Restating from my previous blog, my understanding of a dystopia is an oppressive setting that relies on harsh rules made by a government wherein a society lies, one with little resistance from the majority of the population. I do think that the American higher education system is a dystopia, but only on a deeper level of perception. At first, I would be inclined to think otherwise; higher education is not mandated by law in the U.S., with mandatory education ending at eighteen or sometimes sixteen years of age. Most forms of higher education provide extreme flexibility and many options in potential areas of study with some schools providing specialized education in specific topics, while others like Xavier provide a large array of programs throughout the arts and sciences. In many instances where the public seems to have an issue with an institution, changes are often swiftly enacted. For example, some institutions are beginning to place more emphasis on understanding their students and faculty in the LGBTQ+ community and ask for preferred pronouns. This would lead us to believe that schools do not seem oppressive at all.
However, look at the systems that surround the higher educational system, such as those that are responsible for providing employment and those that handle the germane fiscal matters. These systems highlight a darker side to the almost utopian facade of bountiful opportunity afforded by higher education. Statistics from the bureau of labor statistics show that earning a master’s degree will likely have a person earning twice as much as someone without a degree and also make them twice as likely to be employed at all. This gives education a high value to begin with; but then we must consider what that means on the front end. High prices for higher education, and therefore a higher amount of debt and student loans for those seeking higher education in order to have a higher chance to succeed in life. This is fair in principle, but the way it works out, many people end up in a never ending spiral of debt, crushing them under an oppressive weight that often follows them for their lives. Not to mention, this is only the financial aspect. We have not even begun to explore the societal and social implications of having a degree versus not, of having debt versus not, and whether or not your degree really means anything as an adult, even if it was represented as one of the most important things to get in your entire life. This is all in an effort to feed the government’s capitalistic society, like a well oiled machine. So yes, I feel that higher education, in its own right, is most certainly a dystopia.
The real question is, with that information in mind, and it is in fact widely known, why do we as a society continue to perpetuate it as the truth? The notion that school is everything, debt is a lifestyle, and without it you are a failure?