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Thursday, April 19, 2012

US Education: Modern Indentured Service

From Wikipedia - An Indenture
As a small child in grade school in the 1960's we learned about "indentured servitude."

An indentured servant, unlike, for example, a slave, was a free person.  The idea was that if owned a farm during Colonial times you likely need farm hands to help you - there was a lot of work to do: planting, tending, harvesting, thrashing, and so on - and no cash until you sold your crops.

So if you had little or no cash flow how did you hire help?

The solution was to create an indentured servitude contract with a young person in Europe.  You, the farmer, would pay to have them transported to the Colonies.  There they would work for you for a period of years, often five or more, and, in return, you would provide them food, transportation, room, board, and so on.

Today practices like this are unknown in the free world... Or are they?

Here in the US it would seem that education is the siren of today's "brave new world" - calling kiddies from high school to borrow money that their future labor will pay.

So like Colonial times your "job" is the "farm" where you will work - paying your room and board as well as your cost of transport to this new world - your student loans.

Unlike Colonial times though, becoming indentured to banks and federal government offers no guarantee of work.

And there in lies the rub.  At least if you left England on a boat for the "brave new world" you knew you could find work somewhere - after all - sea captains and boats were going there and they were doing it for pay of some sort.

But it seems that today's kiddies are not as swift as their counterparts in the 1600's.

For one thing, the liberal drumbeat that "college pays" is simply false.  Yet there is an entire infrastructure in place geared toward feeding kiddies outbound from high school into the maw of "higher education" - replete with loan officers at the door to ensure there's tens of thousands of dollars available to pay for that education.

If colleges believed in the product they produce they would educate the children on their own dime and extract payment from the child's subsequent success using that education.  After all, as I was told a college education is a "ticket" to a good job.

Ha ha ha...


Just ask these two: Jodie Romine and Dean Hawkins.  They are described  here.  She has $100K in debt that costs $900 USD a month to service, he pays 40% of his monthly income toward student loans.

They are indentured to the US Government and US banks for far more than the three to seven years a Colonial indentured servant served.

Now, of course, these two agreed to take these loans on.  No doubt coerced by well meaning college and government bureaucrats that an business degree "was the ticket to the future."

But given they are products of today's high school system its no wonder they bought this BS hook, line and sinker.

I wrote about this in "21, 55K a year, and no Debt.."

Kids today are lied to by adults - by school counselors, but college admissions people, by literally everyone:  "you can't go wrong with a college education..."  oh no..

But even in 1976 when Mrs. Wolf and I lived in our first apartment while I attended school you could tell something was wrong.

We lived in a three floor walk-up on the second floor.  Above us lived a couple - the husband an English graduate student - the wife had a job.  He toiled away on his PhD with Tom Jones.  We had literally nothing when we go there - a mattress on the floor, a table and a couple of chairs, just enough to get by.

I remember talking to this guy - he was very condescending: you're just stupid kids - what are you doing here - why are you married - you should be out having fun...

I remember asking him why he was working so hard at a PhD which he acknowledged would likely get him a job at McDonalds at best (there was a glut of English PhDs about in those days).  I didn't get much of an answer.  (I never asked where he got the money for school but I imagine in those days he was a paid Teaching Assistant which covered tuition.  His wife covered the rest of the costs I suppose.)

I worked and went to school.  I studied electronics on my own and got a decent job with my hard-won knowledge.

I am certain that within a year or two I was making more money per year than that guy ever did in his life.

Fast forward many years.

A relative is toiling away at a PhD.  He reaches a crossroads: get a job and pay the bills or commute far away to school to get a PhD in a very narrow liberal arts discipline.  He goes for the latter to live "the academic lifestyle" - whatever that is.  Again the school pays the way somehow for this.  The relative, as an older adult, can barely afford to "get buy" needing help from family...

Great investment.

But these two were the lucky ones - the escaped (at least I think they escaped) unsaddled by a house-worth of debt.

Imagine that same guy from 1976 having a hundred grand in debt, and English Lit PhD, and no job.

What are these people thinking?

You can go wrong with an education - very wrong.  You can owe the rest of your life for something that you cannot use.

This is worse, far worse, than indentured servitude.

Its almost like slavery.

Yet its the norm.

So much the norm that today students and former students owe nearly a one trillion (with a T) USD to banks the US government.

Those poor SOBs in the WSJ link - they will be unable to have a family, buy a house, or do much of anything - all because they were lied too.

If I (or Bernie Madoff) sold them a bogus "investment" of that same magnitude I'd be in jail.

But colleges get off because "education is good."  Its not their problem if little Johnny can't get a job.

The question that needs to be asked is "good for what?"

Declining SATs?

A falling place in the world as far as math and reading are concerned?

The highest cost medical system in the world that yields 33rd place for over-all health, leaves pregnant women without proper vitamins and minerals and gives their infant a good chance of dying?

This is crap.

High school kids are sold this crap and they and their parent buy it.

And its expensive - killer expensive.

Its time that "big education" got behind their product.  They need to front-end fund little Johnny's education and get paid on the "back end" as little Johnny succeeds.

If little Johnny fails why should the college get paid at all?

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