U.S. should mirror German education

Henry Mitchell

Free college education.

Ok, now that I have your attention, I’m going to talk to you about tradition. We’ll get back to the college thing in a second.

On Feb. 9, Sen. Bernie Sanders hosted German Ambassador Peter Wittig in Burlington to discuss how Germany governs differently from the U.S.

While Sanders tried to encourage Wittig to fully commit to portraying the beauty of socialism, the ambassador kept bringing up one word, “tradition.”

To understand how Canada and European countries can afford programs such as universal health care and tuition-free higher education, you have to look at tradition.

Germany came out of World War II completely horrified at its actions and, along with many other European nations, decided to form a union to prevent such a catastrophe from happening again.

This eventually became the European Union, which traded complete independence for a more reliable and prosperous continent that didn’t have constant wars over border disagreements.

That is why its citizens choose to pay more taxes in return for more benefits.

But we’ve never had to reconsider whether our current system of governing is appropriate, and therefore accept its flaws as temporary inconveniences.

Instead, we kept our tradition of rugged individualism, or as I like to call it: “poor-people-should-just-deal-with-it-ism.”

Why should I pay for some kid’s education if I chose not to go to college?

Why should I help some poor person get medical help when I haven’t been sick in years?

Why should I pay my employees a decent wage if they’ll work for me anyway?

What would we actually gain by paying our tax dollars for this?

Germany has amazing apprenticeship tracks for students that prefer to be more hands-on, in which they spend most of their time working for a company with an actual salary.

After three years in a track, they can get a diploma that is just as respected and professional as a college degree.

Often they’ll be offered a full-time position at the company where they worked. Not only are colleges tuition-free, but there are also subsidies to pay for the room and board for anyone from a low-income family.

Plus, with laws that prohibit unpaid internships for students, it should be no surprise that Germany has low youth unemployment rates.

The U.S. could have these things too, but we’d have to change our traditions to do so.

So seeing how our generation is the most educated and progressive yet, to paraphrase our lord and savior Bernie Sanders:

I guess we kind of have to.