Education is a Democratic Right

Beth_Cozzolino_YDS_march_cropped.jpgCollege, in the popular imagination, is still seen as both a time of freedom & intellectual exploration, and as the gateway to future economic opportunity. Yet young people today are increasingly working harder & taking on debt just to get a degree whose value is becoming more questionable. At the same time, universities are increasingly being subordinated to the needs of the corporate world.

It hasn’t always been this way and needn’t always be this way. We suggest that in addition to being an important part of fighting for social justice & equality, a high-quality & accessible public education system can be part of the fight for a world which is not based on exploitation and economic inequality - a world beyond capitalism.

The Crisis of  U.S. Higher Education

More and more Americans start college - but the costs of that education are rising, while the returns fall. The percentage of 30 year-olds who hold a B.A. has remained stubbornly at 25 per cent since the late 1970s, though every other advanced democracy has significantly increased its university graduation rate. In addition, from 1981- 2010 college tuition-and fees have risen 7% every year – more than double the rate of overall inflation, 3%. Overall, college tuition and fees have quadrupled in real terms from 1982 to 2007. Additionally, federal financial aid, which used to be 80% grant based, is now 80% loan based.

Today, the average student will graduate with almost $20,000 in student loan debt just for an undergraduate degree. But in
the midst of our current economic crisis, having a degree no longer guarantees a good job. Unemployment among college graduates under the age of 25 is above 10%; and employers hired 22% fewer college graduates from the class of 2009 than they did from the class of 2008.

For people of color & women, the crisis of higher education is particularly visible. For example Blacks are much more likely to take on debt above $30,500 at 27% compared to 16% of white students at that level. That is especially problematic since the unemployment rate for people of color, particularly blacks and Latinos, is still significantly higher than for whites. And for poor and working class whites and people of color, college is only accessible with huge loans and working long hours while in  chool. Others forgo school entirely; each year more than 400,000 qualified students fail to attend a four-year college due to financial costs.

Education and Capitalism

In modern capitalist America, education serves two purposes: providing workers & product ideas for the capitalists, and shrinking the labor force, which helps to alleviate the lack of decent jobs provided by capitalism. The corporate funding of research at universities has led to the creation of information that is useful, but not accessible to the public, or profitable products that are not necessarily useful (such as prescription drugs to replace generics). The funneling of corporate money into research – and cuts in state funding of research -- represents a fundamental flaw in our current education system.

Education & Socialist Vision

While it was capitalism’s need for an educated workforce that gave rise to universal public general education, the ideal of education as inherently valuable challenges the logic of the capitalist market. Too often, public debate over education accepts a flawed premise: that schools should primarily be designed to prepare people to work. The idea that education can provide people the intellectual tools to be involved and informed citizens - even citizens of a capitalist democracy - is being steadily undermined.

The debate over what our schools should be is part of a larger debate over what kind of society we want to live in. Starting with the GI Bill after World War II through the early 1970s our society made a political commitment to make higher education 
accessible to the working class. We have moved away from that ideal, not because it was a failure but because there has been a political and ideological shift in this country away from the idea that education can serve a purpose other than to promote & sustain capitalism.

Even in its embattled state, higher education holds out the promise of an alternative to the cutthroat competition, authoritarian world structure, and inhuman motivations of the corporate world. For that reason alone, it is worth defending.

Join DSA’s Drop Student Debt campaign.  You and I can make a difference. 

http://www.dsausa.org/drop_student_debt

DSA Queer Socialists Conference Call

April 24, 2017
· 36 rsvps

DSA is in the process of forming a Queer Socialists Working Group. This call will cover a discussion of possible activities for the group, its proposed structure, assigning tasks, and reports on the revision of DSA's LGBT statement and on possible political education activities. 9 pm ET/8 pm CT/7 pm MT/6 pm PT.

 

Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

April 30, 2017
· 51 rsvps

Join Philadelphia DSA veteran activist Michele Rossi to explore “socialist feminism.” How does it differ from other forms of feminism? How and when did it develop? What does it mean for our activism? 4-5:30pm ET, 3-4:30pm CT, 2-3:30pm MT, 1-2:30pm PT.

DSA Webinar: Talking About Socialism

May 02, 2017
· 6 rsvps

Practice talking about socialism in plain language. Create your own short rap. Prepare for those conversations about socialism that happen when you table in public.

Join us for our latest organizing training for democratic socialist activists: DSA’s (Virtual) Little Red Schoolhouse.

This training is at 9:00pm Eastern, 8:00pm Central, 7:00pm Mountain, 6:00pm Pacific, 5:00pm Alaska, and 3:00pm Hawaii Time. Please RSVP.

Instructor:

Steve Max, DSA Vice Chair and one of the founders of the legendary community organizing school, The Midwest Academy

In Talking About Socialism you will learn to:

  • Have a quick response ready to go next time someone asks you about democratic socialism.
  • Create your own elevator pitch about democratic socialism and DSA.
  • Use your personal experience and story to explain democratic socialism.
  • Think through the most important ideas you want to convey about democratic socialism.
  • Have a concise explanation of what DSA does, for your next DSA table, event or coalition meeting.

Training Details

  • This workshop is for those who have already had an introduction to democratic socialism, whether from DSA's webinar or from other sources.
  • If you have a computer with microphone, speakers and good internet access, you can join via internet for free.
  • If you have questions, contact Theresa Alt <talt@igc.org> 607-280-7649.
  • If you have very technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt <schmittaj@gmail.com> 608-335-6568.
  • Participation requires that you register at least 45 hours in advance, by midnight Sunday.

 

DSA New Member Orientation Call

May 06, 2017
· 45 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  2 pm ET; 1 pm CT; 12 pm MT; 11 am PT.  

Film Discussion: Rosa [Luxemburg]

May 31, 2017
· 69 rsvps

Join DSA member Jason Schulman to discuss the film Rosa, directed by feminist filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta. View it here at no cost before the discussion. Marxist theorist and economist Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) played a key role in German socialist politics. Jason edited Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Legacy and has a chapter in Rosa Remix. 9 ET/8 CT/7 MT/6 PT.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 18 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.