If you’re born into a wealthy family, you pretty much have to try to become poor. You can live off the interest and dividends of their investments indefinitely without lifting a finger. If you want to work, you can use your family’s wealth to go to a good private school and a prestigious university, all the while unhindered by the stress, shame, and fear of making ends meet. In the end, you can use your family’s affluent business connections and references to secure a fantastic, high paying job where you get to take two-hour lunches and retire with full benefits.
If you don’t have rich parents, the biggest obstacle between you and a good job that pays a living wage with full benefits is a college education. The other options are to start your own business, attend a trade school, or teach yourself a lucrative job skill on your own free time like web development, programming, singing, sports, acting or writing. But if you want to climb the corporate ladder or get a good government job, then you need a college degree. If you don’t have a college degree, then no matter how smart, qualified or responsible you are, there will always be a glass ceiling preventing you from moving above entry-level work that rarely pays a living wage or provides any benefits. You’ll also get the bare minimum amount of time off while being held to higher standards of accountability than those above you.
Even if you can get a college degree, they cost tens of thousands of dollars from even low-quality universities, and you still have to pay rent, utilities, transportation, food and medical bills while you’re going to school. If everyone could afford this, then the playing field would be level and we would have a strong case to criticize those who didn’t climb the corporate ladder. However, there are millions of people in America and billions of people in the world born into households that simply don’t have the time or money to go to college.
Some financial aid is available to some people, but even if you could get a full-paid scholarship, most people can’t afford to take 4 years off of work to study because they need to take care of their struggling family. Some people don’t even know about the options available to them or are too intimidated by the dizzying bureaucracy you have to navigate to “take advantage” of these “opportunities.” There are a million nuanced reasons why it might be impractical for someone to use financial aid and student loans to pay for college. Even if they did, the cost of education rises faster than inflation and government aid can keep up. So these options aren’t that effective anyway.
It’s a self-defeating argument to say, “You can go into a half a lifetime of debt in order to make a living wage. So you have no room to complain about not having any money.” Really? Is that the best we can offer our children and our neighbors? The situation has gotten so desperate that students at the University of California have proposed that it would be better to charge a percentage of income after graduation instead of paying upfront fees. It’s a sad day in our history where indentured servitude looks good. That doesn’t support the myth that America is a land of opportunity for everyone.
Everything I’ve said so far assumes you’re even smart enough to finish college. The fact of the matter is, a lot of people aren’t. Some of those people may have high mechanical aptitudes but are hopelessly lost in mathematics. In America, you have to pass Algebra or you’re not getting a college degree. It doesn’t matter that you’ll never use Algebra. You still have to pass it if you want to make a living wage.
Isn’t the point of a college education to prove that you’re smart enough to deserve a higher paycheck though? Theoretically, yes, but take a step back and look at the big picture. Since college education places a glass ceiling on your career opportunities in America, the effect is that if you’re not smart enough to jump through all the hoops of a college curriculum, then you don’t deserve to make a living wage. So only the smartest people in America deserve to be treated like human beings? If that’s the moral precedent we’re setting, then we’re monsters.
A college degree doesn’t even guarantee you’re smart anyway. Some of the dumbest people I’ve ever met have had college degrees because they excelled at being able to bullshit their way through papers without retaining any information or learning to think critically. If the purpose of a college education is really to weed out the smartest and most deserving workers, we wouldn’t lay out the red carpet for athletes to ride through college on scholarships and reduced academic standards.
College education in the form that it exists in America today doesn’t serve the lofty purpose of elevating the most deserving. It has become a tool of systematic economic oppression. It elevates the rich and it puts a very real, very firm glass ceiling over the heads of the poor and academically-disinclined who are nonetheless full of potential in their own ways and deserving of a fairer share of the profits they’ll earn for whatever company they end up sacrificing their infinitely valuable lives working for.
The measure of a man is not the degree on his wallet but the blood in his veins, the breath in his lungs, and the consciousness in his brain. Yet we treat those without a college degree like animals. This is not a civil way to run a civilized society or its economy.
If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:
The Importance of Public Education
- Education is the silver bullet to the world’s problems
- The value of knowledge
- Every grain of knowledge is valuable. Every grain of ignorance is destructive
- We’ve never raised an entire generation of adults ever
- They’re giving away free superpowers on the internet
- The Alphabits analogy (Why it’s bad to be stupid)
- It’s not cool to be stupid
- Why you should have high intellectual standards
- Recommended intelligent books and videos
- We have never raised an entire generation of adults, ever
- The rising tide of vagrant intellectuals
Flaws in the Public Education System
- 6 ways universities make people dumber
- It’s time to stop oppressing the academically disinclined
- We need to do more to help people get the job they’re suited for
- A modest proposal on the moral imperative of teacher accountability
- The quality of our leaders reflects the quality of our higher education system
Improving Public Education
- The entry I submitted to Google’s 10×100 contest
- 1 way to improve college education
- School and work should be fun, and they can be
Feel free to leave a comment.