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​Robbing Peter, Paul – and Mary

Gadfly | November 18th, 2023

By Ed Raymond

The Purpose of a College Education: Do We Work to Live or Live to Work?

Because of the increasing costs of college, the staggering $1.7 trillion of student debt owed by 45 million American students and parents ages 18 to 95, and the failure of states to support with taxes vocational, community, and two-year colleges, and public colleges and universities, undergraduate college enrollment in the DSA dropped eight percent between 2019 and 2022---and is increasing that rate in 2023.

Forty years ago the Divided States of America had the same life expectancy as the other wealthy developed nations in the world. In 2023, we are on average five to eight years below those other developed nations.

The main reason? We have the greatest economic inequality in the world because we tax Gross National Product GNP) at half the rate of other developed countries, and have not increased worker wages for forty years.

We have 50 million households living in poverty while sixty percent of households live paycheck-to-paycheck. Half of Americans between ages 55 to 66 have no retirement savings. All this while, millionaires, billionaires, and corporations hide incomes in tax havens scattered around the world.

All of this evidence points to the fact that without college degrees, life expectancy in the DSA will be much shorter than in other developed countries. We will not be “developed” with lower rates of college attendance.

Most European countries have recognized this by offering free college: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden. Others have minimum fees.

Germany, as an example, offers free college to undergraduate students from other countries! Meanwhile, the cost of a four-year bachelor’s degree at Harvard runs about $350,000 while the same degree at a Minnesota public college or university costs about $110,000.

American multi-millionaires and billionaires have greedily increased their fortunes since 2019 by bribing, renting, leasing, or buying politicians of both parties because of the Republican Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2013, on removing limits on campaign contributions.

So average prices of luxury goods have gone up 25% since 2019. Luxury and high-end store managers call the increases “eye-watering.” The super rich are shopping more while returning from tax havens on their super yachts.

A Chanel handbag that sold for $1,650 in 2008 is now enticing buyers at $10,200 and is flying off the shelves. Vuitton is peddling a made-to-order crocodile-hide handbag called the Millionaire Speedy Bag for an eye-boggling $1,000,000. No, that’s not a mistake.

For those rich who just have a yacht, a woolen Miu Miu coat can be had for $6,000 to protect you from an ocean breeze. To keep your head warm, Burberry sells a knit hat for $3,000 and a Burberry viscose dress for $21,000. Instead of the cloth coat you can buy a Brunello Cucinelli vicuña jacket for $24,500. A The Row white cotton shirt is available for $1,250.

There are 735 billionaires and 22 million millionaires in the Divided States of America. It would be absolutely fascinating to see how many graduated with an English, humanities, art, music, or history major.

“Taxes Are the Price We Pay for Civilized Society” True__ False__

According to sources, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr, said something like this in writing a majority opinion.

Taxes to support higher education in the divided States of America are the main subject in the article in the March 6, 2023 New Yorker “The End Of The English Major” by Nathan Heller. It is about the decline of enrollment in the humanities; that is, literature, art, music, languages, and history.

Every state and federal politician should read it because Heller covers how state and federal governments have cut taxes to higher education since Ronald Reagan in 1980. The deep cuts have brought on the disastrous student debt program and the decline in enrollment from the Great Recession of George W. Bush starting in 2008.

There has been a steady drop in college enrollment since in millions: 2009, -26.3%; 2011, -24.8; 2015, -22.8; 2019,-21.8, 2023; -20.3.

In 1980, on average, 79% of public universities’ revenue was paid by states. By 2019, the average had precipitously dropped to 55%. Public universities in Trumplican-controlled states dropped to disaster levels.

As just one example, Arizona State University, a school with 80,000 students, dropped to 28% state revenue in 2007 and to 9% in 2022. Across the country, students instead of taxpayers mortgaged their futures by taking out $1.7 trillion in debt.

Heller has it right when he writes that college and university presidents are really CEOs for private business and fundraisers instead of education leaders.

What a difference from when I enrolled at Moorhead State Teachers College in 1950. Football coach Friz Bierhaus and baseball coach T. Edison Smith came down to Little Falls and said they wanted me to play guard and block for halfbacks in football in the fall and pitch curveballs and changeups in the spring. They couldn’t pay my tuition of $60 a quarter but they could line up jobs for me at the college and in Fargo-Moorhead.

I said “Deal.” I graduated with a broad English major with minors in math and humanities in four years without any assistance from my farmer parents. That started to be impossible in 1980.

How Do We Remember History Instead of Repeating It?

We remember a civilization through art, music, literature, language, drama, buildings, and anything that is preserved in collections. That’s where the humanities majors come in and bulk up history. Both a toy bank and a 12th Century Chinese dish have a number of interesting stories to tell on “Antique Roadshow.”

The following facts should concern political leaders who want their civilization to progress at a reasonable pace.

1. From 2010 to 2022 the study of English and history at the college and university level has fallen by a full third and humanities enrollment has declined by 17%.

2. Eighty percent of the 37 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have reported falling humanities enrolments for a decade.

3. The Divided States of America will graduate a college generation in 2023 that has less education in the human past than any that has come before.

4. As an example of change, Arizona State University had 953 English majors in 2012 and only 578 by 2019. By 2022, history and English majors had decreased by half in the previous decade.

5. Prior to the Great Recession of 2008 most colleges enrolled 15% of students in humanities classes. Since then, college enrollment and degrees in the health sciences, medical sciences, natural sciences, business, finance, and engineering have gone up sharply while humanities have tanked.

At Columbia University English majors have fallen from 10% of the class to 5%. The story is that an English major will make you poor while business and finance will make you rich.

There might be some truth in that, but the question always is: do you live to work or work to live?

I Think I Chose Right…

At 91, I still rush to my computer in the morning to read the Fargo Forum, Minneapolis Tribune, Guardian, Washington Post, and New York Times, to see what has happened around the world in the last 12 hours.

I did not take any education courses in my four years of college. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English literature and a minor in mathematics.

I did not decide to become a teacher until my regimental commander in the Marine Corps called me in and said he was making me finance officer to manage the regiment’s $80 million budget. I protested.

At that time, each junior officer had to have two Military Occupational Specialties. My other MOS was Infantry. My regimental commander said: “Don’t bother protesting. You are the only junior officer in the regiment with a math minor. I know you can count, divide, and multiply.”

I had a good crew under me, so they kept me out of the Marine prison at Portsmouth. But budget control and business machinations bored me to death, so I decided to become an English teacher, which excited me.

I think my journey into humanities started in the Sixth Grade in Morrison County District 54, a country school which often had only 20 students in grades 1-8. By Fifth Grade I had read all of the books in the tiny library.

The teacher then gave me Men of Iron by Howard Pyle, a book containing 68.334 words about squires, knights, castles, weapons, and history in 15th Century England. She said: “I think you will enjoy it.”

It was about Myles Falsworth, a thirteen-year-old boy who trained as a squire to serve a knight, who later became a knight who won numerous jousting matches between fighting in wars with the French. He later cleared his father’s rather muddy name and married the beautiful Lady Alice.

I was enchanted, so I often helped my benefactor Miss Anderson teach reading to three first graders.

And Then Came Revelations at Little Falls High School…

I started Ninth Grade not knowing I could sing, although I had entertained the cows and four brothers and sisters while we milked 20 Holsteins. I decided to try out for choir with other beginners.

As we were sounding and singing out with a piano, Hugh Givens, the new music teacher, strolled over to me and whispered, “You are going to be one of my soloists.” I had instant atrial fibrillation, but come the Annual Christmas Concert by the band and choir, I led off the evening with “Jesu Bambino.”

Then, over the four years, I sang solos and sang in duets, quartets, quintets, octets, madrigals, glee club, and the main choir. In those groups I was exposed to rock and blues and to old folk and classical music I still enjoy, having a collection of hundreds of discs, tapes and records.

The culmination of my singing career came in 1949 after BeBe Shopp of Robbinsdale was named Miss America in 1948. I was already in a mixed quartet called the Winter Wonderland Quartet that was organized to advertise a local winter park with ski runs, skating, and other winter activities, when Cedric Adams of WCCO radio and Tribune fame asked us to travel with BeBe Shopp’s Miss America concert program.

BeBe’s talent at the time was playing the vibraharp, so we traveled around Minnesota with her program, performing in high schools, colleges, nightclubs, and city auditoriums.

The three other members of the quartet were several years older than I, so I missed a lot of high school my senior year. The high school principal told me: “This is an unusual situation. Read a lot of books on the road and I will graduate you anyway.”

So, we sang a lot of songs and accompanied BeBe as she played her vibraharp. BeBe was sometimes accused of being “a little” fat. I told her: “If you’re fat, it’s certainly in the right places.”

A quick note: our first program was on WDAY radio and our second was a performance at Moorhead High School the next day. I married one of the Moorhead students five years later, who had attended that program. Her name is Corky—and that’s why I feel English and Humanities majors are absolutely necessary in college and university programs.

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