I suppose it might be possible to find a more idiotic way to fund higher education, but I cannot conceive of what that might be. Student loan debt now stands at 1.1 trillion dollars, apparently higher even than credit card debt. Congress in its willful and infinite ignorance just allowed the rate on student loans to double. As many of the students in debt cannot find jobs to begin with, and those with jobs generally don’t earn enough to making paying back their loans very easy or even feasible, the possibilities for defaults will inevitably grow. And, of course, fewer and fewer young people will be able to attend college. In any case, we now have generations of wage slaves, the same generations that will be responsible for taking over the tasks of governing, making advances in science, technology, medicine, and promoting human life in general. This is, to put it mildly, “NO WAY TO RUN A RAILROAD,” and certainly does not bode well for the future of the U.S.
This ridiculous situation is the very antithesis of how a democracy is supposed to both survive and thrive; that is, with an educated citizenry. We have allowed our young people to become prey for capitalistic, privatization bloodsuckers, a clever but rather obscene way of making short term profits at the expense of our future. It would seem obvious to me that when a nation neglects to educate succeeding generations in the very skills they will need to keep it successfully functioning it is heading for eventual disaster. When you consider what is happening to the U.S., no longer leading in virtually any mathematical, scientific, medical, or vital educational category, this seems to be, in fact, coming true. We are, by choice it appears, becoming a third world nation.
How is it we have allowed this to happen? Is it an accident because we weren’t paying attention? Partly perhaps. Is it because we can’t afford it? Obviously not. Is it because we don’t really need an educated citizenry? Of course not. Is it simply inevitable? That, I think, depends on the circumstances. Perhaps the simplest explanation (possibly even the best) is because our country is controlled by a few huge international corporations who demand low wages everywhere they operate, which inevitably drives down wages in the U.S. and decreases the demand for better educated citizens. But I think it is a more complicated and longer story than that with a history of the attitudinal change and an accompanying attack on our educational institutions.
Our basic attitude towards education and the educated seems to have slowly changed. Remember those stories of how children had to walk several miles to school, or ride horseback, and endure hardships of various kinds, of how Lincoln studied by firelight on the floor of their cabin, how small communities raised money for a one room schoolhouse, and so on. Actually much of that was true. In the earlier days of our Republic there was a value placed on education and people did suffer in order to achieve it. Now, of course, it is difficult for communities to fund their schools, class sizes are large, regimentation rather than education seems to be the priority. Many children do not even want to go to school. Large numbers do not graduate from High School. There is an important movement underway to privatize our schools, thus making a profit from our children and their well-being. Our schools are ripe for capitalistic short-term profit making just like our prisons, hospitals, and so on. While this might well be good for business in the short run it is suicidal for a nation in the long run.
Interestingly enough even the concept of a “nation” is slowly disappearing. A few enormous corporations, with annual budgets that exceed those of most nations, control our lives. As these are international entities, national boundaries and interests are not as important as they previously were, and this change is accelerating. As corporations can find what they need elsewhere if a nation’s rules and regulations are regarded as too stringent, either the rules must change for their benefit or a nation loses out in the competition.
Our attitudes toward higher learning, too, have changed. Now we speak of “Nutty Professors,” “Pointy-headed Intellectuals,” “Know-nothing Perfessers,” and say things like “Them as can’t do, teach,” and so on. Even many who should know better disparage education:
“Strange as it seems, no amount of learning can cure stupidity, and higher education positively fortifies it,” Stephen Vizinczey; “America believes in education: the average professor earns more money in a year than a professional athlete earns in a whole week, Evan Esar; “The difference between intelligence and education is this: intelligence will make you a good living, Charles F. Kettering; “A fool's brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry. Hence University education,” George Bernard Shaw; Academe, n.: An ancient school where morality and philosophy were taught. Academy, n.: A modern school where football is taught, Ambrose Bierce.
It is true that for every negative quote you can find on education there are many more extolling the importance of it. But when you look at what is actually happening to education in the U.S. you soon realize these are mostly idle chatter. Those with power and influence in the U.S. are not only sucking the blood from our young people, they are sucking it from the nation itself.
The school is the last expenditure upon which America should be willing to economize.
Franklin D. Roosevelt