Young Americans, Members of the iGeneration,

I’m not going to beat around the bush. Things look pretty bad for you and your classmates, your bffs, your compatriots, and your little brothers and sisters. In fact, let’s be perfectly honest. You’re in a whole mess of trouble.

Earlier this week, we heard an annual report from College Board, the administration that organizes the SAT test. What they had to say was pretty chilling news. According to their analysis of this year’s college entrance exam results, most of you who have made plans to go to college are going to have a really rough time. The College Board report says that 57 percent of you aren’t going to be able to maintain even a B-minus average during your first year of higher education. Indeed, only 43 percent of you and your peers managed to clear the test’s 1550-point college and career readiness benchmark this year. This is bad news for a lot of reasons.

One of these reasons is that it means more than half of you haven’t been equipped with the skills you’re going to need to pursue the education and the careers you’re planning on working towards. Another reason why this is bad news is that it means a whole bunch of you are going to invest a load of money into a degree program you’re not ready for. Many of you are going to go into debt in order to finance this education, and then many of you are going to fail to complete it. Sadly, the failures that are looming in your future have not only been anticipated by your government, but will be used by it to saddle you and the rest of your generation with a massive burden of debt.

For a large number of you, this will be debt that you acquire without receiving anything of value to accompany it. And that warning applies not only to the 57 percent of you who are on track to drop out of the fields of higher education, but also to the 43 percent who are on track to make at least a B-minus in your first year. Contrary to what you’ve been told by the education industry, even those of you who conquer the odds and graduate triumphantly with your $100,000 degrees may not be getting what you thought you were going to get when you forked over four years of your life and a bundle of money you don’t have.

College At Home has put together an infographic that effectively communicates the facts about the plight of the future college graduates among you. It explains how hard it’s going to be for you to get jobs that will recompense you for the work you’ve put into earning your degree – or even to get jobs that will not. This spring, 53 percent of college graduates were unemployed or underemployed, working jobs that didn’t even require a bachelors’ degree.

Unfortunately, all of this talk about careers and college is peripheral. I am calling this problem to your attention not because it is the problem, but because it is a symptom of a far bigger problem. The bigger problem is that the world has taken advantage of you. The bigger problem is that you have been lied to.

The universe has not been presented to you as a riddle to unravel, a code to crack, a question to which there is an answer. Your education has not consisted of widening your prospects, nor of sparking a fire in your brilliant minds. Your minds have not been allowed to know their power. Your vast mental capabilities have been reigned in, relegated to the narrow fields of passing tests and bringing in bacon. Consequently, your potential has been smothered, your minds have not been encouraged to grow. You struggle even at the labor of fetching that bacon. What’s more, the materials that you need in order to grow yourself have been withheld from you.

The average score on the reading portion of the SAT test fell this year to 496 out of a possible 800. And that score doesn’t take into account those of your number who have dropped out of highschool or who are not planning to attend college. Let’s just say it like it is. A lot of you are not educated. You have not learned the most important skill that schools can possibly teach you – reading. You have not acquired the tool that you must have in order to unlock every other field of knowledge, in order to be qualified to make momentous decisions, in order to protect your rights. You have not acquired literacy.

Literacy, (n): the ability to read for knowledge and write coherently and think critically about the written word.

Without literacy, your career prospects are invariably going to be grim. And even assuming you do make it to your dream job, your quality of life will be poor because you have not been equipped to live well. You will be vulnerable to fads and demagogues. You will pay for everything you have not been given, for everything that the generation before you has stolen from you.

Please note that the blame we are calling down on your predecessors does not excuse you for the work you have failed to do. Nor does it imply that literacy and education are rights which are inherently yours. On the contrary, they are privileges. Unfortunately, your countrymen paid handsomely to ensure that these privileges would be yours. The fact that you never profited from all of their sacrifice or received the gift they thought to leave you means that someone else has profited, someone else has stolen that gift. Someone has robbed the inheritance that the thinkers and the men of letters left for you.

Generation Z, you’ve been swindled. You’ve been cheated. And by the time you’re in a position to take action, most of the people who are responsible for exploiting you won’t be around anymore. Your choice is clear. Either you will become a statistic and fall into mediocrity, or you will decide to give yourself the discipline, the training and the learning that others did not give you.

If you choose the second alternative, you’re going to be mostly on your own. You’re going to have to do your own research and your own studying. Fortunately, you live in the Age of Information. You are the Net Generation and everything you need is at your fingertips. You have no shortage of resources. Unfortunately, just because you have access to this information doesn’t mean you have the self-discipline to pursue it.

You may find a wise person who will invest time in helping you– by all means seek for such people with all of your being. However, it will be up to you to develop good study habits. You’re going to have to master your past and your natural tendency towards lethargy. You’re going to have to make up for lost time by devoting yourself to uncovering the truth which is contained mostly in old books that are difficult to read.

You have a lot of work to do. Most of you are probably not going to do it. Unfortunately, your only alternative is poverty and eventual slavery.

Chances are you’re reading this letter on an electronic device of some sort, probably with facebook open in another browsing tab, maybe with twitter chattering away, cramming the www with noise. Do the truth a favor and share this letter with the rest of a generation that is teetering on the brink of vast disaster.

Here’s to wishing you all the very best of luck; you’re going to need it.

Bryana Johnson | @_bryana_johnson