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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Learned voices miss critical value in education

Not cheap schooling to expand consumer class but a nation’s duty to raise a people, bar none, educated for society
Editing and commentary by 
Carolyn Bennett

Professor and President got it wrong.

“We are being told we should accept a great deal of austerity because we do not want to saddle future generations with this enormous federal debt,” said Geography Professor David Harvey today on Democracy Now. “At the same time,” he continued, “we are saddling a generation of students with immense personal debt.…

“It doesn’t make sense,” the professor said.

The British native said the education system he went through was “a tuition-free system” [wasn't he lucky] and that the City University of New York (CUNY), where he now teaches [doubly lucky], “was tuition-free up until the 1970s” when, according to him, “the Business Roundtable, the Rockefeller Brothers” and others waged a huge campaign to impose tuition on CUNY; and ever since then, there has been “this immense attempt by corporations and the wealthy to pass the costs of education on to the people who are being educated. “

The Business Roundtable, according to Wikipedia, “was founded in 1972 by John Harper, the head of ALCOA Aluminum, and Fred Borch, CEO of General Electric, who were concerned about growing public hostility toward corporations as evidenced by support for government regulation of the workplace environment, and about the power of unions to squeeze corporate profits in an increasingly competitive international market. The two CEOs talked with John Connally, President Richard Nixon’s Treasury Secretary, and Federal Reserve Chairman Arthur Bums, who advised them to set up a lobbying organization that would specifically represent large banks and corporations. Harper was the Roundtable’s first president followed by Thomas Murphy of General Motors, Irving Shapiro of Du Pont, and Clifford Garvin of Exxon.”
Migrant workers
The Business Roundtable “is called President Barack Obama’s ‘closest ally in the business community.’”

Two Rockefellers: John Jay (IV) and David (Jr.)

John Davison (Jay) Rockefeller IV (b. 1937), a great-grandson of oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller (the only currently-serving politician of a six-generation Rockefeller family and only the Democrat in a traditionally Republican family), is the senior United States Senator from West Virginia. “In 1993, he became the principal Senate supporter with Ted Kennedy of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s sweeping health care reform package… The reform was subsequently defeated by an alliance between the Business Roundtable and a small-business coalition.”

David Rockefeller Jr. (b. 1941), eldest son of Margaret (Peggy) McGrath and David Rockefeller, is an American philanthropist and an active participant in nonprofit and environmental areas. “In 2001, he joined William H. Gates Sr., George Soros, and 120 other millionaires and billionaires in signing a petition urging the United States Congress not to repeal the estate and gift tax imposed on the families of the rich …”

In today’s Democracy Now discussion around U.S. college-student debt, Professor David Harvey continued his observations.

“… They [Corporations and the wealthy] don’t want to pay for training their own labor force,” he said. “They want their labor force to train itself, and then they’ll use it.” And the result is that “we have this enormous defect in American higher education. … [The United States] is one of the least educated countries out of all of the OECD countries. Achievements in math and science are way down compared to everywhere else; and this is a disaster from the standpoint of the national interest.”

The 50-year-old Paris (France)-based international organization OECD or Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development offers as its main concerns:

(1)   The restoration of confidence in markets and the institutions and companies that make them function thus requiring “improved regulation and more effective governance at all levels of political and business life”;

(2)   Governments’ re-establishment of “healthy public finances as a basis for future sustainable economic growth” seeking ways of fostering and supporting “new sources of growth through innovation, environmentally friendly ‘green growth’ strategies and development of emerging economies”;  and

(3)    The underpinning of innovation and growth by “[ensuring] that people of all ages can develop the skills to work productively and satisfyingly in the jobs of tomorrow”

Skilled trade workers
According to its self-description, OECD provides a forum in which governments can work together to share experiences and seek solutions to common problems. It sets international standards; works with governments “to understand what drives economic, social and environmental change; measures productivity and global flows of trade and investment; and analyzes and compares data to predict future trends.” Its mission, says its website, is “to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.”

But there that “A” word all across the Western world just now. Professor Harvey says it’s not the fault of the academy. Austerity comes from the State capital, Albany, in the case of New York.  Higher education costs escalate “way beyond the rate of inflation,” he says, and tuition rises. The result is “debt peonage [slavery] for a large chunk of the population.”

Consumers in debt prison can’t consume

The U.S. president in Campaign Theater, as evidenced in a clip rebroadcast today on Democracy Now, panders to and pleads the case for a “middle class” — but not for education as a value in itself or as a means of improving society or country as a whole. “Five years ago,” the president said, “Congress cut the rate on federal student loans in half. That was a good thing to do but on July 1st [this year]… that rate cut expires; and if Congress does nothing, the interest rates on those loans will double overnight.… “We can’t price the middle class out of a college education, not at a time when most new jobs in America will require more than a high school diploma. 
“Whether it’s at a four-year college or a two-year program, we can’t make higher education a luxury. It’s an economic imperative.…”

These men fail to see forest, the depth of the education issue. 

Both the British-born professor and U.S. president — having taught in classrooms or lectured in lecture halls — fail to convey the core value and urgency surrounding education: the importance, indeed the essentiality, of a nation raising a properly educated and able people, generation after generation, kindergarten through secondary and post-secondary levels (and raising innovators employing and sustaining varieties of workers in varieties of satisfying work).

The president and professor blame this one and that one. They talk numbers and consumers and pander to this or that “class.” Their arguments are self-serving and severely flawed, little more than partisan rant; and if this is what goes on in these learned men’s lecture halls, there is little wonder that U.S. education consistently pulls low grades in quality.  These men seem obliviously incapable of comprehending, clearly they do not convey the critical need of education for society; not only for the narrow U.S. society, but for world society of which we are a part and to which we contribute.

If these learned voices addressed the issue at this depth, they would then have to address critical U.S. priorities:

 The duty of a responsible nation to educate its people, to fund their education (not as “welfare,” “charity,” special scholarships or other “handouts”); and to do it generously, barring no “class” of people; 

 Not to Waste resources and lives on militaries, armaments, wars and the perpetuation of an ethos of division, fear and violence.

Sources and notes
“1T Day: As U.S. Student Debt Hits $1 Trillion, Occupy Protests Planned for Campuses Nationwide,” April 25, 2012,

David Harvey (b. 1935, Gillingham, Kent, England) is an academic geographer and author of many books and essays that have been prominent in the development of modern geography as a discipline. He is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY).  Among his published works is The Limits to Capital and A Brief History of Neoliberalism and Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution.

The Business Roundtable, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_Roundtable

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development



love learning, http://bluelife-jason.blogspot.com/2012/01/learning-to-learn-
A demonstrator holds a sign during a march in London against exploitation of migrant workers. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images, http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2010/dec/22/migrant-workers-remittances


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