The premise of this blog is fairly simple, and it should be available to anyone who really thinks and cares about education. We will look at some of the big stories in the world of education–primarily American public education, but not exclusively–and any opinions, advocacy or potential reforms will be couched in an explanation of how it relates to the purpose and nature of education. Each post here, going forward, will include something about what education is.
For example: there is a story in the New York Times today with the headline “As College Fees Climb, Aid Does Too.” The story focuses on a report from the College Board which found that tuition and fees were going up at colleges and universities in the U.S., but financial aid is also rising, especially from the government but also from schools. The lead author of the report, economist Sandy Baum, told the Times: “When you look at how much students are actually paying, on average, it is lower, after adjusting for inflation, than five years earlier.”
There are two important takeaways from this story. First, the federal government this year increased spending on higher education, which made a big difference in the bottom line for students. The second major point from the report, a point which wasn’t made in the Times article, is that the rising tuition accompanied by increasing aid is a large stride towards making higher education funding more equitable. Students who come from money end up paying the full sticker price for college, while students with significant need receive the lion’s share of this aid, lowering their total expenditures and improving the socioeconomic diversity of universities.
This second point is where I want to focus. Education Is… about leveling the playing field and offering equal opportunity to all. This change, where total tuition increases alongside major increases in financial aid, will contribute significantly to equity in higher education. For me, education really is all about equity and equal opportunity, and in the past, colleges and universities have been some of the most unequal places in American society, often contributing significantly to the perpetuation of social and economic inequality. Anything that makes a push towards greater equality is meaningful precisely because it goes to the root of what education is; and in my mind, education is and must be an engine for equality. Indeed, the American Dream is based upon the idea (some would say myth) of educational equality, and if we believe in the idea of American exceptionalism and a meritocratic system, it is our duty as citizens and as a country to strive for as much equality of opportunity as possible.
That’s not so complicated, now is it?