Why a student debt TV game show is a sad sign of our anti-intellectual times
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This week we found out that Michael Torpey, most famously CO Thomas Humphreys from Orange is the New Black, has started a new cash-prize game show. However, rather than winning tonnes of money for the speedboat you’ve always wanted, being successful simply clears your cripplingly large student debt. Just for a moment, let’s put this phenomenon in the context of other game shows like Pointless, Deal or No Deal, or Who Wants to Be a Millionaire where all the prizes are a tidy sum of at least thousands of pounds, sometimes even a million. In comparison, on Paid Off you don’t win a million pounds, you win freedom from a gigantic debt. Put on a number line stretching from minus $40,000 (CNBC’s figure for the average debt of an American when they graduating) to positive $1,000,000 on the other end, the difference is striking; Instead of going from zero to positive you go from negative to zero. In short, you win the ability to live normally. Of all the things that could be protecting our ability to live without the stress of debt, accrued as it is for the heinous crime of getting an education, you may expect the government to be top of the list. However, where the government has sorely failed, it seems now that TV game shows must ride to the rescue. Fantastic. In Paid Off's defence it does come from a genuine place of charity; Torpey’s wife had $40,000 of student debt herself, and Torpey says he created to a TV show because that was the main medium he had access to ameliorate the issue. Thankfully, it also isn’t about seeing what lengths of humiliation a student would go to in order to wipe out their gigantic debt, even though it very plausibly could be.
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