Since then, things have been pretty tame. In an earlier edition of this newsletter, I wrote about non-fungible tokens and how we should think of them as online communes and not only as get-rich-quick schemes. The mix of shared purpose and alienation in NFT online communities came, in part, from earlier iterations of Bitcoiners, who, aside from spreading their gospel, would proselytize about everything from food choices (for a while, a whole bunch of Bitcoin maximalists I know ate only meat) to politics. None of this was particularly pretty, but it did cohere into something of a vision for the world.
The underlying question back then was whether the ideology of Bitcoin was central to its economic viability. Did trying to overthrow the existing order make the price go up or down?
That question, at least for now, seems to have been answered. Bitcoin’s market cap now weighs in at over $1 trillion, and while it’s hard to tell how this ETF will continue to affect the market, it’s also become increasingly unclear what Bitcoin is supposed to do. Newer projects such as “decentralized finance” and NFTs have tenuously taken over Bitcoin’s role as chief disrupter, faintly echoing the call to leave the central banks and the traditional ways of life. (They do not, however, ask people to move to a lawless patch of the Nevada desert.) This is ultimately a good thing, but it does inspire the question: If Bitcoin isn’t about taking power away from central banks and governments, then what, exactly, is it?
Community colleges lose again
Last Wednesday, the news came out that the White House would be cutting free community college from its highly contested economic plan. I’ve written about standardized testing and its effects on diversity efforts in the University of California system in the past. What’s clear to me is that the problem with equity in the system isn’t really because of testing, but has to do with overall exclusivity. As long as admissions rates stay low, diversity will continue to be a problem, regardless of whether you require testing.
My solution to this problem is to expand significantly the community college transfer program. This would offer students from more working-class backgrounds, who may not be able to afford four years at the university, or who, perhaps in some instances, suffered through instability that made it harder to do well in high school, a better shot at attending the state’s pre-eminent institutions.
Higher education has long been an unsustainable mess. Tuitions are too high, and the admission rates at many state schools are too low, which then forces high school students to focus on competing with one another. Standardized tests have long been villainized as a major culprit, but those who look only at the means of competition oftentimes fail to see the larger picture.
The bigger problem is that there aren’t enough paths into these schools, which, in turn, forces too many students to try to push through a narrow doorway. If state-run higher education institutions actually want to have a socioeconomically and racially diverse student body, which includes students who may not have the wherewithal to join the academic death march, they should reserve a significant portion of their student body for students who want to transfer in from community colleges in their state.