The recent death of Shelly Silver, the former Speaker of the Assembly in New York stands out only because he died while in prison — an unusual and sad event. As one of the “three men in the room” which included him and Cuomo who is now also gone, only the $400,000 in cash found in his Chief of Staff’s closet — which she claimed she was unaware of — has any humorous implications. Only the Rothchilds would find it amusing. I didn’t either. I failed to see the humor in it when when I was denied Work Release in prison four times while Silver’s friend William Rapfogel got it immediately. It was good to know Silver could even pull strings AFTER he was indicted and convicted — three times. Like Murray, in Goodfellas, who asked “What am I a schmuck on wheels,” I kept trying but I had a mean-spirited D.A. trying to keep me IN prison because I was writing about his pay-to-play operation and the stacking of the Suffolk County court system with corrupt judges — which is still going on in the Hamptons. The Feds finally got Spota and he’s doing soft time in Otisville.

But, you know, it’s not only politics that’s seeming extra dirty these days. It’s the Justice system itself, and has also infected Education. We are all familiar with the status system in America. The Varsity Blues prosecution, whereby money was spread around to gain entrance to exalted institutions of higher learning was noteworthy if not surprising.

I always wanted to attend Harvard. Not because I’d learn anything. I just wanted to have an easier time getting into graduate school, have an advantage in my job search and get laid more often. Instead I went to Wagner College where I was assaulted by a pedophile professor (a reputable Christian) and then attended NYU before it took over most of Greenwich Village. In those days, the late sixties and early 70’s (Dylan was around the block at Gerde’s Folk City in the 60’s performing but was ignored because the students didn’t think he could sing), NYU was trying to become the downtown version of Columbia University. A girl I wanted to date knew I hadn’t gone to Harvard and therefore wouldn’t play with me but she did interest me in the Ph.D. program she was attending in the late sixties. I listened to her because I was searching for a way to avoid being riddled with bullets in Vietnam.

The program was called Media Ecology. Essentially, she said, it was a completely bullshit program run by a couple of hippy professors, including Neil Postman and one of his buddies, who simply repeated Marshall McLuhan’s “The Medium is the Message” for a few years while everyone smoked dope. The program is now called Media, Culture & Communication. No one wanted to talk to me recently because of my age, my stint in prison, the books I’d written, and the fact that I knew it was a bullshit program — not to mention the fact that I hadn’t ever paid into the Alumni program. I knew too much. Postman wouldn’t even return my emails about the program when he started it during the anti-war hysteria.

The same was true of the Social Work program where psychotherapy was taught before it was called a “Clinical” program. The fact that I’d attended and was granted a Master’s in the 70’s and written numerous books and had intimate knowledge of the fact that there was ZERO mental health treatment in the prison system now sealed my fate. I knew too much. And, again, my age stood in the way. Plus, the people at the Social Work program had no idea when prison treatment was like — and didn’t care.

So, how is this relevant? Stay with me.

I also attended Columbia University doctoral program. But, I couldn’t stay because I ran out of money. The professor who was my advisor suggested I take a leave because there was no money in those days if your family wasn’t rich or connected. The leave was open-ended. I took it and wanted to return. Someday. Like, now.

Both Columbia and New York University rejected my recent attempts to continue my education. Both schools wanted me to start from scratch in providing them with testing (a big business in itself), background information, my reasons for wanting to attend and……..(drum roll) my history of alumni participation and contributions. My interviews held by foreign graduate students who assessed my credentials and suitability to return to the fold and experience after spending four years in prison — who weren’t interested in reading my books about political and social corruption — were very good at vetting my “alumni activities.” They were looking for people who would make them look good. Not people who could do something NOW for the community.

I’ve always believed that the simplest explanation is the best. Like Occam’s Razor, arriving at the bottom line quickly always seemed best. I’m not an Existentialist. I’m an Absurdist.

Our educational system, from High Schools like Dalton in Manhattan to graduate schools like Columbia, NYU or UCLA, is corrupt. University degrees from our elite institutions are bought and paid for so when someone at a party drops the name of a school like Columbia, New York University, UCLA or Harvard — laugh or walk away — unless you want to engage and ask, “What did that cost?” And, you won’t be talking about tuition.

If you can’t buy your way in with “Legacy programs,” donate a building, buy a degree or prop up the Alumni program — forget it.

Oh, and none of my children made it into either school. But they did make the Wait list at NYU. The others from China, Africa and Eastern Europe made it in. My three degrees from NYU didn’t qualify them as Legacy.

As George Carlin said, It’s called the American Dream—because you have to be asleep to believe it.

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