Photo credit: Mickey Z.
"Drop out of school before your mind rots from exposure to our mediocre educational system." - Frank Zappa
The other day, a friend of mine sent me the link to an article called, "29 Shocking Facts That Prove That College Education In America Is A Giant Money Making Scam."
Despite the tabloid-style title, the piece offers useful and documented information like: Americans owe more than a trillion dollars on their student loans, the total amount of student loan debt has increased 275 percent since 2003, and approximately 167,000 Americans currently have more than $200,000 of student loan debt.
Since the person who sent me the link is someone who continually gets grief for choosing the path of self-education (as I have), she requested I write about the education industry because "it is getting worse and worse" and "awareness is necessary."
So here goes, in the name of awareness and so much more"
Life or debt
The standard mainstream comeback on the topic of student debt goes a little something like this: "Why did they take out the loans in the first place?" While I will soon attempt to prove that a variation of this question has serious merit, this version is steeped in denial. Here's why:
One of the enduring myths of any profit-based culture is that must all strive and sacrifice in order to "pay our dues" and end up in position to ascend within the dominant hierarchy. Go to school, get a degree, and find a job at which you will earn enough money to eventually pay back your loans (with major interest, of course) and go on to become a "productive" member of society.
This faÃ§ade is easily cracked. Students now buried under mountains of debt were sold a bill of goods and most stand little chance of ever obtaining such a job and/or living the life they were promised. It was a bait and switch with indentured servitude presented as the "only" path out.
It's a lose-lose paradox: If you buy into the myth being marketed (education as the path to the mythical American dream) and complain when you finally recognize the depth of the charade, you're mocked for lack of foresight. Then again, if you don't play by the rules and you choose not to follow the predetermined game plan (school-job-house-family-retirement) and opt instead to follow your own path, well" you're mocked for lack of foresight.
FACTS: In 1993, the average student loan debt burden at graduation was $9,320. Today it is $28,720. In 1989, only 9 percent of all U.S. households were paying off student loan debt. Today, 19 percent of all U.S. households are. Since 1986, the cost of college tuition has risen 498 percent, the cost of college textbooks has tripled over the past decade, and the average cost of a four-year college education is projected to soar to $120,000 by the year 2015.
Is there life after debt?
FACT: The federal government has begun docking the Social Security payments of elderly Americans who are behind on their student loan payments.
The Occupy Student Debt Campaign, launched in November 2011 with the goal of "building a student debt abolition movement," based their campaign on the following principles:
- Free public education, through federal coverage of tuition fees.
- Zero-interest student loans, so that no one can profit from them.
- Fiscal transparency at all universities, public as well as private.
- The elimination of current student debt, through a single act of relief.
Let's first address principles 1-2-3, lumped together: If all forms of education were made free or available through interest-free loans and all current student debt relieved tomorrow, yeah, it would offer much-needed financial relief to many but what would it truly accomplish in terms of actual education?
Even if it were free -- even if they paid you to go to school, for that matter -- the current system isn't worth salvaging. The education industry doesn't exist to nurture critical thought. It exists primarily to create obedient workers for all those "good jobs" we're promised.
Speaking of which, exactly what job would you suggest for a socially aware and compassionate human? Please, do enlighten us as to what (and where) all these "good jobs" are.
Since capitalism is an economic system based on perpetual growth and the relentless exploitation of what we've come to call "natural resources," by definition, such an approach is unsustainable and cannot be reformed. Thus, the vast majority of jobs within such a lethal system directly or indirectly contribute to the looming ecocide.