Tea Partiers to Kids: Don’t Get Uppity

It is truly strange to see crowds of middle class Americans out to commit economic suicide by fighting for the very rich plutocrats who are carving away their freedoms and draining their pockets.

But, then, there are many puzzling aspects to the “tea party” phenomenon.

One of the overlooked questions that nagged at me until very recently is the fact that most of those who have been bamboozled by right wing propaganda seem entirely unconcerned that their children and grandchildren are being priced out of a college education. None of the corporate “news” media have asked any of the suckers about that, to my knowledge.

In fact, second-rate and even third-rate colleges already are beyond the means of millions of Americans, and the genuinely good universities are priced so far beyond the ability of most people to pay that they are now pretty much reserved for the rich — and a few awesomely brilliant scholarship kids, of course.

No one, least of all university administrators, even remembers the purpose of land-grant universities and how they came to be. I don’t hear anyone asking why schools that cannot exist without billions of tax dollars are being priced so that the majority of young people can’t afford them.

State universities, like private colleges, are increasingly only for the very well off, and rapidly headed for the status of rich-kid sanctuaries.

(Land grant colleges– most of which now are universities -– were established by acts of Congress in 1862 and 1890. Essentially, under those acts the federal government gave states land which the states could develop or sell to raise money to endow colleges. The colleges were to specialize in agriculture, science and engineering, but the missions were greatly broadened over the years. The land-grant laws have been revised at least 20 times to give the schools more breadth and depth. Many, probably most, state universities, including my alma mater, would not exist were it not for those laws. The endowments still function.)

People with little money are shunted into community colleges, which, to be blunt, are basically trade schools for people who will, if they are lucky, get middling white collar jobs and never advance beyond the office equivalent of foreman. (I know: It’s another truth we’re not supposed to recognize.) A few very sharp individuals will transcend that arc, of course, but that doesn’t change the basic facts.

If things had been in the 1950s as they are now, neither I nor a majority of my closest friends of similar age would have obtained college educations.

But the people who ride buses chartered by the Koch brothers and carry signs calling Barack Obama a Nazi very obviously don’t give a damn about education.

Why?

I recently remembered something I learned when I was a 19- or 20-year-old student at the University of Minnesota.

One of the many myths of this country is that Americans want their kids to do better in life than they have done.

As Ira Gershwin put it: It ain’t necessarily so.

The fact is that a whole lot of people, generally from blue-collar communities and, especially, rural areas, emphatically do not want their offspring to advance substantially, either socially or economically. They won’t often admit that, but it’s a truth I learned from the offspring of blue collar families, and rural people, of my generation. And from their parents.

Periodically, I do a little asking around to see if that has changed. It has not.

(I come from an entirely blue-collar family, by the way, and my parents were skeptical about my going to college, mainly but not entirely because even at the very low cost of a public university in those days, money was a very big issue. I paid at least 90 percent of my own living and university expenses through part-time and multiple summer jobs; that is impossible for a poor kid today, no matter how hard he or she works.)

Published by the LA Progressive on March 10, 2011
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About Jim Fuller

James Clay Fuller is a sort-of retired journalist who has worked in newspapers and magazines for more than 45 years. His day job for 30 years was at the Minneapolis StarTribune, where he was a business and economics reporter, features writer, and sometime music critic, as well as an editor in charge of several specialized sections of the newspaper and a number of investigative projects. He was nominated for Pulitzer Prizes in 1977 and 1992, and was the instigator and senior editor on a project that was nominated for a Pultizer in 1997. He has written for many national publications.

Professionally, Fuller has been known throughout his career as Jim Fuller. However, when applying for the URL of that name, he learned it has been hijacked by a Web squatter who is using it in an extremely offensive way. In addition, Web searches for "Jim Fuller" turn up thousands of others with the same name, so he is now using his full name - James Clay Fuller - to make it easier to find him online.

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