32. Student Debt and Creativity
by Culture and Anti Culture
(For context see Post 1)
To become a human being requires an act of genius-the “acquisition” of language. An activity must arise coordinating conceptions forming within the mind of the infant, with the ever-changing images of the sense world, and sound – to forge virtually infinite combinations of meaningful utterance. What setting is most apt to nourish this great, primal act of education, emergent awareness and self-expression? It is that of loving, freely given warmth and interest on the part of an adult – that is, a gift. No contract is called for or possible in this setting, no a priori terms and conditions can be imposed. The schooling for this greatest of subjects is free. All other healthy education is, in large measure, a subordinate version of this fundamental pedagogy.
Presently in the United States, outstanding student loans total over one trillion dollars, nearly fivefold the total from a mere decade ago. The terms of these loans are such that they cannot be defaulted upon, and collection methods and penalties are draconian. They are handed out with abandon, with almost no regard to a realistic future capacity for repayment. A greatly increased proportion of these loans are now for study in for-profit “institutions” – (think WalMart University).
The paragraphs above are statements of fact and are polar archetypes of culture and anticulture, of education and debt slavery.
The most productive way of funding education is as a gift. Education most potently manifests itself in free exchange. The most effective way of educating people is by appealing to their genuine interest and enthusiasm, rather than to their future material well-being and status, or their fear of future poverty. This gift is the source of productive forces and new capital for all of society. The evocation of talents and skills through education multiplies the investment of time and effort required many-fold.
Money debt and education are in tense contrast to one another. Student debt parasitizes what should be a gift. Interest, fees and penalties on student debt are essentially rents – tolls put in place to accrue money power. Predatory expansion in credit for education has gone hand in hand with exploitive increases in tuition, and declining quality. The result ultimately will be de facto debt slavery for the majority.
Student loans are especially pernicious because they are backed by the implacable, coercive power of the central state. These debts would not have originated in the first place without government guarantees, which the lenders have bought and paid for through lobbyists, advertising and media domination. Our masters and keepers have already seized on our language and concepts, to make the unnatural and unwise seem necessary – to sign over our future, virtually collateralized in blood, for the dubious benefit of a standard contemporary schooling; one endorsed by the naive parents and teachers who should be our protectors. Current borrowers are living in a fool’s paradise – discounting the reality of the debtor’s day of reckoning, which is sure to come.
Propaganda, advertising and indifference by media have focused all attention on the failing borrowers as deadbeats, rather than on the originators of credit as predators. This creates a network of illusion – a distortion of word meanings like: ‘education’, ‘value’, ‘owe’, ‘debt’, ‘obligation’, etc.; and drives a popular, moralistic hostility towards debtors. In fact, the illusion that present arrangements in education are justified and necessary flows from these very organs of disinformation in the first place.
For the present circumstance to have arisen, total and integrated control of the information a borrower will get about the value (in money terms) of their prospective education has been required. That is, the very idea of what an education is, the likely return on investment, the whole setting in which this takes place, is managed in a similarly illusory manner as the Global War on Terror.
Loans are marketed primarily to the most naive, needy and vulnerable, however, even the most knowledgeable student is backed into a corner and coerced into debt by the ever-expanding fees for education and dismal employment opportunities.
The government, corporations, (Too Big to Fail) financiers pay lip service to the picture of our young people as ‘the hope of the future’. They must become ‘the best and the brightest’ so they can compete in the ‘global marketplace’. So one must ask oneself, why then prey on them so severely? Why allow all other sectors of society to default on debt through bankruptcy, but not our most vulnerable, and the bearers of the future well-being of our economy and society? The answer is: that they can. They are predators. And students have not been in a position to defend themselves.
In some ways, none of this is new. Elites have maneuvered the less powerful into debt slavery for thousands of years. It is a kind of cannibalism that is attractive to a certain human type. Its results are as pernicious and evil as ever – debt-engendered worry, fear and depression are mind killing, soul crushing, and isolating. Perhaps the only answer is mass organizing by student debtors, and the collective repudiation of such debt, similar to the huge ongoing student strike in Quebec.
Hogarth, Debtor’s Prison