The Rider News published an article about the talk given by New Jersey Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney on Monday, Sept. 24, in the Mercer Room. He discussed higher education, a topic of interest to the Rider community.
The article noted that Sweeney never attended college. The lesson for Rider students is that you can succeed in life and became a leading political figure, like a Senate President, without going to college. This is not the message that Rider wishes to convey. We must ask ourselves: What is the purpose and value of college, and how will higher education help us in our individual and national lives?
Education gives us an understanding of the world, including people, science and rational thought. It lends us the knowledge and tools that can help improve our individual lives and the lives of our fellow citizens. It gives us the power to think creatively and independently, to arrive at conclusions different from our leaders, teachers and friends. Education equips us with the realization that claims must be backed up by empirical and historical evidence before we can accept
As an example, let’s look at Sweeney’s comments as reported by The Rider News. He said that raising the minimum wage would raise the standard of living for everyone. This implies that raising the minimum wage would increase my salary as a professor, something that is not logical. A high school graduate can make such a statement, but a thinking college graduate will not. The college student learns about revenue and costs, understanding that wages are a part of costs. Costs need to be deduced from revenue to get profits. Raising labor costs will not increase profits.
Furthermore, Sweeney justified his statements based upon an old study from 2005. A thinking college graduate would be aware of more recent studies giving both sides of this complex issue. A high school student would be fixated on one thing and not make an effort to be aware of new things.
A thinking college student would not simply accept Sweeney’s ideas just because of his or her political affiliation with the Democratic Party. The collegiate person would not vote in elections based upon
emotions or the various pitches the politicians put out. Instead, studious people use their knowledge and tools to examine the ideas and proposals the politicians make to see if they are logically sound and have successfully worked in other times and places.
Educated thinkers are always concerned that political leaders can destroy a country, such as in Venezuela and Argentina. These countries were fundamentally transformed by their leaders, which resulted in good economies being replaced by poor, miserable, suffering economies. Just as we must be aware of bad outcomes from mistakes while driving, we must also be aware which mistakes can bring disaster when voting.
In the end, education can help us all become happier, more healthier and productive. It will help us be more aware of dangers that can happen to us individually or as a nation, and guide us to avoid these dangers.
-Dr. Sanford Aranoff
Associate adjunct professor of Mathematics