By Quardricos Bernard Driskell
Special to AFRO
There was one moment in what seems to be this endless cycle of impeachment hearings, where the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Trump’s impeachment spoke volumes about the great political chasm in America as the 2010s come to a close , and it had nothing to do with Ukraine, Russia, Rudy Giuliani, Vice President Joe or Hunter Biden, quid pro quos, or phone calls. It actually happened right after the hearing in which four distinguished constitutional law professors.
And it the moment was led by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX-1) who said,
“All I’ve got to say is if you love America “mamas don’t let your babies grow up to go to Harvard or Stanford Law School.”
His statement spoke volumes about the resentment of the political right’s deep belief that academia holds contempt for people who actually “love America.” This was dog-whistle politics. But it is also contempt for education, knowledge, and truth.
For all of my life, in part because of the influence of my mother, I have been a bullish advocate of education, so much so, for a considerable amount of time, that I was on the path to pursuing a career as a full-time professor. Moreover, I have generally believed that higher education is a cultural influence and social-economic mobility vehicle for Black American families. However, I also realize college debt is hurting some Black families. Nearly 38 percent of all Black students who entered college in 2004 had defaulted on their student loans within 12 years, a rate more than three times higher than their White counterparts, according to the Brookings Institute. Additionally, Black students with bachelor’s degrees owe $7,400 more student debt on average upon graduation than White graduates, according to Brookings. The gap widens over time: after four years, Black graduates hold almost twice as much in student debt as their White counterparts at $53,000.
College dropout rates are soaring, as students realize, perhaps, that there are better ways to reach their financial goals. This is of course, if we think which many do, that education is all about obtaining a job and being paid.
Generally and practically, we only have to know how to manage our health and wealth through life. Certainly, we can all agree that school, to include K-12 programs through ‘most’ graduate programs, generally teach neither. We can also agree to an extent, that colleges and universities, in particular, are not open to ideas across the political spectrum; they are unaffordable and out of touch with the rest of America and that, they are self-perpetuating. In fact, according to a Pew Research Center poll, fifty-nine percent of Americans believe that colleges and universities harm American life. Like everything else, colleges and universities have become embroiled in political crisis as well.
Moreover, we increasingly have seen in the Trump era how antipathy for academia translates into contempt for knowledge and truth, which has resulted in weakened support for the intelligence agencies in the U.S. and the free press just name a few.
Perhaps, the country has forgotten that many of the founders were first-generation students and established colleges and universities to help lead and build the U.S. or that many schools were established because it was illegal to teach Blacks how to read and write. Or that President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act, creating land-grant universities, and President Franklin Roosevelt signed the G.I. Bill just two weeks after D-Day, making a college education one reward for national service, and President Jimmy Carter signed an executive order creating the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. This is all testimony to what most Americans generally know to be true: that education is a public good.
While I am not keen on presidential hopefuls, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who want to tax the wealthy to wipe out almost all student loan debt and make public college free to everyone, and generally agree with more moderate candidates who say that’s just too ambitious and too expensive. The critical question for all of America presently: how do we reaffirm that higher education is a public good and frankly a pillar of our democracy? Certainly, higher education leaders need to do a better job of making college affordable. However, the responsibility is all of ours especially for those of us who have benefitted from education. Because until recently, education and faith wPere two of the primary drivers that help to make us free and have access to the American dream.
So, mamas if you care about your children be sure you teach them, be involved as much as possible in their schooling, make sure they get a real education in managing their health and wealth, and then go off to college or other educational opportunities such vocational and technical training. Their private gain and enrichment will advance the public good of building and sustaining communities and the educated and wise society. That would be patriotic!
Professor Quardricos Bernard Driskell, a federal lobbyist and professor of legislative politics at The George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management. Follow him on Twitter @q_driskell4
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