College, Debt and Democracy

Canoe AdventureThe question is – does the cost of college justify it’s  assumed benefit, in the face of  an elusive future financial independence?  For many graduating students the distorting affect of decades long indebtness, inhibit full participation in the  social economy and as such in the full benefits of a balanced democracy, a long-held view of what makes America great!

The American culture needs to seriously re-think the destructive  affects of debt on America’s future as a dynamic and healthy nation. Students who are well educated in the full range of liberal studies blended with the impelling necessity of integrated STEM courses of study can and do add enormous economic and cultural value to this society. But the state of affairs, in which costs for a good education far outstrip the ability of recent and inexperienced graduates to fund – stunts this vibrancy and is societaly self-destructive. It is as if the system as it is, devours its own young – its best and brightest. That is self-destructive and contrary to the honorific we so regularly cite for America, that is  “a land of opportunity”.

Capitalism is marvelous as a mechanism for sustaining a dynamic society in so long as a power balance is maintained between the Socio-Economic Elite, The Academic Elite,  “Enlightened” Politicians, and the great American public; all who must be vested in mutual promotion to a general mutual benefit of all.  Collaboration framed around a shared long view of America’s future. Sadly, since the 1980’s, the long view has shrunk to the short view – that of the immediate, the present, the today.  Long-term vision and planning are not rewarded, not respected. And though short term thinking runs counter to the processes of living and thinking which are incremental,  developmental, cumulative and  based on longterm constructions, because the answer isn’t immediate and concrete, it has no economic merit in modern society which is far happier with an answer that confirms  immediate needs.

However, capitalism that serves to maintain power structures, elites, and facile democratic structures is destructive, not just to the disenfranchised and powerless and the shrinking middle class, but even to the very power elites whose viability is dependent on sustaining a healthy sustainable broad-based economy. Without this factored into the behavior of power elites they too will become a smaller proportion of the population creating an even more stratified and distorted aberration of “democracy“.

And so, the viability of the America as a future dynamic culture is dependent on a more representative distribution of wealth, an attitude of shared common interests across the social spectrum with “merit” not predicated on the false assumption that wealth acquisition is an indication of specialness and deserved status. A tone of noblesse oblige should be the standard expectation from those who have had the fortune, luck or circumstance to acquire great wealth. Without a  sense of shared purpose, that the Enlightenment continues and honors the best of humanity and despises the bad behavior of those who have had the most opportunity to be gracious, generous and kind and have been self-important  w/o true merit,  the trajectory of humanity is out of kilter and no one should expect  bright futures; whether they are of the elite or not. The newly rediscovered social Darwinism of this millennium is just fraudulent rationale’ to cover deep-seated   self-interest, narcissism and a general disengagement of the responsibilities of social association.

It’s time America pulled itself together and rediscovered its vision and spiritual (not defined as religious, but shared higher reason to be) purpose. The heavy debt and inaccessibility of college to a substantial number of bright, capable young women and men, threatens the future of the great American experiment, democracy, and the historical “liberal” (as in liberty) model of shared wealth and shared opportunity; all to the greater benefit of all.

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