Do We Really Believe in Education?
Aside from the concept of family, few pursuits are more important to Americans than education. Our politicians return to the theme as insistently as the repeating leitmotif of a pop song: We must invest in our future; we must spend more, do more, care more so that the quality of education improves — and, the logic follows, the quality of life for our children and society in general will improve.
It’s a constant and unwavering belief: Education is our number one priority (except when there’s a war on or our oil interests are being threatened.)
But what would happen if everyone, not just the sons and daughters of the economically privileged, got the best education money can buy? Who would labor in our factories, drive our trucks, stock the grocery shelves? The vocational point of getting a good education — aside from becoming a wiser and more enlightened person — is to acquire the knowledge and skills to escape doing the jobs no one would choose gladly. The Leisure Class relies on the working class to do things that the privileged prefer not to do, leaving the lucky educated ones to ponder, strategize, invent, argue, and, ultimately, exploit those who actually work for a living.
If we were to give everyone an excellent education, our country’s boardrooms and management suites would be cramped like slave ships and the forklifts would sit idle. To expect that all the undesirable jobs would be performed by grateful Mexicans, Filipinos, and Estonians is unrealistic. We can only import so much cheap labor, and eventually they’d only take advantage of our “better education” initiative and graduate to non-labor jobs. Then whom could we exploit? Canadians?
The unspoken truth about our fetish for education is that we want it only for our offspring, not everyone else’s. If all the students at Junior’s high school scored 1600 on the SAT and earned 4.0 GPAs, which of the brilliant young achievers would end up at Harvard and which at barber college? Indeed, it benefits those in power, the recipients of America’s best privileges, to institutionalize deficient education for the masses, who must overcome demonstrably longer odds to succeed at the game of life.
Education in America is not an inherent right, no matter what our ingrained ideals suggest. It’s a delightful advantage that logically can’t be delivered to the entire populace — not until robots and well-trained canines learn to do everything our high-school dropouts endure.