Debt is Wonderful (*deluding myself*)


I’ve got this whole Google+ thing going on, and today I posted this long comment about something that has been frustrating me today:

I’m having one of those “WTF was I thinking when I decided to go to college and take on $31,000 in debt for an English degree, which I’d defer for 6 years while going to grad school, after which I’d be lucky to get a job in my field, let alone make anything over $20K a year” moments. And I’m telling myself that “yes, it’s worth it, because you love literature and teaching and all the things that come with being in academia and getting to study what you love and writing about it and spending your days participating in its communities.” Because I do. 

But that still leaves a debt on my head that I’ll spend the next 20 years trying to pay off on a salary that society deems I barely deserve, despite the fact that what I do is essential for society to function. The world crumbles without people like me teaching young kids and adults and the like how to read and write. The world cannot sustain itself without language. But heaven forbid that we pay the creators of society, the first line of defense against barbarism, anything close to what they deserve. 

Excuse me while I have some kind of weird existential crisis about life…

I suppose some people would say, “Well, you decided to do this, so it’s your own fault that you’re in debt,” but then I think about all the countries where their citizens go to school for free or for very little whatsoever, without having to have full time jobs and the like, and it makes me wonder whether I got my early education in the right place.  I once wanted to go to school in England.  Maybe I should have.

Don’t get me wrong.  Where I’m at now, I’m not paying anything in loans (technically, unless
I’m having financial stupidity), but my undergraduate career can be summed up as “this is how you rack up more debt than people in 1920 knew what to do with in cash form.”  The sad truth is that this will keep going on, and nothing will change it. America is more classist now than it ever was, and it will stay that way until the people getting effed over do something about it, whether by voting or rising up and saying, “to hell with this bullshit.”

But then again, maybe this is how you keep a disenfranchised populace complacent:  load them up with too much debt for them to do anything sizable with their lives beyond pumping out more babies for the consumption machine  and devoting themselves to the monthly-payment-model.

I’ll shut up about my political mumbo jumbo now.  Maybe something normal will spring up in the next day or so.  By normal I mean “something science fiction or fantasy based.”  You know, like a novel chapter, or some rant about a movie…

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.

5 thoughts on “Debt is Wonderful (*deluding myself*)

  1. This post seems to encapsulate why people dislike academics/intellectuals quite nicely. In a short post you've managed to express three elitist views:

    1) If you have a degree, you should get paid more than other people.
    2) Intellectuals are the heart of culture; without someone (with expensive training) teaching the correct way to think, we would fall into "barbarism."
    3) A clear disdain for the lifestyle choices of others, who can only "pump out babies for the consumption machine."

    And yet within the same post you complain about a classist society. Perhaps the reason it won't change is because those who want it to are classist/elitist themselves?

    I hope you realize the irony in talking about the "consumption machine" with contempt, too – for the heart of your post is lamenting your excessive consumption of education. While it's couched in lofty rhetoric, the education industry is just that – an industry with a product to sell you, and you've bought into it hard.

    I would suggest that you'll enjoy your education much more if you realize that the only value it has is the value that you place on it. If you're measuring your self-worth (or more importantly the worth of others) solely on educational attainment or monetary worth, then you'll never get out of your weird existential crisis about life.

  2. Part one:
    If thinking that people that teach other people how to read and write should be justly compensated for what they do, which quite clearly makes contemporary society function (i.e., that the removal of literacy from society as a whole, or even from the majority, would result, at our present moment, in societal collapse)…if that makes me an elitist, then I'm quite happy to be an elitist.

    Now to your points:
    I think if you have certain degrees you should get paid more than you're currently being paid, but not necessarily that you should be paid "more" than others. But I also think all people should have access to degrees, if they are willing to fork the intellectual effort to get one, whether that be in the sciences or the liberal arts. This is implied in my post when I mention that some countries offer university-level education for free (or at little cost to consumers). The only reason getting a university degree and saying I should get paid more here in the U.S. is an elitist position is because getting a degree somehow makes me more privileged than others simply because I happened to have the right set of skills (I was the right race and gender) and the right "upbringing" that made it possible for me to both get to the level at which acquiring a degree was possible and to get the funding necessary to make acquiring a degree reasonable (and that's a mouthful). In other societies, having a degree doesn't necessarily make you an elitist, since it is far more likely that one doesn't have a degree because they don't want one (or didn't put in the effort to do well enough in school to go and get one) (though this is not to imply that racial or gender politics aren't active elsewhere; I'm simply suggesting that my experience elsewhere in the world is one in which elitism is fairly limited in the context of education). The U.S. is a different beast entirely.

    But please misunderstand what I was saying by claiming that I want to be part of a "better class" simply because I have a degree. I don't precisely because I think access to college education in the U.S. should be more open than it is.

  3. Part Two:

    I also have contempt for the consumption machine precisely because it's an exploitative system which attempts to make public "goods" into inaccessible "services" for the majority. This inadvertently leads to those baby pumping machines I discussed, since people end up chained to debt or financial destitution, to which their children are subsequently chained by social conditioning or social "genetic" inheritance.

    Having a Ferrari is a mark of financial elitism. I don't think having access to reasonably priced education is an elitist position, but a public "good." So, yes, I have contempt for the very system which has me chained by debt, but primarily because being chained by debt is a priori to the very world in which we live. About which nothing has changed. That leaves me with a choice: I can not get an education and stay in financial destitution forever, seeing how I am not fit for manual labor of any serious form, nor have any passion for anything but what I am doing now, or I can go into debt for the next 20 years in the hope that I'll get a good paying job and can make something reasonable of my life.

    But it's also absurd to suggest that I would enjoy my education more if I placed different values upon it. I don't dislike my educational experience as an *experience.* I dislike the financial burden required for me to be able to have that experience — a burden which will not be easily alleviated by the jobs made available to me in my desired field precisely because our economic culture has devalued that job's function. I love what I do. That's clear in what I said, and you glossed over it for your own ideological purposes (perhaps; I don't know). And that's fine and dandy, but it suggests a position which is fallible at best: that somehow disliking the debt is related to dislike of my education, and that revaluing that education will alleviate my just concerns over $31K in loans that I will have to pay off on a salary you wouldn't offer to someone else in a society-founding industry (such as the sciences).

    Thanks for playing the anonymous game. This has been fun.

  4. you should check out 'Zombie Economics' by Rick Emerson – a guide to personal finance. I think you'd like it! Simple, fun, funny and straight forward.

Leave a Reply to Anonymous Cancel reply