Why Beat Up on the Students?

 

I've heard Canadians trashing students for 10 years now. It never changes. But it also never ceases to amaze me.

Why so much foaming at the mouth when a student says it's tough to handle student debt these days?

If you don't know what I'm talking about, just look at the comments that follow any online article or blog about the financial plight of students.

If the article is about a student who struggled - but failed - to find a job this summer, you'll see comments like 'Get a job, bum!" Which kind of misses the point now, doesn't it?

If the article is about a single mom struggling to make payments on her huge student debt, the commenters say that she shouldn't have gone back to school or she must have blown her student loan money on wild parties and a fancy car.  

If the article is about Canada's high student loan interest rates - we have some of the world's most expensive student loans, at up to 5 percent over prime - the commenters tell students to just be grateful that they have a student loan.

Okay. So what is going on here?

Based on the trend of comments, I think most of the trash-talkers fall into one of two camps.

Camp One is bitter. It seems made up of people who didn't get to enjoy the benefits of higher education. These campers often say that they work hard in jobs they hate but learned to 'suck it up.' They portray themselves as giving hard-earned tax dollars to the 'elite' - kids rich enough to get the education they lack. 

To Camp One, I'd ask: What about all those low-income students? And your own kids? Why not help them get the education you missed out on?   

Camp Two is smug. It seems made up of yuppie boomers and older people who didn't face much (if any) student debt. When they went to school, you didn't need advanced degrees to get hired, tuition was cheap, and grants were generous. Having enjoyed an easy ride, they think today's students are fussing over nothing.

To Camp Two, I'd ask: Did you have to make rent-sized student loan payments for 10 or 15 years to pay for your education?

And hey, people - Camp One, Camp Two, Three or whoever - can't we all get along? Because we're all going to benefit from those students.

Students become the nurses, doctors, technicians and counsellors who help us when we need care. They learn how to expand our economy, providing more jobs and benefits for us and our families. They become writers, artists and musicians who enrich our lives. They learn to be carpenters, electricians and other skilled tradespeople who build and repair our homes. Above all, they become the caregivers and teachers who prepare the next generation to work and pay taxes to support all of us when we can't support ourselves anymore.

Since education is a gift to us all, why trash students for objecting to a debt burden that's unheard of in our history? Why not let them speak? Why not consider what they're saying?

Instead of trying to silence them, just be glad that they're sticking with their education.

  

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