What is the greater value of an object branded with some logo or another? State governments spend countless tax dollars urging us to “Wander Indiana” or “Say Yes to Michigan.” Energy drinks slap logos on stunt planes, racecars and speedboats to associate the product with “go-fast” activities. Handbag manufacturers are entitled to significantly jack-up the price (and demand) for a conspicuously labeled purse. There are good reasons that many of us weigh branding heavily in our decision-making and some not so good. Status, assumption of quality, nostalgia or celebrity association are often cited. Likewise, communities, social groups, universities and other distinctly human organizations rely upon branding to create cohesion and group identity.
We are Italian American, practitioners of faith, proud Cornhuskers and many others. We wear the jerseys, donate money and advocate for the well-being of the order. Mostly, we benefit from adhesion to the affiliation. Is it possible that we could be harmed by it, too? If we attend, for example, an institution of higher education that has made choices to drift from core teaching principles into other perhaps worthy but not directly related to the training-required topics, does that mean a certain percentage, no matter how small, of our meager instructional hours are devoted to imparting persuasive advocacy rather than technical knowledge? Would our education quality be reduced by a corresponding percentage?
If the professor spends any class time discussing the alphabet soup of common causes, UAW, NRA, ESG, what is not being covered? Is it possible that we have instructional opportunity to waste? Regardless, how would a recent graduate even criticize the gap? Once one has spent the $300,000 for the Ivy League degree, can they wisely say that they are undereducated? Are they trapped in a paradox wherein complaining about the product is akin to complaining about oneself?