Open Journals

Instead of education, let’s spend our money on _____

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I wrote the following at the beginning of this year, soon after the State of the Union address in which President Obama mentioned a proposal to make community college free across the country.

It looks like a lot of people are adamantly against the idea of free public community college funded by the federal and state governments (the average tuition is $3,347 per year). Why? Presumably because their taxes would be going toward something against their will. It would be involuntary, so that’s not okay. That translates into this: being against funding public education. According to what I’ve read, around $60 billion would be spent over 10 years to make community college free.

So, maybe we should take a look at what the average citizen of the United States prefers to spend their money on per year (voluntarily, of course).

  • $56 billion on pets in 2013 (x)
  • $7.4-11.3 billion on Halloween in 2014 (x)(x)
  • $165 billion annually by trashing unwanted food (x)
  • $66.5 billion on lottery tickets in 2011 (x)
  • $990 million on professional and consumer fireworks in 2013 (x)
  • $1.4 billion on teeth-whitening products in 2006 (x)
  • $15.39 billion on video games in 2013 (x)
  • $25.4 billion on professional sports in 2011 (x)
  • $7-8 billion annually on greeting cards (x)
  • $2.6 billion annually on wrapping paper (x)
  • $157 billion on fast food in 2012 (x)
  • and on and on and on

People can buy and spend as they please, but it’s somewhat telling when so many seem to think education is a terrible thing to invest in, all while we’re spending unnecessarily on a lot of junk. Ultimately, what we spend our money on and what we think is worthy of funding are indicative of what is important to us as a society or culture. If we think of education as something to be bought, sold, and earned — both community colleges and four-year universities —  then it becomes a commodity which is inaccessible to a large portion of the population.


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