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Sunday, September 25, 2011

College Scam

Ok, this scam is pervasive.  I don't pretend to have a solution, but the last post (about Khan Academy) might contain the seeds of one.  The bottom line is that college tuition has been increasing exponentially in recent years, at a time when a college education may not necessarily be what people need.  That's especially true of a liberal arts education.  I'm sorry, but you can learn liberal arts on your own time now.  You shouldn't be paying $50,000 a year plus room and board in order to listen to lectures -- and write papers -- on history, literature, philosophy, etc., unless you really really think you're going to be make it as a teacher in one of those fields.  You'll leave college with $200,000 in debt.  You'll pay it back eventually, but only by spending what's left of your youth in jobs that just are not fulfilling, and you'll be neglecting your civic duties at a time when your participation and energies are the most critical to the continued viability of your country.

That's the reason our politicians get away with so much.  You (and everyone else) are too busy trying to get by (e.g. make enough money to pay off your college loans) that you can't get engaged in your civic duty of closely supervising those who are running our governments (federal, state, and local).  The middle class -- what's left of it -- now has to work so hard to keep up with bills (including especially education bills), that it simply can't pay sufficient attention to what's going on in Washington.  Hence, legislation like the Dog Ate My Homework Act (see previous posts).

In the end, those people know that they'll be able to "buy" your vote by spending their campaign contributions to get their "message" to you so that you'll vote for them. 

Their calculus is not what it should be, i.e. what is best for the voters.  Instead, it's what can I do for my campaign contributors that will generate enough cash so that I can continue to persuade people to vote for me.   For any given piece of legislation, the question is whether I will be able to "buy" more votes with campaign money than I lose as a result of disappointment with my vote.

Again and again, and it gets easier every time for them.  Success in elections is a function of both incumbency and campaign funds, and there is a feedback loop between the two.  One way to address this is to simply adopt a rule of voting against incumbents.  Or a watered down version -- if everything else is roughly equal, vote against the incumbent.

Yes, employers look for college degrees, and the better the job, the better the degree they look for (better school, better grades, etc.).   But even the best of those sorts of jobs can be traps.  You'll make a decent income, but before you know it, you'll be 50, and you won't have done a darn thing to solve the mess the country has slid into.
My recommendation to anyone who is about to enter college:  Take a year off.  And spend that year trying to accomplish something you might otherwise never get a chance to accomplish.  Create a website.  Start a business.  Write a book.  Just do something. 

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