Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Why it is in Your Interest to Make School Affordable
I recently overheard some people discussing those who are lobbying for reduced student loan debt.
Said, as one stared at her iPhone over lunch: "That wouldn't be fair! If they are making more money because they have a degree, then they should pay for it!"
I realized later on that there was a bit of irony in her statement.
Here this person is, holding a phone that was created by someone with the vision and technical know-how to combine a phone with a computer, eating a meal with ingredients that made their way across the country in a moving machine with turning wheels, sitting in a heated building created because someone figured out how to create heat and blow it into a building so they won't freeze, and all they can think about is that one of the many thousands of people who makes all of these things possible should be asked to shoulder a ghastly economic burden for the next 10-30 years of their lives.
There are those who think the economy is capable of adequately compensating those who make these things happen. Yes, Steve Jobs has more money than God. I love his presentations. I don't really watch them. I marvel at what they signify. This slightly deformed super-mind emerges from his lair and tells you exactly how its going to be. He truly is '1984.'
The President can't even pull that off. If you want to know why those Russians who were deported last year were engaged in corporate espionage as opposed to wasting their time with spying on the government, this is why. The government itself is old hat. There is no need to spend years building contacts in a foreign country in hopes that they might take a bit of cash based upon a hope that they can steal the recipe for the White House Tiramisu if you have the skill to hack directly into their databases and steal it instantaneously.
And so, when you go to a university and see a high number of foreign students in a program, do you think:
A. That they are returning to their homeland saddled with massive student loan debt.
B. That they seriously wish to find a hot American spouse and marry them for their citizenship because they enjoy the fact that we have bountiful supplies of toilet paper and Lean Cuisines on our shelves
C. They will be hired away by a US corporation to do our bidding?
Yes, which one is it?
Believe it or not, if you still think B&C are viable options, you are a bit outdated and optimistic.
Those of us who remember the tale of Mikhail Baryshnikov may optimistically hold onto the Pollyanna view that everyone believes that the US is the greatest nation in the world that everybody is trying to clamor their way into. Yes, thank you, Mexico, for making us feel like the hot college chick who is constantly fending off the bald guy with the beer gut. You make us feel desirable. Yet, to use an analogy, Mexico is George Costanza, the U.S. is Anna Nicole Smith, and Sweden is Christian Bale...and Christian Bale ain't hitting on us because he's already got Katy Perry, Beyonce, and Julia Roberts to choose from. But we're too strung out to notice that we don't look like we once did a few years ago.
Yes, think about it: Twenty years ago, we had people from countries with fairly respectable infrastructure fighting their way to get in. Now, the only people we hear about trying to fight their way in are those with life choices that involve either being a mule for a drug cartel or cutting shrubs for whitey.
That aside, many of those people are going home after receiving top training at many of our universities and helping to create a better nation...yes, a better homeland nation, not a better U.S.
I'm not saying we should deny spots in universities to foreigners. What I'm saying is that if you fail to fund the education system from preschool up, then who are you cultivating to be the next Steve Jobs?
And it shouldn't just be the Steve Jobs that we're talking about. Steve Jobs does not work alone, by the way. He has a team of people that sit around all day and come up with these things. In turn, they direct an army of highly skilled employees through the technicalities of getting it to work. We need a base of people who can read and understand the purpose of all of those schematics and designs so that we can have a workforce capable of creating these objects. Even if they hold nothing but the status of lab flunky, that person is creating your medicines, analyzing crime laboratory results, making fuel efficient cars, creating weapons to blow up terrorists, and making the next generation of iPhones.
If we were truly such a "fend for yourself" country, and we had to truly rely upon everything we personally create to get by, most of us would still be in the stone ages. You might be able to fashion a house out of logs, hunt a few wild game, and create a few novel, simple tools to make your day easier, but if you were personally dependent upon yourself to build an iPhone based upon your 8th grade level of science knowledge, then you would be screwed. You are already denied the centuries of knowledge that have been accumulated in order to understand what you even need to start accomplishing the task.
Quick, what metals would you use? How would you build a carrying case? How can you fit an antenna inside of the phone?
Yes, once upon a time, someone shrunk those clunky old cell phones down into what you are carrying in your hands, but right now, you don't even have the skill and knowledge to make the clunky old phone.
The people visiting here from other nations learning how to make these things are most likely being funded by their governments to come here and study because their governments understand exactly how important this knowledge is to their future. Yet, here in the U.S., all we can think about is the short-term benefit. Our society has stopped seeing our children and college graduates as the people who are going to keep this nation going, and instead, only thinks of them as people who are wrongly tooling around in nice cars while Joe Schmoe tax payer lives in a hut and shoulders the cost of their education.
Yes, maybe you live in a hut, but your hut is filled with technologies and your life is prolonged by advanced medicines that these people created. Why does it make sense that you, a person who decided not to take that bullet and spend a sizable portion of your adult life in school, should receive the windfall of this brainpower and work, yet, you want to stick them with the bill of making this magic happen?