Basal Ingredients Of Society • 2

Re: Michael Hays • How to Fix the College Debt Problem

The rationale for Universal Free Public Education is that a certain level of education is necessary for a person to function as a full-fledged citizen in a well-tempered and thriving democratic society, lacking which any form of democracy is bound to fail, just as many democratic experiments lacking U.F.P.E. have failed in the past.

That is the sense in which in which it makes sense to use the word “free” in this context.

In that sense the reason for U.F.P.E. is much the same reason for prohibiting poll taxes.  If being educated is part and parcel to being a citizen then there must be no obstruction to it.

U.F.P.E. becomes the right of each individual in a democratic society precisely because the society in question has come to see U.F.P.E. as necessary to its own survival and well-being.

The only question that remains has to do with the “certain level of education” that is needed for optimal functioning.

That level has shifted, mostly upward, through history.  In the late Sixties when I left home for college, there was a general recognition that the future of our nation would depend on upping the notch a bit.  California, being as forward thinking as they used to be back then, leapt ahead of the pack and inaugurated a First Year Free program for qualified high school graduates.  Well, stuff happens.  And Reagan happened.  And that was the end of that.  And the country has been going backward, education-wise, well, not so wise, ever since.

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4 Responses to Basal Ingredients Of Society • 2

  1. I had to remind myself when “Saint Ronald” was governor — he really was at the head of this charge, wasn’t he? Because it was at this same time that forces began marshaling to undermine the professoriate, and the long, brutal slide away from tenured positions to permatemp adjuncts. In many respects, it was the same large-scale strategy for both students and professors: reduce them to utter penury, and they’ll never dare confront you as they did in the ’60’s.

    • Jon Awbrey says:

      Yes, though I went from Texas to Michigan, not California, the events are engraved in my Frosh-&-Soph memories. The First One Free idea made a big splash in education circles at the time, and its dumping just as big a Gottverdamperung in its wake.

      • I’m actually a native Californian, but at the time, I was paying remarkably little attention to state politics. 1975, when Saint Ronald left the mansion, was the same year I graduated HS and enlisted in the Army. At the time, I couldn’t get out of the house fast enough.

  2. Peter Jones says:

    Without education, democracy fails… How does China fit in here, Jon? Strict attention to education, but not overly democratic as we understand it. Also, isn’t the truth less black and white? I guess if we look at the defenders of democracy, they were often themselves beneficiaries of private education. And perhaps at best we can say democracy has always been quite limited.

    I think these days education is more seen as a route to employment and a secure future. The version of democracy we have allows that degree of freedom, and frees us from the need to have familial access to the levers of power.

    For me, the big question is that education is now available on the Internet. Knowing the unknown is now the problem, since those who wish to travel a particular path need to know it’s there first.

    So to provide universal access to education, we still need guides to what is there, and most importantly, guides as to what applications skills can be used for in a commercial setting, since we all need to pay bills at the end of the day.

    Interestingly on Git Hub, over 50% of members are self taught. This tells us this exercise is achievable, so we would need to try and replicate it in different fields and disciplines.

    May also be worth reflecting that democracy is higher up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and personal futures and security typically come first for just about all of us.

    So my earlier comment suggests that our current societies are less able to look further up the altruistic tree, maybe here reflecting the widening gap between the haves and the have nots.

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