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  1. 1. AMERICAN COLLEGE EDUCATION AND THE DEMOCRACY Copyright © 2009 by Shivaprasad Srikantia. All rights reserved. Contains extracts from the book titled AMERICAN CAPITALISM, AMERICANOMICS, & MULTINATIONAL CORPORATIONS - The concealed economic and political secrets of capitalism that made America a superpower in less than one century, by Shiv Srikantia. Paperback edition of book available at PLEASE CLICK ON BOTTOM RIGHT CORNER OF THIS TEXT WINDOW TO VIEW THIS ESSAY IN FULL SCREEN MODE Although America is an industrialized superpower, college education did not ordinarily prepare students to grow into independent thinkers who could intelligently participate in the political system of the nation. In some instances, college education discouraged philosophical thinking and debate. The American democracy, under the control of big business corporations, needed naive citizens who could blindly support a political leadership, and even oppose dissent. Incidentally, naive citizens, who were incapable of grasping a contrasting view, usually opposed dissent. After 1950, modern college education in America began producing citizens who drifted around with no specific personal ideology. This way, corporate media could be given the task of carrying out fresh indoctrination to suit circumstances. Most, college educated American citizens were unable to vote intelligently. After 1950, the quality of political leadership in America showed rapid decline. Perhaps the extraordinary stature acquired by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt until 1945 made his successors look shabby. In particular, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Vietnam War drew attention to lack of maturity in America’s political leadership. In some ways, this forcefully pointed towards a decline in the quality of education in America. When mainstream society is indoctrinated with overly idealistic text book theories that fail to factor in real world impracticalities, citizens lose touch with reality. When citizens lose touch with reality, they become dense and idealistic. In America, only the Ivy League schools could offer an intellectually stimulating academic environment. Elsewhere, many colleges and universities began offering an anti-intellectual ambiance on campus. This was to support the efforts of establishing an American sub-culture, where scholarliness was equated with intellectual elitism. On college campuses, intellectualism was quickly lost in two easy steps. In the first step, the new fad of being politically correct began to suppress free expression of ideas. In the second step, the suppression of free expression lead to the repression of thought. Fundamentally, the strictures of political correctness in college campuses created an intellectually challenged society. In the last century, starting wars in Europe was as easy as barbequing chickens on a Sunday afternoon. World War I was started by a Serbian student named Gavrilo Princip, and a 19 year old gentleman named Nedeljko Cabrinovic. According to Austrian investigators, Gavrilo Princip had equipped himself with a pistol while 1
  2. 2. Nedeljko Cabrinovic carried a hand grenade. The young conspirators hatched a plan to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The politically motivated assassination set off an interesting chain of events that lead to World War I. The assassination plot that mobilized military units and started a world war rang alarm bells all over America. Half cooked ideologies carried by young student activists seemed to be tearing Europe apart. The involvement of students in European political culture rattled bureaucrats in America. Thereafter, it was thought desirable to insulate students from state politics. In the American democracy, what mattered most were the views of the American business cartels and oil company executives. Before drafting national policies and foreign policies, American Presidents would routinely hold meetings with business executives. However, young Americans were lead to believe that the mechanical process of casting votes was the most important component of a democracy. They were not made aware that their voting privileges did not empower them sufficiently. American voters did not have the power to influence policies and politics within the American democracy. In fact, in the American democracy, the views of Congressmen were ignored by the White House administration. The American President also conducted foreign affairs without consulting Congress. Harvard University, Columbia University, and Yale University were for the elite. According to Richard Levine, the President of Yale University, the college was committed to the education of leaders. In other words, it was not exactly committed to enlightening the working classes. However, education systems in most other colleges were designed to help children from working class households earn a college degree and become middle level employees in American businesses. College education tailor made for the working classes was not designed to help students acquire a philosophical bent of mind or a sharper political intellect to contribute to the building of a healthy democracy. On the other hand, the second tier colleges for the poor working classes were preparing students for mundane occupations and tedious 9 to 5 jobs. Every society has a set of unwritten rules that cannot be challenged in a court of law, primarily because they are not explicitly written down. It is important to note that only rules that are drafted clearly and printed on paper can be challenged in a court of law. Second-tier state universities receive financial assistance from the state governments. The ideology of using taxpayer’s money to produce intellectual vagabonds, revolutionaries, and war protestors may not go down well with the government. Based on an unwritten rule endorsing servitude, many of the second-tier institutions are unwilling to produce college graduates who would be shrewd enough to question government policy or challenge the nation’s political leadership. In sharp contrast, the elite Ivy League schools have staggering reserves of private funds running into billions of dollars. Huge endowments have made the Ivy League colleges less dependent on government grants. Therefore, they can produce cantankerous intellectuals who are smart enough to question government policy, and muscle their way into treacherous politics. When Ivy League graduates walk down Wall Street, they are first accosted by well dressed investment bankers and told that making money takes precedence over ethics. When Ivy League graduates enter the White House lawns to get a whiff of fresh air, they are waylaid by politicians and big businesses and told that making money takes precedence over everything else. They are also rudely reminded that Czechoslovakia was taken over by communists. Finally, due to overwhelming social and religious pressures exerted from the corporate camps, America loses the benefits rightfully owed to her from the scholarly Ivy League campuses. The American democracy seems to be reeling under the spell of big businesses, oil tycoons, and wayward politicians. 2
  3. 3. After the Great Depression and the world wars, the primary idea behind American college education was to extricate American society from a poverty stricken ancestral working class heritage. During the Vietnam war, the second tier colleges and universities became profit centers by sheltering conscription dodgers. As time progressed, American colleges were persuaded to reinvent themselves as profit centers. The colleges were now more interested in collecting tuition fees than in imparting an education that would be valuable to a democratic society. Universities often encourage scholars and students to work in close proximity. Such close knit communities nurture in-breeding of ideas. Out of thousands of colleges scattered all over America, Asia, and Europe, only a few can actually boast of providing an education that can prepare citizens for leadership roles in democratic societies. The other second tier colleges prepare subservient citizens for mundane office jobs. The human brain should be trained to process information creatively and look for connections, rather than store knowledge mechanically. Memorizing information is certainly not a healthy thing to do. It takes away attention from examining information. While creatively processing new information, humanity could accidentally stumble upon new ideologies. A reasonable level of philosophical enlightenment can be attained by analyzing philosophically opposite viewpoints and a few inconspicious contradictions within each viewpoint. High schools in poor neighborhoods began engaging students in sports and athletics. Footwear from Nike and Reebok took center stage. In the American democracy, the world of young Americans began revolving around Nike, Reebok, and Gap. The American ruling classes established a new middle class culture where high school children were taught to pay more attention to their footwear, and less attention to their civics textbooks. A juvenile consumer culture was lunging forward through time to eventually create a politically ignorant civil society. It was evident that a politically ignorant society would eventually weaken the pillars of American democracy. Later, big businesses could move in through the back door to take control of national politics and the economy. Recently, a survey in Britain drew attention to the level of ignorance among teenagers. The survey revealed that 75 percent of British children neither read history books nor watched history programs on television. What seemed particularly troubling was that an alarmingly large number of British teenagers had acquired the impression that Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens, and Mahatma Gandhi were fictional characters. In a world ranking of reading skills, British students suddenly fell from the seventh position to the seventeenth position. Many industrializing economies need conformist citizens who can think identically based on a text book instructions, and work cohesively in teams. Therefore, in archetypal college education, original thinking is often perceived as dangerously deviant thinking that could be disruptive to society. In fact, European intellectualism was sometimes socially disruptive. Perhaps, only the elite colleges such as Harvard, Yale, Reed, and St John’s encouraged independent thinking and intellectualism with an European flavor. When a society becomes too preoccupied with industrial mechanization and militarization, citizens tend to lose emotional connectivity with each other and their own civilization. In America, creative intellectualism and art were suppressed to achieve rapid industrialization. A society in pursuit of wealth and comfort through mechanization ran the danger of metaphysical, intellectual, and emotional disconnections. Therefore, social problems such as mental illness, violent crime, drug addiction, broken homes, corporate fraud, and political corruption arose more rapidly in America than in Europe. 3
  4. 4. In the new millennium, a new body of wisdom needs to be created. Citizens must be lead to explore dissimilar ways of thinking, challenge the classical theories, and develop new postulates. College students should no longer be rewarded for reproducing text book theory. Instead, citizens in society must be rewarded for challenging older ideologies that have failed to deliver results for past civilizations. For evolution, modern societies need an energetic pool of non-conformist thinkers who challenge the existing norms of society and evolve new ideas. This is what nature desires. In nature, even the single cell micro-organisms reconfigure their genetic codes and intelligently mutate to be able to deal with new threats. For weak nations, globalization is the new threat on the block. In the real world scenario, neither American capitalism nor Soviet communism has practical solutions for a sustainable economy. Therefore, the Chinese economists are trying to evolve a hybrid capitalist-communist economic model. At present, they are keeping their newly concocted economic formula a closely guarded secret. In a report made available by PricewaterhouseCoopers, China is poised to become the epicenter of global economic activity. The report estimates that by 2025, China will represent the world’s largest economy. However, China has a population that is aging very rapidly. In recent times, Chinese communists have been exploring democratic elections at the local level. They have also become open to the idea of religion guiding social development in China. Though middle class American citizens wish to see themselves as members of an equal and egalitarian society, they have allowed about 5 percent of America’s wealthiest to hold almost 50 percent of the wealth of the nation. Throughout history, the economic divide between the rich and poor has been widening in America. Economic divides in America have later guided social, cultural, and intellectual divides. However, as the wealthy elites who control the multi-trillion dollar economy form a minuscule social minority, they appear as a tiny dot on the landscape. In fact, they are not readily visible in American society. They do however, represent an extremely powerful invisible hand. Many Europeans believe that the idea of a classless society in an industrial world is plain fallacy. Furthermore, they will point out that every industrialized nation in the world has a segregated society of elitist colleges. These colleges educate the ruling classes that wish to control the supply of money. Ross Gregory Douthat has authored an interesting book titled Privilege : Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Classes. While the prep schools and Ivy League institutions educate the wealthy ruling classes, American education systems at the second-tier colleges provide education for students from working class families. However, second tier colleges preoccupied with imparting knowledge are unable to intellectually uplift young Americans from working class households. Incidentally, Alfred Lubrano’s book titled Limbo : Blue Collar Roots, White Collar Dreams, discusses the problems faced by college graduates from working class households. Instilling white collar values in a blue collar mind could be almost as difficult as bathing a cat. Evelyn Waugh had expressed the view that human beings were best suited for the tasks they had seen their parents or living ancestors perform. According to Waugh’s theory, the son of a plumber could excel in plumbing. The son of a lawyer would probably excel in corporate law. After applying Waugh’s theory, George Walker Bush probably decided to run for President. Though he had seen his father perform as the American President, nothing in life had prepared him for the September 11 attack. Thomas Jefferson believed that it was impossible to build a democracy without well educated and 4
  5. 5. enlightened people. Perhaps, it is worthwhile noting that a citizen’s right to cast a vote in the ballot box is just a small component of the democratic principle. When unenlightened citizens cast votes in a ballot box, undesirable political elements get elected to power. In fact, this has been happening in third world countries across the world. A nation’s elitist education system is often entrusted with the onerous task of producing a pool of enlightened statesmen, political leaders, senators, bureaucrats, diplomats, corporate business leaders, and watch dog citizens. The elitist prep schools and the Ivy League schools in America have created a social divide within American society. Young Americans from the wealthy classes flock to Harvard or Yale to study liberal arts and law. Later in life, many make an exciting foray into politics. Throughout European and American history, lawmakers have hailed from the wealthy classes. It is people from wealthy classes who study law, and use their knowledge effectively to gain political and social power in society. Lawyers from the wealthy class know how to insert loopholes to help capitalists who are seen as the life blood of a nation's economy. Though laws appear to be for the benefit of the ordinary citizens, they are made primarily to help clever citizens exercise control over ordinary citizens. The elites who wish to control the supply of money must understand that the Federal Reserve is itself an organization controlled by a cartel of bankers and special interest groups. Essentially, the Federal Reserve has taken away vital powers from Congress, and placed these powers in the hands of bankers and wealthy capitalists in Wall Street. Anyone who wishes to control the supply of money in society must get intimately acquainted with issues in international politics and learn to recognize the economic cycles and recessions intentionally orchestrated by special interest groups and banking cartels with hidden agendas. Therefore, the quality of education available in elitist colleges and universities will eventually determine the quality of political leadership, military leadership, and corporate leadership within an industrial nation. Thomas Jefferson might have had the vision of nurturing a classless American society with well enlightened citizens. In simple terms, this would probably mean that every American citizen would be entitled to receive an education at Harvard or Yale. In such a scenario, there would be no intellectual divide within American society. However, when pragmatic policy makers realized that this was a near impossibility, the next best alternative was to nurture a classless society of equally unenlightened citizens. This would mean establishing a confederacy of uninformed citizens. As time advanced, politicians in Washington D.C. figured out that a classless society of unenlightened people could not possibly run a colossal industrial nation with Federal budgets running into trillions of dollars. The American nation needed an education system that could breed a ruling class capable of running the government machinery. Therefore, the pivotal concept of elitist education had to be cautiously revived without ruffling the feathers of the underclass. For political reasons, this elitist society had to maintain a low profile, enter the White House through the rear entrance, and remain socially insulated from mainstream American society. A little theoretical research might make it spontaneously clear that the American political dream of building a truly classless capitalistic society was flawed right from the core. The advanced doctrines of capitalism actually savor the idea of deep economic, cultural, and intellectual divides. Throughout the ages, the American democracy has been delicately hinging on the assumption that common citizens would not have the introspective sophistication to be able to decipher the anomaly. 5
  6. 6. At present, American society is being divided intellectually and economically into the elite Harvardian ruling classes, and the subservient ruled classes. Typically, the ruled classes grab freshly baked bagels for breakfast and rush to work every morning. On the American multi-lane freeway, anyone driving fast to get to work on time belongs unmistakably to the less fortunate ruled classes. At bookstores, the management theory books discuss how the ruled classes can be easily motivated to work themselves to death. It is said that philosophers like Immanuel Kant tried to wake up ordinary citizens from their slumber and help them become more vigilant. In a democratic society, when citizens remain passive, indifferent, or apathetic, their democratic privileges will be snatched away in incremental steps by the ruling classes. Class divisions were not of much ethical concern in Europe. In fact, European societies tended to be extremely class conscious. 6