Yes, it’s true: US students who have a conversational knowledge of German have been invited to attend German universities for free. I would like to encourage all US students to take them up on this offer. Germany has some of the best universities in the world, and being centrally located in Europe, any student attending universities in Germany will have relatively easy access to Europe’s most significant cities. What an adventure.
Germany is able to make this offer because German universities are made up of, for the most part, libraries and classrooms, and because Germany doesn’t use federal tax money in the form of financial aid to support farm teams for professional sports that already generate billions of dollars a year in revenue (as if they couldn’t fund their own farm teams), and because Germany isn’t embroiled in massively unnecessary overseas wars, and because the German government isn’t spending more on their military than the next eight nations combined.
But none of that is the real issue. The real issue with higher education in the United States is that it’s being turned more and more into a profit center and less and less into an educational center. The ultimate goal for higher ed. is to spend as little as possible on it while charging the same tuition and fees. Yes, that’s it. That is why there’s a lot of nonsense rhetoric about a higher ed “crisis” (the only crisis is that it’s being defunded), and why there’s a big push for computers to educate our students rather than teachers, and why over 70% of our college classes are being taught by adjuncts, and why non-profit educational institutions with occasionally bad spending habits are being demonized while for-profit educational institutions engaged in massively fraudulent practices are being defended, and on and on.
Here’s the big picture: US big business wants to take as much of your tax money from you as possible while giving back to you as little as possible in return, and it is willing to sacrifice America’s intellectual capital — and its future — in order to do so. It is willing to sacrifice its own country, you, and your children in order to make a little bit more money.
That is what the “higher ed crisis” is all about. That and nothing else. The “crisis” in US higher ed. is only about the full transformation of US higher ed. into a profit center rather than an educational center. It starts with tuition being turned into a profit center in the form of student loans, and it continues into daily operations being turned into profit centers in the form of contractors, testing centers, educational technology, and the elimination of full time instructional staff.
So I’ve just given you the magic key to all of this rhetoric of “change” and “innovation” in higher ed: when someone says they are educational innovators, you need to hear this: “I want to take more of your money while giving you less in return.” When you hear people talk about a crisis in higher ed., you need to hear this: “I want to take more of your money while giving you less in return.” When you hear the words “MOOCs should be offered for college credit,” you need to hear this: “I want to take more of your money while giving you less in return.”
And when you hear the word “socialism,” you need to hear this: “I’m going to convince you that spending your tax money to benefit you is ‘socialism’ while spending your tax money on my personal profit is ‘capitalism.’ I’m going to do this because I think you’re stupid enough to believe that.”
Are you? I hope not. Vote Republican in the next election, though, and you’ll be saying nothing else.
Let me put it another way: you’re already paying more than enough in taxes for you and your children to have free quality education through four years of college. But the part of your tax money that should be earmarked for education is being spent instead on bank profits, college sports, massively inflated administration, massive profits for for-profit educational institutions that don’t really educate their students, and — get this — on industry lobbyists who use the profits made from your tax money to keep you from receiving any benefit from it.
So when a politician says there isn’t money in the budget for education, ask them what they’re spending these billions of dollars of revenue on instead. A $1 trillion plane that doesn’t work (i.e., defense contractor profits)? Another unnecessary foreign war (i.e., defense contractor profits)? A ten year road project (i.e., payback for graft)? Ask where the money is going, and ask in detail. You’re a voter. You’re a US citizen. It’s your money. You have the right.
Defund for-profit colleges. Defund unnecessary wars. Spend American tax dollars on American citizens or, in other words, spend your money on you and your children. Tax money is your money. Don’t forget that. It is yours. Invest in America’s future by investing in education, our only source of intellectual capital, and invest in education by investing in teachers. Machines don’t educate people. Only people do.
Anyone who tells you anything else is, literally, selling something.
If you’re serious about pursuing this option, you may want to check out Rebecca Schuman’s blog on Slate to learn a little bit about how German universities are run.