Bryan Caplan  

A Szaszian Take on Conformity Signaling

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From The Sheepskin Psychosis by John Keats:
By what standards do the college psychiatrists judge [would-be drop-outs] to be immature?  A psychiatrist is prone to measure maturity by the degree to which an individual adapts or adjusts to, or accepts or makes his peace with, the social milieu in which he finds himself.  The psychiatrist is not prone to look with favor upon the man who suggests everyone is out of step but him, or upon the man whose reaction to society is to reject it.
Notice: Keats simultaneously illustrates the facts that (a) college graduation signals conformity, because non-conformists wander off in frustration, and (b) psychiatry medicalizes a timeless clash of personality and ethics.

COMMENTS (1 to date)
Shane L writes:

In my school, giving up and making no effort was the norm for boys. If you wanted to signal conformity: sit back, feign indifference, and fail.

It was those who struggled to overcome difficulties, who studied and risked failure but succeeded in the end, who were the non-conformists. Having a PhD was highly unusual. Hence getting a college qualification could signal personal courage and rebelliousness in a region where few people attend university.

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