Dear young people of America,
I’m sorry. You’re entering a world that has condemned you to slavery before you were even born. No, not the full-blown, work-in-the-fields slavery you learned about in school, but something that has most of the same effects but looks far better: they take half of your life and expect you to thank them for it.
There are actually several parts to your slavery. Today I am speaking of the part you may know best: inescapable student loans.
Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone calls student loan programs “a shameful and oppressive outrage that for years now has been systematically perpetrated against a generation of young adults.”
Taibbi is right, of course, but I think he’s being mild. So, let me be more blunt:
Millions of young Americans have been forced into debt slavery.
Please understand that I am writing for accuracy here, not flamboyance. If you are in student loan debt, you were pushed and you are being held and it is slavery.
Yes, it’s true that you shouldn’t have signed those papers and spent that money, but – and please understand that I speak as a hard core advocate of personal responsibility – the guilt is mostly not yours.
Here’s why I say that:
Setup #1: Something is wrong with you if you don’t
Answer this question: How many times, between kindergarten and the end of high school were you told that you should or must go to college?
Hundreds maybe? And how many times was it simply implied than any decent kid (you in particular) would certainly go to college. Maybe hundreds more?
Setup #2: You’ll live a second-rate life if you don’t
It was clearly and repetitively implied that without a college degree, you’d be left to a second-rate job, a second-rate life and a second-rate spouse. No, they may not have said that explicitly (or they might have), but isn’t that what you were made to feel?
Think about it:
- You were conditioned to believe that getting the best girl/guy required you to go to a university.
- You were forced to make this choice at 17 years old, just as a flood of hormones had entered your life (making clear decisions much, much harder).
- College costs a fortune, but by merely signing a piece of paper, you got all the free money you needed and a clear shot at the mate of your dreams (not to mention lots of wild parties).
Setup #3: “Sign here and it’s all yours”
Here’s how it went:
- They made you believe that you needed a degree in order to succeed in life.
- They passed laws that forbade you from getting a good job without an authorized certificate.
- They made sure that you could only get the certificates through them.
Then, of course, they raised their prices, offered you loans, made sure you could never escape those loans, and pushed you into a decision. You could either sign for the loan – before the deadline – or accept a second-rate life.
That’s called manipulation. In fact, it’s heavy-handed manipulation. A business contract signed under those conditions would be negated by any reasonable judge or jury.
“They Couldn’t Have Done It All On Purpose”
Yeah, they could have, and they did. I know that’s a horrifying thought, but take a look at these quotes from the founding of government schooling in America:
Here’s what Johann Gottlieb Fichte, the founding father of public education, said in his book “The General Nature of the New Education”:
If you want to influence him [the student] at all, you must do more than merely talk to him; you must fashion him, and fashion him in such a way that he simply cannot will otherwise than you wish him to will.
And here’s what William Torrey Harris, former United States Commissioner of Education, wrote in 1906:
Ninety-nine [students] out of a hundred are automata [i.e. robots], careful to walk in prescribed paths, careful to follow the prescribed custom. This is not an accident but the result of substantial education, which, scientifically defined, is the subsumption of the individual.
Just to show that I’m not picking aberrant statements, here’s one more, from Edward A. Ross, who, I am told, was a favorite of President Teddy Roosevelt:
The role of the public official, and in particular of the public school teacher, is to collect little plastic lumps of human dough from private households and shape them on the social kneadingboard.
Make no mistake: you were conditioned by professionals – 6 hours per day, 5 days per week, 40 weeks per year, between the ages of 5 and 18.
No, Mrs. Jones, your wonderful 6th grade teacher wasn’t out to manipulate you, but the people who built the system that controlled both of you were. She just did her best within that system. (And you should be thankful for her.)
Who Did This to You
It’s amazing to realize just how often the people who abuse you are the ones you’ve been taught to respect. And that’s certainly the case here. Your abusers are the majesties of the age:
The education system: We’ve already explained the conditioning of the K-12 system, and the abuses of “higher education” are pretty obvious. Who really thinks that a single class is worth a thousand dollars, or even five hundred? (I’ll ignore the arrogance and abuse of tenured professors for now.)
Higher education is designed to bleed you and your family dry. They have the magic piece of paper that makes or breaks your life, and you’ll do anything to get it.
Politicians: It’s ridiculous to blame parties on this: Blue and Red both play by the same book.
Both political parties have sold you down the river, and they’d do it again. Who do you think wrote and passed the law that you can’t get rid of a student loan even in bankruptcy?
Think about what that means: The loan stays with you for life. And when you die, the banker holding the debt gets first crack at your estate. This is truly a form of debtor’s prison.
The big banks: When you accept a loan from a bank, they don’t take money from someone else’s savings account – they merely write the number on the line and hit Enter – the money is created right there and then. (There’s too much to explain in detail, but that’s the essence of it.)
So, if they created your loan money with the stroke of an Enter key, how is it that they should make you work like a dog to keep up with the payments, make you worry every day for decades, and then take whatever remains from your children when you die?
Look it up if you’re not sure I’m being fair on this point: Get a copy of The Creature From Jekyll Island and read it.
You’ve been abused, my young friends. Sure, walking away from those loan papers would have been a good idea, but your entire life set you up to fold when you were squeezed into that situation.
And make no mistake: the people who conditioned you and wrote the laws and who now squeeze you for money… they knew what they were doing. The situation is confusing from the perspective of the 18 year old, but it isn’t from the perspective of the 55 year old.
These people may have sold you out to maintain their position, to make more money, or merely to keep their bosses happy. But they did sell you out.
What to Do?
First of all, forgive yourself. Yes, you could have done better – and you should never do anything like that again – but you were an 18 or 20 year old kid, facing off against 40, 50, and 60 year old specialists.
Secondly, don’t accept what was done to you as anything but abuse. Call it abuse and don’t back down. There’s nothing communistic or anti-market about that. Manipulation and fraud are not ‘capitalist’ things – they are crimes.
Don’t give the people who did this to you the benefit of the doubt. Once they release you from your financial prison you can think about it, but not until. They did NOT have good intentions, and it WASN’T okay.
Finally, it’s time for you to stop complaining and start doing. Find ways around the abuse; build new systems; act in some productive direction; then adapt as better choices appear.
You have as much intelligence and resourcefulness as any generation that came before you. Use it!