Fair or unfair, we need free college and student loan forgiveness
University is more than a launching pad for the middle class. It requires the intellectual growth and critical thinking necessary to defend against disinformation.
University failure: student loan debt skyrockets
Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are already promising to do something about student loans. This is why the $ 1.6 trillion issue could play a big role in the 2020 election.
Just the FAQ, USA TODAY
Walking in the rain during our strike a few years ago, I passed a young man standing against a school door distributing wet copies of a Communist newspaper. Why, he asked the striking teachers, wasting our collective energies and our outrage over wages and working conditions when the entire world capitalist system must be wiped out?
We walked right in front of him. We just wanted a little more pay and a little smaller classes and we were eager to get back to our students and motivate the apathetic, counsel the emotionally fragile, and ease the teenage rage.
I think teachers tend to be more pragmatic than ideological. At least I am. When I hear about the battle within the progressive and moderate wings of the Democratic Party, I always expect to find myself on the side of moderation.
Right now, however, I really don’t. Specifically, I don’t find much of what progressives argue to be terribly radical, and I don’t find the opposition very moderate – or pragmatic.
Healthcare without bankruptcy?
Urban police without atrocity?
Human activity without climate catastrophe?
Why is all of this controversial? Have politics and morality and even self-preservation become so emotionally contaminated and so ill-informed that so many of us can no longer make rational choices or understand our own best interests?
Timing is essential and often unfair
Which brings me to another inexplicable controversy: affordable university education.
The latest iteration of this debate is the proposed federal student loan debt cancellation, which is strongly opposed by those who have already paid off their college debts or gone to college, or whose parents have mortgaged their homes or borrowed. when they retire to pay tuition fees.
Call it the “Why now?” argument – and this also applies to the more significant question of subsidizing free college options in every state across the country. Would it be fair to those of us, students and parents, who have invested thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, in college education?
Of course, this is not fair. It is also not fair that 1975, tuition and annual fees for the University of California were about $ 630 (which adjusted for inflation is over $ 3000) and Tuition and UC Fees Now exceed $ 14,000. Timing is all about college tuition and the job and housing markets – and no one can choose the economic conditions each of us or anyone else is born into.
Nonetheless, the cost of college affects us all. And if Democrats, whatever adjective that goes with it, want to broaden their base and maybe win back the Senate, and keep the House and the White House, they should consider Republicans in general and Donald Trump in particular. have a large advantage with the out-of-school. the electors. The power of Democrats may well lie in the number of people who receive a post-secondary education – and the prohibitive cost of a college education may well be a political responsibility.
Beyond that, making college accessible to all could be essential to preserve our democracy. In the 21st century economy, a the university degree is more and more connected to individual economic mobility and sustainability. This is a reality highlighted by the disparities during the pandemic, when most unemployment and other hardship hit people without a college degree in jobs that probably cannot be done remotely.
The alienation of long-term unemployment and underemployment, poverty and food insecurity is a direct threat to democracy. If we are to ever return to the stability of a thriving middle class, we must make the university more accessible. University is more than a potential launching pad for the middle class. At its best, the university demands – and sometimes inspires – intellectual growth, an understanding of science and history, and critical thinking.
If you don’t think all of this is rare, look at the grim COVID-19 data and ask yourself why so many people still won’t take it seriously, listen to scientists, or understand the exponential calculations of the spread of a virus. .
Critical thinking is our best defense
Self-governance requires an electorate made up of people who can think for themselves, especially in an age of increasingly sophisticated disinformation spewed out by the highest levels of our own government and the troll farms of our enemies. The only reliable defense against these attacks may well be our collective critical thinking.
We can reasonably question the college’s effectiveness in developing critical thinking for all of its students; higher education can almost certainly do better. We can reasonably ask ourselves why does anyone need college to learn to think and why high schools don’t do a better job.
High school teachers actually teach critical reasoning, and what I’ve observed is that we do best with students who have academic ambitions. Not because they’re smarter (they’re not), but because most of them are the first in their families to pursue post-secondary education. The fear of not being prepared forces them to learn to think on a higher level and to aspire to an enlightened understanding of the world around them.
The more affordable this goal is, the more young people will believe in it and the more motivated they will be to study science, understand history and the Constitution, and develop self-defense skills to distinguish between reliable news and propaganda.
If free college or loan forgiveness is a radical idea, let’s not forget that democracy itself is too.
Larry Strauss has been an English teacher at South Los Angeles High School since 1992. Twitter: @LarryStrauss