Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons
With the victory of Betsy DeVos, it seems the Department of Education may be entering its end-of-life phase. Although I would thoroughly enjoy finishing it off with a few blows of a hammer (then poking it to ensure it is good and dead), the narrowness of her victory margin suggests that detractors will successfully petition to keep the department on life support for some time. Even though the mere existence of a Department of Education flies in the face of the Constitution, people have gotten rather used to it: kind of like the awkward office Christmas parties that everybody dreads but can’t abandon because they are considered an integral part of polite society. Right below “muh roads” in importance is “muh public schools.” Publications like the New Republic seem to look at Ron Paul’s revolutionary idea of public school abolishment as a sure symptom of severe mental illness (reason alone for me to strongly consider his stance).
I have both hope and misgivings about the appointment of DeVos, but I find the clear disdain for her, exhibited by some of my least-favorite talking heads, mildly encouraging. I am, at the very least, interested to see what she will do, and I hope that one of her first orders of system dismantling is to staunch the bleeding of tax dollars into “higher” education.
From a pragmatic perspective, this move is clearly a simpler one than some of her other endeavors will likely be. The people attending college are adults and (one would hope) better able to handle the removal of their babysitter. But the reason for its importance goes beyond mere convenience. Higher education – and more specifically the government’s funding of it – lies at the crux of many of our most pressing problems in the United States.
Until recently, I would likely have promoted our illustrious institutes of education as a solution to problems, instead of their cause; probably because the Department of Education has the word “education” right in its name, and that sounded so promising. I won’t go into all the spectacular examples that have proven this line of thinking obsolete, but I think most people who are not either Shaun King or professors teaching seminars entitled “Why All White Men Are Hitler” would agree that these institutions are largely failing to educate anybody. This fact is not likely to change overnight, but merely extricating the government from them accomplishes one vitally important end – quashing the illusion of entitlement that is destroying our country.
One of the first experiences many people have when officially reaching adulthood is navigating college. When state schools are so heavily funded by taxes, supplemented by state-run student loans and grants, students are immediately handed a large sum of their tuition for free and thereby unaware of the true cost of education. According to the New America Foundation (cited in The Atlantic), the federal government (your taxes) spent $69 billion on funding for higher education in 2013 (and that does not include loans). Worse, as soon as students arrive on campus, peppy student body representatives are handing these mini adults their “free” condoms, meal cards, and bus passes. Two seconds after reaching adulthood, they are having the idea that life is supposed to be free reinforced.
Women are oppressed by their own fertility and must be compensated. We are all victims of natural hunger and must have meals provided by… well, it doesn’t really matter who is paying for it, as long as WE are not. No apartments are available next to campus, so we need transportation – somebody needs to cover that. And we have the “right” to receive education, in the area of our interest, be it interpretive dance or something even less practical.
Furthermore, we have the right to be assisted by tax money in these endeavors. If we shockingly find ourselves unable to secure a spot in a wildly successful dance company, we can have our student loans “forgiven,” as if doing so just required an apology and a conciliatory handshake. We have a right, nay, a DUTY, to pursue our destiny.
Mind you, I am not discouraging individuals or businesses who want to assist struggling students in these areas. Quite the contrary. I am merely pointing out that by having the government do it, we are eliminating the faces of the generous donors and the natural gratitude that often follows direct receipt of a gift. We are replacing that with the impression that these services somehow grow on trees. There is a condom tree, a bus pass tree, and a tree that produces the gelatin dessert served in your dining hall.
This may account for the tree-hugging movement among environmentalists. They got their degrees at these schools.
Unfortunately, once the government has sold this lie to students, it has them in prime position to sell them more. Consider that if these items did grow on trees, the government would tax and regulate them until they were prohibitively expensive, then heroically find ways to cut costs for students by making somebody else pay for it. The legislators who did this would now be considered champions of equality and education by the students, even as they grift those very students’ future selves out of tax money.
And thus, the cycle of government dependence is born at the commencement of higher education. State-sponsored universities are creating citizens who see legislators as saviors and imagined entitlements as natural resources.
Eliminating government involvement is not likely to turn clueless students into responsible adults overnight, but it will hopefully avoid our current crisis of sending intelligent young people into expensive schools and having them emerge 4 years later, 50 economic I.Q. points lower.
If we are going to kill the beast of overreaching government, we need to go for the jugular: tax-funded higher education.