My thoughts after reading that elitist college entry requirements were designed as a means of protecting the privileged are: What if we all just stop wanting what they have? What if celebrity status and zip code were one thing and character and work ethic and integrity were something to be prized far above a life of air-brushed insta-identities? What if we learned, again, to listen with discernment at content over packaging? What if how a person lived out his or her life were the measure of grace instead of where? What if trendiness were once again viewed with a certain skepticism, and ideas were required, once again, to stand the test of time? What if we woke up one morning and reserved judgement of all persons we came in contact with until we watched and listened? What if incongruities between words and actions were not so easily dismissed by self-promotion on social media and other types of spin. What if we looked at our own histories and used that light to illuminate how a champion is never born in the present tense, how “greatness” gets decided in the way of rivers–meandering, sometimes negative growth that steps forward and sometimes works against the current. Often unrecognized.
Privilege is its own vast continent. Those of us who even aspire to perfect eyebrows, envying those with ivy league associations, are already blessed beyond what we can obviously comprehend. I, for one, feel privileged to live in Kansas and to teach at a small college that is only on the radar of the few, relatively speaking. I get to invest my time and talents in hard-working, aspiring students from all over the world and from different backgrounds, many of whom are first-generation college students, as they quite daily pare down their priorities to the nitty gritty of higher education. There are no buy-outs and pay-offs here. But we do have one thing, and that is the ability to teach ourselves how to define success democratically and individually for ourselves. Like a song of ourselves. Like Whitman. It’s a privilege that those parents, who “traded-up” on behalf of their children, have forever excluded their children from. It’s a privilege to fail. It’s a privilege to lack some things. It’s a privilege to be loved and accepted unconditionally. It’s a privilege to learn in a heterogenous environment that includes and yet goes deeper than skin. It’s a privilege to have space for an invisible, inner life. I am not sure how to esteem any institution of higher learning that doesn’t protect all the privileges that money can’t buy over the counterfeits that it can.