Student Debt and Capitalism

Education Is A Right, Not A Privilege

College, 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 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 percent 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 school. 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. 

Grassroots Fundraising: Paying for the Revolution (9pm Eastern)

June 23, 2017
· 45 rsvps

Are you new to socialist organizing? Or after many years do you still struggle, raising money from members when you need it but without a steady flow of income or budget to plan ahead? Are you afraid to tackle fundraising because it seems so daunting or you are uncomfortable asking people for money?

In this webinar, you will learn why fundraising is organizing, and how to do it – face to face, through fundraising events, and other ideas.

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

Instructor:

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

Training Details:

  1. Workshops are free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have preferably headphones or else speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Theresa Alt talt@igc.org.
  5. If you have very technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt schmittaj@gmail.com 608-355-6568.
  6. Participation requires that you register at least 21 hours in advance -- by midnight Thursday for Friday's webinar.

NOTE: This training is scheduled for 9:00pm Eastern Time (8pm Central, 7pm Mountain, 6pm Pacific, 5 pm Alaska, 3 pm Hawaii).

Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

June 27, 2017
· 63 rsvps

Join DSA activist Judith Gardiner 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? 9 pm ET, 8 pm CT, 7 pm MT, 6 pm PT.

Data Security for DSA Members

June 27, 2017

Ack! I googled myself and didn't like what I found!

WHAT: A DSA Webinar about "Doxing"
WHEN: 9PM EST, 6PM PST

We're proud of our organizing, and chapter work is transparent for both political and practical reasons. However, there are basic precautions you can take in this time of rapid DSA growth to protect your privacy.

Key Wiki is a website that meticulously documents DSA activity and posts it for the world to see. If you're an active DSA member, likely your name is on their website. This is an example of "doxing".

As DSA becomes larger, more visible, and more powerful, we might expect that more websites like this will pop up, and more of our members' information might be posted publicly on the web.

Join a live webinar on Tuesday, June 27 with data security expert Alison Macrina, to learn:

  1. what is doxing? with examples and ways to prevent it
  2. how to keep your passwords strong and your data secure
  3. where to find your personal info on the internet and how to get it removed
  4. social media best practices for DSA organizers
  5. what to do if you've already been doxed

Zoom Link: https://zoom.us/j/9173276528

Call-in Info: +1 408 638 0968
Meeting ID: 917 327 6528

Film Discussion: Pride

September 10, 2017
· 11 rsvps

Join DSA members Eric Brasure and Brendan Hamill to discuss the British film Pride (2014). It’s 1984, British coal miners are on strike, and a group of gays and lesbians in London bring the queer community together to support the miners in their fight. Based on the true story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. The film is available for rent on YouTube, Amazon, and iTunes. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

Film Discussion: Union Maids

September 24, 2017
· 8 rsvps

 

Join DSA member and labor historian Susan Hirsch in discussing Union Maids (1976). Nominated for an Academy Award, this documentary follows three Chicago labor organizers (Kate Hyndman, Stella Nowicki, and Sylvia Woods) active beginning in the 1930s. The filmmakers were members of the New American Movement (a precursor of DSA), and the late Vicki Starr (aka Stella Nowicki) was a longtime member of Chicago DSA and the Chicago Women's Liberation Union. It’s available free on YouTube, though sound quality is poor. 8ET/7CT/6MT/5PT.