An intellectual freedom blog with an emphasis on libraries and technology

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Taxing unproductive learning

[The following is a letter to the editor I wrote to which they "printed." It was written in response to an piece titled, Iraq Study Group: Learn Arabic you morons!]

How many people remember the 80s? Anyone remember the time before the Reagan administration started to tax scholarships and financial aid? I was a grad student in the 80s (and Reagan's attack on financial aid drove me out of graduate school). I remember the implementation of taxes on financial aid. The exemptions prove very interesting: medicine, dentistry, the "hard sciences (i.e.: chemistry, physics), Business, Finance, Economics. The tax on financial aid, especially at the graduate level, penalized people for studying subjects without a clear, proven economic usefulness. In the peculiarly American contempt for education that does not have an obvious and simple link to a high income after school the Reagan administration taxed all "unproductive" learning as some sort of self-indulgent luxury that the society would not support by exempting grants to pay for it from taxes. This expressed contempt for other languages and cultures by discouraging the people who would like to study them.

One would think that someone somewhere in power would realize this. That the next place in the world where a U.S. administration may take an interest no one can predict. The attack on education that started in the 80s continues to this day and it bears fruit in the present mess that the Bush administration forced us into. Maybe while people in power are trying to figure out how to sort out the mess the Neocons made they can also do the pretty simple act of restoring support, or at least stop taxing support, for education.

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