As concerns education, its purpose as presently envisaged is to enable persons to be "productive" within the context of industrial society.
~Thomas Berry, The Great Work~
Warning: This article is blasphemous. How can a former professor of history and psychology write an article with this title? Is the author simply a disgruntled doomer who has become hopelessly cynical?
First, let me begin by expressing my gratitude for four years of solid university education. I'm equally grateful for advanced degrees in history and counseling. I'm grateful for help from my parents and being able to live in an economy where I could work, pay my bills, and actually save money for tuition. I attended college at a particularly exciting time in history, also majoring in that subject as an undergraduate, my minor being, so to speak, student activism.
Secondly, I'm grateful for the years I served as an adjunct professor and the responsiveness of many of my students to the myriad ways I illuminated them about the Long Emergency and taught them how to prepare. I know firsthand that I made a difference in many lives.
I completed my last semester of teaching in the summer of 2009, and as I drove across the United States to my new home in Boulder, Colorado, I knew unequivocally that I could not return to a traditional classroom and maintain any semblance of sanity. (No worries because there weren't any teaching jobs available anyway.) In fact, the deterioration I saw in institutional policies and students' abilities and motivation with respect to learning within just the span of three years
were jaw-dropping. The end result, I was certain, would be a society approximating that portrayed in the movie "Idiocracy", and so it may well be as public education continues to unravel and increasingly become a direct pipeline to prison.
As I have collaborated with colleagues over the past decade, their stories are virtually carbon copies of mine: Students whose basic reading, writing, and math skills are abysmal, even if they graduated in the top one percent of their high school class; no interest in learning for the sake of learning; willingness to do whatever it takes, including constructing elaborate, blatant cheating schemes, in order to get the grade they want; an unwillingness to take responsibility for their education and making the grades they want-and even an absence of any sense of how to do so. All of this with no clue about why a college education could be useful other than to secure a professional position. Some cherish other vapid reasons for attending college such as the one a colleague recently shared with me. When she asked one of her students why she was attending college, the student replied with, "I want to be able to know where to look things up so I can find answers." As we all know, no one needs to attend college in order to learn that particular skill.
But that is only one skill for which attending college is unnecessary.
So why are so many parents still hellbent on sending their kids to college, and why are so many young people determined to attend? Isn't a college education good for something? Is it a complete waste?
I would be the first to champion a college education in 2010 if college students arrived from high schools where they had mastered basic academic skills, if they were passionately in love with learning for the sake of learning, and if they understood what it means to be solely responsible for one's own education-beginning with: If you study, you are likely to pass or do well, and if you don't study, you probably won't pass, and you'll do poorly. But in the first decade of the 21st century, these are not the qualities with which the majority of students embark on the journey of so-called higher education.
Like owning one's own home, like the three-car garage, like the burgeoning professional career, like the nuclear family with its 2.6 children, like the 401K and something called "retirement", a college education has been for at least six decades, an integral part of the American dream. That dream and all of the components of it which I have just enumerated is now being embalmed in the funeral parlor of industrial civilization's collapse.
In a civilization based on endless growth accomplished through endless debt, the masters of the fraudulent financial universe realized very quickly that the American dream could be a debt-dream which would permanently enslave the dreamers and increase their own stock portfolios. Along with their sub-prime, "sub-slime" NINJA (no income, no job, no assets) home loans, they designed a system in which students in an economy that the masters were helping obliterate could rack up tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt from which they could never escape until it was paid off.
Moreover, the entire college education scheme fulfilled their game plan even further because they had successfully turned colleges and universities into corporations in which students were not trained to think critically but to saunter sycophantically through four years of indoctrination in how to become a corporate citizen, how to do whatever it takes to achieve the American-debt dream, and how to graduate to a lifelong career of raping, pillaging, and plundering the earth.
And now that unemployment is heading toward levels unseen since the Great Depression, American debt-dreamers can no longer pay mortgages or continue making student loan payments. One of my favorite headlines regarding the latter appeared in May: "Class of 2010 set to flood U.S. job market as '09 graduates wait tables."
Whereas a college education was once a ticket to gainful employment shortly after discarding the cap and gown, not only is there a dearth of professional jobs, but many graduates remain as devoid of intellectual acumen as they were upon entering college. Today's Business Insider online carries a story "This Manufacturer Can't Find 100 Unemployed Americans With Basic Math Skills to Hire." The story opens with: "Here's the ugly side of the U.S. unemployment problem that would be political suicide for a politician to highlight. Current U.S. unemployment isn't just about a lack of job creation from companies, outsourcing, or a lack of trade protections. Sometimes it's just due to a lack of skills on the part of Americans."
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