I’m an advocate for education. I love learning. I tend to fraternize with the well-educated. I like clever jokes. But counting on a free education as a tool to end America’s issues of racism, bigotry and hate isn’t a failsafe bet. Here’s why:
First, and most convincingly, there are many countries with free or affordable education and still have racism, xenophobia and extremist beliefs. Look at Denmark, Austria, Japan, even Belgian. They all have significant political and social parties that are essentially racist or xenophobic by American standards. Education is very good there and bigotry still persists.
Second, ever meet a well-educated racist American? I have. It’s horrifying. All those packaged rebuttals you learn in Philosophy 101 don’t really work. And just calling them ‘idiots’ also doesn’t work. The fact is there is lots of literature that can either be interpreted as or simply is racist, or at least perpetuating racism.
Third, racism, while correlating to IQ may be true, IQ does not correlate to education. Sorry. You can’t un-educate biology, psychology, development disorders or whatever matter that is that composes and/or influences intelligence. Unfortunately, even neurologist, philosophers of the mind and computer scientist who are pursuing the question of “what is intelligence,” or “what is the mind,” haven’t come to a consensus. What’s left at this point is the racism is learned, handed down like old sneakers from one generation to another to trod up and down Main Street in, hollering hate statements. What’s more is in the context of machine learning / AI realities we don’t know if racism would stopped or diminished; so far there is a greater concern that the entire human race would just be annihilated. Let’s wait and see.
How education may be useful is toward re-skilling individuals. Many Trump supporters voted on his promise to bring back jobs. What Trump is really claiming is he’ll bring back jobs that were outsourced to cheaper labored countries, jobs that require little or no skill. (Trump delivering this promise is essentially impossible. Either by adding a tariff on overseas-produced goods, which would just pass that cost on to the consumer by increasing the cost of any product that doesn’t have internally-located competitor’s product [which is most unskilled labor products] or unskilled laborers in the U.S. would have to work at globally competitive rates…like $3/day.) But if these disenchanted Trump supporters were given training in skilled jobs that pay better, would they be satisfied? Does education equate to training? For those that hate education and learning, would training–like the trade schools that already exist–be sufficient. But who or what is going to keep those skills up? The employee? The company? The government?
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development focuses on comparative literacies–reading, numeracy and problem solving. Presumably, these are the foundations for creating skilled workers, individuals who will be flexible and adapt to a changing world and economy. But again, you’ll see that at least 9 of the 10 most literate countries in any category still have a significant extremist party. Hatred isn’t solved.
But there’s a great talk between Paul Krugman and George Soros in 1997 that hints at today’s problem. Krugman’s stance, like many economists, defends globalization as a positive force that has brought much of the world out of starvation and poverty. Soros’ point is that the result of globalization is the failure for governments to properly support and control the population. While Krugman’s point continues to be popular today, Brexit and Trumpocalypse are bringing Soros’ point home in a hard way. That is, the ethical Trump supporter could be communicating that globalization isn’t working for them. This isn’t so far from the explanations by Michael Moore as to why Michiganders didn’t vote for Hillary. I’ll take up the danger of pandering to the white working class concern for getting a voice heard as it correlates to their political aspirations and aversions in the next post.
In the defense of a free or affordable education a benefit would be that could de-financialize education. Financializiation, e.g. rather than Wall Street investing in products, everything is just turned into a financial tool, including student debt–would have no home in the education sector. This article in American Kimchi does a good job of explaining the attraction to Sanders and Trump in regard to financialization; perhaps supporters of both will see that neither is really the solution. In the case of education, Sanders could have removed at least one variable: the financialization of students, which Clinton’s later campaign framed as the banks turning young people into debt capital. A parallel I immediately see between Sander’s version of saving society is that of Greece’s Tsipras. On a left of center or socially-radical platform, could these overhauls actually be made? In the case of Greece, they folded when the numbers from the EU Central bank came in. What’s strange is countries without a strong financial market (or a more regulated one) are able to educate more of their population, which was one of the motivations of de-regulating student loans in the U.S. Let more live the American Dream of social mobility. But the methodology of financializing a social problem sounds remarkably similar to the same rationale for deregulating home loans, right?
Rana Fohoohar writes how the financial sector disproportionately reaps profits compared to the number of jobs it actually creates. She states only 15% of the money passing through the financial sector results in business invest. This is a stake in coffin of Trickle Down economics that Trump espouses. Billionaires put their money in the stock market for it to be financialized–not in their companies–and the stock market puts its money back in the market, even investing in debt. Okay, so the trickle is there whether you’re believing in giving the wealthy a tax cut or not. Lose lose for investment in production and business (unless your business is an investment business).
The history of student loans from the U.S. government is as conflicted as theinstitutional explanations of how we got to this current tuition rate. But what these hangman’s platforms of solving social and psychological problems through finance seem to be cornering the once-free-world into a polarized, ideologue situation where hypotheticals are more appealing than trying to work out the wrinkles in a system we believe may not work anyhow.