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Nutmeg and 1-percenters

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By Jim Thompson
HCP Columnist
Exiled in Georgia

A couple of weeks ago, President Obama made a few speeches about student loan interest rates.

If Congress doesn't do something, their interest rate is about to go up soon, he said. And, of course, this is all the Republicans' fault.

Here they are, being mean to students, just like they have been to everyone else who might possibly be swayed to vote for President Obama this November.

Just, perhaps, he is barking up the wrong tree.

The higher education system in this country and elsewhere, colleges and universities, have managed to create the most cloistered and protected group of do-nothings in the history of humankind. OK, that is a general statement and does not apply to every last situation, but it does apply largely and, again, generally.

Modern culture has managed to create a demand for higher education which permeates most families. In my own case, my parents, who graduated from high school in 1930 and 1933, respectively, were bound and determined that my brother and I would get a college education. They had not and saw a distinct benefit. Both of us did. And, now, all four of our children have, too.

I am a huge proponent of education. (Err on the side of education if ignorance is the other choice.)

However, today, our educators live a sheltered and cloistered life. The concept of tenure, especially, is particularly grating to me. Tenure, or lifetime employment without accountability, will instill slothfulness in the most energetic of human beings. It is debilitating.

Hence, we end up with tuition and fees that rise faster than inflation in general. This has been going on all of my life.

According to inflationdata.com, college tuition and fees have risen 498 percent just since 1985, while overall consumer prices have risen 115%.

The reason we don't hear about this is simple – we protect and shelter the almighty university system in this country.

I am sure it couldn't even withstand the application of federal anti-trust laws if they were applied to it as vigorously as they are applied to business.

Again, while I believe education is very important, it is not a sure-fire predictor of success.

Let's look at presidents, for instance. Here are a few who did not graduate from college: George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Harry S. Truman. These did all right, in fact two of them share the honors of Presidents Day each February.

The president with the highest level of education was Dr. Woodrow Wilson, who some of us conservatives largely blame for pushing us down the liberal progressive path.

Another example of a decent education is Jimmy Carter, who was trained as a mariner nuclear engineer at the United States Naval Academy. How did he turn out?

And, just to be fair to the now-seething liberals, I'll mention that George W. Bush is the only president with an MBA (from Harvard Business School no less).

The excuse for tenure, which I believe is central to the college cost problem, is that professors need the freedom to express their views without fear of reprisal.

I don't think that washes in the mathematics or physics department, at least not since the days of Galileo. In the political department, I suggest this premise rests on a false basis.

Who is more political than a political columnist for a newspaper – your very author of this piece? Yet, as a political opiner, we know we have to be extremely careful in our wording, for if the publisher or editor, through public outcry, is swayed to believe we have gone off our rocker and are costing them subscriptions, we are out in a New York minute.

Being one phone call away from being fired makes us formulate our arguments much better than we might otherwise, resulting in a better product for you, the reader.

Tenure should have gone out with burning at the stake.

Yes, college loans are a problem. It has been reported in the past week they have reached close to a trillion dollars in total. But the problem, for once, is not Congress's fault. It is President Obama's own profession, for I am certain as soon as he retires from being president, prestigious universities will line up in droves to offer him a tenured professorship.

Student loans and parent's savings accounts are merely the delivery system for support of the outmoded and costly system of tenure.

Garrison Keillor, on his radio program, A Prairie Home Companion, was once complaining about pumpkin pie. He summed it up by saying pumpkin pie is merely a delivery system for nutmeg.

Likewise, students and their parents are merely a financial delivery system for the real 1-percenters in our society – tenured professors.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga., following decades of wandering the world, and is a columnist for The Highland County Press.

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