Educated beyond Intelligence


Students, who are burdened by student loans and who seek from government “forgiveness” for that indebtedness, plead ignorance:

“I didn’t know.” — I didn’t know that college was going to cost so much. I didn’t know that I would have to pay back student loans … with interest. I didn’t know that my chosen degree(s) were unmarketable. I didn’t factor in the costs of all of the other things that I want in life (and to which I consider myself entitled): house, cars, family, lifestyle, etc.

Well, I KNEW thirty-five (35) years ago — an entire generation, or more, ago. In an age before the internet — in an age before ubiquitous financial disclosures and “fair lending” practices, I knew.

It is a relatively basic math computation: Will I have enough money to pay my bills?

It is elementary budgetary analysis: If I cannot pay my bills, then I either have to increase my income or decrease my living expenses.

It is a simple philosophical concept: Am I willing to do the work and to make the sacrifices in order to live the life that I want … OR … am I willing to be content with the life that I am able to provide for myself?

I knew before I left high school what the salary projections were for my chosen field of study. I knew after my freshman year in a private college that without further assistance, I could not afford to stay. I knew that borrowing money just to stay would put me in financial straits. On the advice of an admissions counselor at a less expensive state school, I carried hat in hand, and I asked for the financial help I needed. To those, who helped me, I understood that I had to make a personal commitment to perform at my best and to succeed. To them, I was and I continue to be indebted.

Even with scholarships and financial aid, I had to borrow money. I had to borrow, as much as a house would have costs at the time, except that I could not “sell my education” in a lump sum to get out of debt — except that the interest rates on that (unsecured loan) were appreciably higher.

I knew that I would have to pay back my loans … for college … and law school (twice). I knew that it would take years — nearly three (3) decades actually. I consciously made the decision to borrow. I made the decision to attend my chosen schools. I made the decision to go to law school, and to get a post-graduate education. At each step, I weighed the costs versus benefits.

There were, of course, risks. Sometimes, there were gut wrenching and nearly paralyzing risks. Nevertheless, I was confident that it was risk that I could manage, and in confronting that risk, I hoped to reap rewards. Nearly none of my plans materialized exactly as I had anticipated. Nevertheless, I persevered, and in that perseverance, I have benefited, and I built a life for myself.

I hated every dime of interest that I had to pay, but I paid it and also repaid every penny of the the principal to the lenders because that is what I agreed to do. That is what prudent, educated, and responsible adults do. They live up to their word; they avoid recklessness and imprudence; and they pay their bills.

If I knew this a generation ago, and others that preceded me knew the same things when they were struggling young adults, then students today have no excuse not to take advantage of the same institutional knowledge and collective wisdom. One should not be privileged to feign ignorance of knowledge, which is readily available.

Instead, the expectation is that THEY are exceptions to the rule — to every single rule. THEY should be privileged to do it differently than anyone else ever has. THEY should be rewarded for participation not productivity, outcome, and success. THEY should be able to “enjoy life” while someone else does the heavy lifting, the hard work, and shoulders the burdens for their existence.

That is not how life works. That has NEVER been how life works. That can NEVER BE HOW LIFE WORKS.

Society does not owe anyone (and everyone) a good standard of living. No one (individually or collectively) is obliged to provide a single human being with a life of ease, comfort, and leisure. We get out of life what we put into it. We are rewarded for our productivity and contributions.

If one is not sufficiently “rewarded,” then (s)he needs to reconsider whether (s)he is actually being productive and whether the resulting “contributions” are providing a level of benefit, for which someone else is wiling to pay. As producers, we do not set the value of our products and services. The market does — consumers do, and they do so based upon perceived benefit and available alternatives.

If we desire a “premium” life, then we must be ready, willing, and able to provide some benefit or service, for which others will pay a premium. Additionally, we must be cognizant of the cumulative costs of or imprudence and recklessness. Many self-imposed harms and losses cannot be remedied over an entire lifetime, and society is not obliged to remediate our personal shortcomings and self-destruction.

Average is subsistence. Mediocrity does not lead to comfort and wealth. Inheritable wealth is not a birthright. Despite our frequent protestations, life is easier today than it has been for any prior generation of our species. Nevertheless, our expectations for our lives are often unrealistic and bordering on the absurd.