Christian's Chronicles

July| Vol. 22 No. 8.02 | Christian's Chronicles © 2015 – All rights reserved.

Virtually Homeless

Times may be tough, but given the right opportunity anyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and ‘make it.’ At least that appears to be the intended ‘teach a man to fish’ lesson of self-appointed savior and social experimenter Patrick McConlogue, who decided to make an unusual offer to Leo, a homeless man surviving on the streets of New York. He presented Leo with a curious choice: take $100 in cash now, or invest in long-term success by learning to code via tutoring from McConlogue, books on JavaScript, and a basic laptop.

As any modern day benevolent benefactor, McConlogue, of course, set out to document Leo’s progress via social media and even scheduled television appearances. And so the not-so-inconspicuous rags-to-riches story of Leo was meant to unfold before our very eyes and keyboards. Until a small wrinkle in the plans appeared to sidetrack the stunt.

Leo was arrested, essentially for being homeless, but stated in legalese as trespassing.

Although Leo was eventually released and even had time to make his scheduled TV appearance, his arrest was a roadblock in his entrepreneurial endeavors not only in terms of time (and freedom) lost but also due to the temporary confiscation of his laptop.  However, the incident also served to highlight something that may have been lost on McConlogue and his arrogant experiment: the homeless (as indeed everyone less fortunate) face barriers that those in more affluent circles know nothing about. Many in the ‘I told you so’ crowd were quick to jump on this opportunity to decry the ‘systemic injustices’ and such, which is how I got wind of Leo’s story in the first place. Though I have my differences regarding some of these views, I do not entirely disagree.

Whether or not Leo becomes a success, ‘making it’ through hard work may not be as simple as proponents of the myth of meritocracy would have you believe. Just as it may well be damn near impossible to ‘make it’ and become a millionaire through hard work – simply because even doctors cannot save enough to have a minimum amount of capital available to make millions through investment – it may be damn near impossible to work your way out of homelessness. I have nothing to say on the latter (working your way out of homelessness), but here’s something to read if you are interested in that view of Leo’s struggles. I had a post on the former (investing on a doctor’s salary) a while back, with references to math and figures proving this point. I encourage you to do your own math, or find a trusted source for yourself, and see what you come up with. But I digress…

My point here is not to lament the circumstances of the homeless, or to offer an excuse to the lazy. Nope, I have much more pragmatic intentions.

I am going to learn to code.

Not only that, I am going to document my progress on the pages of the Chronicle. My story does not have a tagline as compelling as “Finding the Unjustly Homeless, and Teaching Them to Code,” but I may be able to rival it. I will not even attempt to unravel the quagmire behind a phrase like “unjustly homeless,” but I think I can come up with a similarly troubling title for the social-commentary-meets-publicity-stunt I intend to undertake.

How about: “I am unjustly burdened by insane amounts of debt, so I am learning to code?”

I make no claims as to how we are to decide between the ‘justly’ and ‘unjustly homeless,’ but I am going to attempt to briefly discuss ‘unjustly indebted.’ In my case, the debt is primarily the result of student loans. I argue it is unjust because the value of the degree I earned was grossly misrepresented, in my opinion (and experience). I could write volumes about the injustice of the cost of higher education in general and law school in particular, but I’d rather focus on other things. Besides, by now much discontent has been expressed by others, even in reference to my alma mater. It suffices to say that I share the view that higher education and the promise of upward mobility in fact operates as a scam on many who will have to bear crushing student loan debt for many years to come. Instead of the dreams of ‘making it,’ many end up with the reality of lower effective income and ruined credit, making homeownership, for example, less likely and rendering them virtually homeless. (Nicely tying it to the title of this piece, eh?)

I also do not claim that my legal education has been without rewards. For instance, I am thankful to have met the wonderful people who have become my friends in the 191st Judge Advocate Officer Basic Course.

Nonetheless, the cost of law school cannot be justified. And if Leo can learn to code, so can I. Perhaps this will increase my earning potential in the private sector. So let’s begin.

I do not have a benevolent benefactor, but I do have a computer. What better place to start than at Code Academy? Hopefully the lessons on this free site will help my goals, and you cannot beat the cost. But why stop there? Online education has become all the rage these days; though not without some criticism. That controversy is yet again something else that I have my hands in, but I’ll leave that discussion for another post. Major universities such as Stanford and Harvard have started engaging wider audiences via free online content. EdX, Coursera, and other sites now provide additional opportunities and recognition through certificates of achievement. Perhaps I can become living proof that a little effort and free education is all that is needed to make the difference between ‘making it’ and being virtually homeless.


4 comments on “Virtually Homeless

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