Grant to an industry control over access to the good things in life; insist that it transform itself into a throat-cutting, market-minded mercenary; get thought leaders to declare it to be the answer to every problem; mute any reservations the nation might have about it—and, lastly, send it your unsuspecting kids, armed with a blank check drawn on their own futures.
Was it not inevitable? Put these four pieces together, and of course attendance costs will ascend at a head-swimming clip, reaching $60,000 a year now at some private schools. Of course young people will be saddled with life-crushing amounts of debt; of course the university will use its knowledge of them—their list of college choices, their campus visits, their hopes for the future—to extract every last possible dollar from the teenage mark and her family. It is lambs trotting blithely to the slaughter.
Stevens is a troubled man who sings well, somewhat covertly, somewhat overfussily at times, a little stiffly but well. If he were satisfied with that!
Certainly we can all stand to be a little more thoughtful about why we read what we read. Am I reading David Brooks just so I can get riled up about what a moderate he is? Am I reading celebrity gossip because I think it will give me a hit of moral superiority? Have I convinced myself of the delusion that it will have the slightest effect on our “national conversation” if I develop what feels like a really well-informed position on the day’s headline controversy, and the next day’s, and the next’s? Those aren’t great reasons to read anything, at least they’re not good enough for me.
But after six months of sticking with only the most unimpeachable reason—I’m reading this because it makes me happy for reasons I wouldn’t be ashamed to admit—I have gained a new appreciation for some of the stupid reasons. Viral articles give you something to talk with strangers about. Blog posts give you an excuse to email your friends. The news cycle helps mark the passage of time, differentiating one week from the next and one’s own century from those gone by (not an unalloyed good by any means, but nevertheless indispensable to sanity).
About the Author
Matthew Boudway is an associate editor of Commonweal.