“[The aim of public education is not] to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. . . . Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim . . . is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States. . . . ” – Henry Mencken, The American Mercury, April 1924.
“If the right-wing billionaires and apostles of corporate power have their way, public schools will become ‘dead zones of the imagination,’ reduced to anti-public spaces that wage an assault on critical thinking, civic literacy and historical memory.” – Henry Giroux, 2013.
There is an interesting article in Truthout concerning public education in America as observed by an Australian.
Dumbing Down America: The Decline of Education in the US as Seen From Down Under
Friday, 22 November 2013 09:25 – By Niall McLaren, Truthout | Op-Ed
It is enlightening to see what an outsider sees and not be bushwhacked by political agendas and lies.
The United States consistently spends far more money per school age student than any other country in the world, something like $11,800 per child compared with $4,000-$5,000 in comparable countries. Excluding the huge sums spent on the 10 percent of children who go to private schools, the United States spends something like $8,000 of public money per child per year. Yet, in 2012, the United States was 27th on the list of world rankings for school educational achievement, well below Cuba, below even Mexico and Brazil. Social critics regularly blast American public schools as little more than mind-deadening factories designed to propel working class white students into brain-dead jobs and minority students straight into the arms of the prison-industrial complex. From the other side, public schools are excoriated as retirement parks for lazy unionized teachers to indulge their habit of force-feeding the innocent on Marxist propaganda. At the same time, US universities fairly consistently blitz world rankings, often taking seven of the top 10 positions in the world as well as swags of Nobel Prizes, even as their students face record levels of graduate unemployment, while burdened with record levels of student debt. If there is any one thing that can be said about US education, it is that it is totally contradictory. …
The point is that American primary and secondary education costs far more than it should and fails a significant part of the population who are disadvantaged through no fault of their own. It isn’t for lack of money: It is lack of political will, the inability of the American electorate to realize that they have to work together to solve a problem that other nations solved a hundred or more years ago. American tertiary education has become a massive falsehood. Students pay for their own education by mortgaging their futures for degrees that, very often, aren’t worth half of what they cost. What’s the difference between paying for education through taxes and borrowing against your future? It’s this: If the US government did its duty and paid for tertiary education through taxes, then it would have an incentive to keep a tight rein on costs. As it is, generations of students are being reamed by private banks that borrow money from the US Treasury at 0.75 percent and lend it to students at 6.4 percent just so their friends in the universities can build bloated bureaucratic empires for their self-aggrandizing staff. Now that must surely be one of the greatest con jobs of all time.
I received a fairly standard education in California during the infamous Max Rafferty years and then went on to the state university which, despite the intrusion of Ronald Reagan and the the political clamor which is identified with the sixties, provided me with a good education and only a reasonable amount of student debt to pay off gradually at a very low rate. With interest at 3%, I paid something like $52 a quarter for ten years until it was paid off. Even in graduate school my education costs were covered (and at a private university) so all I had to do was work part-time and learn to love Ramen. Contrast this with the education costs for my daughter just a few years back.
But here is one point where I disagree with the article which suggests higher education is a bad investment if you spend more getting the education that it returns. Although I agree with the sentiment, it begs the question that the value of an education is best calculated in monetary terms. My daughter has her PhD in a field which may never give her a good return on the investment. But not everyone is questing for gold … some people quest for knowledge, for understanding, for personal satisfaction.
There is a strong belief in this country, if not around the world, that greed is good and that you are a failure unless you have made more money than other people. But what did Arnold say in that movie: What is best in life? “To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.” Conan must have forgotten to mention a high interest rate and government subsidy of bad debts. He also forgot to mention a good education. Then again, perhaps this is the battle cry of the modern corporations
To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.