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Showing 1-9 of 9 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 64 reviews
on April 2, 2016
Bought this back when I was in college as part of a project that my Economics professor had assigned me. A lot of things that this book talks about is absolutely true and can now be seen even more as time has passed. It's sad to admit but is the hard reality, if you want that piece of paper that says you have successfully graduated from university with a Bachelors/Master/PhD degree, you will have to pay a lot to accomplish that... A LOT. I know some people whose student loans are as much as my mortgage loan yet they have just as good of a job as I do... now THAT is really sad.
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At the age of 50, I have seen the deterioration of the job market over the past 25 years, to the point where there are very few jobs that can be obtained with a BA or BS degree that will not be outsourced. In addition, I have watched as companies sold out their employees for the bottom line and the almghty dollar. It has become nearly impossible to stay in a job for very long, which in turn makes it very hard to pay down student debt.

I currently have a child in high school and I watch with amazement as districts push more and more students into the college merry-go-round with little thought as to whether or not they will be able to handle the work, or even finish a degree. At the same time I have watched as programs that would be very useful to the majority of today's kids are cut because the world has become so focused on testing and keeping little "Johnny" up to speed when he should be held back.

An example is the auto shop programs from when I was in high school. You could leave high school and get a job working as an auto mechanic directly from school. The programs now don't have the financing to buy the computer technology needed for these kids to actualy work as mechanics, even though the vast majority of graduating students will never go to college and will need some type of vo-tech training before they can become employable.

As is pointed out in this book, maybe we should re-examine the needs and desires of todays students to see what classes will actually beneft them. Adding classes which will allow students to work directly from school would decrease their debt loading and it would free up college space, as well as help employers get emplyees with a good solid training in a field that they want to work in.

I am fortunate enough to live in a district that is looking in that direction and is trying to figure out what classes the kids of today need to become employable in a global economy without having to become mired in debt while obtaining a degree thay may never use.
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on June 18, 2014
This book is full of anecdotes that are written in a fast paced style. I found myself skim reading rather than being given something to think about. It presages the student debt balloon of today (2014). It obviously did not head of the problem. The data cited in the book appear to be correct so it is a good resource for someone researching the student-debt issue.
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on June 15, 2013
Kamenetz is a brilliant scholar and the documentation of this book is very helpful. She knows what she is talking about and makes it very clear and interesting to read. Being a journaist it is much easier to read than a lot of scholarly articles.
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on July 7, 2013
they sent me a manuscript of the book. it was still the same book and it was a really good read.
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on January 28, 2008
This book somehow avoids the sticky nether regions of pundit drivel by-gasp-actually staying true to its journalistic center. This is filled with facts and balanced observations that provide fodder for public policy makers and forward-thinking parents alike. Unfortunately, the book also accurately heralds in an age where failed government policy is leading the US economy into shallow waters.
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on February 10, 2006
I enjoyed the book; Kamenetz is an engaging writer who holds the reader's attention. Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

"If you look at where public resources are directed--toward the already wealthy, toward building prisons and expanding the military, away from education and jobs programs--it is easy to see a prejudice against young people as a class."

"It's hard to commit to a family, a community, a job, or a life path when you don't know if you'll be able to make a living, make a marriage last, or live free of debt."

". . . a [Social Security] tax cut for high earners today is really a massive tax increase for those whose careers are largely ahead of us."

Kamenetz does a good job describing the obstacles facing young people today. I'm a bit older than her interviewees (depending on which historian you pick, I was born in the last year of the Baby Boom or the first year of the Baby Bust). I certainly don't have much in common with the Vietnam generation. I managed to fall into some of the traps she discusses--I have a big chunk of student loan debt from graduate school, but eight years later I'm making about the same money now as I did before I got that extra degree. Facing twenty or so more years of payments, I agree with Kamenetz' message that young people should think twice before going into debt for their education.

Kamenetz does a poor job in diagnosing some of the reasons for young peoples' economic problems. She says nothing about the increase in the U.S. population. The real problem with the Boomers is not that they were especially selfish, but that there were too many of them. The preceding WWII generation came home from the war with the idea that they deserved a happy suburban family life in return for their wartime sacrifices. They assumed the party was going to last forever, and that they could invite as many new people as they wanted. The result is they had lots of kids, and also let in enormous numbers of new immigrants. Unfortunately, all those extra people have meant big declines in quality of life. The Generation X and Yers are now having to deal with reduced expectations, because there just isn't enough land or resources for them to live like their parents or grandparents.

Kamenetz misses the boat on some economic questions. She is puzzled by the recent jobless recovery, where there has been consistent economic growth but no new jobs created. The truth is that there was no recovery. The economic growth the government is so proud of giving us is nothing but the product of poor economic reporting. Economic growth is conventionally measured by GDP, which doesn't include any corrections for population growth, depletion of natural resources, pollution costs, or decline in the quality of life. More accurate economic measures such as the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW), show that there has been little or no real economic growth since the 1970s.

Kamenetz is too optimistic about the potential for economic growth in the future, as well. The next decade or so is likely to bring serious economic problems in the U.S., as we pass the global oil peak. For more on this, I would suggest reading Kunstler's "The Long Emergency."

Kamenetz is naive on the subject of health care. She proposes a national health care system, but that would not address the real problem. Having insurers pay for most health care costs has decoupled doctors from financial reality. The result is that a huge percentage of our health care dollars go to pay for heroic care for people who are terminally ill and in their last few months of life. Medicare has made this problem worse, by making taxpayers pay to insure people that private insurers would never be able to offer affordable policies to. I don't see any way to stop this runaway train other than to get rid of Medicare altogether. I know it sounds harsh, but the market is the best way to regulate who gets health care and who does not.

Kamenetz needs to pay attention to some of the root causes of high housing costs. One of the most important of these is the huge subsidies given to the automobile. We all love to park for free, but municipal parking requirements add enormously to housing prices. Everyone pays these added costs, including young people who can't afford a car. For more on this, I would suggest reading Shoup's "The High Cost of Free Parking."
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on May 7, 2007
She's done a great job of research on the the challenges facing today's youth.

She defends her generation from the comments about not being able to get out on their own after graduation and stressing the different experience of the previous generation.

Most of the book deals with the staggering cost of a college education and the lack of good jobs in their field. She says too much emphasis is placed on the prestige of the colleges in relation to their costs.

Interesting thought, recent graduates need to buy a lot more technology like laptop computers and cell phones that the previous generation didn't have.

In the concluding chapters she points out a little common sense is in order, get a degree you can actually use at a college you can afford, choose a career path.
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on May 26, 2006

I agree with Anya, in that most kids don't get a good financial education from their parents, and that the loose consumer debt laws border on usury. However, nobody is making kids rack up this credit card debt! The point on college is true too. I cringe when I hear someone is majoring in communication at a $30k a year private third-tier college. What do they think they're going to do? It's called supply and demand!!! If Anya had her way, everyone would be a fashionista, journalist, or work in TV or film. What these kids don't understand is that a small, small, small percentage of the population can do those things. It's like in Office Space, when they put down the "do and major in what interests you" myth. Peter points out, "if everyone listened to that, there would be no janitors, because nobody would want to clean up sh*t for a living!" That's what these interviewees completely miss.

A very telling statement is on page 6, when Anya points out, "Only 24.4 percent of the adult population has a B.A., according to the 2000 census..." What the hell? Who cares about a BA? Does she actually mean a bachelors degree? I would suggest that only about 5% of the population needs a B.A., but more like 50% needs a B.S. As Anya herself has found out, unless you're among the idle rich or an extremely talented writer, a B.A. isn't going to get you anywhere. A traditional "liberal education," where you sit around and think about stuff and write papers and get your degree should be for only a small part of the population. In super future utopia world, sure, everyone could get a traditional liberal education, but we're hundreds of years from that point. We have to solve world poverty, war, and hunger first. Anya decries the lack of vocational education throughout the book, but there's a huge "vocational" collegiate job training program out there, and it's called "a technical degree from a reputable institution." Ipods don't spontaneously generate from the earth- they, like every other convenience of your life, were made by hard working, technically oriented people. And there's no such thing as a person fundamentally not good at math or science. It's like exercise. Studying math or engineering, like working out, isn't easy or fun, but accomplishing something.

Also, not everyone can live in NYC or SF. If you're living somewhere, and you're wondering why you can't pay your rent with three roommates, perhaps you should think about moving somewhere else. It's called SUPPLY AND DEMAND. You can buy a nice, two bedroom house in West Virginia for $30,000, today. Think about that.

Also telling is the attitude of the interviewees. Angus, who drifted around "[...] jobs" for 10 years, is quoted as such: "'I've had difficulty focusing,' Angus admits with a sheepish smile.'" Let me tell you, sheepish guys with no agenda are lucky to have credit card debt and [...] jobs. A hundred years ago, they would have just starved to death, or gone to debtors prison. That's really the lesson from this book- society has become so socially permissive that those who would have been bums a few years ago now can be disaffected, disenfranchised youth. I don't want people to starve to death, but I don't want people to be bums, either.

Anya seems pretty down on the military, but joining the military would have solved any of these kids problems. I think I'm a good example-- I went to Annapolis, majored in Electrical Engineering, and still today am in the Navy. Is it the greatest thing ever? No! In fact, some days I'm downright unhappy about it. I don't consider myself an engineer, nor do I really want to work in that field. My family is secure, though, and my prospects are pretty good for a job someday soon-- moreso than if I had majored in sociology at UAB, for sure.

If you want to see what pain and suffering is about, read "The End of Poverty." At least look at the first picture in the photo section, where there's a grandmother that must feed her fifteen grandchildren on half a hectare of rotted grain because all her children have died of AIDS. Activism to fix that situation is something I can get excited about. The plight of the young and fabulous is not something I can get excited about.

I would recommend you read this book, although I warn you, it's like a bad horror movie. You can see the characters fates before they even finish their stories. All of them, unless they change their attitude, will be in the exact same place 5, 10, or 30 years from now. Anya has tried to demonstrate the injustice of our society, but she inadvertently has only elucidated the real cause.
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