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Scholarships for Sale in America…Intelligence, Not so Much

By Subversify Staff Jun 6, 2012

Inventors … What Will They Think of Next? Like these Japanese goggles that are supposed to curb hunger.

I keep seeing articles with inventions created by people all over the world, except the U.S.  I can’t help but think our lack of inventiveness has a great deal to do with the current state of our economy today.

But, why is this?  Are America’s best minds really attending college; or are only the minds that can afford it attending our nation’s universities?  And is that the reason we are turning out a nation of educated idiots?

Purchasing Intelligence?

I had a sneaking suspicion that the concept of wealth purchasing education was not producing the best minds.  And I kept seeing things like this:

According to the CDC, 66% of adults over the age of 20 are overweight or obese. That is approximately 140 million adults. Somewhere between 15 and 20 million Americans can be classified as alcoholics. As many as 50% of those on welfare are alcoholics. There are 225 million people over 18 years old and 32 million of them do not have a high school degree. There are 32 million adults or 14% who are illiterate (23% in California, 22% in New York, 20% in Florida, 17% in New Jersey). The United States’ spending per pupil in public schools at $9,266 is in the top 5 in the world. New York and New Jersey spend $14,000 per pupil and one-fifth of their adults are illiterate.

(Source:  Turning America into a Nation of Idiots, Fat, Drunk and Stupid is No Way to go Through Life)

I wondered why we had gone from a nation of educational achievers to a nation of non-achievers.  And this seems to explain how wealth relates to that:

The Ugly Numbers
Educational attainment is the single biggest determinant of lifetime income. As of 2008, 14% of Americans over 18 years old haven’t graduated high school, 31% have achieved a high school degree, 27% have earned a bachelor’s degree, and only 9% have earned an advanced degree. (Source:  Turning America into a Nation of Idiots, Fat, Drunk and Stupid is No Way to go Through Life)

And this really stood out to me:

The median household income in the U.S. is $46,326.

The median household income of Asian households is 24% higher at $57,518.

The median household income of Black households is 35% lower at $30,134.

Asian households have a fantastic educational achievement, with 49% of Asians achieving a bachelor’s degree or higher. Black households have a higher percentage with no high school degree (18%) than they do with a bachelor’s degree or higher (17%). Hispanic households have even more dreadful levels of educational attainment with only 12% achieving a bachelor’s degree or higher, while a full 37% of Hispanics have not graduated high school. Even though 69 million Americans have attained a high school degree, many are functionally illiterate as our public school system has just matriculated them through the system. (Source:  Turning America into a Nation of Idiots, Fat, Drunk and Stupid is No Way to go Through Life)

Buying Your Child’s IQ

Quite simply…you can’t!  Either your precious offspring has been gifted by any number of things, including genetics or he/she hasn’t.  According to an article in Scientific American, Neuroscientists have discovered anatomical reasons for intelligence:

Neuroscientists have used modern imaging methods to discover the neural correlates of intelligence as measured by these widely used tests.  Many of these studies have examined the relations of IQ to brain anatomy, generally finding that greater grey matter volume or thickness across many brain regions correlates with higher IQ scores.

And other Neuroscientists believe using various regions of the brain contributes to intelligence:

Others have looked at functional measures taken while people perform tasks, generally finding that bilateral frontal and parietal regions are most often associated with performance on intelligence tests. (Source: Idle Minds and What They May Say about Intelligence)

But so far, there has not been a consensus that ability to pay has offered advanced intelligence.

Cuban Model of Education

So why are we limiting access to education to only those who can afford it?

Isn’t a better model one that gives equal access to all who seek an education and allow the natural process of elimination to occur?

Cuba has clearly demonstrated such a model with a high ranking system that has been doing well for years. Here are some reasons why:

Following the 1959 revolution, the Castro government nationalized all educational institutions, and created a system operated entirely by the government.


Irrespective of income or place of living, education at every level is free.

School meals and uniforms are free. 

There is a strict maximum of 25 children per primary-school class, many of which have as few as 20. As of 2010, secondary schools are striving towards only 15 pupils per class.

Many schools open at 6.30 am and close 12 hours later, providing free morning and after-school care for working parents with no extended family.

“Mobile teachers” are deployed to homes if children are unable to come to school. 

Over half of Cuba’s 150,000 teachers have a master’s degree.  (Source: Wikipedia Education in Cuba)

Removing Competitiveness

American students are no longer competitive.  Why?  Because only the wealthy can afford to apply to our nation’s top colleges, for the most part.  And this leaves us with students who have a lot of money to party and attend to developing their social needs; but does it contribute to developing top minds in the world?

The facts of a relatively poor economy and a long-term continuous blockade on trade make the Cubans’ achievements more impressive. For the past forty years, education has been a top priority for the Cuban government.  Cuba maintains twice the amount of public spending on education as its more wealthy neighbors, at 10% of GNP. 

Cuba shows how important education is by keeping a student to teacher ratio of 12 to 1, which is approximately half of the Latin American average. In addition, the youth illiteracy rate in Cuba is close to zero, a figure unmatched by all other Latin American countries.  Cuban schools are closely integrated with the community. Teachers are very active in the communities of the children that attend their schools, and build strong relationships with parents and families to enhance the learning process. It has been demonstrated that there is a strong commitment to the educational sector on the part of the government. Equal opportunity for a high quality education for all students is one of the key factors that explain why the Cuban educational success is not a miracle or an accident, but the result of many years of concerted efforts and commitments, by the government to its people.  (Source: Wikipedia Education in Cuba)


What is a scholarship?

The term “scholarship” can have many meanings. At its most basic meaning, a scholarship is money for college that you will not be expected to repay.  (Source:

So, why can’t we change the way we view education, in the U.S.?  Simply, because we have accepted it as the domain of the rich.  We have downplayed the importance of seeking our best minds to enable our nation’s elite access.

For example, even where scholarships have been created — our nation has set up scenarios wherein our nation’s wealthy are using them, instead of paying for their children’s education which they easily can afford.

Justin Combs

Let’s look at the recent scholarship of Justin Combs.  Was it REALLY necessary for P. Diddy’s son, whose father is worth millions, to take a $54,000 scholarship to pay for his schooling at UCLA, instead of leaving those funds for a student who honestly cannot afford college?

Certainly, it was his right to accept it; because he earned it.  But what does it say about his ethics when he partakes on an academic career, based on accepting a scholarship that he clearly doesn’t need?  Wouldn’t it say more about his character if he could donate it to a less fortunate student who might benefit from it?

And what are we teaching people when we demonstrate this type of greed and stupidity, instead of demonstrating something classier, like benevolence?

But this does tend to demonstrate that good thinking is not the domain of education today.  I can say that if I were Sean Combs, I would have asked my son to let the scholarship go and offered my own money, so that he could demonstrate something much richer…the concept of kindness and generosity. What a lesson that might have been!

Media Hype
Having said that, I’m sure this young man has done nothing different than what many rich white kids have done.  You can’t tell me that he’s the first to have been financed through expensive private schools and take advantage of a scholarship that would have been better used for a less financially gifted student.

And what if our educational system really was fair.  What if each and every student out there had the same access to all schools, based on their ability, rather than their father’s financial assets?  Would Justin Combs or any of the other wealthy offspring of our nation’s elite really earn those scholarships?  I think that is highly unlikely!

If educational competition were fair, many of our nation’s doctors and lawyers might be a tad bit more gifted, as well.  Because, like in Cuba, they might pursue their careers based on intelligence rather than ability to pay.


For More from Jennifer Lawson-Zepeda, visit her blog @


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6 thoughts on “Scholarships for Sale in America…Intelligence, Not so Much”
  1. Jen:

    Several problems with this piece, the first being linearity. There’s no direct link between education and income – if that were true, Cuba would be a wealthy paradise, and every other person I met in Portland, Oregon’s ‘Occupy’ camp last November wouldn’t have been the proud holder of a master’s degree (and +-$100K in debt).

    Cuba may have an educated populace, but a lot of that, I’m convinced, is a safety-valve for several social issues.

    America doesn’t have an education system so much as it has a merit-system based on money. This was one of the things which Jefferson wanted to correct, and it’s one of his biggest failures (he, and the rest of the authors) in the U.S. Constitution.

    (‘Irrespective’ and ‘irregardless’ are not words. Just sayin’…)


  2. I found out the hard way just how overrated a college education really is when it comes to getting a job – I have a BA in Broadcast Communications and the best job I could land with that was working in some goddamn warehouse because most of the jobs in that field have disappeared overnight: people like me who made all the “right” moves in college, didn’t party our time away and kept our grades up got fucked on graduation day when we found that positiona that were once “entry level” now required between 3-5 years previous experience in the field (something no recent grad has…) unless you have connections to people on the inside (something we never had a chance to forge because we weren’t actually working in the field – we were counting on our degrees to get us those first jobs…)!

    I will say this right now to anyone who wants to get a degree to make themselves more marketable in todays economy – you’re better off selling drugs than investing in an education (as there will always be a demand for drugs – education, not so much…).

  3. Well, I’m going to disagree with both of you.

    First, W.D. Noble, access to education and income in the U.S. are co-related. And H.R. Directors tell you that without an education, there is no chance of moving up the corporate ladder, after a certain level (usually managerial). Simply, those without a strong financial base often struggle to obtain the funding for education and our academic system isn’t based on ability to learn as much as ability to pay. This is why we aren’t producing the best minds in the world.

    And Azazel, I agree that when the job market goes bust, it doesn’t matter what type of degree you have if it isn’t in one that is in demand. Simply you aren’t going to find employment. But if the job market is open, an education can provide a person a stepping stone to a great career; where lack of one can confine one to entry level or technical types of work and not ability to rise.

    Now, there are a number of souls who’ve proven that with motivation and smarts, you may not need an education. But that isn’t the mainstream and most of us aren’t brilliant enough or motivated enough to form a company like Oracle and have it succeed. Most of us can open a small business and find contentment; but this article is not addressing that.

    But something always comes to mind for me when we argue about education and why we should provide access to it. Why are we a nation of people who minimize the role of education? Why are we limiting access to it for the wealthy?

    It’s true that Cuba is not a place where human beings eyeball success based on income. That’s not their economic model or philosophy. Is that a bad thing?

    They do value education and providing access to it and I think that is a good thing. As a matter of fact, they boast some of the best scholars in areas like medicine. Their doctors are ranked higher than many so-called developed countries because they place a premium on learning. You can’t say that about the U.S. although you can say there is immense wealth here.

    And irregardless of how you feel about education, if you need a doctor, would you rather have one dedicated to his profession; or one dedicated to building wealth?

  4. @ Jennifer,

    “And Azazel, I agree that when the job market goes bust, it doesn’t matter what type of degree you have if it isn’t in one that is in demand. Simply you aren’t going to find employment. But if the job market is open, an education can provide a person a stepping stone to a great career; where lack of one can confine one to entry level or technical types of work and not ability to rise.”

    The problem here isn’t just that the job market has gone bust – the problem is that the market is being *constricted* so that the few remaining jobs that people fresh out of college would be perfectly qualified for go to people that already have connections: in other words, the new guys are being blocked from ever having a chance for employment and have to fight over the scraps on the bottom unless they find a way to escape the system entirely (as people like me have).

    Sure, what you say is true in a healthy, growing economy – but the fact of the matter is that we don’t have a healthy growing economy: what we have is an economic system that’s headed for a deep depression in the next decade or so that’s so great that the media won’t be able to hide it anymore!

  5. Jennifer, i’m glad you studied up on Cuba. There are a lot of misconceptions about the country. As you said, they are very advanced in the medical field. They also have a far more even distribution of the wealth. Although they may not have any astoundingly rich people, they don’t have any desperately poor ones, either. All those boat people seeking refuge in the US? They were common criminals and the homeland was happy to see them go.

    I have to disagree on the part of American competitiveness. I think Americans are highly competitive; just in the wrong way. They have a “win at all costs” mentality. Lying, cheating, back-stabbing, intimidation, are all good as long as it keeps them on the winner’s stool. When you add this to the fact that you can’t get that plush job unless you know the right people, the well-educated, but scrupulous person who stands solely on his/her abilities has very little chance.

    I still have a hard time adjusting to the idea that advanced education has been designated to the elite. This is actually a fairly recent development because during the time period when i was in my twenties, going to college was as easy as walking into a classroom. There were a lot of open door campuses. There were a lot of colleges that offered free courses. Getting and keeping a scholarship simply meant keeping your grades up. As late as Bill Clinton’s presidency, it was easy to get a grant for advanced education.

    So what happened? The economy is certainly partly to blame, but i think part of it is also the tendency that started when everyone was getting advanced education, for both parents to work. All at once, the standard of living was lovely, but who was really taking care of the kids? On another note, how entitled did these kids consider themselves to be, with every imaginable play thing they demanded and only part-time attention from their parents? Now that that particular bubble has burst and both parents have to work just to keep food on the table, i imagine America is really floundering and wondering about the value of education.

    In the end, i would conclude that education is valuable as long as you understand the value is for yourself. It gives you the ability to separate truth from hogwash, rational thinking from propaganda, draw on history for current events, the know-how to be inventive and the imagination to live free.

  6. Karla I have to disagree with you on a couple of points.

    First; The Cuban refugees were not all or even mostly criminals. Many people left due to connections, even tenuous ones that their families had to people in the former regime. Also I am personally acquainted with a woman who left because her family did not want to give up their money and prosperity.

    As for what has happened with education, in many cases we are looking at second generation college students. In the last few generations, young people would qualify for grants based on the fact that nobody in their families had gone to college. There is a federal grant specifically for first generation college students. Nowadays young people aren’t qualifying for that both because their parents make too much money (anything over $40,000 a year disqualifies you) and they aren’t the first to go.

    I find it incredibly ridiculous that a family cannot claim on their taxes a child that is over 18, but that same child cannot discount their parent’s income when applying for grants until they are 24. It’s a trap and I think we will be seeing more young people going to college later in life (after 25) and hence marrying and having families later. This will likely mean less children but maybe that’s okay. Perhaps it’s just a natural shift.

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