On Sunday, 5/19/19, I attended a tragic-happy event: the graduation of my grandson from Vermont’s Green Mountain College that, after 185 years, was closing its doors – his being the last graduating class. It seemed incomprehensible that an established institution in a generally progressive state lacked the funding to continue educating the young – especially a school dedicated to ecological sanity. Is not education among society’s top priorities? And if GMC, as a private college, was in financial straits, was it not the obligation of the state, in the name and interests of the people, to come to its rescue – and possibly absorb it into the public domain?
This in turn raised the core issue of the pubic/private dichotomy that inevitably leads to conflicts with resolutions not necessarily beneficial to the whole of society. In the current case, an institution of higher learning was eliminated at a time when an ever increasing number of young people are headed to college – the largest number ever! With the closing of GMC, the private mandate had undercut public need.
This delinquency of the state exquisitely fits the unspoken Trump agenda: As an authoritarian he demands ignorance to survive. Not he, but progressive Democrats have been advocating expanded public preschool education, student debt forgiveness, and free higher education. These proposals are vehemently opposed by Trump’s multibillionaire Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. the sworn enemy of public education. She wants to further restrict education by totally privatizing it so that only those who can afford to pay will be educated. This is a key strategy of the wealthy elite in countering democracy and perpetuating its dominance over society.
With education an essential public need, should any of it be privatized – any more than our roadways, drinking water, and the air we breathe? Through privatized education, five of the eight Ivy League colleges collectively hold $120 billion in endowments, while GMC is shutting from lack of funds! In sharing the goals of GMC – education – shouldn’t these elite schools peel off a few dollars they’ll never miss in order to save GMC? Or does the capitalist sanctification of “market competition” pollute even the development of young minds by preventing one educational institution from aiding another?
The closing of GMC has an accompanying disaster: the impoverishment of the town of Poultney whose economy is largely dependent upon GMC. This alone should shake the state into rescue mode.