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Privileged to Compete for Jobs?
(a letter to the editor of the student newspaper at the University of Minnesota)
2221 University Ave. S.E.
Minneapolis, MN 55414
When I finally had a chance to read the issue of the Minnesota Daily in which the city elections were discussed (including my own candidacy for mayor), I was struck by the quality and thoughtfulness of the articles, letters, and editorials. An item especially caught my attention: a statement in your editorial on student loans that “the value of higher education is still plummeting while its cost continues to rise rapidly”.
As someone in my late 60s who has lived through some of our nation’s better days, I wish I could apologize on behalf of my generation for what is being done to you. Today’s college students deserve better. Quite honestly, though, nothing will happen. The implied social compact which promises good jobs for a college degree will be increasingly violated. Yet, there will be little sympathy for you because college students are seen as privileged persons; and, in this cultural environment, stereotype trumps fact.
In fact, you are not privileged in being pressured to take part in an increasingly unproductive and costly competition for a shrinking number of decent jobs. The truly privileged persons on campus are the tenured professors, well-paid faculty and administrators, stadium builders, and others who drive up the cost of higher education with resulting pressure on tuitions.
The injustice is compounded by the fact that institutions such as the U of M have become citadels of economic dogmatism preventing serious consideration of remedies such as shorter work hours and changed trade arrangements which could increase the value of a college degree by addressing the problem of long-term job loss in America.
I am running for mayor of Minneapolis under the auspices of New Dignity Party. Its assumption is that each person, privileged or unprivileged, deserves a positive identity. You yourself can create such an identity; but it helps to find others with whom to share this sense of self and self-interest.
Eventually, one’s stronger and more confident sense of identity will work itself out into the political arena where public arrangements can be changed. That will take more than a single election. No, group selfishness will not disappear, but individuals would no longer be powerless to withstand the pressures to exploit them. The hyper-competitiveness that leads to political weakness can be supplanted by an increased sense of community.
The first step is to speak out on your own behalf. I was encouraged by what I read in your newspaper and was inspired to say, in turn, that some people out there, beyond the campus, agree with those sentiments.