Imagine if you will, Earth of the future, as depicted in Star Trek: The Next Generation. People have jobs, but they don’t really need them. Sickness is almost unheard of, and poverty and racism are dim memories. Food, energy and the materials of life are cheap and abundant, war is obsolete, and knowledge, wisdom and art have become the new coin of the realm — they’re ends in themselves. This is by any measure the ideal Liberal Paradise.
Now, a Conservative Paradise: A West Virginia company coal town circa 1912, where the population toils itself to death in Hellish industrial conditions, for effectively nothing, in order to provide fuel for the greatest war in the history of man. They don’t have time or reason to learn anything, and that’s in The Company and The War’s best interests. One of these visions relies on education; the other on ignorance.
Now, we’re not saying there’s a deliberate Corporate Conservative plot afoot to keep the population in ignorance in order to keep us from TNG Liberal Paradise, and return us to a Privatized Industrial Hell. Of course not. It isn’t deliberate. But when a group’s every policy, every desire and every ideal works toward that end — well, then, it doesn’t have to be deliberate. The end result is still the same: the death of one paradise the creation of a Faustian new one.
In this clip from John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, the former The Daily Show correspondent delivers a fiery attack against the student loan industry, which has in recent years become the number one source of debt in America. And unlike every other form of debt, this debt is inescapable.
Drawing particular ire are for-profit schools like DeVry and Corinthian College. Why? Three reasons primarily:
- In spite of the fact that they account for less than an eighth of all student enrollments, for-profit schools are responsible for a third of all student debt.
- They charge five times more than an equivalent community college.
- They spend twice as much on advertising as they do on teachers, and target those ads to the desperate and unemployed.
- Schools recruiters are trained to find potential students’ “pain points,” sore spots that they can use to leverage them into signing a contract.
- Graduation and job placement statistics are so low (about 12 percent in the example given) that students are better off not wasting the time to go at all.
The list goes on and on, and John explains this travesty best. Naturally. But the current student debt situation is untenable, and sure to leave us asking what our Next Generation is going to look like.
Ignorance breeds both poverty and conservatism. Education is antithetical to all three.
What would Jean-Luc do?