The UW-Madison -- "the 17th-best university in the whole damn world" -- dodged a bullet when the Biddy Martin-Scott Walker plan to break it off from the University of Wisconsin System and more or less privatize it failed so spectacularly that Chancellor Martin had to take refuge in Amherst College as its 19th president.
Martin's unlikely alliance with a controversial, polarizing governor was as ill-advised as it was unsuccessful, and as poltically naive as it was rash. But it was just one battle in a well-funded, ongoing war to undermine public public education in this country. One of the main things that made America great was widely-available, affordable education, never more so than during the great post-World War II boom fueled by the GI Bill. Now we're in danger of trashing that proud heritage because "there's no money," and also because more and more people seem reluctant to spend tax dollars on educating anybody's kids except their own, if that. Scott Walker's attack on public elementary and secondary schools was part of this trend, and in encouraging Biddy Martin's vision, he seemed to be going for a trifecta.
We hear over and over again how there's no money for education, that sacrifices have to be made, and that schools need to be managed more efficiently. In reality, the real problem is ideological, and the lack of funds are the result of choices we are making as a society, choices that are reinforced by the corporate agendas of the mainstream media.
In reality, as Noam Chomsky emphasizes in his excellent analysis of the attack on American public education by corporate interests, there's plenty of money. We just choose to spend it on other things.
Pretty soon only the community colleges—you know, the lowest level of the system—will be state-financed in any serious sense. And even they’re under attack. And analysts generally agree, I’m quoting, “The era of affordable four-year public universities heavily subsidized by the state may be over.”Instead of investing in public education, we're moving toward more and more of a two-tier system, with elite public institutions for the wealthy, and underfunded public schools for everyone else. The more we cut public funding for higher education, the more corporate interests pick up (some of) the slack. It's a bargain with the devil. When Chomsky notes the evidence of this at his own university, MIT, he comes up with a name familiar to those of us who have been following events in Wisconsin the last 6 months.
Now that’s one important way to implement the policy of indoctrination of the young. People who are in a debt trap have very few options. Now that is true of social control generally; that is also a regular feature of international policy—those of you who study the IMF and the World Bank and others are well aware. As the Mexico-California example illustrates, the reasons for conscious destruction of the greatest public education system in the world are not economic. Economist Doug Henwood points out that it would be quite easy to make higher education completely free. In the U.S., it accounts for less than 2 percent of gross domestic product. The personal share of about 1 percent of gross domestic product is a third of the income of the richest 10,000 households. That’s the same as three months of Pentagon spending. It’s less than four months of wasted administrative costs of the privatized healthcare system, which is an international scandal.
I have to look out my office window at the Koch building, which is named after the multibillionaires who are the major funders of the Tea Party and a leading force in ongoing campaigns to wipe out the remnants of the labor movement and to institute a kind-of corporate tyranny.The most prosperous period in the 20th Century US was the post-World War II era when our country vastly expanded affordable higher education for more people than ever before, with the GI Bill for veterans and relatively low tuition for everyone else at public colleges and universities. The people who had access to these educations helped put us on the Moon and helped develop the modern, high-tech economy. How quickly we forget.