While it would be temping for me to make a Polish joke about Mr. Kozlowski, and would be covered under the “you can make ethnic slurs about your own ethnic group exemption,” Polish jokes have their origins in Nazi propaganda and should never be used for any reason. Besides, Mr. Kozlowski, who’s a professor of Mathematics at the University of Warsaw, a dual British Polish citizen, and a self-proclaimed “Zionist” is just saying the quiet part out loud. He’s suggesting that the American ruling class, which is getting increasingly worried that they can no longer control the working class through the lie of upward mobility and the meritocracy, use the old Eastern European method of controlling the peasants. Keep them illiterate and ignorant.
Andrzej Kozlowski is no fan of Bernie Sanders, who he repeatedly compares to a disease. He decided to add his unwanted two cents to the discourse around the Democratic Party primaries when the corporate media started to red bait Sanders over his praise for Fidel Castro’s literacy program. Under Castro, Cubans, who are mostly black or mixed race, became the most literate people in Latin America. Even accounting for how some of the figures are probably Cuban government propaganda, it’s still an impressive achievement. Of course, Bernie Sanders is not suggesting that the United States move in the authoritarian direction of the Castro years. I doubt the American ruling class would have much trouble with “communist authoritarianism only capitalist” anyway. After all, they outsourced American manufacturing to China. What scares them is Sanders’s plan to reduce spending on the military industrial complex and funnel the money into healthcare and education, to institute a system of Medicare for all and debt forgiveness for student loans.
In the 1960s, the American public university system, that grew out of the Morrill Act, signed into law by Abraham Lincoln in 1862, and the GI Bill, became the base for the last mass democratic uprising. By 1970, the anti-war movement, which had started at elite schools like the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin, had “trickled down” to working class institutions like Kent State. The ruling class, terrified by what Samuel Huntington would later call “the crisis of democracy” — “crisis” meaning “too much” — moved to reign in access to higher education. My generation, the Boomer X generation born between 1960 and 1968, were the first to feel the pinch. Mostly it was cultural. Fraternities became cool again. Politically apathy and cynicism was encouraged. Careerism was the order of the day. Brett Kavenaugh, the most perfect representative of the Boomer X generation, currently sits on the Supreme Court. In the 1990s and the 2000s, encouraged by the wide availability of student loans, private college raised tuition rates. Public colleges, deciding it was easier to place the burden on the students rather than raise taxes, quickly followed. By 2008 and the great recession, an entire generation, saddled with massive student debt, couldn’t even think about going to protests. The brief anti-capitalist explosion during Occupy Wall Street was largely organized by recent college graduates who had nothing to lose. Even if they had wanted to pay off their student loans, there were no jobs anyway.
Andrzej Kozlowski’s traditional Catholic fascism is hilariously out of date. Salazar’s Portugal, Franco Spain, De Valera’s Ireland, and the Quebec of Maurice Duplessis aren’t coming back. But that doesn’t mean the American ruling class isn’t thinking about how they’re going to keep the peasants ignorant and brainwashed. Free Polish vodka would be nice, but my guess is that our lords and masters are much too cheap to get us drunk. What’s more, even Americans are a bit too smart for someone who says the quiet part out loud. Upper-middle-class Americans love their “good” (all white) schools. The black and Hispanic neoliberal elites can’t give up the illusion of the meritocracy, the idea that as long as you get good grades you might get that house in the suburbs and those “good” schools for your own kids. Jews and Asians aren’t going to keep their kids ignorant just because a few of them might become Bernie Bros. What the American ruling class needs is a way to keep the peasants down while still maintaining the illusion that the system is liberal and democratic.
Enter Amy Klobuchar. I’m not of course comparing her to Mr. Kozlowski, even though she is the only East European in the race, but she has been consistent in her arguments that the last thing we all need is more higher education. What we need, she maintains, are more plumbers.
The other issue is we don’t have enough personnel. And so that’s where we get to this education plan.. And I don’t want agree with some of my colleagues here about putting hard-earned taxpayer money into rich kids going to college. What I think we need to do instead is look at what our needs are in our economy.
We’re going to have a million openings for home health care workers, particularly in rural areas, that we don’t know how to fill. We’re going to have over 100,000 openings for nursing assistants. We’re not going to have a shortage of sports marketing degrees. We’re going to have a shortage of plumbers and nurses.