Judst Some Facts (and a rant on student loan debt…)

Happiness cannot be measured by economic statistics but they sure can be enlightening. I want to focus on the fact that Denmark considers education to be important enough that they provide it for free. Student loan debt in the USA alone is $1 trillion. That’s two generations in permanent debt, unable to live their lives in a free manner as they are burdened by never-ending debt servicing. It’s analogous to how the developed world extracts resources from the lesser developed nations (be they natural or human) and makes it nearly impossible for them to develop or put into place much-needed social safety nets because of *their* having to service huge debts. In a like manner, two generations of people have their talents and skills bought cheaply (since with the burden of crushing debt, most take whatever job they can get), having to spend a significant percentage of their meager wages to pay for loans, for interest most often, never able to have the ability to freely choose the kind of life they’d like to live lest they default on their loan repayments and have their credit scores go down, making life even more difficult and interest rates on credit cards higher. In the 21st century, higher education and vocational/technical education should be considered a basic human right in any nation claiming to be developed or enlightened. The only limits to education should be only the natural intellectual limits of any given individual. If you are smart enough or talented enough to pass entrance exams, your education should be free. In an ideal world, we would PAY individuals to get educations or mid-career re-training. It’s all about valuing humans and valuing knowledge and special skills, regardless of whether there is a profit to be made in doing so. It’s also about re-directing higher education and vocational schools away from a for-profit model. For it’s the never ending quest for profits on the part of schools and banks that poisons and distorts the lives of students from influencing their course of study to chaining them to jobs they can’t stand for the rest of their lives in order to service their debt. It’s about economic democracy in the development of well-rounded, critical thinking, knowledgable, skilled humans who will have choices and freedom of action.10390241_10153109101063908_3568462865215369106_n

2 thoughts on “Judst Some Facts (and a rant on student loan debt…)

  1. Denmark has a major advantage over the USA, and many other Westernized/developed nations: its’ size. Denmark is not heavily populated, was largely unaffected by the economic chaos of the last 50 years (or the wars that precipitated it) and has enough natural resources for a robust economy- the dividends to be split between not that many people. Denmark also has a very homogenous culture. It’s much easier to organize effective socialism with less people to consume, scheme, and encourage the growth of monopolies and the interest of multinationals. And even easier when these people share cultural values.

    Another consideration is that Denmark is not a belligerent nation (in recent history at least). They pay huge tax rates – and receive incredible social services in return. If WE paid those tax rates – do you really trust the US government to spend those taxes appropriately. Denmark’s size and neutrality allows accountability that we couldn’t practically expect.

    I am not arguing that the Scandinavian system (and even the less effective ones practiced by other EU countries) would not be a phenomenal improvement over the US system. But the logistics of implementing in in a climate already saturated with influence and power groups, who have been building the consumer society they need to maintain power successfully for decades would cause unintended consequences. Everybody would be trying to milk it, and America already has a huge pool of unemployable college graduates. Like Thailand, where grade inflation makes it possible for everyone to have a 4.0 GPA, the society would change its standards to maintain exclusivity for the diminishing number of skilled jobs. In Thailand, high grades mean nothing, and the limited university slots and good jobs are now screened through (terrible) standardized tests, not grades.

    Imagine an America with a universal education budget. Now imagine the maturity level of the average college freshman if their parents/scholarships/own hard work were NOT funding their education, if it was instead a basic right. People could be educated who would not otherwise be – but the system would be flooded: we have WAAAY more people then Denmark, and we aren’t a homogenous society to the extent they are. We’re talking about sending the guys selling crack on the corner to college, lots of them.

    If such measures were implemented on a statewide level, I think they’d be more effective. But a good look at Britain’s NHS and the limits they’ve had to put on their system in order to keep it collapsing under it’s own weight shows in microcosm what happens when a larger, non=-homogenous society tries to act as a collective under present conditions.

    I’d be for free university education for anyone who demonstrated a willingness to do the work. I’d implement it on a state level with federal funding (taken from the defense budget, if we couldn’t take it from corporate subsidies). But I’d want some level of accountability for the students to receive this funding, working more toward a meritocracy – as opposed to either a plutocracy, which we have now, or the complete devaluation and perversion of the one part of our educational system (the universities) that are still held in fairly high international regard. I’ve seen what happens when standards are lowered – competition rises for the top positions, and people end up wasting lots of time in a dumbed-down mickey mouse system.

    That said, universal health care and a fair minimum wage would represent a major step towards civilization for the US, and I support them fully. Denmark has much to show us, but we have to realize that we aren’t an isolated, lightly populated European nation with a solid and homogenous culture and a strong socialist background. We’d have to problem solve in order to prevent that changeover from causing millions of people to want something for nothing and the 1% on top from using their leverage to slide us further into debt with half measures and the devaluation of what little we have.

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    1. 1. Regarding size- with the political system in the US, social experiments can first be tried out at the state level (like with marijuana legalization)
      2. Denmark’s economic growth rates have always been slower than ours & we have far greater natural resources. The question of cultural values is a very valid point.
      3. It’s true that Denmark doesn’t have to spend a third of it’s budget on military expenditures and the US generously doles out huge amounts of corporate welfare aa well as not taxing untold billions from the same corporations. If just the top .01% paid their fair share of taxes, the tax burden on the middle class wouldnt have to be as high as it is or as high as Denmark’s for us to receive the same types of benefits. As far as trusting the government to spend revenues justly, it would be on us to exert political pressure and cultivate humanist values.
      4. For any radical shift in politics and in individuals to occur that would result in our country successfully becoming more secular humanist like Denmark, networks of resistance where individuals re-learn democratic practices, engage in direct actions, discover common ground in shared oppression, subsequently encouraging the growth of coalitions of counter-power, harness technology to break the monopoly of the media, and discard the ruling class ideology hence changing the culture at large, would all be necessary. It’s doable but it’ll take time, commitment, and of course the destruction of the cult of consumption. Buddhist thinking could be especially useful in helping individuals break free from false consciousness and the anger, greed and ignorance that the system thrives on and harnesses to undercut the aforementioned practical steps needed for a cultural paradigm shift (which could then lead to the needed economic changes)
      5. I agree that some well thought out system for testing students as well as taking into account their work ethic and character would be a prerequisite for the free education..
      6. The central problem is one of political consciousness. Too few believe the system needs radical changes, fewer believe they’re possible given that too many either don’t care or know too little about the forces at work, while the ruling class has waged a successful class war for decades. But given the Arab Spring, the events in Iceland, Spain, Partido X, and the Occupy movement, i think there is hope. It’s our responsibility as intellectuals outside the system to criticize, inform and constructively engage in dialogues, support networks of resistance, use our talents creatively in subversive ways (i do this blog, you live at the margins as an expatriate, providing an example of an alternative way to live). You dont have to have a population with a , tradition to c’mhange things – you just need to find ways to connect to people and get them to really look at the way the world is and suggest a vision of how it could, and should be. At least it would start the process.

      Btw… I had a better written version of this comment that was imho, really clear, concise, and more thought through and i accidentally deleted it. Your comments are thoughtful and lengthy, so give me some time to reply. Thanks for checking out the blog. Let me know what you think about the autobiographical page and the page discussing the purpose of the blog, again no rush.

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