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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 10/21/14

Degradation of Our Educational System is Canary in the Mineshaft

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Frederick Douglass wrote, "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." But no one's ever accused Americans of thinking about how our actions today may affect something or someone down the road. This explains our past, present and make a bull's eye prediction of our future.

Our graduates carry a debt load of $1.2 trillion dollars while the cost of a college degree in the United States has increased "12 fold" over the past 30 years, far outpacing the price inflation of consumer goods, medical expenses and food.

Interestingly, full time professors have lost ground because universities are employing more adjuncts and fewer tenured track professionals. "A professor with tenure can earn a salary of $80,000 per year, while an adjunct professor receives between $2,000 and $5,000 per course," averaging around $22,000 per year.

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Why have tuitions increased that much while we now pay so little to adjuncts that many of them need to apply for food stamps and other government benefits to survive? Might it have something to do with the fact the ratio of administrators to teachers has changed to favor administrators?

It's not just happening at the college level. "At least 35 states are providing less funding per student for the 2013-14 school year than they did before the recession hit. Fourteen of these states have cut per-student funding by more than 10 percent." I guess we've decided that we can't afford to educate our children to compete in an increasingly competitive world.

The result is the US ranks 21st of 34 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries when measured on overall performance in reading, math and science.

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None the less, we still protect the rights of the mega-rich to avoid taxation, extract money from our economy and store it in offshore accounts and investments. Don't fear. We won't cut the billions in government subsidies to big businesses. And for goodness sake, don't give a moment's concern to the thought that we might not be able to bomb anyone we choose into oblivion.

You don't need to look far to see the failure of our educational system. It's in our face almost every time we have an interaction with some people in public contact jobs; surly clerks, shrugged shoulders, feigned interest, near functional illiteracy and innumeracy. More than once I've given up trying to get a problem resolved by so-called technical support people. Ever had any problems with your prescriptions getting lost?

And yes, there are exceptions but usually not at the level of the average employee who we depend on for everyday products and services. The wealthy are still well educated in private elementary schools and universities that only the wealthy afford. In the meantime no one seems to worry about how this country will not only compete but afford our future.

Afford our future doesn't make sense, you say. Well what kind of tax base will we have when the majority of our citizens are working low paying service sectors jobs with no possibilities for future advancements? Who will pay for tax exemptions, government subsidies, future educational programs, the military complex that we are so proud of, and for us to police the world as usual? Remember, the government earns no money but what it collects in taxes.

The degradation of our educational system is another canary in the mineshaft forewarning the inevitable consequences of continuing disparity in the distribution of income and wealth in this country.

Forget politics for just a moment and answer this question: When the mega-wealthy continue to take money out of a consumer economy like ours and the vast majority's proportion of income and wealth continues to diminish -- wait -- let's reduce it to a simple math problem: If Billy had 2 dollars and Biff took 2 dollars away, how will Billy, the consumer, buy the products and services to keep our economy going? Correct. He can't.

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Robert DeFilippis

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Author, columnist, and blogger with a long career in business management, management consulting and executive coaching. I've authored and published seven books: "You, Your Self and the 21st Century,"The Flowers Are Talking to Me," and "Faith (more...)

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