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The article “NYU Professor: Are Student Loans Immoral?” by Andrew Ross is a candid and brutally honest look into the dismal reality of our college education system – one that is so bleak that educators are now provoked into real heart-felt meditations on whether or not they truly can sleep at night while being complacent within it.

I read this article from the perspective of a soon-to-be college graduate. I’ve learned tremendously in college. I’ve enjoyed the process. I succeeded academically. I am forever different as a thinker and a lifelong learner because of it. And I still do not think this is even remotely worth its cost besides the sheer fact that I get the piece of paper at the end. It’s mind-blowing to me that young lives and families are ruined so they can ultimately, really, just get the piece of paper. This isn’t an insightful or original observation, but it’s powerful to understand it first-hand now that I’m almost done with all this.

My generation (Millennials/ Gen Ys) are in a pretty weird place. I know the general run down: we all think we’re special, we’re reluctant to work hard, we think opportunities are just going to happen, we’re naïve. In this economy, we need to take it on the chin, stop thinking we’re special, work viciously hard and earn it like every other generation. This article from The Huffington Post (via Wait But Why) that’s been flying around the Internet this week basically sums it up.

I’ve shared the same frustrations as this author at times but here’s what he leaves out: the narcissistic lazy brats he paints “a large portion” of my generation out to be are people who’ve had “you can be anything you want to be” reinforced into their psyches since day one and are now crippled with the unrelenting pressure of a set of expectations – both external and internal – that are impossible to achieve.

Also, considering the realities Ross discusses, categorizing a decent handful of my generation as these narcissistic lazy brats is too dramatic a misinterpretation of what being in this generation really is like to be excused. You can’t just simply quantify my age group while ignoring the realities of the world we’re inheriting. My generation has not only inherited the faulty parenting that brought about these issues that make for an easy target in a snarky, condescending, pseudo-academic blog post, but we’ve also been handed down a broken political system, an education system that is institutionally racist and has a debt bubble about to burst, a private health care system that costs the government more money than any public health care system in the world, the prospect of losing social security, and a damaged climate – to name just a few.

Regardless of these realities, the ‘narcissistic lazy brat’ generalization most likely exists because those individuals are greater participants in consumer culture. Their commodity fetishism causes advertisers to target them and they are depicted in media to a greater degree. This creates a financially influenced slant in representation, where these individuals seem to have more presence than they truly have. Additionally, this demographic take more action to represent themselves via channels such as social media, furthering their cultural impact and amplifying the noise they make. This slanted representation is reflected in the mere fact the author believed this social commentary applied to a large portion of my generation even though it’s more indicative of a minority. Meanwhile, my generation’s more telling story, the one detailed by Ross, is forgotten.

I personally know the author of this Huffington Post blog post. He went to the same excellent elementary, middle and high school as me, and had some of the same teachers. He grew up in a similarly large house as mine, which I’ve been in, not that many streets away from me. He enjoyed many of the same luxuries as me growing up and went to a better college than me. I can’t speak for him, but, as someone who has had not too dramatically of a different lifestyle, I can pretty safely say this post was written from a position of ignorance of what the first-hand inescapable day-to-day reality of a rough life situation really is. If you write this post and think its even remotely close to as reflective of the issues of my generation as Ross’s piece, then it’s just evidence you haven’t had enough exposure outside the upper-class culture you’re critiquing to be in any sort of position to lecture a generation on how to live their lives. Increased income inequality in the U.S. has furthered this lack of understanding. But none of that really matters because the article got a lot of click-throughs.

That’s the worst part about it. Propaganda like this Huff Po piece allows people of a certain demographic a comically simplified, palatable explanation to tidy up a crippling issue. The article’s only real function is for people who don’t enjoy doing the work of critically thinking to read it, digest it easily, feel self-righteous anger which they couldn’t previously articulate or know which direction to spit it towards, share it on social media so they can look like they have a handle on how to solve the problems with culture, feel good some more, and then forget about it. And certainly, most definitely, not delve into Ross’s article because that one doesn’t have a tidy bow on it. It’s morbid and begs you to move past your complacency. You don’t get to feel validated by just reading it. You actually have to do something.

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