The countless ceremonies playing out across America this month are called “commencements,” supposedly, because they celebrate not the conclusion of an education but rather the start of whatever comes next: after high school, heading away to college; after college, the exciting new life of a young 20-something pursuing a career. This is the pathway idealized in the American imagination, and the one we spend hundreds of billions of dollars each year to pave. Yet it is not one that most young people follow.
Having belatedly discovered this fiction, progressives are now demanding widespread forgiveness of the student debt many young people accumulated as they stumbled along and then off the path. But this too misunderstands the typical experience of young Americans and only reinforces the obsession with college students as the population to be served.