Repost from August 2011.
Fiscal responsibility is very important. Our financial woes as a nation have become a terrible burden. The fiscal waste and mismanagement has come home to roost and people are running for cover, especially the pundits and politicians. Every media is replete with finger-pointing while blaming ghosts in the closet and self-serving self-indulgence. Many blame the spoiled brat mentality of a generation that thinks everything is coming to them. Society watchers can indulge in a discussion about the materialistic obsession of today’s society. They could rail against the perceived need for iPads, computers, designer clothing, fancy cars, expensive vacations, and how it has brought us to the brink of disaster, yet these so-called naysayers, doomsday charlatans and themselves highly educated talking-heads, are actually attacking the right to an education.
No, as some like to point out, the Constitution does not “explicitly” guarantee someone an education, but what the Constitution details is the minimum requirements of the government-citizen contract. Still as with civil rights and the right to privacy, rights can be found within the parchment of the Constitution. Whether one would use the commerce clause to make education rights enforceable against the states as the Supreme Court accomplished with Heart of Atlanta Hotel and civil rights, or Roe v Wade when it found the implied right of privacy in the act of procreation, the Constitution is a living breathing document. It’s purpose, besides the creation of a viable government structure, is to insure freedom.
Madison was even explicit in his desire to be ambiguous in the wording of that document. He knew that the future warranted change and that without the ability to interpret and move forward the Constitution would be a hindrance to generations rather than the bulwark of liberty that it was meant to become. The reality is that our founding fathers were the highly educated of their day. In essence without their understanding of history, science, philosophy, law, and the rights of man there would not have been the American Revolution. The United States would not exist if it were not for those who had had the privilege to be educated. Education is the cornerstone of freedom. It is also not just for the privileged few among us any longer.
The Declaration of Independence even talks about how each individual is guaranteed life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Part of this is the right to be all that you can be and that if you are loyal to your society, society has an obligation to give you the chance to meet these goals. In today’s world that ability to encompass and understand everything around you, includes entrance into a higher educational system that could cost upwards of $50,000 a year for private institutions. For most students the cost of attending these leading universities is still prohibitive, even with scholarships, grants and loans. Luckily there are many configurations of the post-secondary educational system that would allow a person to learn.
Yet the elite, conservative, liberal and libertarian, look down their collective pompous noses at those who didn’t attend these overly priced hallowed halls of ivy. Education it seems is only important for those who can pay exorbitant amounts to attend the right schools and study the right subjects. This is when the inane idea of cost benefit approach to education begins. It is a symbol of indulgence or hubris and of greed to educate your children we are told if you need financial help. These talking heads scold that it is a drain on society to indulge in such a self-important activity as receiving an education if you need a student loan. How divorced from reality is this inanity.
These pundits and over-educated talking heads miss the real problem.The issue is not denying people the right to a college or graduate school degree, but to bringing the costs back into line with the rest of society and making it more accessible than it ever was before. The issue is not to deny people the right to the future of their choice, but to make certain that institutions that are the gateway to a better life are open to all who may be able to attend. These institutions are not just for the “right” kind of people. These institutions are for all people who want to learn to use their minds and their intellect. It is sad when society needs to put a cost benefit analysis on education. Education is a gift beyond any that we give our children. Education defines us as a people. It enables our posterity to create a world where dreams can come true.
The problem that has arisen in the discussion of how we move forward as a society is that conservatives and libertarians are attacking the one area that America needs to be competitive in the world and that is post secondary education. They claim that not everyone needs to go to college. No everyone doesn’t need to go to college, but those who would like to try should be able to. Conservatives and libertarians worry that you do not get a proper return on your investment in college and that its just one long party of drunken debauchery and hedonism. Obviously they haven’t actually spent time with today’s students. Students today do highly value their education, especially at today’s prices, and they also value having a good time as well. Interestingly how these moralistic pundits never seem to mention how many drunken nights they spent during their educational experience.
These self-styled societal engineers have decided that we should just be a nation of laborers, like serfs who wait on those who were born to actually lead the nation. Only those who come from the “right” type of family are entitled to higher education: only the inbred-monied-class is the group of people who can develop grow and expand their horizons. The rest of us, who need scholarships, grants or loans to attend school are wasting society’s finances. According to these same know-it-alls we, the middle-income masses, are now a burden to the future rather than ensuring that we are the solution. We apparently aren’t worth a sous, a farthing or a penny.
While those who seek to reform education complain vociferously about the lowering of math and science scores and that the United States is being left behind in the areas that are known to be part and parcel of the future, these same individuals want to have nothing to do with procuring a proper education for our children. Education costs too much they complain. Education spending is out of whack with reality. Education spending is unfair and misplaced. Education is a bad return on your investment. Education failure is the teachers fault alone without any emphasis put on the family, parental obligation and cultural degradation.
The shortsightedness is astounding. The world is heading towards a more complicated and more technologically based society. The societies that will succeed are those with people who are educated in how to overcome issues. The societies that will succeed will have citizens who understand how to think, analyze, problem solve and move forward in order to meet the challenges of the future. This is the point of education. This is why education is necessary. Whether a person studies sociology or computer science, law or medicine, philosophy or physics, all disciplines teach a student how to understand the world around them. They all teach the student to meet challenges and to work at something in order to be productive. Education is an invaluable tool to ensure the survival of society. It is not simply for those who are born to privilege, but it is the right of every citizen to better themselves if they can. It is for the benefit of the future that society invests in education for all its citizens and quite frankly all citizens are entitled to the chance to become the best that they can be. This is part of the contract between government and the governed, without this right government breeches its contract and it becomes superfluous.
There is nothing wrong with a society that respects the ability to discuss the artistic values of a Shakespearean play, the latest scientific discoveries, computer computation and understands various forms of government. There is nothing wrong with a society that teaches how to run a business, the purpose of law and obligations of their legislatures. There is nothing wrong with a society that puts value on being able to read, write, think and problem solve effectively. This is all part and parcel of higher education. It is essential for our future and for our standing as a world leader to ensure that our citizens are highly educated.
The pundits are worried because Moody’s has now come out and said that the next big issue in the economy is possible student loan defaults because of the lack of jobs. If you don’t have a job you can’t pay your financial obligations. In other words, if there were jobs in the market place then paying back student loans would not be a problem. But, the lack of jobs is not the fault of the student. The lack of jobs is the fault of society, the politicians, the pundits and the adult world. Some would say the lack of jobs is the fault of the adults who instead of finding innovative ways to fix the economy think that the way to solve the economic issues, and possible student loan defaults, is that children should just forgo higher education. Simply put, no education, no loans, no default possibilities, no problems. It would certainly make society’s jobs easier if all that it had to provide is “greeter” jobs at Walmart, stockroom jobs at the A&P or electric car mechanic, instead of challenging, thought-provoking and living wage providing jobs for our offspring. It certainly would reduce the reality that quite frankly if your child can’t find a job, maybe just maybe, almost certainly in fact, it is your fault for not taking better care of their future.
If the conservatives and libertarians don’t like underwriting the cost of education then maybe they should find a way to make education more affordable for the masses and not just something for a privileged few. Of course this takes being able to think outside of the box, thinking creatively, problem solving and developing a new way of looking at the world around you. If these naysayers are not capable of solving what they consider a huge issue without depriving someone else of a future, and all they can do is complain, perhaps it is they who should not have gone on to high education. Apparently it is their educations that appears to have been a huge waste of time not the education of today’s student.
On this note HERE is one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence on the importance of education. Education is vital to the health of freedom and liberty. Our forebears understood that over 235 years ago. Why is it even an issue today?