Thursday, February 09, 2006

New Haven Advocate Review

Nice to see them assign the book to a young writer, for once.

Kamenetz ends Generation Debt with some stern prescriptions for her readers. Parents need to talk seriously with their children about the costs of education and retirement and place some economic responsibility on their children at an earlier age. Young people need to begin planning their financial future now , by consolidating debt, saving, and working toward a career. We all need to advocate for better working conditions for the contingent laborers that have become a mainstay of the new workforce. And we need to demand that the government provide better financing for higher education. This call to arms is not a self-pitying complaint, but the product, on Kamenetz's part, of an open mind and real courage.


Anonymous said...

The criticisms that are aimed at calling into question a person's personal "qualifications," for writing about financial problems, are tired and weak. It's an attempt to shut down the discussion before it starts. It would be like arguing that, on the one hand, only an 8 year-old coal miner in the 19th century would be qualified to write statements critical of coal mining work. If an 8-yr-old coal miner did succeed in writing the book, the critics would then say that he/she was spending too much time writing to have an inside view of coal mining. Why isn't this young coal miner doing his or her share of mining, like every other good, black-lung-afflicted young'n is doing? How did this coal miner get enough education to be able to write? It's a circular, non-criticism. No one working two jobs and going to college would have time to write a manuscript, etc., etc.

Anonymous said...

I'll just say one final thing here. One could also view these types of criticisms in the context of something like cognitive dissonance theory. People who are doing things that are stressful and that challenge their conceptual views of themselves, such as working two jobs and going to school, tend to develop sort of favorable ways of looking at their situations. A person doesn't like to spend all day thinking that "I'm being shafted 24 hrs a day by everyone around me, including Sallie Mae execs." Instead, they think of themselves as someone who's making the most of a difficult situation, putting himself or herself through college and fulfilling some service (serving coffee). They need to think of themselves as good people, and a good person (so they tell themselves) is not someone who goes around feeling shafted or who develops sophisticated, critical arguments that assign blame to others. These are not necessarily thought processes that are totally conscious. So a coal miner who is "in the mud," covered with thick ash, will not necessarily be able to view his or her situation objectively.