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This diary was prompted by a special forum in the Chronicle of Higher Education which came out this week: Has Higher Education Become an Engine of Inequality?  They assembled a number of academic figures to discuss inequality or something like that.  This is pretty important stuff -- the literature in journals which cater to departments of education is full of discussions of inequality.

At the most general level, the discussion of educational inequality, of unequal outcomes and unequal opportunities, is a discussion about fairness.  Educational systems that promise equal educational opportunity for all aren't supposed to have such unequal outcomes.  The problem, though, is that educational systems are service organizations that cater to participants in the capitalist system, and participants in the capitalist system are highly unequal.  They are, as Marx noted, divided into social classes.

A brief history of inequality: inequality was prominent in the "West" before capitalism.  That inequality, though, was imagined to be ordained by God.  Some people were destined to be kings, it was imagined, and others doomed to be mere serfs, and there were a number of grades in between.  The relationship between the higher and lower orders was cemented by what was later to be called feudal contracts, in which some were lords and others were vassals.  Before then there was the structured system of inequality in the Roman world, and that was set up with the direct intention of making people unequal.

Capitalism introduced a new element into the status scene in the West, especially in the form promoted in the United Kingdom after the Glorious Revolution of 1688, when there arose capitalist states.  Capitalism really made it possible for some people to become vastly wealthy, and thus vastly unequal to those in the masses, despite the accommodation of capitalism to regimes of (increasingly) equal rights that accompanied the increased prominence of formal democracy in the world.  In the capitalist core nations, then, people (at least the white males of age) were formally equal while being in real life quite unequal.

Capitalism is the primary engine of inequality today.  One thing we can say for certain is that, throughout this history, education systems have been and are subsidiary engines of inequality, little helpers of capitalist inequality, and adjuncts to capitalism.  Education, moreover, promotes inequality at all levels, from Kindergarten through college.  Educational inequality today is cemented through a system of grades, levels, exams, and credentials in which Joel Spring (in his book Pedagogies of Globalization) calls the "industrial-consumer" model of education.  This model produces winners and losers.  Colleges and universities had two great spurts of growth in American history -- between the Civil War and World War I, and also just after World War II.  In each case the growth of American higher education was motivated by heightened demand for entrants into the managerial classes, and specialized workers (like lawyers and doctors) for a complex technological economy.  The colleges and universities themselves produced some degree of training for entrants into the managerial classes, to be sure, but most distinctively they granted nice shiny degrees to adorn and distinguish the resumes of the upward bound.

A good summary of that role of American education in promoting inequality is in David F. Labaree's book Someone Has To Fail: The Zero-Sum Game of Public Schooling.  Labaree argues that schools perform many roles, but that the one which they perform most successfully is that of promoters of inequality -- schools offer grades, course credits, degrees, and credentials, all of which are not open to anyone who wants one and all of which allow their possessors to accumulate privileges over those that do not have them.

The process of distinction begins in the lives of the educated early on today.  The sons and daughters of wealthy parents receive competitive shares of toys, books, electronic devices and other objects of learning as soon as they are of school age.  Much of this reality has been well-documented by the critical scholar Alfie Kohn.  In American public schools, good grades are typically dependent upon the student's prior accumulation of learning (not all of it gained meritocratically -- conditions count for a lot -- please see Jonathan Kozol's The Shame of the Nation for more on this), so that success in school functions as a race in which the poorest (and thus also those with the least access to books and knowledge) are at a significant disadvantage.  Colleges function to amplify the advantages of the wealthy in this race by admitting the sons and daughters of the wealthy to the best colleges with the most opportunities for educational enrichment, well-stocked libraries, and low student-teacher ratios.  

Education at any grade appears in many senses to be like a race, with some entrants whose parents bought them Maseratis and others who received Ford Pintos.  The puzzle of why people would hang "equality" on education, then, remains.  (If we really wanted to promote equality, here's an old idea -- let's tax the rich and spend on the poor!)  Is it that education smells of work and so it makes a natural fit for the American impulse to equality because it incorporates a work ethic?  At any rate, the well-educated Chronicle forum participants ought to know better.  See below for further speculation.

So, given all this, one might wonder why the Chronicle of Higher Education created an educational forum to discuss the matter of "has higher education become an engine of inequality"?  It always was one.  The editors of this forum do not, however, find the answer so clear-cut.  They say:

Education, long praised as the great equalizer, no longer seems to be performing as advertised.  A study by Stanford University shows that the gap in standardized-test scores between low-income and high-income students has widened about 40 percent since the 1960s -- now double that between black and white students.  A study from the University of Michigan found that the disparity in college-completion rates between rich and poor students has grown by about 50 percent since the 1980s.
So I suppose the concern voiced by the editors of this piece is that higher education has become more unequal than it once was a few decades ago.  Maybe they just wanted it a bit less unequal, so that education can be praised as an equalizer regardless of the spuriousness of that praise.  The problem, though, is that capitalism is becoming more unequal.

The participants in the Chronicle forum typically chose to emphasize one aspect of the complex of collegiate inequality in their short discussion of the topic.  Here is a summary of their efforts.  Richard D. Kahlenberg suggests that the problem is that "colleges have tilted away from economic need to merit aid."  George Leef mentions "an array of policies," but the policies he glancingly mentions are those which "make it more difficult for poor people to start businesses on their own or find job openings with good career paths" (B7). Do poor people start businesses?  What's a "good" career path?  Laura Hamilton and Elizabeth A. Armstrong, professors of sociology, suggest that colleges are now more interested in rich students than the rest.

Richard Wolin suggests that the steady withdrawal of public funds from education is largely at fault.  Anthony Carnevale suggests that colleges reproduce advantages gained in high school: "competition among institutions is based on prestige, relentlessly matching the most advantaged students with the most selective institutions" (B8).  William Julius Wilson and Thomas J. Espenshade voice more or less the same thing as Carnevale.  Thomas R. Bailey revoices a concern, which I outline below, about community colleges.  Sara Goldrick-Rab, the most articulate of the forum participants, argues in many ways that neoliberal thinking has made higher education more unequal.

What makes education interesting as a promoter of inequality, I suppose, is that education systems also contain elements which some people trust to promote equality.  American education contains a promise of equal educational opportunity -- there is after all, an Equal Educational Opportunity Act which still applies to the public K-12 schools.  Of course, as Labaree points out, the public faith in education as a remedy for inequality is misplaced.  As he says:

School reform can only have a chance to equalize social differences if it can reduce the educational gap between middle-class students and working-students.  This is politically impossible in a liberal democracy, since it would mean restricting the ability of the middle class to pursue more and better education for their children.  (171)
You can make education for the poor better, but that just means everyone else will work harder to preserve their privileges, and so inequality will persist.  At any rate, here is a summary of efforts to impose "equality" upon our educational systems, followed by explanations of why they don't perform as intended.  To wit:

American K-12 education is taught through a standards curriculum.  Supposedly the same curricular objectives are for the most part taught to all students, and so everyone is supposedly given an equal chance at success.  Unfortunately, however, not all students respond to the standards curriculum in the same way.  Annette Lareau's Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life discusses one reason why: the Publishers Weekly synopsis of this work discusses how "in working class and poor households... parents don't bother to reason with whiny offspring and children are expected to find their own recreation rather than relying upon their families to chauffeur them around to lessons and activities."  We can, then, expect a certain advantage in a standardized curriculum to those who are brought up to handle it more efficaciously.  The standards curriculum is typically combined in US education with a regime of high-stakes testing, the combination of which typically results in significantly high dropout rates -- when students who aren't "caught up" reach high school, they are often pushed out of high school early on so that the high schools can keep their aggregate test scores and official graduation rates and all that nice stuff up.  Michelle Fine's Framing Dropouts is about that.  There's also a fun piece about this stuff in Mother Jones dealing with Rod Paige, one of the big early advocates of standards and testing, that ought to keep the Romney-obsessives here entertained.

American education provides a broad provision of skills.  Supposedly the diversity and easy access to educational skills in American society gives students a large array of opportunities to succeed, and presumably educational success is connected to success in the business world.  This might be true for some individuals -- they can find a lot of places to go to school, do well, and eventually get good jobs.  In the aggregate, however, the colleges and universities do not control the job hiring statistics.  The capitalists and the government decide how many people to hire.  There are a number of jobs provided each year in a capitalist economy.  That number is largely determined by what the investor class is willing to invest in labor at any one time, and not by how many people with skilled credentials or big degrees are out there looking for work.  Having degrees can at best improve one's ability to net a skilled job from the pool of jobs.  It won't make the pool any larger.  If everyone had a Ph.D., for instance, there still wouldn't be a significant increase in the number of jobs which Ph.D.s deserve.  I suppose I should have thought of this when I got my Ph.D., though to be honest I really didn't care.

(Today, the Huffington Post tells us, half of recent college graduates are not finding full-time jobs.)

American education is also buttressed by a legal and infrastructural framework of equal educational opportunity.  There are laws obliging schools to provide learning opportunities to all students in public schools.  Unfortunately, many of these opportunities are not very good ones.  There are also the community colleges, providing second chances for those who didn't make it into four-year institutions.  Unfortunately, universal access to education has meant that many such educational institutions serve as institutions of "cooling off," in which success in education and in careers is tempered with vastly lowered student expectations.  A lot of people fail in community colleges.  This phenomenon is well-covered in a chapter of Jeff Schmidt's book Disciplined Minds.  The community colleges, then, do not significantly reverse the trend toward greater inequality, though they might allow a few more students to graduate and move on to four-year universities.  Many such students discover that 1) if they weren't interested in remedial education when they were in high school, they're not interested in the same stuff when it's thrown at them in college and 2) it's difficult to go to college and work full time.

So education is fundamentally an unequal affair, with struggling workers taking basic English at Riverside Community College while prep-school graduates take physics at Caltech.  Here's a devil's advocate question for you.  Why bother with equal educational opportunity at all?  The capitalist system needs a population of vastly unequal people.  It needs a vast mass of workers on the bottom, a managerial class in the middle, and a few owners on top.  Maybe universities should just cater to that?

The concern about equality is at root a concern about social mobility.  Anthony Carnevale voices that at the end of his contribution to the forum.  But ultimately capitalism provides social mobility, and the universities are at best facilitators.  Only one of my degrees really helped me get a good job, and it wasn't the Ph.D.  So if the universities are really to promote social mobility despite capitalism, they need to encourage college students to question the wisdom of continuing with the capitalist system.

To wit: if the universities really wanted to get serious about equality, they could start to prepare students for a post-capitalist world, for an era after capitalism in which the capitalist rules don't apply.   In this imagined future, people will be busy saving the Earth from the ecological and economic disaster which capitalism has brought to it.  If we really want education to promote equality, perhaps it would be best if we started a mass movement with the help of critical pedagogy, the better to teach students to find their own equality by changing the world.  After all, global warming (or some other form of death) will eventually bring equality to the vast majority of us (as it puts an end to the capitalist system).  Preparing for the world after capitalism would certainly focus the universities upon the future of the next generation a little more meaningfully than what they're doing now.

Originally posted to The Rebel Alliance on Sat Jul 07, 2012 at 06:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by The Amateur Left, Income Inequality Kos, Education Alternatives, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (31+ / 0-)

    "A people who know how to organize the accumulation of wealth and its reproduction in the interest of the whole of society, no longer need to be governed." -- Peter Kropotkin

    by Cassiodorus on Sat Jul 07, 2012 at 06:00:08 AM PDT

  •  Tipped for your link to the Mother Jones piece (5+ / 0-)

    about Rod Paige. I love it when conservatives get exposed as total hypocrites.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Sat Jul 07, 2012 at 06:48:12 AM PDT

  •  I Don't Think Your Solution Is Realistic (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fladem

    Capitalism is here to stay. The way colleges can reduce inequality is to offer cheaper educations, give students grants rather than loans, and let in more students from poor backgrounds. All of this costs money, and I don't know how to pay for it, but it is a basic fact that colleges overall currently are major engines of inequality, and they will remain that way until they can make the changes I am talking about.

    Even when they make those changes, we will still have inequality, because other segments in our society cause more inequality than colleges, but our college system is not helping and the problems with colleges are growing.

    "H.R.W.A.T.P.T.R.T.C.I.T.G -- He really was a terrible president that ran the country into the ground."

    by Reino on Sat Jul 07, 2012 at 07:12:21 AM PDT

    •  Capitalism is literally destroying the biosphere. (9+ / 0-)

      If it's "here to stay", then a modern society in which degrees matter is not.

      That's rather beside the point, though.  No matter how you divy up an educational pie, there is only so much demand for people with degrees.

      Even if we equalized "opportunity" completely, and erased every shred of influence or advantage currently imparted by wealthy parents, we'd do almost nothing to solve the problems of income inequality.

      More scholarships don't erase the need for someone to fix toilets and flip mattresses and transport goods and repair stuff.

      We don't need anymore casino approaches.  It's not about giving more people "A Chance", (though both right-wingers headlining the Presidential race try to convince us it is every time they get before a mic).

      The only way to address inequality is to start building a basic floor, by fighting to make sure everyone gets to enjoy Roosevelt's 4 freedoms, not by devoting our energy to fights over who gets the Golden Ticket.

      Thinking the "food stamp challenge" teaches you about being poor is like thinking a camping trip will give you insight into being homeless.

      by JesseCW on Sat Jul 07, 2012 at 08:26:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Louisiana is ahead of the curve in this area (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      opinionated, philipmerrill, VClib

      thanks to the generosity of Pat Taylor (a local oilman -- now deceased), Louisiana has the "Taylor Opportunity Program for Scholars" or "TOPS."

      What TOPS means is that, if you have a certain (relatively modest) GPA and ACT score (a 2.5 GPA and a 20 ACT), you can go to a state university tuition free.  Higher GPA's and ACT scores get some additional funds for books, etc.  And, this includes the state flagship school, LSU, although the entry requirements are a little higher to get in -- a 22 ACT, for example.  But  TOPS is also good at all 4 year state universities in Louisiana.  

      If you are in a very low income household, you can get federal grants, etc., to cover your living expenses and food -- again, higher at LSU, but a manageable amount at some of the other state universities.  

      The TOPS program says to virtually every high school student, if you have the ability and work ethic, you can attend a four-year university.  High school counselors throughout the state are VERY tuned in to TOPS and its requirements, and are very good at making it work for any student with the credentials and the desire to attend a four-year university.  

      Louisiana would not have had this program if not for the seed money from Pat Taylor, but it's a huge step in the right direction, I think.  

    •  The Romans used to think -- (7+ / 0-)

      that the Empire was eternal, and that nothing could destroy it.

      "A people who know how to organize the accumulation of wealth and its reproduction in the interest of the whole of society, no longer need to be governed." -- Peter Kropotkin

      by Cassiodorus on Sat Jul 07, 2012 at 08:35:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  What Will Destroy Capitalism? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cassiodorus

        The British Empire came and went, and capitalism endured.

        "H.R.W.A.T.P.T.R.T.C.I.T.G -- He really was a terrible president that ran the country into the ground."

        by Reino on Sat Jul 07, 2012 at 10:01:54 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Capitalism will destroy capitalism. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          hepshiba, pacplate, NoMoreLies

          If you want some of the important details of this you should take a look at some of my other diaries.

          The fundamental part of it is this: the capitalist system cannot continue to exploit a finite planet indefinitely and continue to expect profits.

          Economic growth (averaging boom and bust periods) has been declining for four decades now.  When it gets below zero and is in constant contraction, will you still call it "capitalism"?

          No fuel turns a profit like crude oil or coal, so the capitalists plan to mine all the coal and burn all the crude oil.  Do you know what the planet will look like then?

          Take a look at the video -- it will explain what the to-do is all about, in grim detail.

          Now I suppose we could still have "capitalism" with most of the human race wiped out.  But, generally speaking, disasters of that sort tend to motivate social transformation.  I fully expect one -- there will be plenty of losers.  There are doubtless plenty of losers right now, as record temperatures are putting old folks in their graves as we speak.  But today's record heat wave is just the beginning.

          Right now you've got a bunch of zombie corporations whose main motivation is to preserve the existing economic situation because they've cut sweet deals with the regulators to hide their insolvency.  What happens when they can't pay for AC anymore?

          Paul Prew:

          http://sharepoint.worcester.edu/...

          The question to be asked, really, is whether we proceed with capitalism until we reach an ecological bifurcation point that leaves the habitability of the earth in question for the vast majority of the population, or we reach a social bifurcation point that leads us to a social system of production that is dissipative, nonetheless, but does not threaten the flowing balance of nature.
          Capitalism threatens the flowing balance of nature by being too acquisitive.  The technosocial transformations it instigates today are not making its process more robust, so the organic component of capital remains high.  Genetic engineering will not lead to a new era of cheap food.  Alternative energy will not replace the 85 million bbl./day cheap oil habit at lower cost.  The Internet is better for giving things away than it is for selling them.  The world's real estate can only be suburbanized once.  The ecological room for capitalist expansion is vastly smaller than what it was four decades ago.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is just echoing PR.

          "A people who know how to organize the accumulation of wealth and its reproduction in the interest of the whole of society, no longer need to be governed." -- Peter Kropotkin

          by Cassiodorus on Sat Jul 07, 2012 at 10:33:35 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Actually, Capitalism mutated and adapted (0+ / 0-)

          it certainly didn't endure in its pre-1939 form. The right wing, for all its manifold stupidities, is at shrewd enough to recognize this fact. Which is why it is hell bent on returning to those halcyon days of yore by eradicating all vestiges of the New Deal and The Fair Deal. For them, everything since FDR, if not Lincoln, has been Socialism.

          Nothing human is alien to me.

          by WB Reeves on Sat Jul 07, 2012 at 11:54:58 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  "Capitalism is here to stay." (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      hepshiba, WB Reeves

      That's the basis of your argument, but that is an assumption based in your own conjecture.

      The only reason people assert such platitudes is because we've all been taught this is the only way. We're all steeped in these memes from birth.

      Throughout the centuries, through the eras of monarchism and feudalism, and capitalism, the ruling class has done a good job of making us all feel that people belong wherever they find themselves in the schemes of hierarchical structure that stem from the machinations of those same ruling classes.

      That you can utter with such certainly "capitalism is here to stay" as if that is such an immutable foregone conclusion which needs no substantiation, as if anyone who disagrees is such a fool that you don't even feel the need to explain your rationale, only serves as an example of how mesmerized our entire society has become in these capitalist-serving platitudes.

      "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

      by ZhenRen on Sat Jul 07, 2012 at 12:14:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ok. Capitalism is probably here to stay. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Reino, fladem

        To insist once again that this is the final crisis ought to be the extraordinary claim.  Resource depletion in particular categories just creates new opportunities.  The important question is whether we will see a liberal or a fascist political order.

        Where are we, now that we need us most?

        by Frank Knarf on Sat Jul 07, 2012 at 02:26:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Meanwhile... (0+ / 0-)

          Capitalism is sick in bed, getting bailed out by, um, looting the people's treasury. And since capitalism can only survive by resorting to a form of collectivism, how can you assert capitalism wouldn't already be dead if not propped up with crutches?

          Yep, capitalism is here to stay, but only if propped up with... socialism by stealth.

          It's quite possible that capitalism is already terminal, considering that welfare for the rich has been reviving capitalism for a few years now.

          "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

          by ZhenRen on Sat Jul 07, 2012 at 02:41:14 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Interesting and ironic (0+ / 0-)
          Resource depletion in particular categories just creates new opportunities.
          This is essentially the same argument I heard from a member of the Socialist Workers Party over 30 years ago. He called his version the "theory of qualitative leaps": that we needn't worry about the environment because Socialism would allow for the natural development of technological fixes. The only difference is that you're arguing that market forces will provide the as yet unknown and undeveloped fixes.

          Nothing human is alien to me.

          by WB Reeves on Sun Jul 08, 2012 at 12:20:12 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Depletion and technofixes under capitalism (0+ / 0-)
            Resource depletion in particular categories just creates new opportunities.
            The argument as made above is easily rebutted.  Imagine that a global-warming-induced heat wave has destroyed the crop for this year and you're starving because the stored-up food supplies were used up in last year's heat wave.  This might be an "opportunity" for some entrepreneur, but to do what?  Sell you rocks to eat?

            As for technological fixes, they're fine, except that if capitalism is to continue in robust fashion, technological fixes must institute a new era of cheap resources for capitalists to exploit to expand business.  No such new era of cheap resources is anywhere on the horizon.  Technological fixes today don't do that.  Rather, new resources are made available, as we can see with alternative energy, but they aren't cheap.  Also, new communicative resources such as the Internet are now available, but they aren't good for capitalism because they're better adapted to a gift economy than to a capitalist economy.  There will, then, be new resources available through technological fixes -- they won't be good for capitalists, however.  

            Your SWP acquaintance is wrong, in that the environment will be the main concern under socialism and not merely something "we shouldn't worry about."  When the public is in control of the means of production, refitting the means of production to produce indefinite sustainability will be "what is to be done," and it will be a task for everyone and not just a few experts.

            "It's just a ride." -Bill Hicks

            by Cassiodorus on Sun Jul 08, 2012 at 05:16:04 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  You should text Jeff Bezos and warn him about (0+ / 0-)

              this gift thing.

              And I can hardly wait until the new nomenklatura are in charge of the EPA.  One resource shortage we will never have to endure is a naivete shortage.

              Where are we, now that we need us most?

              by Frank Knarf on Sun Jul 08, 2012 at 09:04:31 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Oh come off it Frank (0+ / 0-)

                You don't really think Cassiodorus is advocating Soviet style socialism do you?

                As for naivete, it comes in many guises but all of them involve simplistic approaches to complex problems.  Among these is the idea that any system created by human beings will be able retain its viability in the face of changes in the objective conditions that gave rise to it.  

                Nothing human is alien to me.

                by WB Reeves on Sun Jul 08, 2012 at 12:08:21 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

    •  What you suggest doesn't reduce inequality (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Reino

      It increases social mobility, which is not the same thing.

      Education is not entirely a zero-sum game, but it is to a greater degree than we like to admit. There's only room in the top 10% for 10%, and as long as the top 10% keeps gaining in wealth and power on everyone else, it makes no real difference to the overall picture just who those 10% are.

      Plenty of people with college degrees already don't make it. More graduates might just mean more people with under-utilized educations.

      We decided to move the center farther to the right by starting the whole debate from a far-right position to begin with. - Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay

      by denise b on Sat Jul 07, 2012 at 01:10:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Social Mobility Is Important (0+ / 0-)

        If you have more social mobility, then you have less inequality, because success is spread out to more families. If somebody in your family is successful, they can prevent your low points from getting too low.

        Additionally, we will have less inequality if children of poor parents and children of rich parents graduate with the same debt load, or at least something close to it. When some students graduate with six figure debts and others graduate with no debts, then you don't have equality.

        "H.R.W.A.T.P.T.R.T.C.I.T.G -- He really was a terrible president that ran the country into the ground."

        by Reino on Sat Jul 07, 2012 at 04:52:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  But social mobility doesn't have to be important. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Cassiodorus

          It is certainly not a law of nature that people who do menial jobs should be paid at a subsistence or below subsistence rate.  If income were redistributed to vastly reduce the difference between the bottom and the top, people at all levels could live moderately comfortable lives, and social mobility would be much less of an issue.

          Americans have bought into this idea that society has to be a highly competitive "meritocracy," with people at the top receiving compensation that vastly exceeds what people at the bottom make.  However, I bet people would work as hard if the people at the top had salaries that were only seven times as great as those at the bottom, and society would run better.  

    •  More Grants Than Loans (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Reino

      I went to college from 1970-1974, when a decent level of grants were still available.  I have often thought about whether I could go to college now while still coming from a small,  underprivileged city.

      1.  I had to leave home and move many miles away in order to go to college.  Even the two-year school was outside of the county.

      2.  My widowed mother could not afford the car insurance increase if I had earned a driver's license.  

      3.  Local summer jobs required vehicle transportation.  What full-time work was available required a two or four-year degree, while the remainder paid minimum wage and part-time.

      I managed to graduate into the Great Recession of 1974, which is a whole other story.  I found out that there was a big difference between graduates whose parents could provide some money for living expenses and a car, and those graduates, such as myself, whose family could not help them at all.

      A good job after college requires mobility and mobility requires money.

      By the way, both of my parents only got as far as eighth grade, so it wasn't as though I could use them as role models.

    •  Capitalism (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ZhenRen, Cassiodorus

      is the creation of human beings, not some force of nature. It has only existed as the dominant economic model globally for little more than two to three centuries. Not much in the long skein of human history. To assert that it is somehow eternal is hubristic nonsense.l

      Nothing human is alien to me.

      by WB Reeves on Sun Jul 08, 2012 at 12:03:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sorry (0+ / 0-)

        I posted about what colleges could do in what I thought was a reality-based community. Somehow, I entered a thread where a bunch of people think that there is some possibility that colleges will spend their time and money preparing us for a post-capitalist world that we will enter, and then all 7 billion of us will spend our time saving the environment instead of going about our lives.

        When you get there, please send me a postcard.

        "H.R.W.A.T.P.T.R.T.C.I.T.G -- He really was a terrible president that ran the country into the ground."

        by Reino on Sun Jul 08, 2012 at 06:11:37 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  As if those were different things! (0+ / 0-)
          then all 7 billion of us will spend our time saving the environment instead of going about our lives.
          Well it's nice to know that some people don't drink water or eat food or breathe or depend upon the environment in any way.

          "It's just a ride." -Bill Hicks

          by Cassiodorus on Sun Jul 08, 2012 at 07:58:34 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  If you don't want discuss something (0+ / 0-)

          you ought not to be issuing opinions on the topic. Particularly so, if you're not prepared to support them in the face of differing views.

          Nothing human is alien to me.

          by WB Reeves on Sun Jul 08, 2012 at 11:35:31 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  The fact that our "best" univeristies are (7+ / 0-)

    part of the plutocracy and run by the plutocrats has been clear  for a long time.  Here is but one example of what was leasrned in the 1960s.Columbia University protests of 1968  There is a wonderful book entitledHow Harvard Rules: Reason in the Service of Empire that grew out of the similar occupation of the Harvard offices around that time.

    An idea is not responsible for who happens to be carrying it at the moment. It stands or falls on its own merits.

    by don mikulecky on Sat Jul 07, 2012 at 08:21:06 AM PDT

  •  This is in part what drives the Secular HomeSchool (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus, NoMoreLies

    Movement.

    You don't have to be rich to give your child a quality education if you are diligent and committed. But if you want your child to go to a good school, are you are not rich, you had better be connected or win a lottery.

    But that begs the question: What about all the other children forced to stay in a *Not Good School?

    There is a cruelty to all of this too.

    We as nation put a lot of value into that college diploma. We tell children, that if you grow up and get one of those diplomas that you will not be poor, that your job prospects will be good. We hold it out in front of them like a juicy carrot dangling from a stick.

    But then every year it seems we raise the cost of tuition. We put it further and further out of their reach, even if they show talent and skill--without money, those other qualities may not be enough.

    And we make it so that their entire college "career" cannot occur unless they execute their childhood primary educational career without a mistake, otherwise they are ineligible for even the consideration of assistance to look for grants or less damaging loans.

    It's en evil system as it stands right now.

    Even making middle class families take out a second mortgage on a home is evil. College shouldn't cost *THAT much.

    And why force academics on so many people who are unsuited for it? Why not push more, better and affordable trade schools?

    Because as it stands now, we have been dumbing down the academic aspect of higher education, just so colleges could make more money by sucking in more students and therefore their loans.

    What makes that better than what the 4-Profit schools are doing?

    •  I agree with a number of the points you make. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cassiodorus

      College is far too expensive, and we are pushing many kids who are not really interested in academics into college. We need more high quality trade schools and apprenticeship programs.

      However, I disagree with some of your statements. For example:

      But if you want your child to go to a good school, are you are not rich, you had better be connected or win a lottery.
      I can't speak for the rest of the country, but NJ has many very good public schools in middle-class districts. And the students from these schools are well prepared for college.

      College financial aid is often misunderstood. We often assume that state schools are cheaper than private ones, but this is not always the case. If you child is a good student (not necessarily a perfect one), many excellent private colleges offer need-based financial aid to middle (and even upper-middle) class students. The amount of loans that a student will be asked to take out varies greatly from college to college. I am looking for the link, but there is a list of 20 excellent private colleges where students will graduate will graduate with less that $20K in loans. My kids will/did all graduate with far less than $20K in loans. Some of the top schools even offer no-loan packages. It pays to do your homework.

      •  Well Oklahoma is not New Jersey (0+ / 0-)

        so I will say, that I am happy for you, but I cannot make decisions for my children and their future, based on your good fortune in another state.

        •  You can say that again! (0+ / 0-)

          In fact, I'll do it for you. Oklahoma is not New Jersey. Never was, never will be, and never imagined to be. NJ is one of the most beautiful and abundant states in the nation, great education and health care, and also, they pay for it.

          New Jersey residents pay the highest annual tax bill of any state - a median $6,579 per year, according to the Tax Foundation, which calculated the tally using data the U.S. Census Bureau released on Tuesday.

          Connecticut comes in second place ($4,738), followed by New Hampshire ($4,636) and New York ($3,755).

          Of course, the reason for high taxes vary. You don't want to feel too bad for New Hampshire, for example. They don't pay income or sales tax.

          "It comes down to two things," said Gerald Prante, senior economist with the Tax Foundation. "The demands for services placed on governments and the reliance on property taxes as opposed to other sources of revenue."

          Some local governments simply offer more services to taxpayers, spending more on schools, for exampe. Citizens demand services and must pay for them.


          I jump in to promote the notion of migration. It's amazing how beautiful and different each of the 50 states are - terrain, weather, culture, education, health, food, livelihoods, lifestyles....even life spans. The "better" a place is the more people live there and the more resources they generate and the better their lives.

          I never though of equality as an American trait, or virtue so much as a measure of birth right which is immediately limited by every possible post partum dimension we can conjure up. We are diversity squared, IMO. There's no real world equality between OK or NJ - just look at the weather! Hopefully we're all in a place we want to be though, warts and all.

          Eliminate the Bush tax cuts Eliminate Afghan and Iraq wars Do these things first before considering any cuts

          by kck on Sat Jul 07, 2012 at 12:45:08 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I would also add: You said: (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NoMoreLies

        "It pays to do your homework."

        Most of the time it does. But your statement goes directly back to this:

        And we make it so that their entire college "career" cannot occur unless they execute their childhood primary educational career without a mistake, otherwise they are ineligible for even the consideration of assistance to look for grants or less damaging loans.

        Impoverished children live in situations that often gift them with extra duties in the household that can directly detract from their ability to perform in school.

        Poor parents work longer hours, and until very recently, poor parents had NO recourse for healthcare in many cases. And if the child lives in an area that is prone to violence and crime or lives in an abusive home, then the child might be too busy surviving to give a damn about homework.

        Don't get me wrong, I love academics. But survival trumps paper, exhaustion trumps paper, every time.

        And this is the 600 lb gorilla in the room that no one likes to speak of. Until all adults who work have affordable healthcare, affordable housing and a living wage, these problems will continue to dog the performance of impoverished school students regardless of the quality of parent they have.

        Time Poverty
        Money Poverty
        Living in a Superfund Site
        and a Center of Crime
        Food Deserts/hunger
        Benign Parental Neglect -which goes back to time poverty--meaning it's not done on purpose, but simply a product of having to work more to make less.

        Have direct and negative effect on everyone, but most especially on children in school.

        It pays to do your homework alright. It also pays to have parents who can and will and have the skill to help a child.

        It also pays to have teachers that aren't burned out dealing with the squalor that occurs in some school districts.

        It pays to have politicians who give a damn about poor people as well, who have the vision and the charisma to get funding for programs that mitigate some of these issues that affect academic performance.

        Is this what happens when you get caught being poor?

  •  Great piece expaining mechanism for our 3-Tier... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus

    education system, naively not what Horace Mann wanted but what was bound to happen when you give the state and the elite that  essentially run the state the keys to a centralized standardized institution like compulsory public education!

    Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

    by leftyparent on Sat Jul 07, 2012 at 11:50:40 AM PDT

  •  So what can come in capitalism's wake?... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus, fladem

    Certainly not socialism, which is another model of top-down control with a different sort of elite at the helm.  Can their be "free enterprise" beyond capitalism?  Is it an economy built around the non-profit cooperative model?

    Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

    by leftyparent on Sat Jul 07, 2012 at 11:57:21 AM PDT

    •  Defining "socialism" differently. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NoMoreLies

      The "Soviet Union" version used "socialism" and "Communism" as propaganda-words for a top-down system that was efficacious toward its intended end (industrialization) in the industrial stage of capitalism.  The Soviet semi-retreat from the expanding capitalist world-system was not so attractive, however, under neoliberal capitalism in the late 1980s, and so its leaders switched sides and became neoliberals.  The age of Gorbachev then became the age of Yeltsin.  

      Please see Boris Kagarlitsky's The Disintegration of the Monolith for a "socialist" analysis of the fall of the Soviet Union.  Kagarlitsky was and is no fan of the Soviet Union, regarding Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin etc. as nothing more than Russian Jacobins.

      "Communism" is a rather more diverse term than what the Soviets imagined it to be.  It encompasses the economy described in Acts 4: 32-35:

      32 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. 33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. 34 Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.
      There is also the term "gift economy," which describes social interaction in which exchange is pursued through gifting, and there are "monetary" devices such as the time dollar and of social credit, systems of distribution which lie outside of capitalism altogether.

      As for what's really going to happen, I can't quite say.  Gopal Balakrishnan's thoughts hereseem rather apt:

      We are entering into a period of inconclusive struggles between a weakened capitalism and dispersed agencies of opposition, within delegitimated and insolvent political orders. The end of history could be thought to begin when no project of global scope is left standing, and a new kind of ‘worldlessness’ and drift begins.
      The old order is a fading glory, and the new is not quite ready yet.

      "A people who know how to organize the accumulation of wealth and its reproduction in the interest of the whole of society, no longer need to be governed." -- Peter Kropotkin

      by Cassiodorus on Sat Jul 07, 2012 at 12:35:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Both my own kids are entrepreneurial... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cassiodorus

        and have a healthy discomfort for anything having to do with "The Man" and the corporate world that supports him.  What sort of economic system is going to facilitate the creative energy of our younger generation?

        Our son and his friends were able to borrow money (capital) and start a small business to challenge the status quo of how the service they provided was offered.  Where does that fit in your vision of a reinvigorated biblical socialism?

        A radical redistribution of wealth as an occasional corrective measure (as per that Bible passage) is one thing, but turning it into a functional economic system that facilitates human creativity and development is another.

        I have always appreciated your diaries as well, and am so impressed of the depth of thought and effort you put into this one!  Would love to have an evening to sit down with you and talk all this out.  I think I would have so much to learn from you.

        Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

        by leftyparent on Sat Jul 07, 2012 at 01:09:07 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Capitalism must run its course. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NoMoreLies

          Here I am thinking of the ecological definition of capitalism given in the essays of Jason W. Moore: capitalism is a regime defined by its "taking" of nature as a "free gift."  Through this taking it becomes a regime of capital accumulation.  Capital accumulation forms, both locally and internationally, a "business climate" -- Kees van der Pijl's earlier works describe what is necessary in international relations for the formation of this business climate.

          Business owners do not exist with their ambitions in a vacuum.  There is of course a "business climate" -- a clientele willing to spend money, an available profit margin, business resources available at reasonable rates, and a need for money in a landscape characterized by rents, real estate, property taxes, and the (commodified) necessities of life, and so on.  All of these realities are real enough -- but they're part of a contingent reality.  Resources can become scarce, clienteles might not be willing to spend, rents might be too high, and so on.

          Global growth rates have been in overall decline since 1973.  I've tried in other diaries to describe why I think this is a time of accumulating catastrophe, and I hope this helps you foresee a time when business climate may not be available to your kids, and when they might take an interest in doing something else -- forming affinity groups with those who share a similar interest in survival, and so on.

          "A people who know how to organize the accumulation of wealth and its reproduction in the interest of the whole of society, no longer need to be governed." -- Peter Kropotkin

          by Cassiodorus on Sat Jul 07, 2012 at 02:34:29 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  PS -- (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      leftyparent, cassidy3

      I like your diaries.

      "A people who know how to organize the accumulation of wealth and its reproduction in the interest of the whole of society, no longer need to be governed." -- Peter Kropotkin

      by Cassiodorus on Sat Jul 07, 2012 at 12:38:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Which terminal crisis of late capitalism is this? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fladem

    I've lost count.

    Where are we, now that we need us most?

    by Frank Knarf on Sat Jul 07, 2012 at 02:17:39 PM PDT

    •  It's the one in which (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      leftyparent, fladem, NoMoreLies

      "cold fusion" doesn't exist.

      "A people who know how to organize the accumulation of wealth and its reproduction in the interest of the whole of society, no longer need to be governed." -- Peter Kropotkin

      by Cassiodorus on Sat Jul 07, 2012 at 02:36:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Pithy commet, but very thoughtful & well said!... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cassiodorus

        There is no silver bullet, like cold fusion, that will allow us to continue to live unsustainable lives.  We have enough if we can learn to be truly frugal, but capitalism does not tend to promote such restraint.

        Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

        by leftyparent on Sat Jul 07, 2012 at 03:30:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Perfectly put. (0+ / 0-)

      The bitter truth of deep inequality has been disguised by an era of cheap imported goods and the anyone-can-make-it celebrity myth - Polly Toynbee

      by fladem on Sat Jul 07, 2012 at 07:08:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I don't which crisis this is (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cassiodorus

      but it's obvious that we are in a crisis. We might ride this one out if rational policies were instituted but that isn't what's happening at present. Indeed, if it hadn't been for the mass upsurge under the banner of the occupy movement, there's little reason to believe that the right wing mantra of austerity and denial wouldn't still be dominating the public debate.

      It is equally obvious that an economic system predicated on limitless growth fueled by limitless consumption has no long term sustainability in a world of finite resources.  

      Nothing human is alien to me.

      by WB Reeves on Sat Jul 07, 2012 at 11:45:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ouch! Should be "I don't KNOW which crisis it is." (0+ / 0-)

        Dang it!

        Nothing human is alien to me.

        by WB Reeves on Sun Jul 08, 2012 at 12:24:55 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  The limitless consumption of iron ore and coal (0+ / 0-)

        has rather different consequences than the practically limitless consumption of petabytes and solar radiation.  A tired 19th century politcal economics does not capture the issues very well.

        I have no idea if we will see liberal reforms or fascist reactions as the current systemic stresses play out.  But capitalism is far more robust than the red idealists care to admit.

        Where are we, now that we need us most?

        by Frank Knarf on Sun Jul 08, 2012 at 06:29:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Capitalism may be robust (0+ / 0-)

          but treating it as though it were the economic version of a perpetual motion machine is hardly a realistic approach. Likewise, the assumption that it is the "end of economic history" and that it will automatically overcome all limitations is on a par with any wishful thinking that "red idealists" might indulge in.

          Nothing human is alien to me.

          by WB Reeves on Sun Jul 08, 2012 at 11:29:41 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  What about European Capitalism?... (0+ / 0-)

    Where there is significantly stronger government regulation that can implement carbon taxes and other limits on capitalist excess.  Wouldn't following that model in the U.S. work much better and keep us from depleting resources and spoiling the environment?

    Europe has gone thru all sorts of flavors of socialism and social-democracy and maybe has "tuned" itself to a more functional mix going forward.  Do you see the European model as fatally flawed as well?

    Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

    by leftyparent on Sat Jul 07, 2012 at 06:16:43 PM PDT

    •  Take a look at Naked Capitalism. (0+ / 0-)

      http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/

      you might have to do a few searches -- but the analysts discussed on that blog can tell you about why the Eurozone is fatally flawed, why the banks in Europe are just as underwater as the banks are here, and why Europe is in deep trouble.  Germany is doing OK for now but Spain has nearly 25% unemployment.  It doesn't sound stable.  Ideal Europe was great; the European welfare state is a definite improvement on what we have here in the US; but real Europe has problems.  Yanis Varoufakis is a really good source of info.

      http://yanisvaroufakis.eu/

      Your question about better regulation is also worthy of a response.  Better regulation would be a really great thing if it resulted in an international treaty to phase out fossil fuel consumption.  As such, it's something worth demanding -- but it's hard to see how realistic such a demand would be without a demand that capital accumulation be brought to heel.  We need to get away from the notion that everything can be made into a commodity and exploited, because oil and coal are things we need to stop exploiting.  Harmonious living with nature has to replace the universal dependency upon "revenue streams."

      "A people who know how to organize the accumulation of wealth and its reproduction in the interest of the whole of society, no longer need to be governed." -- Peter Kropotkin

      by Cassiodorus on Sat Jul 07, 2012 at 08:05:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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