John Thornton Jr. on the Formative Nature of Debt

We had a Billfolder request to discuss the following longread — and it is a very long but worthwhile read — about the way debt reshapes our lives.

The essay, at Plough, is by pastor John Thornton Jr. and is titled A Debt to Education:

At Duke Divinity School, students gathered regularly in “spiritual formation groups.” Formation at both institutions meant not just studying but developing habits, disciplining desires, and living in a community of supportive people in order to foster a particular character.

It worked. My university studies made me who I am by shaping how I approach not only my pastoral work but also politics, economics, race, gender, sexuality, and society.

Yet my university experiences also formed me in other, less obvious ways. They made me into a person whose life choices – from which job to take, to how many children to have – are in large part determined by my student debts.

We don’t often talk of the formative nature of debt in the same way we do in regard to other educational experiences. But just as education is about more than funneling information into students’ brains, indebtedness is about more than the transfer of money. Universities rarely address the aspect of higher education that may most powerfully shape students’ futures: the debt they take on to finance it.

Take some time to read the whole thing. If you’d like to read more of John Thornton Jr.’s writing, he has an excellent post at Vox about students and economic anxiety.

Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash.