Monday, August 22, 2011

Keeping up with the Times

With the college semester starting this Wednesday, and Beanie starting the 2nd grade in two weeks, I found these two op / ed pieces worth a gander:

"The Hidden Costs of Higher Education"
notes that payment plans intended to help middle-class families afford tuition - paying by the month instead of by the semester, and by credit card instead of by check - end up costing them more:

Struggling families often face rough patches during which they don’t have enough cash on hand to make such payments, and so have to go to their credit cards — and pay the fees. Meanwhile, wealthy families that can afford to simply write a check upfront each month avoid both credit card fees and interest payments.

To be fair, monthly payment plans intend to help lower-income families afford college. But they have also had the unintentional consequence of creating bonuses for the wealthy and added impediments to the less well-off.

"The Kids Are not All Right" describes childhood in crisis today. Being the jaundiced parenthropologist that I am, I admit to approaching claims of "crisis" a bit wearily and warily, esp. when the usual suspects of Big Bad Business become paraded. Not that I am an apologist for BBB. What I found most interesting in the piece is this little bit of legal history:

By the middle of the century, childhood was a robustly protected legal category. In 1959, the United Nations issued its Declaration of the Rights of the Child. Children were now legal persons; the “best interests of the child” became a touchstone for legal reform.

But the 20th century also witnessed another momentous shift, one that would ultimately threaten the welfare of children: the rise of the for-profit corporation. Lawyers, policy makers and business lobbied successfully for various rights and entitlements traditionally connected, legally, with personhood. New laws recognized corporations as legal — albeit artificial — “persons,” granting them many of the same legal rights and privileges as human beings. In an eerie parallel with the child-protective efforts, “the best interests of the corporation” was soon introduced as a legal precept.

Children and corporations both being ascribed personhood at around the same time, using similar metaphors and images? It seems like not small coincidence - and that, I think, is far more fascinating and frightening.

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