"Student Debt" with Anthropologist Tiffany Konyen

December 08, 2021 JoeVanWie / Tiffany Konyen PhD Season 1 Episode 9
"Student Debt" with Anthropologist Tiffany Konyen
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Tiffany Konyen is a 1st generation college student learning in the Bay Area for the last 11 years, guided by a deep interest in the evolution of individual and collective consciousness. Tiffany joined the Bachelor Completion Program at California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) in 2009, where they were first exposed to the pedagogies and praxis of Transformative Education.

Entering into the Anthropology and Social Change Department Master’s Program, Tiffany wrote an auto-ethnography reflecting on the values, practices and structures of educational methodologies they experienced, both learning and working within K-12 Public and Private schools.

In 2016, Tiffany continued into the Anthropology PhD track and began researching the impacts of indebtedness on the processes of transformation and social change. As a Doctoral Student, Tiffany's research focuses on the alienation and exploitation of intellectual labor and the commodification of knowledge production through the student debt market, especially along the lines of gender, race, and class. Tiffany is Student Debt Striker and Organizer with the Debt Collective's Biden 100 Jubilee campaign and an advocate for Transformative & Community-Driven Lifelong Learning for All. Tiffany's research proposal was recently approved for a Participatory Action Research(PAR) project, engaging Alums of the School of Consciousness and Transformation.

Tiffany Konyen,
Doctoral Student in Anthropology and Social Change Department

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Joe Van Wie  0:09  
Hello, and thanks for listening to another episode of all I'm your host, Joe van wie G. Today's guest will departure from a recovery story in itself. But an expert on a topic I think most young people can understand entering recovery is student debt. There's many people I meet personally in recovery and have this burden over them and may want to continue their education now that they've entered a life of recovery. My guest, Tiffany Konya. She's a first generation college student learning in the San Francisco Bay Area for the last 11 years. Guided by a deep interest in the evolution of the individual and collective consciousness, Tiffany joined the bachelor completion program at California Institute of integral studies in 2009, where she finished her undergrad entering into the anthropology and social change department master's program, Tiffany wrote an audio isa graphic reflecting on the values, practices and structure of educational methodologies for K 12 and public schools, and private schools. In 2016, Tiffany continued into the anthropology Ph. D track and began researching the impacts of indebtedness on the process of transformation and social change. As a doctoral student. Tiffany's research focuses on the alienation and exploitation of intellectual labor, and the commodification of knowledge production through the student debt market, especially along the lines of gender, race, and class. Tiffany is a student debt striker, and organizer with the debt collective supplied in 100 Jubilee Jubilee campaign, and an advocate for transformative and community driven lifelong learning for all. Tiffany's research proposal was recently approved for an action research project, engaging alums of the School of consciousness and transformation. I've always had interesting conference conversations with Tiffany and I can't wait for you to meet her. Let's get started.

All right, let's meet tiff Konya. TIFs, in from San Francisco. And I want to thank you for coming today to of course, Tiffany, and I have a lot of interesting conversations. Particularly on debt, the war on drugs. But first things first, let's find out TIFF. Why anthropology which What drew you to the tracks, you took an education from undergrad to working currently on your PhD?

Tiffany Konyen  3:29  
Sure. Thank you, Joe. So originally, I was interested in going to law school. And in that journey, realizing how unaccessible education felt for me, as somebody who was a first generation student, who didn't have the financial backing, that a lot of people do going in to higher ed, after high school. And after a few attempts of pursuing higher education, becoming very jaded and disenfranchised from the system itself in recognizing that it wasn't about a pursuit of knowledge.

Joe Van Wie  4:15  
So let's unpack first generation educated what how would you describe what does that term fully mean?

Tiffany Konyen  4:24  
So my father's family emigrated to the United States after World War Two, and he grew up in Detroit. My mom, her father's from Italy. He she grew up in San Francisco, neither of their parents respectively, went to college. Yeah. And neither of my parents were able to go to college, for one reason or the other.

Joe Van Wie  4:49  
So you're seeing the economics of an education without a return you're seeing a six figures can be dropped from undergrad to a master's That's, that's alien to someone who gets paid weekly, bi weekly. And I don't think we talked about it enough what the the expense of education is without knowing what the return especially the last 10 years, people with degrees unemployed, and by no means are making enough to pay off or service a debt that was included with the education, hold the residents, buy groceries and pay off student debt. Is that Is that what you were you were seeing the future could be if you went to law school

want it to be distinct that I was talking six figures but masters or graduate studies. But here's some facts to just consider 43 point 2 million students borrow borrowers are in debt on an average of $40,000 each, the outstanding federal loan portfolio is over 1.5 trillion. And approximately 42 point 9 million Americans with federal student loan debt each owe an average $37,000 for their federal loans. More than 35 million of these borrowers qualified for general student debt relief under the Cares Act of 2020. The average public university student borrows $30,000 To attain a bachelor's degree.

Tiffany Konyen  6:36  
Yeah, I thought that everybody had a chance, I was under the impression that if, if I could get good grades, then it didn't matter where I came from, that I could achieve some semblance of security. And, and I put myself to work in a way that was in service of what I felt I was capable of, and really what I wanted to do in the world, and recognizing that that actually wasn't driving people's education. No, that was not the determining factor of where people ended up. And, and with the research that I've done, obviously recognizing the wage stagnation, the costs of living the cost of daily reproduction in order to sacrifice the time you're giving to learn. So seeing learning as an investment that you do for free. I mean, you're doing this labor. Basically, since you're in kindergarten, you're learning. So that's, it's a certain amount of work. And it requires you not to be other places. So, yeah, education initially in this country who had access to it, who can leave their families, this is still happening all over the world, obviously.

Joe Van Wie  7:53  
So this became an interest during undergrad like you, you finished undergrad in 2009.

Tiffany Konyen  8:02  
So I had left community, I got my AAA. with honors in San Diego, San Diego Mesa Community College, I transferred to UCSD, I had a really difficult time getting classes making that that situation worked for me full time, full time, I couldn't even make it work part time because I was working full time. And they're just the way the classes are set up. You have to be there Monday, Wednesday and Friday, in the middle of a day, you know, so it was very difficult. There wasn't a lot of flexibility. And when I after a few years, what were you studying? At that point? I was I was studying political science. Okay, so I did a quarter, and it cost $1,500 that I had to borrow from my mom. And I couldn't go back. I couldn't continue paying that and not feeling like you're a bunch of people in a classroom. There's tons of students, people aren't really engaged. And I just kept filling this push back in this draw away from so I left quick. I went back to community college because I wanted to learn Yeah, I wanted to be thinking and

Joe Van Wie  9:11  
what resources emotionally and cognitively did you have to draw on to persevere like that? How were you not defeated immediately?

Tiffany Konyen  9:20  
Well, I think back then I was still, you know, I still believe that you can, that you can make this happen. I still like I believed in I had a deep drive to really pursue these things. And after I was working actually in escrow at the time when the mortgage crisis happened. So I was working. I had worked in high end, resale in the Hoya doing, you know, residential mansions, and then got hired by a law firm who was processing all of the foreclosures for resale in California. Was there

Joe Van Wie  9:53  
a moment of enticement to feel settled, secured in a position like at least in a sense Somebody that in that role,

Tiffany Konyen  10:01  
not at all. So I just, I had gotten a job as a receptionist through a friend who was working there and just kind of work my way after six months, became an assistant and then was processing all of

Joe Van Wie  10:12  
these. This is before 2008 financial crisis.

Tiffany Konyen  10:16  
This is as it was happening. So as they're taking homes, we're processing them. We're making sure the liens are dismissed, the HOA fees are gone. We're like, you're not going to get this money. So if you're not paying your mortgage, not paying your utilities, you're not paying your dues. You're not paying this and you're not you owe people money. But first where the banks the banks got their Yeah, got everything first. And then they would determine who got what if they got anything.

Joe Van Wie  10:44  
Yeah, that's its own discussion.

Tiffany Konyen  10:47  
And so upon working in this job, like really, I mean, I was working 14 hours a day, you know, I'd be to process this much inventory that was coming in. And it was in a relationship I didn't want to be in I didn't. I felt like I had failed at school. And I finally decided that it was time to move to San Francisco.

Joe Van Wie  11:11  
So why I'm speaking to this this time. For anyone listening. I'm drawing on your poli sci major untraditional student, getting through your undergrad. But working in this financial financial sector where you're seeing repackage loans, people losing their homes, people playing against the market to hedge the success of it. Did this change what you wanted to understand, at least education wise was their mission being forged there to help the disenfranchised?

Tiffany Konyen  11:48  
I definitely felt at odds with it. And that was of my interest. I was also in philosophy classes. I was also in a lot of humanities. I was obviously driven by that, but knew that there was no money in that, right. There's no, there's no support for Humanities get ripped off. Yeah, exactly. So moving to San Francisco, what really changed the direction of my life when I finally was like, I don't see myself in a courtroom was when I was, I got a job at an after school program at a middle school and started working with all of these youth. And I had thought that I didn't like kids, and realize that I had very adverse relationship to childhood and being condescended being disempowered. And so I really connected, I was like, Oh, these are actually these are my people. And seeing the struggles of disenfranchised youth trying to come of age, walking between two worlds, a lot of them, families coming from other places to try to secure life, living in very difficult conditions, very cramped living conditions, not having everything they need a lot of responsibility at a young age, I connected with that I saw that in my father's store and saw that in my own story. And that's when I knew that I needed to work towards securing a better way of teaching people to learn and supporting them to follow their curiosity, and to develop a critical sense and intuitive.

Joe Van Wie  13:34  
And this is going to tie in to the fact that from firsthand observations, your education is now changing to maybe can I find a way to study this and be of help here? Do you see addiction, starting starting to weave through the distress economic distress because the social aspect of having an addiction is enormous. It's a cultural disease. Do you see this lack of access to opportunities, goods, services, a financial system keeping people they're just a place for addiction to flourish?

Tiffany Konyen  14:11  
Absolutely. If you don't have a sense of personal worth value, meaning constantly being reprimanded and redirected and it it festers when you have desires i

Joe Van Wie  14:28  
neurological factor, this mutes the dopamine release this and then you can find it were in a bottle meth so

Tiffany Konyen  14:40  
well then brings to mind how I ended up at the institution that I'm still at where I finished my bachelor's degree in poli sci. No, it was an interdisciplinary studies so shifted drastically. I was still interested in the environment. Obviously I'm still interested in law on how it worked. But now I started, I started focusing more on education. And I found, actually, I was interested in philosophy and specifically a realm of philosophy called integral studies, and integral philosophy. What is that? Integral philosophy is? For me, you know, I think everything is different for people. But how I interpreted it was it was the first conversation, intellectual conversation I'd come across, that wasn't trying to dominate with what was right. It was about integrating and looking at all of these different human systems, religions, cultures, and trying to understand them in an, in a context, a more meta context, right. So not just in opposition to each other based off

Joe Van Wie  15:53  
a value that we're assuming we all have. Exactly. So, you know, I could be at fault here, but a way to describe it, observing what is. And then from there, establishing values, what is a utilitarian way to, to wrangle all this distress from just observation? Not saying what's right or wrong? Would that be correct? Some?

Tiffany Konyen  16:18  
Yes, yes. And it's also questioning these realms of it. So there's, there's actually different camps of integral philosophy coming from a lot of like, Eastern and Indian roots, which is, where my school, its foundations are from. And then there's a more kind of Western version that emerged

Joe Van Wie  16:44  
with the distinction between the two of them, if you had this point at one, one, object or idea, what would you think separates Western from Eastern integral studies,

Tiffany Konyen  16:55  
just us talking about it. And the culture from which it emerged, you know, like, these knowledge is emerged from specific context do and then they got kind of integrated, they got migrated. So,

Joe Van Wie  17:07  
you know, from my just observation, and when I would read that, you know, from Eastern to Western, it's an assumption of values, before they knew you spoke to integral studies, not saying what's right or wrong. But it's really hard to peel back, before you study something, what value and a bias or lens confirmation that's already there. For example, I'm raised Catholic, I am not a practicing Catholic, but values are just lurk in my subconscious, good or bad that I still have these values will constantly make a judgement. Before I can even think of it. It's not even a cognitive process that I'm aware. So I'm doing these studies, do you find that hard to rip away? You're like that early on? You're doing integral studies? You're measuring distress, debt and financial distress? Is there a value at play? In that you can't speak to yet did? How do you find that that bias in yourself?

Tiffany Konyen  18:12  
Yeah, well, that I think that the debt studies came a few years after, you know, starting off, it was very guided by like a philosophy and trying to get beyond just the intellectualization. So it's not just those values that are coming from the mind. But like, integral education is about recognizing the spiritual, the physical, the emotional, recognizing how all of these things are playing in to the thoughts that we're having. And I think the values that are

Joe Van Wie  18:48  
was the value that you are attracted to like to have a consensus. So it's just not extra existential, it has to be that there is a shared value in the study that there do no harm, or how do we do the least amount of harm? Would that be the base value of what you were wanting to study?

Tiffany Konyen  19:06  
Yes, I mean, it was more in the beginning about being able to bring your full self into places into conversation, to follow the way that your mind was interpreting. And the content that you're reflecting on, which was very much set up in a way that moved us through self, society, where your relationship to your community so you're building up your positionality, and understanding where those values are coming from where did those thoughts come from? In a relationship with a cohort of people? A mixed I was in a very mixed age. I mean, we had people in their mid 20s, all the way into their 60s who were coming back to finish their bachelor's but hadn't lived an entire life. And it was a very diverse group. So when you're when You're presenting your values not in a way where you're trying to push them on other people, but just following the threads of where they come from, you start to reflect a little deeper of why. Why am I thinking this way?

Joe Van Wie  20:13  
This is at the California Institute of integral studies? And is this being offered anywhere else to look at something this broadly look at a kind of a world view of how systems work? Can you study this anywhere else?

Tiffany Konyen  20:26  
Not that I've seen this is very unique program. There's no RA on it. But I mean, this is it started at the California Institute of integral studies over 25 years ago, they were they based it in transformative pedagogy, which came from Paulo Friday, and was continued by

Joe Van Wie  20:45  
unpack that, what would that mean? I don't if I don't know what that word means, and I don't? Well, how would you explain that to me.

Tiffany Konyen  20:53  
So Paulo Freire did his research which took place mostly in South America, but he is an internationally renowned educator, who began to describe what he saw, and termed as the banking model of education, which meant that that learning was being treated as an exchange, not an exchange. But where it was as though that the teacher was the authority, and they had a certain amount of information that they were going to deposit into the minds of the students

Joe Van Wie  21:29  
first revealed information, do you have value for us? We'll give it to you.

Tiffany Konyen  21:37  
And he began to document this, this relationship of power and authority and free thought, and this is where the counter of a transformative model,

Joe Van Wie  21:47  
why did they identify that as a problem? Why doesn't that work? Or what? What problems arise from that that system? Having that power position? The teacher is the authority? Because can't How do you not trust? Like, how do you become an authority isn't an expertise? Like, where's the power veiled is an abuse in learning? Like, how would you explain that? Why would that be a problem?

Tiffany Konyen  22:13  
Well, I think in within this context, and what people like have spoke to when they enter into this, the model like in in response, you know, to what may be a difference to the traditional model was what it's kind of termed, as you see, like, the ability to think freely, the ability to follow your own intuitive sense. And, you know, not just your intellectual sense, but your multiple senses engaging, recognizing that there are multiple ways of learning and doing that aren't being recognized and how that ends up limiting people and leading to, I think, a greater burden on those who are not actually being engaged in a way that or embracing like a community of knowledge, right. So it's like, not only are the then those authorities, their external, they're not being guided by the best interest of the student, it's not centered on the student, not

Joe Van Wie  23:20  
a student anymore. It's a call of, or I don't want to be too dangerous with words, but like an institution of group thought, not the freedom of learning something new or, or revealing something and a new perspective that allows a better question, a better line of thought, to really dig into a topic

Tiffany Konyen  23:41  
that's also rooted in a punitive mentality, if you don't do it, if you don't do it, right. If you can't remember, if you can't learn what's being taught to you, you're disciplined. And you're, you're conditioned all along the way to act and respond in certain ways that serve who and that's kind of the question like, who, who does this serve? Who does this way of doing things?

Joe Van Wie  24:10  
Service loans? There's a financial squirrel, yeah, financial consequence, especially for adult learners. That, you know, education can't really manifest itself, maybe until I'm in my 30s of something that would be of real interest to me. I could barely afford to take this risk to pay for three credits. But I want to improve my life. Not only professionally, but intellectually. I want life to be richer, meaningful, you're taking a huge risk to get back to school. And why I'm speaking to this on the show is because I find that is the most rewarding things I see in people in recovery in their 30s and 40s. Single who returned to school if they want to be a professional or beyond a paraprofessional? There's a huge risk you're taking keen to, to now commit to a semester school, be it two or three colleges, you don't have the discipline or understand that structure you're speaking to, to get work done. And now you just it costs you seven grand you don't have because you didn't know how to fit into that system. And you're speaking to now in your graduate, you're starting in your graduate studies, maybe two, does it have to be that system for a formal education? Crisis? Is that would that be an observation that's accurate to what you're studying?

Tiffany Konyen  25:31  
Yes. And initially, after what drew me into this school was philosophy, cosmology and consciousness I had been doing all of the self learning can be small things, cafe conversations, you know, I follow a thread of interest. And here I find the school across town, I really wanted. I was driven to go to graduate school. And I'm like, but I need to finish my bachelor's. And I go to check out the school and they're offering a one year bachelor completion program. It's accelerated. So you go three, it's broken into three terms. And the setup at that time was, we would meet every three weeks for a weekend cohort Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday. And I worked Monday through Friday. So I'm like, Oh, my gosh, that's, that's perfect.

Joe Van Wie  26:23  
Well did it well, let me even ask you this. So the schedule works fine. For your adult life. You're managing living weird, San Francisco, spend some time city in our in the continent. You're meeting every three weeks, and you're having this informal, enlightened kind of French education style. And this is going to earn you a bachelor's degree did you find you were learning and enjoying learning in a way that was almost childlike that like,

Tiffany Konyen  26:51  
it was beyond it was, and that at the same time, I was also working with younger kids, I was working at preschools, I was working, and seeing that, that development and that mentality coming through the relationship I then had with, with young people, and then in my own experience, being able to play again, learning to tap into that deep curiosity and excitement that said that anybody can do this, you know, they need the support, and any, you know, anybody's capable of anything that they set their mind to, especially when they're given,

Joe Van Wie  27:25  
does this program still exist? Oh, yeah. And what's the name of it?

Tiffany Konyen  27:29  
So bachelor completion program. So in Interdisciplinary Studies, at the California Institute of integral studies, so the way the school is set up, we have the school of Undergraduate Studies, we have the school of consciousness and transformation, which is where I ended up. And then we also have clinical programs through the School of Professional health and psychology. So that's a lot of your somatics. That is where need

Joe Van Wie  27:56  
a population that was in recovery, go into school there, do you find that there was an attraction, maybe to a mind that recovered from addiction, and that this, this form of learning at a higher education level, can help them enter a professional field?

Tiffany Konyen  28:12  
You know, I think that there, there is an emphasis on healing and trauma at that, like people are drawn their mental health and yes, who wants to do that work? And who have had those experience? We have a very diverse and non traditional student bodies. Yeah, exactly. And although I haven't actually come into any formal spaces, which I think is actually a great idea. I think that that would be a fantastic student

Joe Van Wie  28:43  
recovery track.

Tiffany Konyen  28:45  
What's there's a lot of, there's a lot of folks coming through who are who are healing who are following paths of sobriety, who are looking to alternative medicines, and really

Joe Van Wie  28:57  
trauma, PTSD, kind of entering the field. I'm one of them. I have to I could thank you now live on my podcast was a TIFF, gifted me and my wife last year, a weekend workshop, it was three days, we ended up getting an extra day with Dr. Gabor Ma Tei on trauma and what trauma does to addiction, the body, the subconscious, and it was a beautiful experience to learn online, and have a discourse back and forth to him. That was a gift from you. And I wanted to thank you, that was from the California Institute of integral studies. That stayed with us. Yeah, I mean, to come out of the pandemic, and that was my first understanding of the school. You're, you're at what you're doing. And I was like, wow, well, this is for mine, just like me. You know, I'm 43 and I've never weren't learned well, in a traditional form. I felt like I I was stuck in a system, I ended up reading books that wasn't weren't even classes I was taking, like, I've just counter will ADHD, it's very difficult for me to do that. But I always had an intellect I wanted to grow. I just never learned well, when I felt I was in competition, or I was in debt from it, I could feel that I could taste it that I had to perform like it like it was athletics. I don't know, my mind wasn't really constructed to perform that way I my counter will that would arise from ADHD, which show up into the education process.

Tiffany Konyen  30:39  
And I don't think you're alone. I mean, you're definitely not alone. This is this is the experience that we're unpacking in that bachelor completion program, is how we've been taught and treated and and in a lot of ways, just

Joe Van Wie  31:01  
it's not there's a large growing populace, especially, let me see if I could. So many of us, especially in this culture, which has kind of been bankrupted, materialized, you know, for whatever reason, industry, a constant need for growth, misses disappeared, materialism has replaced it. Pop culture doesn't allow for myths that have meaning or touch the subconscious or what we really want addiction produce more meaning to me. Drugs, and there's a large population that doesn't learn in that form, and you're now part of something that's addressing that, can there be a larger model for people to have a higher education that doesn't saddle them with a lifetime of debt?

Tiffany Konyen  31:54  
Exactly, and recognizing the ways in which indebtedness is being utilized because of its connection to, to our sense of life, you know, it's like there's there's a spiritual indebtedness that gets basically corrupted by the current economic system that says that we're, you know, we're having to make these investments in ourselves right through going to school. But then the alienation from that, from the labor that we're doing the alienation from the way that that knowledge, it's going to be utilized the way that we're then putting to put into some place find some core, you know, place to be within this system. It's very, I think, disheartening for people it So Ken Wilber talks a little bit about how, and this is something that I'm sure he pulled from somewhere and he definitely, Wilber Ken Wilber is one of the leader leading like, Western integral theorists who's basically been been riding on this since

Joe Van Wie  33:03  
the 80s trailblazer in the field, you're studying these, these larger systems of,

Tiffany Konyen  33:08  
and there's plenty, you know, there's plenty of discussion, discussion around the concepts and the way that you present them. But something that I think is really important in this conversation is that are what's referred to as a daemon, which is our inner purpose and what we, what you know, we're here to do in this life, becomes a demon. When it is not realized, when it goes unsatisfied, when it goes becomes exploited. And that's, I feel the underlying basis of so much, you know, and I think that I have recognizing that addiction isn't just substances, addiction is the way we think addiction is the way that we, you know, interact with the world and how we strive for connection. And when we don't feel like we're in control of that when we feel like we don't have power over that when we feel when we're not not feeling that sense of purpose. Yeah. It drives, you know, drives madness, it's like this is

Joe Van Wie  34:15  
addiction starts with disconnection. And I mean, that's never been clearer or more articulated in the last six years, and to have the first disconnection happen in the first two years of your life, and it can be real subtle. It's called attunement. You your pregnancy can produce too much cortisol, an idea of security. I mean, there's a few people that say the first experience of fetuses fear and terror of existence, to have that continue and not have the means when this cortisol enters, say a fetus as it's growing, and it could be just from The subtlety of having to work a full week of 40 hours, six months in your pregnancy. So you have this and it kind of mutes the full on growth of the cerebral cortex. And that would allow for a proper self soothing, in early life, the release of a proper amount of dopamine to soothe yourself and have a healthy detachment from a parent. That process never takes hold. So the security that it's not coming from this unspoken connection with your parent, any parent continues on to even eight, which would now be called detachment. This where addiction is born. And it's generational. And, you know, there's a big mistake that this was identified as a gene, that gene has to be activated. And it's not the parents fault. It's what's happening is cultural, we're trying, you're being rocketed and willed into this culture, without permission, or at least an observation of what you've entered. I really am glad you mentioned that, because this is where addiction is it's that disconnection and when it's broken, and so you break it at 30 or 40. And you want to flourish. And you want to you learn new things, what you're a part of, at the California Institute of integral studies, I see that model as a solution for people in recovery, that want to approach education, without being financially destroyed, and finding a way to learn that spiritual.

Tiffany Konyen  36:37  
I would agree. Mainly because that we, you know, when this is what drove me into the anthropology, department, anthropology and social challenge, what is anthropology so anthropology, to me is just the study of people in the systems that we create. I mean, I feel like everybody is an anthropologist, if you're a human being, you're an anthropologist, whether you're doing a self study, or you recognize these larger patterns and systems that are operating, you know, we're all doing some form of interpretation and anthropology. So anthropology classically, was a system of defining people, and it was actually a colonial project under which sure, you know, the powers that be are going around the world and, you know, describing who people are and trying to capture

Joe Van Wie  37:31  
is Darwin an anthropologist? No.

Tiffany Konyen  37:36  
He had, he had anthropological ideas, I mean, anthropology, sociology,

Joe Van Wie  37:40  
you know, ship off the dock was the idea, it was gonna be a kind of an anthropology trip.

Tiffany Konyen  37:46  
Right. Right. And, I mean, so even Darwin's theories about the survival of the fittest are myths, you know, misrepresented.

Joe Van Wie  37:55  
And they are socially they forget, they depart from evolution, because they I think they were hijacked, you know, definitely years later. So

Tiffany Konyen  38:03  
we're, I mean, many of the, the, what got created as like the science of the economy, are based on ideas that are being misused and misinterpreted after the death of the person who wrote them to even defend what they were saying. It's like they, you know, you grab a piece of what serves you. And that is what became the standard and what gets replicated through traditional institutions of higher education, which are interconnect. I mean, it's all embedded within commerce. I mean, industry

Joe Van Wie  38:33  
brings a funny joke to me, just insert, you know, you got Darwinism, survival of the fittest, which really, if you unpack it in Origins, let's be he just seen the survival, the most adaptable, environmental changes. So this idea, Herbert Spencer comes along, he's a father social kind of Darwinism, even like probably, you know, grandfather did the idea of eugenics. Herbert Spencer is quoted to Blue Did you know this in the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, but the funniest part of it, this guy is the father of social Darwinism. It's a misquote. Now, the book Alcoholics Anonymous, not been revised for two years, it'd be this just Herculean task, probably destroy it. But they left it in there. It's a it's a quote from like, it's like contempt prior to investigation, this idea that makes man in complete ignorance. I could, I could source it later. But he, it's not even Herbert Spencer and I was reading the big book, I'm thinking, Why the hell would you ever quote it's the father of social Darwinism, the survival of the fittest. So he hijacked this idea that Tony has a biological application. Now he's going to apply it to so what it disregards is that we're social beings have a consciousness sure that could be spiritual,

Tiffany Konyen  40:02  
which is ultimately the system under which capitalism kind of took over. Like, I mean, they the relationships that were pre determining those, you know, who got what, basically, those relationships had been captured. And the idea of survival of the fittest marries really well, with the idea of Homo economics, which is, you know, the the self interested man, you're the self, the self, pursuant mechanized individual, the

Joe Van Wie  40:35  
Manifest Destiny, kind of the whole allure of the American ideal is that what your

Tiffany Konyen  40:40  
economic is, is this idea that people are so self serving, that they'll only do what's in their own best interest. It's the it's the, you know, the basis of the free market, that we have to all be doing exactly what is in our best

Joe Van Wie  40:54  
interest to be true, because our interest can be manipulated. I mean, this didn't account first $6 billion of television telling me to eat a cig cheeseburger every day.

Tiffany Konyen  41:04  
Correct. And at the same time, Darwin was writing you have a Russian Prince Peter Kropotkin. Yeah, who's actually dispelling it, saying, actually, when you look at nature, mutual aid is more there's a balance that's happening, just because there's an alpha, the rest of the, you know, the rest of the group will destroy the alpha if they're getting out of control. And that's, you know, kind of the lesson that you. So

Joe Van Wie  41:33  
this is anthropology in a nutshell, this is what is tracting, you and Tiff, when did you? These are just broad ideas, this cafe conversation, it starts to form into your formal education and your degrees. When did you take out a scalpel? And think, where am I? Is that the hardest part of what you're studying?

Tiffany Konyen  41:58  
Well, definitely once you start peeling back at these, you're like, you know, you're smaller than David versus Goliath. Because it's like, these things. This has been a 400 year, you know,

Joe Van Wie  42:09  
book, Michael, David versus Goliath. Gladwell book,

Tiffany Konyen  42:13  
Oh, I haven't read that. To go back to this idea that these things are huge. And it's like, when I finished my masters, I'm more ready. You know, at that, what's your masters at that point to anthropology and social change? I'm read I've basically created an ethnography project where ethnography just means like, it's, you're involved in the research, that you're not an external observer, but you're actually engaging with, you know, a community of research. And it's less about being the authority of

Joe Van Wie  42:48  
a community beyond the institute, you're studying it like is there?

Tiffany Konyen  42:52  
Well, I at that time, I, I integrated the work that I was doing. So I had been working at a private progressive school that was K through a that, you know, they had a certain model of education, but then after working, they're recognizing the hierarchy, that the Standard Hierarchy that still exists between administrators and teachers, and you feed a low level yard instructor, you

Joe Van Wie  43:13  
know, just connections at every level that is just happening naturally.

Tiffany Konyen  43:18  
Correct. And in my experience in public school, seeing the wait, like seeing what we were doing as an after school program, to bring forward restorative justice, and to support these youth, who, you know, you look at the so called restorative justice. So restorative justice, in this sense, would be actually listening to what they're going through and recognizing

Joe Van Wie  43:39  
what is supplying solutions to people going in and listening what the actual problems.

Tiffany Konyen  43:44  
I mean, in these cases, they're students getting picked up by cops in the middle of I mean, these are like, these are classroom infractions that then become legal matters. We're trying to prevent. These are the students who are with us until the end of program every day, and they're sitting outside of the principal's office. Here is this. This is in San Francisco in the Richmond District. Roosevelt Middle School. Yeah. So it's public, public school.

Joe Van Wie  44:07  
And this is part it now this year master study, this one, the scalpels coming out, you're starting to refine, where am I going to make an impact

Tiffany Konyen  44:14  
alongside my own educational experience that I'm now having? So it's like, I've got this traditional experience that I've had through public schools that I'm experiencing now in this after school. I'm looking at this progressive model $50,000 a year, yeah, for K through eight, you know, but this is a hands on learning students are being engaged in, in a totally different way with creativity with music with self interest. And then transformative, you know, so recognize and which still has the same hierarchy problems, because it exists within a certain system, but at that time, I was I was focusing Yes, focusing on these experiences I'm having and saying, Well, what How can I actually make these things happen? Do I just go into teaching? Do I start trying to work in a classroom

Joe Van Wie  45:08  
to make these things happen? What do you want to happen? Just a fairness, a justice in a proper allocation of resources, debt, not straddled to education? Correct. Okay.

Tiffany Konyen  45:19  
But this is I mean, this is a little bit before the critical, okay, sense of debt. I mean, obviously, a new debt was a problem. I

Joe Van Wie  45:25  
want to get to that, because you had a good PR run. And I want to address that. And I mean, there's so much I want to talk to you about but I think we need to focus on you know, these last two, three years. This was the groundwork for you had a real battle cry. And it was it was coast to coast, the this narrative of what you wanted to do. So you're studying did that take form, what we're about to speak to, they're seeing the K through grade school programs?

Tiffany Konyen  45:59  
Yes. And having a lot of like I was most of my friends at that point, were artists and educators and people going into formal teaching, and people who had, you know, I've met people from all these different experiences, and unlike recognizing how the teachers are being screwed, how the students power the families, how this just the whole structure, and that goes up to the authoritative bodies, you know, this is the government this is the Department of Education. This is the whole system of

Joe Van Wie  46:28  
your studying primarily, this is all public schooling you're studying.

Tiffany Konyen  46:32  
Well, at that point, I was like having a comparative right. So a comparative of a free public education versus the quality, then what are the differences of a progressive private education, and my school is a private nonprofit. So you know, it straddles this line where they don't have to show where their graduates end up afterwards, although most of them are dependent on student loans. So that reality, I had the opportunity to go into an accelerated doctoral program and anthropology since I completed the Masters, it was a newer program that had started just a year or two. And when I went to the info session, I had a drastic shift where I knew that I couldn't just think about things, I needed to be active in them. And the anthropology department had a law like that. Was there grounding philosophy? Is it engaged? Yeah, you know, research.

Joe Van Wie  47:29  
So you're, you're you're immersed in studying the difference between a private and a public and a progressive education school in San Francisco? Are you seeing people just trapped? Just trapped in is the education, education keeping them comfortable being trapped? From like, how big is the gap social economic gap between getting a public education in San Francisco versus a private school? And what does that do to determine that child's next 20 years?

Tiffany Konyen  48:04  
I mean, you can break it down. In class size, public school, you're gonna have 30 kids in a classroom, private school, these kids 15 to one maybe, yeah, you know, you have your you're getting individualized and pray

Joe Van Wie  48:19  
the price of a free market. It's so cool. Like, that's what you're combating. Right, the idea of

Tiffany Konyen  48:25  
which I mean, ironically, that's part of what you know, that early research model is recognizing the defunding of education. So when education was paid for, and who had benefited versus why it's no longer valuable to it. Yeah. And it's on us, it becomes internalized as our own burden, instead of what was once held as a social good, yeah, that was being funded, Reagan stopped the funding of higher education. He said, if people want to protest they can pay for

Joe Van Wie  48:57  
it was somewhere around 2800 for the year was 30 18,000 for a semester, but it also, you know, it's like, not just that's just education going with inflation,

Tiffany Konyen  49:11  
that's the ticket cost versus what well, how much do you have to pay to live? You know, you have to have housing, you have to have food? Yeah, those things don't just appear you

Joe Van Wie  49:22  
are the payoff for the next 20 years of your life. Now that you know, you either got the degree or you didn't. I mean, it's big, that lines getting blurrier. I think there's a much bigger fraction or fracture.

Tiffany Konyen  49:35  
Well, the numbers Yeah, the numbers don't you can when you when you look at the overall like I said wages stagnating since the 70s which is also when we left the gold standard and kind of ended or entered into this judiciary system credit system where everybody all of a sudden people can have credit cards they get you know, it just and the really the inflation of the middle class with debt And then the relationship of getting young people indoctrinated into a system of indebtedness, which came with the mortgages to you know, people went from owning their homes to have, you know, not so from the banks owning them. So it's just a way of them seizing capital and they're doing it this pandemic has been really helpful, I think, for that, you know, when you

Joe Van Wie  50:21  
when you're saying that, and not to put our 10 cows on, you're talking banking. Am I correct in saying that? When you say they, like, I just don't want it to be this vague idea of the government? Are you talking about banking, when you say they

Tiffany Konyen  50:41  
can you read reframe the content? You're like, they?

Joe Van Wie  50:43  
I always, it's my new thing. That's good. So I think you were addressing they this indebtedness, this culture of accept it now, which in principle, can do beautiful things to borrow money. I think it's best to borrow money without the literacy. To have it I was allowed to have a credit card before I understood credit. I didn't know what credit was. I didn't know who Citi Bank is I'd ever met them.

Tiffany Konyen  51:15  
You know, it is it is the banks. It is the financiers but it's also the government. You know, it is also the you know, this is this is a relationship that's been made. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. It's it is a composite, but it when you know, when the loans go from 3%, to 6%. But now the government owns them all, you know, that transition happened during Obama, where it's like, all of a sudden, these 33% I think, last time I checked of the government's assets, our student loans, which 55% of people were defaulting on before the pandemic, and they haven't collected anything for the last year and a half. So it's, it's showing, well, where what impact does that really have who's benefiting? It's, it seems like a pyramid scheme at that point. And that's kind of the argument that's being made is like, Well, where does that return on investment actually come from? And how can we claim it as an asset? If you don't actually have a return? And when you people are not actually realizing the full? You know?

Joe Van Wie  52:20  
Yeah, I, I find your work so interesting, because you're zeroing in on the same fractured system. Now, just totally consuming. The higher education system now, even before that, which is, it's our solution to these mental health problems, a more enriched life, a non judgmental understanding of a brain combating stigma, and you're seeing now, the system just destroying what education is to shine a light on to share a sharing of information. Not a standard of training to get a better job.

Tiffany Konyen  53:02  
Correct. And when the when the costs outweigh the benefits. This is starting to roll back, you know, in the last six years that I've been from when I started this research, until now. The narrative has been changing, and the conversation really spiked in terms because people are still suffering from the mortgage crisis. And people, you know, part of the 2008 Yes, because when you look at what, who gets out of college without debt, it's people who come from usually an experience of intergenerational wealth. So meaning, a family that has a house, that they can take out a mortgage on that they can, you know, provide all of the things that that students can be correct? Well, a lot of that's a whole other story of

Joe Van Wie  53:57  
you. Let's table that because I want to get to the point of your T shirt that you're wearing. Today, here in the studio is student debt striker. student or a strike debt What is this? This is this research that you're doing? You're gathering information from public private sectors, and then you're in this system, as you're learning and studying that you're being paid. The debts ensuing as you're researching the debt. Personally, correct.

Tiffany Konyen  54:29  
Correct. I haven't written out my personal bill yet. I think it'll all come out in the end. But

Joe Van Wie  54:34  
so we got a very enlightened you know, curious anthropologist studying debt as she's accruing debt becoming a professional. Did you? What did you have to laugh?

Tiffany Konyen  54:48  
Oh, yeah, it's a total joke. I mean, this is it's if it wasn't so destructive, if part of this research wasn't here. During the harms that are being experienced right now, I happen to be in a position in time, where I am aware of, you know, the way that this system is working. And so I can, I can rise above the shame I can rise above this sense of this is my fault, because I know it's not. And when you hear people just cycling in, in, you know, regret for having wanted to learn, when there's a sense of anti intellectualism that people, you know, feel so, you know, so frustrated by not being able to think for themselves that they hate people who think like it's, it's, it becomes really toxic. And so you know, it's the debt collective was originally a group called Strike debt during Occupy Wall Street, they came up and this is a conversation that started happening, I was 11 in 2011, when everybody's on the streets and everybody's talking about well, I did this and I got this degree, and I did this. And I had to work like this and recognizing like how much people were struggling and how they couldn't afford the basic needs of life and paying their student debt, and therefore they were defaulting and the way that that interest

Joe Van Wie  56:12  
was shooting up, they can't buy it. They can't buy a car, don't

Tiffany Konyen  56:16  
have kids, you'd stop your future is compromised in a way that no, we haven't faced holding

Joe Van Wie  56:22  
this debt. banks that were secured financing from government student loans, right? Would that be the basis of this debt? who's holding the debt?

Tiffany Konyen  56:35  
The Department of Education, the United States government holds the debt they owe the originators of that debt? They have loan servicers? Who are the collectors, and then after a certain if you mean, private loans, and public loans are different. So if you have federal loans through the government, they're held by the government for 20?

Joe Van Wie  56:55  
Can't they sell that debt? If you

Tiffany Konyen  56:58  
there's a certain amount of default that happens that then gets put into a secondary market? And then that's, you know, they there's a whole debt market, it's called slabs market

Joe Van Wie  57:07  
studying these, this population in the immediate studying? Are you able to direct them to some resource to help them start to consolidate how they could solve this?

Tiffany Konyen  57:21  
So there's, there's different organizations out there going out this in different ways. So they're student debt groups who are focused on trying to get people into the best possible scenario given their status, you know, so it's just the make the best stuff what you want or not like, what

Joe Van Wie  57:35  
do you want? What did your research tell you is the solution to this?

Tiffany Konyen  57:40  
I mean, mass cancellation and quality free education What's

Joe Van Wie  57:43  
that T shirt say stet student debt striker

Tiffany Konyen  57:47  
student debt strikers. So when Biden came into office, the debt collective so after referring to the debt collective and their my early research, I had the opportunity they were they've been working really hard to organize and like bring forth these these ideas and concepts. And basically, they were hosting a jubilee School, which was an opportunity for folks all over the country all over the world really, to come together and learn about these systems of indebtedness, and specifically focusing on student debt because we know that it can be canceled with a stroke of a pen. It is eliminated bull by executive order, from the Department of Education or by Joe Biden, any president who's been sitting since Obama.

Joe Van Wie  58:36  
For more reference to this looming crisis, you can visit education for student loan debt statistics. Some of these were bleak. The student debt experience consists of 53% of millennials have not bought a home because student loan debt, either disqualified them, or made it impossible to afford a mortgage. In 2018 30% of college students lived at or below the poverty line. 14% are single parents, and 56% of them devote over 30 hours a week caring for children. 88% of single parents in college have incomes at or below 200% of the poverty line.

Tiffany Konyen  59:33  
He could have done it too.

Joe Van Wie  59:36  
What if someone wanted to get involved and find out more about this issue? That you're not selling them that an injustice happened to him that they could read and come to terms what what education has been for the last six years what it should have been? And now they're saddled with this enormous Herculean debt that has crippled their prospects for the future. Where can they go to understand what it is you're involved in?

Tiffany Konyen  1:00:04  
I'd say go to debt, or any of the social media is around the debt collective. And there's an entire community of people there all over the country. We've started now over over a dozen active debtors unions across the country. So these are groups of people who are getting together and both organizing locally with different different groups where you state

Joe Van Wie  1:00:28  
your cause your case and how you if you want it to be active and have to show some activism in this

Tiffany Konyen  1:00:33  
correct, you can get involved by finding community I think is the first step one of the first steps we have is a debt ascent or debtors assembly, where we talk about a we let this out, just kind of like an A, you have to let you if the shame is, you know, if you don't let it out, then it really makes it more alienating and isolating. Why don't you know, our catchphrase is, you're not alone. You're both not your debt. And you are not alone in this struggle. And so, coming to terms with that, doing, you know, research for yourself, too. There's a lot of resources on the page, there's videos, there's memes that I'm gonna put a link

Joe Van Wie  1:01:12  
to it. But TIF tips gonna be back. Because we didn't get to the discussion. We wanted to talk about a culture that devalues next time, pregnancy. And what this what this says for mental health issues. We also want to talk about which TIFF is really well articulated and studied in the unintended consequences of the war on drugs. So I hope we you could come back soon and talk about that. But I have a new appointment right? At 1115. It's 1110.

Tiffany Konyen  1:01:47  
Yes, there's a week of action in January that it's going to be likely over Martin Luther King's

Joe Van Wie  1:01:55  
link, I'm gonna put it attach it to the link of Buzzsprout and my social posts. But this has been a good first one I've been trying, I've been telling tiff about my podcast for about a year of filling around the idea. And I'm so flattered that she came here. She She makes me my ideas broader. And my understanding of things in a much deeper, broader perspective, that's beyond my own point of view. And that's the point of education. I'm not just trapped with my ideas that I might not even have chosen.

Tiffany Konyen  1:02:30  
Yeah, that's what learning is all about and learning how to change learning how to take on new ideas and become become whoever, whoever it is. We want to be together to

Joe Van Wie  1:02:40  
that is recovery. It's learning. It's now I can keep learning. I'm not stuck. Yeah. Jeff, thanks for coming on today. Thanks, Joe. I'd like to thank you for listening to another episode of all better. You can find us on all or listen to us on Apple podcasts. Spotify, Google, podcasts, Stitcher, I Heart Radio, and Alexa. Special thanks to our producer John Edwards, an engineering company 570. Drone. Please like or subscribe to us on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. And if you're not on social media, you're awesome. Looking forward to seeing you again. And remember, just because you're sober doesn't mean you're right.

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First Generation
After School Program
Completion Program
Create Debt Erase Debt