London students have been rioting over the recent announcement that university tuition is about to triple.
U.S. students don’t riot about such things. They just drop out of school when they can’t find the money to go on.
As the U.S. economy continues to shut out more and more people from privileges they used to take for granted, attitudes towards education will have to change.
Make no mistake. Formal education IS a privilege.
Throughout history, education has been the privilege of the wealthy to bestow upon their own children and upon those children of the poor who could be of use to them as educated servants.
The United States was begun as a social experiment. It was perceived as the only nation in the world to be started from scratch, free from the restrictive social hierarchies already in place in other countries. Most of the rhetoric was, of course, delusionary. Even in the earliest days of the new Republic, some people were more equal than others. Men were more equal than women. White men were more equal than black men or Indian men. Rich white men were more equal than poor white men.
For a while education was seen as the priceless treasure and path to liberty that it is. To teach a slave to read was against the law. To encourage a woman to read anything she wanted to was seen as dangerous to her mental health and to public order.
The more accessible that education has become to the masses, the less it is sought as a thing of intrinsic value.
The easier it has become to attend classes in which a teacher is seen as a dispenser of knowledge in easily digestible form, the more detached from the effort of learning students have become.
As the privilege of a university education returns to being the province of the wealthy, the less-privileged classes need to take a good look at the options that remain. Unlike those of earlier ages, modern populations have access to free education. Public libraries are the universities of the masses. Anyone who can learn to read can get an education.