On a personal level, Greece’s prime minister understands that “public” education, like public housing, public toilets, and public transportation, is a euphemism for inferior. But Papandreou the politician is different from Papandreou the person. Whoever said the personal is the political never met a socialist.
This cognitive dissonance is key to understanding the inability of the third-generation prime minister to bring the nation’s out-of-balance books into balance. Rhetorically touting austerity measures while continuing to handout free eye exams, free tuition, and free babysitting is the free ride that leads to the free fall. Just as the boy prime-minister-in-waiting didn’t see the disconnection between crumby state schools for the masses and tony private colleges for the masters, the prime minister doesn’t make the connection between the government’s free-handed handouts and Greece perpetually putting its hand out to Europe.
Greece, like its prime minister in his college years, has a socialism problem. George Papandreou solved his socialism problem by using his wealth to obtain a superior education away from his homeland’s state-funded university monopoly. Greece can solve its socialism problem only by not practicing what its government preaches. Papandreou the prime minister, like Papandreou the student, reconciles socialist deed with word at his own peril.
The ideas that worked so brilliantly in London School of Economics classrooms and Amherst College lecture halls somehow failed in Greece. Alas, Papandreou gleaned the wrong lesson. Whatever professors said about socialism in those classes was refuted by what Papandreou attending those professors’ classes said about socialism. Socialism fails so miserably that even socialists would rather pay for what government gives away.
You can learn a lot from a socialist education. Most of the lessons aren’t ones the teachers mean to impart.
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