My friend Ignacio is a nice, serious-minded young Venezuelan professional who likes to err on the side of rectitude: the type of guy who consciously avoids cutting in line at the bank and only goes through the 10-items or less checkout lane when he has ten items or less. His driver’s certificado medico was actually the result of an eye exam and did not involve a happy envelope. He would never kick a child for cake ingredients.
After a gruelling, months’ long process of standardized tests, applications, interviews and essays, Ignacio was recently admitted to two prestigious higher learning institutions in the U.S., Stansbury University and Harlow University, where he hopes to further his understanding of International Economics on his way to a Master’s Degree. Way to go, Ignacio.
But there’s a rub: in order to go to school abroad, Ignacio must procure foreign cash. Which he’s not allowed to have in Venezuela. Thankfully, the helpful people over at CADIVI have devised an ingeniously modern and totally transparent system whose sole objective is to help and support all those seeking an education to reach their noble goal while keeping our national economy afloat.
It’s really not CADIVI’s fault that anyone requesting tuition to finance their higher learning must deal with the manila folders, the requisite stickers, the color coding, the alphabetizing of bank statements, and the starting all over again because of a missed coma on page 17. Don’t shoot the messenger, they’re just trying to help.
And anyone complaining about the fact that one’s access to funding for a Master’s degree is only possible if your chosen field of study is contained within the pre-approved list that CAVIDI, again, helpfully publishes on its website…well, that’s just arrogant. Surely this list is the result of objective criteria that us regular citizens are not privy to, and, really, who are we to question the government?
No one really says it, but obviously an integral part of the CADIVI process, as with any other process related to public services in Venezuela, involves fudging some facts. Nothing serious. In fact, nothing, period. Its totally normal and expected and harmless and I don’t see what the big deal is.
It turns out that Ignacio’s chosen discipline, International Economic Development, is not a CADIVI-approved field for graduate studies. So good, law-abiding Ignacio proceeds to do the logical thing: he calls the Stansbury admissions department and matter-of-factly asked that they lie in the official acceptance letter the Venezuelan government would receive, and just pretend that he’s studying Social Economics instead.
Do you KNOW what they said???
“Mr. Ignacio, we don’t do that sort of thing, and frankly, we’re offended that you would even ask.”
Its not like Ignacio’s asking you to do anything that illegal… just to fake an official document making up a major that doesn’t exist. In the Venezuelan moral gradient, that’s not even a wrist-slappable offense. He wasn’t trafficking drugs, or stealing public funds, or bribing supreme court magistrates to incarcerate innocent judges. So it’s bad enough that Venezuelan schools are crumbling, but now foreign universities pooh-pooh our harmless attempts at undermining their code of ethics, all in the name of a post-graduate degree? What has this world come to?
Now that I think about it, Ignacio should’ve saved himself the humiliation of Stansbury’s feigned indignation, as well as a bunch of wasted time and money, and given up on his useless International Economics study plan. Everyone knows you make a lot more money while adding no value whatsoever to our national economy in the exciting field of permuteo. You don’t need any sort of degree for that, just a morally pliable value system and a knack for looking the other way.
And in those things, we Venezuelans, willingly or not, all have PhD’s.
OK, snarkasm aside, this is a cautionary about the difficulties of studying abroad, sure, but it also illustrates two tragic truths about education: first, that education begins with values, and we don’t even have an incentive to learn and exercise those in Venezuela. But, wrapped up with that, it’s that our petrostate, rife with exchange controls and distortions, makes engaging in quick and easy non-productive activities way more attractive than, y’know, studying and becoming a real professional. How are we supposed to compete in this world of knowledge if any fool who runs around permuteando makes 20 times more dough than our best-educated professional?
*Ignacio’s name and identifying details have been changed, for, ahem, obvious reasons.
**Stansbury University does not, in fact, exist.