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Eating our seed corn

Posted by Lotg on February 20, 2004

In Reply to: Eating our seed corn posted by Dr. Ward Fredericks on February 20, 2004

: : : : EATING OUR SEED CORN - "'We're eating our seed corn,' Gov. Bert Combs used to say many years ago as he talked about Kentucky's paltry investments in education. His story came from Kentucky's pioneer years, when our forebears had to survive harsh winters on what they were able to store during the summer growing season. If they stored too little or if the winter was too long, they would eat the seeds need for next year's crop. And with no way to replace their seed corn, they had no future. Investing in education is like protecting our seed corn." From "State about to eat its seed corn: education/ Budget cuts will starve minds, stifle future" by Robert F. Seaton, executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. Herald-Leader, opinion pages, Lexington, Ky., February 16, 2004.

: : : :::Anytime our behavior is so short sighted that we over consume today at the expense of our future, we may be said to be 'eating our seed corn'. It applies to everything from global warming to the over fishing of the oceans, and over harvesting our forests.
: : : In the past, the results of such behavior would normally play out over a relatively short time period, and lack of seed the next growing season would signal great trouble ahead. Today, the signs are much more subtle, but the concern should be as great.

: : The slogan for my state was "Education Pays." Now it is "Make Education Pay." They are raising the tuition at state universities.

: :::In the US we have supported education at many levels over the years. In my world travels I always was impressed that the US has community colleges that serve as first experience and also as a reentry point to education for 'late bloomers'. Have not found this mechanism anywhere else to the extent it exists in the US.
: We tend to starve the education system (and abuse it) whenever there is a budget crisis in the country. This is one of those times, and all the state systems are raising fees and cutting back on faculty and staff. California, with all it's problems, is doing the same. The University of California system has normally been protected in these cycles, but now they are taking a hit.......... but surprisingly, the community colleges are being supported more than in the past.
: Life is like's better to be educated in the US in good financial times than in recessions and budget crunches. Thankfully, I do believe the 'ethic' we have in this country to support education is still intact. Maybe we won't do much damage with our silly game.

When I was growing up, all levels of education in Australia were free or almost free (well, at least very heavily subsidised). Certainly primary and secondary was free (except the schoolbooks etc), and it was always assumed that anyone could go to university if they wanted.

Then we had to start paying. But there were still subsidies. Indeed by the time I went to uni the first time (about a thousand years ago - ie. 1975), the uni fees weren't all that bad, but I still had to survive in the big city, so I had to support myself.

When I went back again last year (part-time), it cost me over AUD$5000 a quarter excluding books, etc). Instead of subsidies, there are education loans (which of course must be repaid with interest), although I chose to pay cash so there were discounts.

Having said that, we still have very strong adult education programmes that I believe are quite reasonably priced.

But I must say, it must be very very tough on people who want to study full-time, and somehow still need to survive. I had a fairly healthy income, and I was choosing to study part time, but I do wonder how people manage when they don't have that backup, and they have no-one to support them.

Historically, Australia has had one of the highest education standards in the world. I have no idea these days where we stand though. I think it's a shame if we've lost or are losing that status, and I do wonder if we're eating our own seed corn (although we'd probably need a different metaphor in this country).