People complaining about student loan forgiveness seem to feel there’s a fairness issue at stake. My experience suggests that about 90% of the people who lead with an “It’s not fair!” argument (as opposed to something based on justice) are disingenuous. They tend to see everything as a competition, a race, and any perceived advantage that they don’t get affects their position in the race. Forgiving student debt just means “those people” will be advanced closer to them or maybe even ahead of them and there’s no compensatory bribe on offer to put them back where they think they belong.
What never occurs to them is that the whole thing was rigged in the first place and that maybe they were screwed, too. Or maybe they know they were screwed, but can’t seem to grasp that the thing to be gotten rid of is the screwing, simply because.
I don’t know, but it’s nothing new.
To be clear, I’ve seen a lot of people who knew very well that the game was rigged who are quite pleased with even a little redress for other people. So we’re dealing with a handful (maybe) of people who are so invested in the rigged system that they can’t see their way past a sense of being unfairly handicapped and would prefer the rigging remain in place, so they have a shot at winning.
I don’t know. Frankly, I never did know. Life is not a race.
But boy we sure like to see it that way. Getting ahead, keeping up with the Joneses, beating the system, coming out on top, moving up in the world, winning the rat race, catching the brass ring, climbing the ladder…this is how we’ve been trained to see things and it infects every attitude we have. Some of us get over it at some point and realize that we’re being played. Some people seem to like being played. Others want to be the players. Anything that suggests leveling the playing field (another sports/competition analogy) is hateful because it looks like cheating.
Justice never enters into this except as a word used to cover the reality.
I did not go to college. There were many reasons for this, not least of them disinterest. I didn’t like school all that much and couldn’t see much value in another four years of jumping through hoops. The fields in which I have made my living, I managed to learn without higher education and all the rest I was able to indulge all on my own. Cost dissuaded me to some extent, and this was back when you weren’t likely to go into lifelong servitude to pay it off.
But society changed—our economy changed—and suddenly college was more a requirement than an add-on. The growing fields, the needs of employers, all these things necessitated more education than high school offered. In order to operate the country, we required more. Given that, it has always seemed fundamentally unfair to me that we then made people pay through the nose for the privilege of filling someone else’s requirements. (I have a very perverse attitude about this kind of thing. My first job out of high school was at a place with a dress code. I literally did not own a tie. They demanded one. I told them they could pay for it. Of course they did not. But, I argued, this is your requirement, why shouldn’t you pay for it? I won’t use the damn thing anywhere else! I met the minimum requirement by acquiring one tie and never taking it home. I left it at work and never washed it. When i left their employ, I left it behind. Petty, certainly, but still—their requirement, they should provide.)
But there are scholarships, grants, all kinds of things to offset the requirements and cover the costs. I don’t care. Because it’s not just employment involved, but class, social interaction. (I was turned down for a date once because I lacked a degree. Yes, this is probably rare, or it was then, but—is it? And why should that matter? We put too much, almost everything on that piece of paper, explicitly and implicitly, and then make it as hard as can be to get one. And the cost now suggests that many people who have managed to get one are in some way undeserving, so they will not be allowed to benefit, in even the most basic way, by being able to “get ahead” as expected.)
I have minimal problems with certain schools charging exorbitant rates—the Ivy Leagues, as they may be—as long as the basic requirements are not rendered punishingly out-of-reach. You want a Harvard education, fine, it costs more. But you just want a degree from a college to meet the requirements of society in given professions? No charge. It’s “our” requirement, after all. The individual does the learning, the name of the school has little to do with that (with certain exceptions). But then we have to be honest about the whole thing and hire according to qualification, not according to association.
The whole thing has become a money-making game that reinforces class distinctions—which we here are not supposed to have.
Damn right I’m fine with debt relief.
Addendum 8/27/22: When it became clear after WWII that the whole educational program being offered through things like the G.I. Bill was intended to provide for people in general (and later when racial barriers were being dismantled that barred minorities from access) there was a panic among the self-assumed Elites that the unwashed, the plebes, the commoners were about to share the same benefits and acquire the same functional credentials as the Chosen Children of the wealthy, the entire thing began to be undermined. We should remember that Governor Reagan dismantled the free university system in California, which had been working fine, but which displeased the powers that be. When the laws changed to prevent overt barriers, the only thing left to do was attack it financially and so the rise in costs, in lock-step with the diminishment in state funding, began. Characterize this any way you wish, the effect has been to erect a different set of barriers to those certain people and forces in our society feel should not be allowed to compete or share in that which presumably sets them apart. At every junction in history where a previous unquestioned assumption of inferiority or unsuitability was overturned that had kept certain people out, new “standards” were erected. One of the saddest consequences has been the debasement of the Humanities, because they do not as a rule lead to gold-plated incomes. You want to be a philosopher, fine, but if you come from a working class background and have to pay for it out of your own pocket, you will be crushed by debt for the rest of your life. In any individual instance, we can find many excuses for why what has become a global disgrace, but the aggregate effect is simply that only the few are “supposed” to get the rewards and the people in the “gutter” should stay there.
(Reagan’s ilk identified the rising sector of educated students as the source of a major pain in their collective asses because these kids knew better than to accept the bullshit and demanded change. Therefore, their opportunities to learn enough to challenge the Establishment had to be curtailed.)