The problem with two-tiered tuition, privatization of education and pepper spray

Illustration by Carl Robinette / Daily Sundial

The student rally at Santa Monica College (SMC) started at 6:00 p.m. on April 3 in front of the library, but it was not until 30 students were pepper sprayed that the local news came out to the college itself. But even then, the issue wasn’t the privatization of public school.
It is unfortunate that only when students are injured does our cause become newsworthy, but now that this has gotten the public’s attention, it is important to address the real issue of the privatization of public school. From the food we eat on campus to the books we purchase, the American college student has turned into nothing more than another market for consumer goods.
The SMC board of trustees (BOT) has been making national news by getting coverage of their two-tier tuition system in the New York Times and TIME Magazine. The proposal would simply make required classes more expensive. Making classes more expensive is what passes for a solution for our now in shambles public school system.
The academic industrial complex is looking at two-tiered tuition as the next logical step in the dismantling of an education system that was once about developing an engaged and informed citizenry capable of self-governance.
This was the issue that was on the agenda for SMC’s BOT meeting. The meeting was to be held in a room that seats 30 people, even though this was clearly an important issue that would affect every single one of the 35,000 students at SMC, as well as the other 111 colleges in the California Community College System, and therefore would have a nationwide impact on education. So when over a hundred students from around Southern California descended upon the meeting chanting, “Let us in!” – it turned more than rowdy.
As one of the students at the front of the crowd tried to get into the meeting, the police started to use pepper spray. Was pepper spraying students trying to get into a public meeting really the best possible solution?
Students with permission to speak were given numbers and only about 17 students were going to be permitted into the meeting. The police officers unfortunate enough to be on duty were allowing students with numbers to enter one at a time when a few students without cards tried to enter. It escalated quickly and turned into something less-than-violent as students were struggling to get into the meeting and officers blocked the entrance with their bodies.

The struggle lasted for minutes, during which I was chiding the officers with comments like “you know you don’t want to do this, just let the students in, you won’t lose your job, this can only end badly.” Unfortunately the confrontation ended with an officer losing his balance and pepper spraying the crowd — which included a 4 year old child.

The incident changed the focus of the situation as students then wanted to march on the police department and the undeniable presence of the police state in all aspects of our lives was being discussed. What seemed to be dozens of fire engines, police cars and ambulances turned the protest newsworthy.

The simple request that students had was for a referendum for the students, staff, faculty and people with a stake at Santa Monica Community College to have a say – a vote on how the institution is run. The fact of the matter is that our representative democracy doesn’t represent the student, the mother, the disabled, the elderly, the artist or the proletariat – it represents materialism, greed and the concentration of power.

This is what capitalism has wreaked onto our society. Just like with rigid dogmatic religion and the two-party binary, any real criticisms of the ideology are marginalized, simplified, and turned into an incoherent sound bite – like the screams of students who were pepper sprayed for trying to attend a public meeting in which their futures were being discussed. The high concept of public education has devolved into nothing more than a tool for the rich to get richer and the poor to stay uneducated.

This is made most apparent in our public schools where we graduate kids from high school that can’t read or do math, let alone think critically, but that is by design; status quo power structures are threatened by an engaged public.

The attention on this issue has led Jack Scott, the Chancellor of the Community College System, to question the legality of the proposed tuition system and forced SMC to reevaluate their neoliberal solution. While we wait for an opinion from Attorney General Kamala Harris, the solution to the problems facing education seem to revolve around getting more state funding for schools. Unfortunately, California is cutting funding to health care, state parks, public transportation and public services and resources across the board, making finding money for education without a tax increase nearly impossible.

However, a tax increase would just give the corrupt and incompetent politicians more money to reward their campaign contributors with. The real solution has to recognize that the very concept of the commons and public space is under attack by private capital and that our representative democracy is critically flawed. It needs to use that information to remove the current class of politicians that prioritize reelection over an educated and informed citizenry.

  • David the small-L libertarian

    Here’s how the author, Mr. Patel, comports himself in the presence of police:

    Here he rages against a lone motorcycle cop in front of the Oviatt library last week.  Apparently this officer did something or said something to Patel in the 15 minutes prior to this tantrum.  No one seems to know what happened but apparently it’s “what really should have been caught on video” and it justified his response.

    Here’s Mr. Patel in April tussling with a Santa Monica College cop as he and others attempt to push their way into a board meeting.  And here he is after being pepper-sprayed, like a street-corner preacher telling everyone his take on the violence at the Santa Monica College board meeting.

  • VladLenin

    [blockquote]Making classes more expensive is what passes for a solution for our now in shambles public school system.[/blockquote]

    Making classes more expensive is the outcropping of years(decades) of Liberal mismanagement of the state.

    [blockquote]“Let us in!” [/blockquote]

    So, let me understand; When over a hundred people attempted to push their way in to a room, that only seated 30 people, they got pepper-sprayed? Good!

    The group couldn’t assign 5-10 people to act as representatives, to get their point across?  This is about ENTITLEMENT. The students are responsible for the escalation. Was this your intention? As you say, this now has the exposure, that you believe serves your ends. (father Alinsky would be proud)

    [blockquote]This is made most apparent in our public schools where we graduate kids from high school that can’t read or do math, let alone think critically, but that is by design; status quo power structures are threatened by an engaged public.[/blockquote]

    Nonsense. Conservatives have attempted to reform Education for decades. They’ve been stonewalled by Lib’s and the Teachers Unions. In a “free market”, students would be able to shop for the best quality, at the lowest cost. That the Unions and the State have Socialized Education, it is comical(not) to have you deride the free market.

    [blockquote]SMC’s problems are not the result of some greedy persons.  They are merely a symptom of the system wide problems of California’s corrupt liberal ideology that permeates its State Legislature and many if not most of its local elected officials and bodies. [/blockquote]


    Implementing further Liberal ideas is not the answer.

    Peace Out


    • Ankur Patel

      Shop for the best quality at lowest cost?

      Real people, in the real world, don’t have the ability to travel to the rich part of town and get educated in the “better” schools.

      The problem is the free market isn’t free. You can’t blame politicians for that. It is a natural consequence that if you have the power and ability to manipulate the market to benefit yourself, that is what happens.

  • JYLD

    Capitalism has no purpose.  It is the natural result of free individuals acting in commerce.  It is certainly false to say capitalism’s purpose is to concentrate wealth.  Capitalism is not a thing capable of independent thought and direction, i.e. a thing capable of having a purpose.  Again capitalism is a result of free individuals acting in commerce.  Capitalism is a result not a cause of results. 

    Saying capitalism leads to crony capitalism is like saying socialism leads to totalitarianism.  Sure it can happen, but its not an intended proper result of either system.  Crony capitalism happens when unethical politicians interact with small subgroups of unethical non-politicians.  Sometimes those interactions occur as a result of ignorance on the part of the politicians.  Sometimes as a matter of the politicians’ personal corruption.

    SMC’s problems are not the result of some greedy persons.  They are merely a symptom of the system wide problems of California’s corrupt liberal ideology that permeates its State Legislature and many if not most of its local elected officials and bodies.  They are the cause for high schools that graduate people that can’t read, and ignorant students at SMC that think they are “entitled” to be provided an education for free or below cost.

    The students at SMC who rioted at the meeting deserved to be pepper sprayed.  Their actions may have caused innocent parties to get a whiff of the pepper spray as well.  That is not the fault of security but the fault of the entitlement minded brats who’ve had too much handed to them already that they didn’t deserve and didn’t earn. 

    • Ankur Patel

      “Capitalism does not intend to concentrate wealth” — but that is what it does.

      Free individuals acting in commerce? We are not free when our choices are limited by fiat currency.

      Your points on SMC don’t deserve a response. You might be someone who would claim that the Proles of Orwell’s 1984 be the natural state of things.

      • JYLD

        Ankur Patel – You are wrong.  Again you write that capitalism is a cause of something or does something when Capitalism is merely the word that describes the result of free individuals acting in commerce.  The fact that some individuals choose to work harder, work smarter, defer gratification for greater rewards later or are just plain better at being free and making free choices than others results in some having more wealth than others.  The cause of such disparities are the result of the disparate individual inputs and choices of free individuals.  Capitalism does not cause this as it is not the cause of anything.  Capitalism is the word that describes the result of these free individuals acting in commerce.  Capitalism is the economic system that results from free individuals actualizing and expressing their personal individual freedom.  Other economic systems can only exist by the creation of artificial rules imposed by force which LIMIT the personal individual freedom of all individuals.

        Yes we have lots of free choices.  The use of abstract money does not in any way change that.  It might introduce distortions in the incentives individuals can choose from, but it is certainly error to say it eliminates choice and freedom.

        Your lack of response to my statements about SMC indicates your inability to respond, either because the intellectual challenge is too great or you know you have no good responses from which to choose.  This fact is confirmed by your silly diversionary tactic of faux wisdom by reference to Orwell.

        • Ankur Patel

          We don’t live in a capitalist society. And China is definitely more capitalist than communist. 

          We live in a real and pragmatic world where ideology needs to be left at the door. Especially when you are talking to an Anarchist.

          I am an anarchist because in my utopian state every living being is capable of governing itself. 

          We as a species are not at that level yet. There are too many illiterate people for that. When even a reasonable majority of human beings can read and write at least one language, we are not even close.

          If that is not the goal of education, as a whole, than you and I are talking about different educations. Maybe my experience through the LAUSD system was better than yours.

  • Michelangelo_L

    Aside from the issue of strawmaning capitalism with crony capitalism, I find one major flaw with Mr. Patel’s argument. He seems to presume that state schools were originally intent with educating with the masses, when to the contrary they have historically been tools for the government elite to spread propaganda. 

    The Hungarians and other ethnic minorities hated state schooling in the Austrian/Hapsburg Empire because they knew all too well that the state schools were trying to intentionally create gaps between generations. The American natives were against the Spanish state schools because they quickly realized that native children were being forcefully taught Spanish and punished for speaking their mother languages. Even now I would argue that most colleges, even those nominally private, have an agenda of preparing students to be complacent. I can’t seriously accept the idea that at any point state schools were actually educational if they could help it. 

    If we want real education we must remove the government’s hands from the school system. For that matter, we should return the taxpayers money that is extorted every year to fund the propaganda machine. 

    Schools have been provided without the ‘aid’ of the state. Contrary to popular myth, the american people were one of the most literate people in the world long before any Department of Education or LAUSD was founded. It is the state that has distorted education. It over ‘educates’ some with useless degrees, and it deprives education from others. It is only in freedom that we will see a resurgence of honest education. 

    • Ankur Patel

      Nice critique, but “my propaganda is better than yours” is exactly why libertarian ideas don’t work in a complex society where we have to work and live together. It is naive to think that you can live by yourself outside of society’s influence. Society can be as broad as a nation state or as narrow as your neighborhood, but the fact is that we are social beings embedded in society and interconnected through relationships. 

      Of course we get propaganda from all sides, including our current government institutions, but we should aspire to have some institutions that are unbiased and present factual information. Otherwise we turn into tribes of apes killing each other because of he-said she-said. Coming to a consensus on what is factual wouldn’t seem like a challenge, but clearly that is not the case. 

      Capitalism leads to crony capitalism. If the purpose and goal is to concentrate wealth, then using that wealth to change the rules of the game, write laws, or plant unscrupulous allies in positions of power, all to allow for the further concentration of wealth, is a predictable consequence and result that creates a feedback loop. 

      Over-educating is an interesting concept, but knowledge is its own reward — and therein lies freedom.

      • Michelangelo_L

        The libertarian doesn’t preach for isolationism. He preaches for tolerance of others and asks the same for himself. Unique among others he embraces liberty in whole. He believes that his neighbor has the right to marry whoever they want (so long as its mutually consenting), eat what they want, smoke what they want, or think what they want. The only condition he asks for is that his neighbor not harm him (the libertarian) or his property. Libertarianism is fully compatible with complex society – in fact I would argue it is the only politically ideology that preaches the tolerance needed for a complex working society. 

        I think a truly libertarian university wouldn’t try to push out other ideas from the campus. Consider the issue of allowing Powelson, the Green Party Candidate, debate in the upcoming Big Politics event. The conservatives aren’t in favor of letting him debate. The liberals aren’t opposed, but I haven’t heard of them trying to get him in the debate. The only ones who are sympathetic to allowing Powelson debate or trying to convince others to let him debate, besides obviously the Greens, are the Libertarians. As Eddy pointed out last time we spoke, “the Greens are the opposite of the Libertarians”. Yet oddly enough the Libertarians aren’t opposed to having a green talk. Why? Because libertarianism ultimately preaches tolerance. 

        As for creating institutions that are unbiased, sure. That sounds like a great idea. But they won’t come from the state. The state has a very real incentive to create schools or influence current ones to sell whatever their current policies are. 

        To do that schools will have to be privatized. Privatization doesn’t mean they will be sold off to McDonalds or Costco. There is no reason why the local communities couldn’t buy up the schools. In fact, absent of the state, the historical tendency is for schools to be owned by the local communities. 

        Nor does capitalism require all the wealth to be concentrated in a few people. I have yet to hear any economics professor preach that. In a truly free market those who are super wealthy are so not because they manipulated the state to give them special privilege. It is because they gave consumers the goods and services they wanted better than anyone else.

        Crony capitalism, or simply statism, is created by those who use force to steal their resources from others. This is the complete opposite of capitalism, where people earn their wealth through voluntary actions with others.

        • Ankur Patel

          Schools owned by local communities? That sounds like a municipality to me…

          Your ideology might sound nice [“earn their wealth through voluntary actions with others”], but in reality, there is a lot of wealth “earned” by foreclosing on homes, pillaging natural resources, dropping bombs, and straight up human trafficking. 

          Human nature is magnified by how we organize ourselves economically, politically, and socially. Preaching for tolerance while defending the economic systems that have led to our current world gets us the status-quo.

          • Michelangelo_L

            Foreclosing homes is not in by itself a ‘bad’ action if the home owner could not afford to pay it. Suppose that I went to Best Buy and bought a large television set although I had no means to pay it. Best Buy wouldn’t be exploiting me by repossessing the television. They’d simply be getting back what was theirs. 

            Pillaging natural resources is simply vague. Do you argue then that we should return to a primitive society of hunter and gatherers? Even a society of farmers would be ‘pillaging’ natural resources by using up the fertility of the land or domesticating the wild animals. There is nothing inherently wrong about using our planets resources to meet our ends. 

            How’s dropping bombs even vaguely capitalistic? Libertarians, again, preach tolerance. Why would we go bombing anyone? A libertarian prefers to trade with his neighbor, not kill him. Again you confuse libertarianism with statism. 

            Human trafficking? Again, I don’t think you really understand that libertarianism is. Libertarians are far from advocates for slavery. We don’t even like taxing other people because we see it as theft from them. Why would we ever be fine with selling people like slaves? 

            There is certainly a reason to be angry, but libertarians aren’t the reason the world is like it is right now. It’s the politicians. It’s Mr. Obama. It’s Mr. Brad Sherman. It’s Berman. It’s those who lives off the work of the working man. It’s those men that are constantly trying to get us into wars against people abroad, and who steal from us at home. 

          • Ankur Patel

            My responses are getting shorter, and yours are getting longer. 

            I consider myself on the side of social contract. What exactly that social contract looks like is why I am an anarchist.

            Where is the social contract that you subscribe to? Is is a religious text? 

          • Michelangelo_L

            I believe that one has the freedom to do what they want to do so long as they don’t harm others or the property of others. 

            I believe that everyone owns themselves. 

            I believe in voluntary actions being preferable to coerced actions. 

            I do not however believe that anyone ever agreed to pay for someone else’s x.