Classroom Discussions on Life, on College, and the Future

I really enjoyed our discussion today in fifth, and particularly second hour, in regard to the future, going to college, and college funding.  Well done grasshoppers.  Well done.

You shared some compelling insights. To listen to you all explain the advantages that a degree, a skill, human capital would bring to your life – and to redefine it terms not only of dollars and cents, but as an opportunity to travel, or  freedom to choose your own way, or the prospect to help your parents in their old age, or to to enhance the quality of life for your children…that’s inspiring stuff.

This higher education system of ours is broken….you know that and you are jumping headfirst in the deep end, into a pool that might well be empty.  College costs a fortune, our government, your government, doesn’t see tuition relief as a priority.  And yet…we don’t respond.  Consequently we pay the cost – of increased debt not only here and now – but far into the future.  Can you even imagine what your kids will end up paying to go college?  And by then – there won’t even be Applebea’s waitress jobs available.

Until public interest in this nation forces public policy to acquiesce to what the public needs and wants, we will continue to slide.  You will continue to see a gigantic burden of college debt landing smack on your head.  You will experience a future more bleak than the present.  That will continue – as long as you remain silent.  You must challenge the system.  You must demand accountability from your elected representatives.  YOU gotta call them!  YOU gotta write them!  YOU gotta carry a picket sign outside of their offices!

You must be AWAKE!  

I cannot think of one issue that touches you all more communally than this grotesque burden of the cost of college.  And it will continue to resonate into the core of our country unless you stand up and Act.   The best and brightest in our society cannot continue to leave higher education with 30 and 40 and 50 and 60 thousand dollars worth of debt on their plate; without our economy being severely affected.   You cannot buy a house or a new car or properly raise a family when you are writing $700 a month checks to the government to pay back unsubsidized college loans – that by all rights and purposes could be and should be free; a public good in so many other nations.

Look at Almanda and Simone – Denmark provides their young population free and equal access to higher education.  Mitchell will earn his college education at the cost of zero euros, courtesy of the Dutch government by will of the people of the Netherlands.  Sascha and Dennis and the two Hannah’s will each go to a German university, learn a skill and earn a degree; without the drag of college debt to burden their future.  All of these kids, your friends, live in a democracy where public policy is dictated by public interest, a public interest that asserts itself in the voting booth at numbers much larger than we.  So, if higher education is a public good in a large majority of first world democracies…why not here?  Why not for you or your children?

That is a question that you must continue to ask yourself and press to your elected representatives.  Meanwhile figure out the system.  As costly as this endeavor is; the price is far greater if you opt out.  Some kind of post high school learned skill, vocational degree, or college education is necessary to achieve the standard of living that you will need to accomplish the goals that you spoke of in the classroom today.  That high school diploma that will soon come due is not going to make it.

Still, you live in the first world.  Your little sperm and your little egg did not join together in the sub Saharan deserts of Mali.  You do not go bed at night with the threat of war hanging over your head, or disease ravaging your community, or an empty stomach with no recourse to fill it.  You have hands.  The sky is still the limit if you are willing to pursue the challenges it takes to get there.  So look beyond graduation.  Set your compass now.  And sail into the future with confidence.

The world needs you, your generation, to awaken to the challenges of tomorrow.  And you’ve got to do it – today!

“Twenty years from now,  you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do, than by the ones that you did.  So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore. Dream.”   – Mark Twain



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