Students today are being winnowed into a system of expectations which are becoming more impossible to steer away from. Education is a system of being sorted into social classes. Education helps to stratify society and amplify disparities in wealth. Today, higher education from the elite universities is more in demand than ever. The premium one has to pay goes beyond tuition, which is already exorbitantly high. Students pay and train to get the inside strategies and tactics early on if they’re aiming for acceptance into elite schools. They’re paying for the test prep and tutoring that will get them the scores and grades which are now minimum expectations for higher Ed. They spend the rest of their time filling up their resumes with community service, internships, travel, club sports. Students look more and more like each other, and more and more they’re looking like the top achievers, the elite performers, the best of the best.
When students sign on to these elite institutions, we refer to their decision to be educated as an investment, when in actuality, the decision is a promise, unbeknownst to the student at the beginning of their journey, to become a pawn in the economy, to help the gears to run, so that he or she can pay back the cost which he or she signed onto up front.
What is freedom when you have no choice but to work? True freedom is only experienced by those who are fortunate enough to make choices in this world unencumbered by the weight of debt, whether it be owed to a person, an institution, or a state.
But it’s also true that the more debt you take on, the more of an asset you are to the system, the more you’re indentured by society for present and future work to repay that debt. If you’ve got debt, society gives you the benefit of the doubt that you will keep working until your declining health prevents it.
When society’s caught you in a debt trap, they’ll give you more and more credit, as long as you keep proving, monthly payment after monthly payment, that you can pay the minimum balance. Using that credit, you accumulate material things, purchase experiences, and engage in activities that keep you thinking that in order to have a successful life, you need those things. Your role is vital to the consumer economy as it is. You tell yourself this is what life is about. You don’t even know how to imagine a life outside it because you’ve been immersed in the system so long, you don’t know how to think of anything else.
And you’re stuck. No way out, because the debt has trapped you.
That’s not freedom.
…and while we’re arguing about the relevancy of testing, we’ve forgotten to notice that the educational system is the most effective tool society has of tempting you into a life spent in the shackles of debt.