So much has happened since I designated the African-American mogul an Ethics Hero for spontaneously announcing that he would pay off an entire graduation class’s college debt that I almost forgot about Leslie’s provocatively contrary Comment of the Day. Triggered by the backlash against Oprah Smith’s generosity provoked, Leslie launched a critical barrage against Smith, or what his gift symbolizes. She backed down a bit in a later comment on the thread, but her original post is thought-provoking.
In addition, Leslie gets special credit for the Mansa Musa reference. I would include the Mali ruler in the cultural literacy list except for the fact that our culture almost completely ignores major Islamic historical figures.
Here is her Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Hero: Robert F. Smith:
Don’t belittle Oprah– she bought everybody KFC. Robert Smith isn’t even feeding anybody. Robert Smith isn’t even teaching anybody how to fish in order to feed themselves for a lifetime.
I’m sure he means well, but I don’t think that paying off somebody’s college loans is helping that person become independent and self-reliant. They’re getting out of the contracts they signed in order to finance their careers. Maybe they’ll remember that and pass the favor on and the world becomes a better place.
Or maybe the college education market will be thrown into MORE disarray with a flood of copycat donations the way it was thrown into disarray by government subsidies and the cost of education will go up AGAIN because students are not responsible for the cost of their education. When Mansa Musa passed through Cairo, he gave away so much gold that the economy collapsed and the next time he passed through, he had to buy it all back to restore the economy. If he wanted to do some good, he should have just helped some poor people. That’s the nice thing about poor people– giving your money to them is fairly harmless.
But able college grads? It just seems like a bad idea. I graduated 2010 when everybody was begging the government to pay off their loans for some strange reason. I paid every penny back on my loans. The idea of somebody else paying that for me… just insulting. I incurred those loans. Nobody else. A college grad is not a charity case. Robert Smith could have started a legal aid program, food pantries, etc. But he bestowed his wealth on… college grads. Okay. Yay for handing a crutch to people who can walk under their own power.