Saturday, October 11, 2014

Free college degrees

Germany now has tuition-free colleges, available to all -- even to Americans. Of course, you have to know German, a language which few people would call Der Snap.

We could have free college educations here. All we have to do is ignore the libertarians. Germany is prosperous, yet Germany is "socialist" -- if one accepts the Ayn Randroid definition of the word "socialism." If libertarianism works, then why are the majority of people happier in countries with mixed economies?

In the United States, we have an increasing number of people arguing that college is a waste of time and funds. The people who take this line want to transform the majority of American workers into something like the dull, unthinking, brutish proles in Fritz Lang's Metropolis.

I say that education is an absolute good. Free and easily accessible higher education is not just about jobs -- it is necessary for the creation of an informed citizenry. Arguably, college should be not just free but compulsory. The American south would no longer be the homeland of barbarism and fundamentalist superstition if the people forced to live within that inferior culture were educated to think and behave as rational creatures.
I think education is an absolute evil. It's just a way to brainwash people into an intellectual monoculture. If everyone had economics degrees, we wouldn't have more people who know economics, we'd have more idiots parroting monetarism.
Some of us are old enough to remember when the University of California system (then arguably the best public universities on the planet) were tuition-free. Of course, Ronald Reagan changed all that when he became governor.
Nice to see what's happened in Germany.

Those who are interested in Britain, never forget that the reason why 'higher education' was expanded here, most student grants scrapped, housing benefit scrapped for students, and tuition fees introduced, was to help moneylenders by normalising massive debt unrelated even to living accommodation or the purchase of any other actual good. This was an enormously important plank of Thatcher-Blairism. Think finance capital.

Most people here now get into debt very soon after the minimum legal age at which they're allowed to borrow money, 18, and stay in debt until their 40s or 50s. Half of the youngsters don't even understand it is debt. They're told student debt isn't 'real' debt, or that they're getting a really good deal, and they lap it up. (No disrespect to those who don't think like that.) It hasn't always been this way.

It is also normal in Britain to borrow almost as much as you possibly can when 'buying' a house. That isn't true in France, Germany, Scandinavia, etc.

German capital isn't quite so finance-dominated as British capital.

BTW when I first read your reference to "tuition-free" colleges, I thought you meant that anyone could just buy a degree without getting taught or learning or knowing anything in particular!

(There is a lot of corruption at British universities, but that's another story. Cambridge University was recently caught taking bribes from Chinese oligarchs who then sell undergraduate places. Oops. That's on my reading.)
What a concept! That people should be encouraged to better themselves and supported in that enterprise.

Clearly the current configuration is about control. Those who go into debt to pursue higher education will choose vocationally-oriented education, and will align themselves with the interests of their employers when they graduate. Those who might wish to pursue philosophy or history will decide that they can educate themselves reading books, and academic discipline of autodidacticism is likely to result in a death spiral.

Mission Accomplished: the college-educated will be compliant drones, and the bright-and-curious will sink into a cynical self-medicated stupor.

I'm planning on reading William Deresiewicz's book "Excellent Sheep" as soon as I can get my hands on one of the six copies my local library has (the waiting list is 33-deep, so it will be a while).
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