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Turning Our Back On Students = A Bleak Future (Plus: Quotes of the Day)

March 12, 2012

Next time someone tells you that he’s in favor of equality of opportunity, not equality of results, ask him whether he proposes to reverse the decline in Pell grants and other programs giving educational opportunity to the less fortunate. If he demurs, he’s a hypocrite.

~ Paul Krugman

What’s Paul  Krugman talking about? To get the full picture, please read Tom Edsall’s excellent piece, “The Reproduction of Privilege” on how access to higher education is increasingly being denied to the children of the less affluent. (And how this is very much about policy.) But let’s start with one chart to which Edsall refers, but doesn’t include.  I find it devastating:

With the rising costs of attendance and the declining availability of government assistance, rather than loans, even community college is becoming inaccessible to a large swath of our young population. Add to this the fact that student loans continue to be one of the few things which cannot be discharged during bankruptcy, and it’s no surprise that an increasing number of voices are identifying student debt as our modern-day “indentured servitude.”

We must also remember that the very people who are now finishing college and entering the workforce are the future of our economy. When they are saddled , right out of the starting block, with heavy debt loads , that means they won’t be purchasing housing to help salvage your home value…For that matter, there are a lot of things they won’t be purchasing. And that’s going to be a huge drag on the entire economy.

Contrast this with the rest of the industrialized, modern world, which offers free or very low cost higher education, and just imagine how bright our future looks.

We will someday view this era as one in which the nation turned its back on its public schools, its children, and its educators. We will wonder why so many journalists and policymakers rejected the nation’s obligation to support public education as a social responsibility and accepted the unrealistic, unsustainable promises of entrepreneurs and billionaires. And we will, with sorrow and regret, think of this as an era when an obsession with testing and data obliterated any concept or definition of good education.

~ Diane Ravitch, “Flunking Arne Duncan” (**highly recommended!)

In this case, Ravitch is talking about public primary and secondary education, rather than higher education – but I would submit that this is an era where we’re turning our back on all students. It’s just the current crop of college-age students and recent graduates whose entrance into the larger economy we’ll sooner feel.

Considering the deep, deep cuts at the public school level, and the Republican control of so many state legislatures, I shudder to think where we’re headed.

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