It all started with a “Howdy.” Even though I have met with legislators before working for Environment New Mexico as a legislative intern, the thought of meeting with a representative still gave me the shivers. What you realize within about 10 seconds, at least with my buddy Gerry Pollet, is that it’s just another person who, like you, doesn’t know much about a lot, but wants to do something with what they’ve got.
I met Gerry at a cafe during one of his visits to Seattle. It sounded like some big town hall meeting where I thought I might have to raise my hand and speak as if I were a reporter in front of a group of people that I would think are more informed than I. When I found him however, he was sitting by his lonesome with a little sign just waiting for some constituents to come and talk with him. So we talked.
I was interested in HB 1238, one pertaining to higher education. Within this bill are the goals:
(1) To use the total cost of attendance as a factor when considering student
financial aid policy to accurately represent the true cost of higher education;
(2) To make higher education accessible and affordable for all families; and
(3) For tuition at public institutions of higher education to be no higher than ten percent of the median family income.
I was thinking that these goals seem pretty appropriate and would make access to higher education a reasonable investment. In 2015, the median family income in King County was around $78,000. Therefore, for just under $8000 a year, I should be able to get a degree in higher education. Not too shabby. What I don’t understand is that if I come from another state, I am charged up the *ss. While I understand this is a state issue, it inherently affects the nation within the world we live.
I came to talk with Gerry about education in general and HB 1238 was his way of starting to address the ridiculous cost of higher education. In our discussion we talked about the real change happening for high school graduates able to get a degree from a community college in Washington State for free. Great progress. But what he admitted was surprising are the amount of legislators within the higher education committee who have any ties to higher education, he mentioned there were 3 at most. The amount of legislation that is written and passed without any real experience or data within the field to which it pertains is sickening. We simply allow special interests to run our democracy. Our founding fathers were wise in their virtue and they meant themselves not to be held as gods and yet that is how we perceive their writing:
“The people cannot assemble themselves; their representation is unequal and vicious. Various checks are opposed to every legislative proposition. Factions get possession of the public councils, bribery corrupts them, personal interests lead them astray from the general interests of their constituents; and other impediments arise, so as to prove to every practical man, that a law of limited duration is much more manageable than one which needs a repeal.” –Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1789.
I do not see this country overcoming its challenges in equality and what I will call a pursuit of pleasure rather than happiness if we do not seriously reconsider our current situation with respect to experience. Gerry seemed to agree about where we stand with regards to education, but he is just one representative and we are a democracy, our voice is louder than we think and our actions can move more than we imagine. Let’s not wait for the disaster to bring us to deliberation, but consider the journey within which we live to be the pleasure and not live in pursuit of an ends.