Santorum's Attack on College Education is No Joke
February 26, 2012
Before we all dismiss Rick Santorum's latest attack on
public education as just more fodder for the late night
comedians, it's worth giving more thought to what it
actually represents - a fundamental attack on democracy and
the institutionalization of a class-based two-tier society,
permanently divided along lines of wealth and privilege.
For the two or three people who may have missed it, Santorum
told a Tea Party rally Saturday that President Obama is a
"snob" because he wants "everybody in America to go to
His belabored efforts to rationalize his attack on higher
education as a fulmination against "liberal college
professors," should not obscure the point that Santorum has
repeatedly attacked all public education - perhaps most
evident in his promotion of home schooling - and the wider
implications of his comments.
For starters, you have to wonder what working class people -
those Santorum supposedly is seeking to pull away from Mitt
Romney - make of a candidate who ridicules the idea that
their children should have equal access to higher education.
Isn't the idea that parents can provide opportunities for
their children that they themselves did not have a basic
precept of the American dream? Is this the better future for
America that has been such a talking point in the Republican
primaries to date?
The sad reality, of course, is that dream is rapidly
vanishing for more and more American families.
As a CNN/Money report last June noted:
Tuition and fees at public universities, according to
the College Board, have surged almost 130% over the last
20 years -- while middle class incomes have stagnated.
Concurrently, government financial support for colleges and
universities has been in free fall, accelerated by the Wall
Street-prompted economic crisis that has hit state and local
governments especially hard.
In a December article, the Washington Post labeled the
current trend "a historic collapse in state funding for
higher education (that) threatens to diminish the stature of
premier public universities and erode their mission as
engines of upward social mobility."
The Post cited three prominent examples.
At the University of Virginia, state support has
dwindled in two decades from 26 percent of the operating
budget to 7 percent. At the University of Michigan, it
has declined from 48 percent to 17 percent.
And at the University of California Berkeley, birthplace
of the Free Speech movement of the early 1960s, "the
state share of Berkeley's operating budget has slipped
since 1991 from 47 percent to 11 percent.
Tuition has doubled in six years, and the university is
admitting more students from out of state willing to pay
a premium for a Berkeley degree. This year, for the
first time, the university collected more money from
students than from California."
As state support dries up, tuition has skyrocketed prompting
growing protests by students and community supporters over
the pricing out of more and more Americans who want to go to
For those able to navigate this hurdle, massive debt for
student loans puts more and more students at an even greater
risk when they get out of college. And with the continuing
high jobless rates, many of those students are looking at an
increasingly bleak economic future.
This year, student loan debt surpassed credit card debt,
breaching the $1 trillion mark, at an average of more
than $25,000 per student. Nearly 9% of loans defaulted
in 2010, of those that began repayment in 2009, vs. 7%
that began in 2008.
All of that is the reality that has already created a two
tier system in American colleges and universities, one that
is the ostensible target of the President's announced
intention to cap interest rates on student loans.
That's one step. A better one would be more public financial
support or even (close your ears deficit hawks) free higher
That was historically the goal of the courageous reformers
over the past two centuries who fought to establish public
education, and to make it accessible to everyone. Their goal
was a more egalitarian society, one not based on permanent
class divisions based on wealth and privilege.
One in which everyone, regardless of birth status, income,
race, or gender, can have the opportunity to get a good
education, earn a living wage, and theoretically have full
social, cultural, economic, and political equality in what
the history books once preached was the most democratic
society on earth. An idea some no longer believe in.
That ideal of an egalitarian society has, sadly, become an
anathema to so many on Wall Street and their representatives
in Washington and the presidential race. Thus you have
Santorum infamously attacking the French Revolution goal of
"fraternity" and suggesting it, and President Obama, are
leading everyone down the path to the guillotine.
If a little more clumsy, Santorum is hardly the only one
letting slip that the idea of an egalitarian society is one
to be discarded.
Indeed, when Mitt Romney attacks "liberals" for questioning
his many homes and cars as showing they are "jealous of
success," and Romney, Santorum and many others attack the
Occupy Wall Street movement for questioning what the 1
percent has done to America, they are making it clear they
like the way things are and they intend to keep it that way.
Originally posted to cidelson on Sun Feb 26, 2012 at 03:08
PM PST. Also republished by Community Spotlight.
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