Students who acquire large debts putting themselves through school are unlikely to think about changing society. When you trap people in a system of debt, they can’t afford the time to think.

Noam Chomsky (via zeitgeistrama)

Post-secondary education is neither necessary nor sufficient to change society. Those of us with degrees need to stop acting like university uniquely equips us to improve or transform the institutions in which we operate. On average, we’re less indebted and more able to pay off that debt as a share of our income than those without degrees, so I’d suggest their debt loads are more of an urgent problem.

(via jakke)

I think that the problem is less “time to think” than “time to act.” If you believe that highly educated people can bring useful skills to bear on pressing problems, but that there are often minimal financial resources to pay educated workers to bring those skills to bear, then debt loads may preclude spending time focusing on those particular problems. In effect, if you can’t pay people to do the work then the socially-pressing work may not be done by those best suited to do it.

To contextualize: when I finished my degree there was a minimum amount of income I had to make to service my debt loads while simultaneously surviving in whatever city I ended up living in. That minimum income immediately meant that a series of jobs that would have been politically and intellectually engaging had to be set aside on the basis of insufficient monetary remuneration. It’s this kind of issue that Chomsky is getting at.


Casey Johnston!: I have this seminar I’m running for free for college students and I’m…


I have this seminar I’m running for free for college students and I’m going to show them this picture before we start. It’s a picture of someone graduating from college. You can’t tell, but you can guess that they’re probably $150,000 in debt. Written on the top of their mortarboard with masking tape it says, “Hire me.” The thing about the picture that’s pathetic, beyond the notion that you need to spam the audience at graduation with a note saying you’re looking for a job, is that you went $150,000 in debt and spent four years of your life so someone else could pick you. That’s ridiculous. It really makes me sad to see that.

While I understand what Seth Godin is suggesting, I also think that it’s largely reflective of his incredibly privileged position. When people are leaving schools with that amount of debt, with knowledge that they want to start a family and not suffer (total) financial ruin by starting something and failing, then those individuals may quite reasonably want full-time regular employment.

Godin’s most common response is that ‘such employment doesn’t really exist anymore – so adapt!’ While it’s a great response for some people who are willing to take on heightened risks in their lives it isn’t one that ought to be imposed on all individuals. Moreover, the thought that it’s “ridiculous” to want to be picked and work at a meaningful job and launch a career with a business that is compatible with your training and expertise shouldn’t make anyone sad. Instead, what should be “sad” is that such aspirations are less and less likely to be realized as companies abandon long-term commitment to employees and instead harden their ‘flexible’ hiring strategies that facilitate profits at the expense of human life.