Education Rights

A series of screen monoprints for the global education rights movement

The War on Students
By Jacob Flom
2010

When I was 17 I signed a four-year contract with the U.S. Air Force, for a chance to go to college without incurring a paralyzing amount of student debt. I was able to meet young men and women from all walks of life, but the one thing we had in common was that we were from modest backgrounds, searching for opportunity. Young people join the military for the chance to go to college or to receive other basic needs that their lives in civilian society just didn’t offer them. By far, the biggest opportunity these young people desire is higher education. These are the working class and oppressed nationality youth who are offered a “way out” if they will serve on the front lines of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The United States spends $750,000 per year for each soldier sent to Afghanistan by President Obama. In comparison, a student can attend a public university for an average of $7,300 a year. Yet, this economic system enlists poor and oppressed people to fight its wars instead of sending them to school. This system saves the real opportunities for corporations that are built to profit from war. While wealthy families seldom worry about paying their child’s tuition, working students have to earn their higher education through military enlistment, or piles of debt to banks that are making record profits on student loans.

The banks who are making profits on low-income students are also robbing hard-working people through hundreds of billions of dollars in bailouts. This has pushed many students to drop out, move back in with their parents, or even join the military. Many university students are forced to juggle education with part time jobs, when they can find them. Corporations and universities take advantage of working class students’ cheap part time labor, so they can cut good union jobs with benefits. This contributes of course, to unemployment and a downward spiral of debt and desperation.

With so much joblessness, the prospects are not looking good for recent college graduates. We all probably know a few college graduates who have been out of school for a couple years and are still unemployed or underemployed. This has contributed to record enlistment numbers for the U.S. Military this year, as university students and high school graduates scramble to stay afloat in a backwards economy. Clearly, this is not a formula for the peaceful, sustainable society we desire. It is no surprise therefore, that the United States is in an economic crisis.

The gross mismanagement of national priorities is leaving working class and oppressed nationality, and immigrant youth with shrinking access to higher education. This incredible rate of debt spending on two occupations, and billions of dollars squandered on greedy banks and the wealthy elite is leaving us, the working class youth and future of this country with little opportunity. Past generations have left us with the largest debt in the world, ever. We cannot ignore this problem for our children to deal with.
Without the right to education, this pattern will continue to dismantle our future, piece by piece, hitting low income, immigrant, and oppressed nationality students the hardest. If the ruling class had their way, universities would become private corporate training grounds for the children of the wealthy. We can’t accept education for the privileged any longer. We have to demand education for everyone!

All people should be able to learn important skills in college, regardless of class, gender, or race. Young people don’t deserve to be sent to war, or indebted to banks simply for seeking essential knowledge. If President Obama sends just ten soldiers home from Afghanistan, he can send 1,000 to college.

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