Supurb answer, by Isaiah Tanenbaum
Once there was a man named Honi. He came upon an old man planting a carob tree.
“How long does a carob tree take to produce fruit?” Honi asked.
“Seventy years,” the old man replied.
“You idiot!” cried Honi. “Why are you wasting your time planting a tree whose fruit you will never see?”
“When I was born,” replied the old man, “the world was full of carob trees, planted by the people who came before me. So I plant this, so that my descendants and their neighbors might enjoy trees, as I did.”
And he went back to planting.
In hell, everyone is seated before a table filled with delicious food. Every kind of food they could imagine, right before their eyes. But to everyone’s hands are tied long spoons. And try as they might, nobody can feed themselves, because the spoons are too long to bring the food to their mouths. So they make a mess of everything, and spill food all over themselves.
Truly, a place of desolation, sadness, and want.
In heaven, everything is exactly the same. However, instead of trying and failing to feed themselves, they use the spoons to feed one another. And everyone has enough to eat.
When you were a child, people paid for your schooling with their tax dollars (if you went to private school, then some number of your teachers were surely the recipients of public schooling, and the private school, too, almost certainly received grants and funds from the state, paid for by parents who didn’t send their kids there).
Now, even though your kids might not directly benefit from it, you should do the same for the next generation.
Similarly, today you pay for schooling but have no kids in school. Tomorrow, your house will catch on fire and someone whose house has never caught on fire, and will never catch on fire, will pay for the fire department to come and save you and your stuff. Next week, someone who lives on a nicer block than you will pay for a police officer to drive a patrol car down your block, because some other person that neither of you know was robbed on the corner last month. And then you’ll pay for federal inspection of meat, even though you are a vegetarian, while someone who is allergic to chocolate will pay the government to make sure there’s no rat poison in your M&Ms.
We feed one another with long spoons, because otherwise life would be hell.
And finally, to quote author John Green, who like me is happy to pay for schools even though he has no school-age children: “because I don't like living in a country with a bunch of stupid people.” Stupid people, people with no education, will not secure good jobs. They will not buy nice homes and luxury goods or contribute maximally to the economy, and they will not adequately fund all the benefits that YOU enjoy. Some percentage of them will become criminals and maybe even rob you, and then on top of that, your taxes will pay to catch them and keep them in prison.
Those nations that don’t see the utility in providing basic needs for one another — and yes, schooling through high school, perhaps beyond, is most definitely a basic need in our era — do not prosper. They mire, while wealth accumulates in the hands of a few and the rest are left in the dust. And then come the pitchforks, and the musket, and the guillotine, and the firing squad.
All in all, educating other people’s kids is a pretty great bargain, if you ask me.