Vivian Martinez lived in a Latino neighborhood in San Diego and had always dreamed of getting a college degree.
Some time ago, a school called Success University opened in her neighborhood.
At SU students had an opportunity to pursue a B.A., B.S., M.A., M.S., M.B.A., and even a J.D. degree.
Vivian Martinez saw this as a boon because, for years, she had been trying to enroll in community college courses that were not accepting any more students, as the community college budgets had gradually reduced to barf.
And Success University, a proprietary college, promised Vivian Martinez the American dream.
Success University’s recruiter used attractive words like, “guaranteed job placement” and “a career in the legal industry that pays six figures.”
Through her eighteen months as a Success University student, Vivian Martinez often met with her Law and Ethics instructor, who also happened to be her career advisor. Professor Jackson, that’s what students called him though he didn’t have a Ph.D., offered Vivian advice on how she should search and apply for jobs in the legal field. Andy Jackson had a degree in Environmental Policy; but, after graduating summa cum laude from University of Southern California, he couldn’t find a job in that field. Fortunately, Andy was married to an influential partner at a prestigious San Diego law firm. Just because he was married to a lawyer, Success University hired Andy Jackson to educate its law students.
After completing a B.A. and J.D. program in eighteen months, Vivian Martinez secured a job as a receptionist for a service called Human Billboards 4 Hire. Vivian answered phones at a small office that helped place qualified candidates in temporary jobs waving signs on street corners to attract motorists to sales in strip malls. This receptionist’s job paid minimum wage with no benefits, but it was the best job Vivian could secure with her J.D. degree from Success University. As it turns out, Success University never received regional accreditation, and Vivian’s degree—while it costs her a fortune—amounted to little more than a farce.
Vivian Martinez wanted to sue Success University for fraud, but she could not. She had signed a contract that included a sneaky arbitration clause. While the arbitration clause was obviously unconscionable, the U.S. Supreme Court of that era did not deem SU’s arbitration clause unconscionable.
Vivian tried another approach. She formed a community alliance of people in her neighborhood who had suffered similar humiliation: they all had useless college degrees and overwhelming debts. They protested and demonstrated and educated prospective Success University students about this shady business and its shady arbitration clause. Unfortunately, other neighbors who had secured employment as Staff at SU were able to squelch Vivian’s community group.
However, a renowned Professor of Education at Ivory Tower University in New York City somehow caught word of this scandal (wasn't it through a friend of a friend's Wall Status on Facebook??). Professor Augustus Longfellow knew that a “university” that uses a for-profit business model to sustain itself loses sight of its goal to educate students. Professor Longfellow chose to abandon his enviable, high-power post as Chair of the Education Department at ITU and moved himself and his family to San Diego.
He bought a charming craftsman style home—a short sale—in the center of Vivian’s neighborhood. After he and his green thumb wife fixed up the place, Augustus started offering free lectures in his backyard, a lush garden full of fruit trees, rose bushes, and succulents. Everyone who attended the lectures walked away with a clear understanding of the difference between getting a degree and getting an education. Professor Longfellow invited everyone back to his yard again and again over years, over decades, and over centuries. He lectured, he asked questions, he discussed, and he professed. His students read and thought about and wrote about every word of every Classic. They memorized The Canon. They challenged The Canon. Soon all the people in Vivian Martinez’s community were using their minds to think about stuff.
In the end, all the for-profit colleges and universities disappeared from the face of the earth, and the whole world embraced Professor Longfellow’s model for free, garden-variety education for all.
The United States of America even changed the words in its Pledge of Allegiance to say “I pledge allegiance to the flag blah blah blah… With affordable health care and education for all.”
At last, everyone agreed we should replace the words liberty and justice in favor of more practical health and education because, let’s be honest, liberty and justice elude us all.