Parental advice

One theme that is becoming increasingly popular these days is the ridiculously inflated cost of higher education in the United States. My opinion on this is rather stark- American higher education, with some exceptions, can reasonably be labeled a scam. Rather than produce graduates who go on to higher paying jobs, it is producing legions of barista debt slaves. No doubt if you’re a parent, you’re agonizing over what to do when your children graduate high school.

Obviously this advice will be more or less useful depending on the age of your child right now, but my general recommendation is this: Give the American higher education system the finger and prepare your children to study abroad. There are several countries that will educate foreign students either for free, or practically nothing. Teach your child to master several foreign languages, one of them being German. Even if they enroll in an English language program, this will help them immensely.

What about supporting themselves? No problem. After high school they should take a gap year and in that time, get a TEFL certificate. These are quite easy and relatively inexpensive to obtain, and will allow your child to work in order to support themselves while studying abroad. Moreover, a foreign education will open up their opportunities for gainful employment, unlike in the US, the land of outsourcing, unpaid internships, no-benefits jobs, temp work, and numerous other screw-the-worker policies.

There are other benefits as well. By traveling abroad, your child will get a real education, as opposed to one which was concocted in the fantasy-land of American academia. For example, they will learn that there are millions of people who would be quite thrilled if the worst they had to deal with on a daily basis were only “microaggressions from so-called allies,” and who stare blankly upon hearing an explanation of “cultural appropriation.” This will teach your child that the rest of the world is not America, and in fact all Americans, especially liberal arts academics, are incredibly “privileged” by comparison to most of the world’s population.  On the flip side, they will also learn what America does right; they will truly appreciate those things and work to preserve or defend them.

The choice is clear. You can get suckered by the American education system or you can think like the capitalists, and take your business elsewhere. Your kid will end up getting a far better education, not only in the formal sense, but in a practical way which is far more useful. It’s either that, or they can come back to live on your sofa while they work off $40,000 of debt at some menial service job. What’s it gonna be?


15 thoughts on “Parental advice

  1. TimoT

    In Finland there are many Master’s and Doctoral study programs in English in several universities. The best part is that there are no tuition fees at all and in some cases you might even get Finnish government student aid money!

    You also get very good student lunches at university for mere 1-2 euros per lunch and also many other benefits like student tickets in trains and buses. If your parents have saved for example 50000 dollars for you, you could easily spend 3-4 years studying in Finland. With a temp job, if you managed to find one, you might even have quite a lot of money left after your studies. Instead of 50000 dollar student loan on top of that 50000 dollars spent.

  2. Ivan S

    We already have a plan. As a Danish citizen with an American wife, when my son gets closer to college age, we’re moving to Denmark (currently in the US).

  3. Bandersnatch

    J you’ll love this. The other day I was interviewing for a job and the woman almost didn’t hire me because she knew my spouse was making enough money for the two of us. Basically, she made it clear that she wanted me TO NEED that job so I would be desperate and do whatever it is she wanted of me.

    Regarding Universities, I completely agree. My friend Mike got a perfectly good degree from Finland for nothing but the cost of his rent and now he attends a prestigious Uni near London. American university tuition is as inflated as its grades and scarcely offers what living abroad, being educated or otherwise, can offer.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      That was the original inspiration, but I think it resonated with me so much because I actually knew a couple people online who were like that.

      1. Ivan S

        I think if you spend any time online in liberal/left/socialist/anarchist circles, you know people like that 😉

        Though I’ll still take them over the homophobes and protofascists. Just gotta treat it like crazy old grandma.

  4. jon

    If you study abroad you have to pay fees as a foreign student, right? Certainly in the UK foreign students pay quite a bit more than UK citizens.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      As far as I know, the UK isn’t the best place to go these days if you want cheaper education. I’d think the cost of living is higher too. You can get TEFL jobs in the UK, but I think that would be harder to get without a degree there.

  5. Asehpe

    I came to the same conclusion on American higher education while getting my own Ph.D. at an American university. For graduate students the place was great and full of challenges to pursue, but for the poor graduate who had to pay his/her way through the system and end up with debts s/he will never fully pay…. it sucked. Which is why my family stayed in the Netherlands, where our daughter has quite a reasonable chance at a subsidized education in universities that are, in some areas, among the best in the world.

    On hipersensitivity: what I concluded after several years in the U.S. was something like this: it seems that activism (something not only found in the U.S., but it certainly is endemic there) needs oversimplification and/or hipersensitivity for its own existence — because, in order to be an activist, you need to “know” what to do. Having doubts, or talking about nuance, tends to deflect energy from “knowing what needs to be done”, and makes you more of a thinker than an activist. So, in order to act, you forgo nuance and doubts — you accept answers and analyses more or less uncriticially, and you start thinking about those who don’t as “the enemy” who have motives other than intellectual disagreements for being against you (money, prestige, jealousy, power, etc.). You also need to get the mainstream population to care about your cause — so, get every case that relates to it in the public eye, and shout “outrage!” That advances the cause, and since the ends justify the means, you’re still working for the common good.

    I mean, I’m not against activists (having had some history there myself) — I just honestly think it’s difficult, perhaps impossible, to be an honest, enthusiastic activist for a given cause without having to give up some of the reflection and criticism of that cause — since, if you spent time doing that, you wouldn’t have the enthusiasm and energy necessary to fight successfully for your cause. And that’s true for all kinds of causes, both left- and right-wing.

    1. Bandersnatch


      I think it has more to do with their inability to accept that what they advocate for has been largely accomplished or will be with or without them (gay rights, anti-racism etc.) And the fact that what really needs advocacy, like dealing with America’s governmental gridlock, class division or belligerent foreign policy requires more than just creating an angry tumblr.

      1. Jim Kovpak Post author

        I think you said it best when you talked about academics who need to justify their authority and position and thus create a world of jargon and arbitrary rules so as to transform something like women’s studies into a hard science like chemistry or physics. In a better world, we’d realize that 1. humanities and hard sciences are different, and 2. that’s okay.

        As for activism, one thing I’ve noticed, and it’s probably a side effect of living in Russia and watching people lose their minds over Ukraine, is that people on various sides have a need to go all-in. There can be no nuance. Any admission that your opponents did or do something right, or that something wasn’t their fault, is taken as surrender and treason.

        I think the idea is that if you portray your opponents as evil as possible, you’ll garner loyal people around you and unite against them. Unfortunately has proved to be a failed strategy, and in the process it leads activists for various causes to discredit themselves by latching on to any wacky theory that they think will be useful to their purposes. Witness how the “Centre for Globalization Research” is apparently anti-vaccine now.

        Almost any movement these days tends to hit potential recruits with the idea that: OMG THINGS ARE WORSE THAN EVER! Society is morally bankrupt! We are living in a new Gilded Age! The environment is going to explode! Rape culture has reached critical mass! Whatever the movement, questioning any of these premises is seen as attacking the cause itself, as though you are dismissing it entirely. The problem is, however, that for most of the industrialized world, people do in fact live on average better than they ever have in human history. Rights for women, LGBT people, etc. have made major historic advances. Acknowledging this doesn’t mean abandoning these causes and making compromises with bigots or misogynists. It’s about acknowledging reality and identifying which problems still need to be dealt with and how to deal with them.

        Not accepting reality is how one gets young people who are super-radical for a few years and then become more conservative later in life, saying, “Oh yes, I used to be a fiery radical back in my college days.”

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