Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Cost of Ignorance

I just spent some time checking the cost of tuition and room and board at my undergraduate alma mater, Ashland University.  It now costs $38, 360--per year.  This would mean over $150,000 in student loan debt for a four year degree.  And this isn't unusual.  Private liberal arts colleges have become totally unaffordable for all but the most affluent of families.

My parents didn't go to college.  They were excited for me to go.  Attending college was the most intellectually enriching experience of my life.  It changed the direction of my life for the better.  I was introduced to the classics of literature, art, philosophy, and religion.  I was exposed to ideas, history, and beliefs that I could never have learned on my own.  It was a monumental period of personal growth for me.  I can't imagine my life without that experience.  Because my parents didn't have that exposure, they couldn't have given that experience.  Despite the quality of my high school education, I wasn't mature enough and ready to grow at this level.  College wasn't just about learning vocational skills to earn money.  It was about sampling the history of Western civilization, about understanding the world and learning to think critically.  It was about learning what was needed to be an informed citizen and a non brainwashed consumer.  The experience was valuable in itself, apart from any monetary considerations or potential employment.

It saddens me to see that my future children, and my current niece and nephew, will never know that experience.  The cost of college has become prohibitively expensive.

This is all the same for the corporations.  After all, the more student loans people have, the more docile they will be when they start to work.  They become indentured servants.  The other issue is that critical thinking skills are simply not in the long term interest of the corporations.  This might lead people to avoid buying unnecessary junk.  Millions of dollars are spent trying to convince us to buy junk.  Not to mention that critical thinkers ask pesky questions, such as "why don't we have universal health care" or "why isn't everyone paying their fair share", or, even worse, "why are we going to war for oil industry profits?"  Plus, well educated people expect to use their degrees to earn money.  But if it is cheaper to hire well educated Indian workers, such as engineers and programmers at a fraction of the cost of American workers, then why educate Americans in the first place?  All this leads to is increased anger and hostility.  No sense in that.  Better off keeping everyone in America as ignorant and as docile as possible.

It's amazing to me how some people say that we can't afford to give people access to health care and education.  We are the richest nation in the world.  Our economy dwarfs that of countries like Sweden, Cuba, and even Japan.  Yet somehow these countries find the money to provide universal health care for everyone, and to educate their populace.  The literacy rate in Cuba, which has been suffering from U.S. economic terrorism for the last 50 years, is above 98%.  Their health outcomes are better, too.

The truth is that we can find the money to pay LeBron James, Jamie Dimon, and other jokers, but the reason we don't have the money is because we don't value education in this country.  Politicians can give lip service to education all they want, but just look at the hostile attack on teachers and No Child Left Behind (aka No Brain Cell Left Behind), which are both systematic attacks on teachers and education.

The real truth is that this country is very anti-intellectual, and it always has been.  How else could we have elected someone like George W. Bush, a man who mangled the English language with glee and who we loved because he was someone "we would like to have a beer with."  He wasn't all pompous and uppity like that nerd, Al Gore, or that Frenchy sounding John Kerry.  No way.  He was a "real man."  Look where that got us, two wars and an economic meltdown.

The saying goes, "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance."  And the taste is bitter but not at all sweet.  I mourn for the future generations, those like mine, who grew up in blue collar families who won't be able to send their children to college.  Perhaps we better start building more prisons.  After all, there is going to be a huge superfluous population of people who can't contribute anything to either the workforce or as consumers.  We need to keep them out of sight, out of mind so they don't make trouble.  Time to increase our petty drug laws and increase penalties for the use of marijuana.  Private prisons are profitable, too!

The whole situation is a damn shame, and we're too worried about the inconsequential differences between Obama and Romney to see how the entire system is rotten through and through, corrupted by money.  Perhaps we are better off worrying about what the next iPhone is going to do or whether this corporate team or that is going to win the Super Bowl, or whether our new video game has a good ending to it or not.

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