Owls, Apple Pie and Socialism
“My daughter is the wrong color”, he said bitterly. When it comes to financial aid for college, white ain’t right.
Long before Herrs Marx and Engels lit up the proletarian sky, and long before Mr. Lenin
darkened the future for the Romanof clan, Americans had embraced with pride “free” public education. There was nothing un-American about public schools. We got together to provide our children an education in the same way we formed a militia or turned out to raise a barn: it was a good neighbor’s responsibility. Just as we had determined that political power was not an inherited right, we determined that if economic power belonged to the educated we would gladly provide children the learning required.
We used to take great pride in that fact. One of the things American patriots could brag about was that you didn’t have to be born to the blue to get a good education. Prior to World War Two, our system of secondary education was unique and the envy of the world.
One hundred years ago, only one percent of those educated in the United States went on to a college degree. Today, because seventeen year olds are not mature enough to take care of themselves, we nurture our young until they are at least twenty-one before releasing them hopefully upon the odyssey of self-reliance. This ripening requires four more years of “education”. College education has become as necessary today as primary education once was. Yet, unlike primary education, there is no concomitant public commitment to provide that extra four years.
The toll at the “state” college around here is six thousand a year for tuition. The “public” school district that educated the “girl with the wrong color” has a budget of about sixteen and a half million and a student body of about twenty-three hundred. I figured out it costs seven thousand per year for a primary education. That’s more than college. It cost more to teach her how to finger-paint in the second grade and cost more to teach her how to play the trumpet so she could march with the band, than her college tuition.
For all those years, there were few complaints from my anti big government friend about the costs of education (although he did have to pay for the trumpet). What is my dear and very “conservative” friend so upset about then if not the rude de-coupling of his daughter’s education from the public teat? The anger I see in him and tens of millions of Americans just like him, arises from the fact that for the first time in their lives, they are being asked to pay a portion of their children’s education privately.
Why doesn’t he demand an extension of public education? Why does he blame “them”?
Public education works because we share costs. Insurance works because we share risks.
Both institutions have been an accepted and respected way of life in America for a very long time and are as American as apple pie.
They are both socialism.
When, in this Texan town, they turn on the “Friday Night Lights”, and the high school football team takes the field, it is usually, by far, the most important community event of the week. Our team is named the “Owls”. In the forty-page high school football supplement (included at no charge with the ten-page weekly paper), all the teams in the area are listed. Each and every squad is pictured, as are all the coaches and all the cheerleaders, including the JVs and freshman. While there is no betting line, every team in the state is professionally rated. I read the whole forty pages. There wasn’t one team called the “Commies”, no uniforms with Red Stars, no hammers or sickles. Nobody played on Fidel Field, Stalin Stadium, or Mao Park.
The “Cold” War was fought against that perverted form of socialism known as Communism. Extreme economically, it abolishes all private property. Extreme politically, it always results in tyranny. For its fanatical adherents it is a state religion with no competition allowed, including God. In order to defeat communism we attacked every form of socialism, even our own rightwing variety. We created a narrowed ideology that posed the conflict as one being between private and public, and between profit and non-profit. That we hold these beliefs largely because of lessons learned in public schools was ignored in the hysteria. Today, although the Cold War is in remission, some of us still operate with an ideological hangover. We cannot reconcile our older, successful tradition with our recent propaganda. We wish to throw out the baby with the bathwater.
In victory, we led a coalition of the “first” world against the “second” world of communism. We cowered the Soviets and intimidated ourselves. We stood down the Red Army, but are afraid to be late for work. We once rocked the world with bold new ideas and unheard of standards of living because our pluck had not yet been chilled by the Cold War.
If there is still such a thing as a “first” world, surely we must adjust our understanding of that concept. What we now see is a division of the “first” world into two categories: “One A” and “One B”. The United States can no longer be considered “One A” in many of the most important evaluations.