Free Education – At home and abroad

meat grinderI’m a firm believer in free education. It was already eroded by the time I got to University age with loans creeping in and placing students in debt and the rise of ‘vocational training’. Both the simple joy of learning  and accomplishment have been seriously eroded and educational attainment has been commodified. The only possible reason someone might want to be educated is – apparently – to earn more money and that’s the basis of the loans.

There are plenty of other reasons to learn and there are many benefits to society as a whole in having an educated  populace. Education lifts people up, makes them more socially mobile, creates an informed and aware populace who can make informed decisions. Yes educated people tend to earn more, but they also understand more, tend to be more law abiding and socially conscious and more invested in their surroundings.

Education isn’t a commodity, it is a social investment.

Europe and Scandinavia understand this and Britain used to. There’s still some respect for academia here but it’s being eroded by the American commodification model. The US, for all its scholarship culture, has almost entirely commodified its higher education now and there are few exceptions, few places where talent, rather than money, talks.

Cooper Union is – or was – one of these.

Through outstanding academic programs in architecture, art and engineering, and a Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art prepares talented students to make enlightened contributions to society.

The College admits undergraduates solely on merit and awards full scholarships to all enrolled students. The institution provides close contact with a distinguished, creative faculty and fosters rigorous, humanistic learning that is enhanced by the process of design and augmented by the urban setting. Founded in 1859 by Peter Cooper, industrialist and philanthropist, The Cooper Union offers public programming for the civic, cultural and practicable enrichment of New York City.

This place is now under threat. One of the very few remaining institutions where someone can get in on merit is threatening to become a fees-based institution. The situation is more dire in the US and so Cooper Union’s students need our support. Everywhere across the world though we need to be aware that education is under stress from monetary interests and we need to recognise that education has its own value, beyond the monetary, in terms of art, culture and social investment in our future.

European countries understand this. Scandinavian countries understand this. Because of this these nations are ahead of the US and the UK in social and educational markers. The sky has not fallen in, if anything it has been shored up.

Please consider supporting Cooper Union, as I will.

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