CU’s Brown Offends with “Ghetto” Remark

Republicans support more tax spending. Republicans support political control of education. They brag about it.

We begin with a very strange article from the Associated Press (dated October 19):

CU President Hank Brown warned today that the way the state allocates college and university funding could “ghettoize” some programs, upsetting the only black member of the Higher Education Commission.

Brown said inadequate funding for expensive research institutions like CU could mean that only rich families and low-income students who qualify for grants and scholarships can afford them.

“You ghettoize them in effect, because you make it impossible for middle-income kids to make it,” Brown told the commission. …

Brown’s spokesman, Ken McConnellogue, said Brown was referring to the middle class students who were left out and not the low-income students who were left in the programs.

Offensive indeed!

Unfortunately, the AP article never explains why Brown’s remark might be offensive. The article intimates that Jim Stewart, “the only black member” of the Commission, took offense because the term “ghettoize” is somehow offensive to blacks. But that’s ridiculous.

The word “ghetto” was around long before it was used to describe poor black neighborhoods. The top definition from Oxford’s dictionary says, “The quarter in a city, chiefly in Italy, to which the Jews were restricted.” Maybe we can check to see whether there were any Jews on the Commission who also took offense. The second definition includes the generic meaning, “an area, etc., occupied by an isolated group; an isolated or segregated group, community, or area.” As a verb, “ghetto” means, “To put or keep (people) in a ghetto.” Obviously, Brown meant that he doesn’t want to see middle-income students kept out of better schools. It has nothing to do with race.

Brown’s comment is actually offensive because it’s not true that “you make it impossible for middle-income kids to make it” by failing to increase tax subsidies. Middle-income students, and not only poor students, can qualify for grants and scholarships. They can also save their own money, work part time and attend school part time, ask their parents for money, and/or take out loans.

The people who should be offended are those of middle incomes who believe they can make it without government handouts. (It would help, of course, if such large portions of their paychecks weren’t forcibly taken from them in order to subsidize still others.)

In theory, a college education is valuable to the student. If that’s not the case, then there’s no point in attending college. If it is the case, then there’s no reason why the student shouldn’t pay for it. Indeed, there’s no reason why the government should play any role whatsoever.

It is possible, of course, that uneven tax subsidies make some programs artificially appealing to some students. But then the proper solution is not to increase select subsidies, it is to eliminate all the subsidies.

But it is no surprise that Brown, a former Republican Senator (and my one-time boss) endorses tax subsidies for education; i.e., forcing some people to pay for the education of other people.

Seriously, Republicans love spending taxes. It’s like they’re in their own little tax-spending ghetto. Consider an October 23 release from Colorado Republicans, titled, “GOP to bolster higher ed with more funding, greater accountability.” Republicans wish to “establish a reliable funding stream for higher ed by drawing on surging revenue from oil and gas development.” The money comes from leasing fees, “mineral royalties and state and local energy taxes.” Because Republicans see that money as theirs to spend by right, never mind what the people who produce the wealth might think about it.

Republican Mike May says, “We are using a carrot-and-stick approach” toward colleges. The carrot is other people’s money, taken from them by force. The stick is legislative control.

Yet how many students simultaneously bitch about “academic freedom” and too little state funding? What politicians fund, politicians control. Real academic freedom means getting politicians out of the education business. And that means getting politicians out of the business of funding education with other people’s money.