Pocochina’s Weblog

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classism in education

Posted by pocochina on September 23, 2007

Seriously?  I’ve been thinking about this for months.  And I’ll probably be thinking about it until I get my JD, and then when I decide if I’m going to do graduate work beyond that, and then until I pay off my loans.  Otherwise known as when I die.

Our perspective on education is so fucked up.  So, so fucked up.  I want to punch the next asshole who says anything even along the lines of “pulling oneself up by one’s own bootstraps.”  Seriously, don’t say it near me.  Because you will be hurt in a very painful way.

I am smart.  So are my parents, and so were their parents, and so were my forbearers from the Old World.  And we are not, by any stretch of the imagination, poor.  Certainly not rich, but certainly not poor.  And even though my graduate education – just these three years – is costing more than my parents combined make in a year, and I’m a full time student, they make too much money to have any fucking help.  Except huge-ass loans that I’ll have to pay back, and work study, which is great and all, except it’ll keep me out of the library, when I really need to be working.  Even finding a work study job is more of a pain in the ass than it should be.

Now, I’m not knocking my classmates who don’t have to worry about this.  My roommate doesn’t.  And I think it’s great, and everyone should have that.

But when I’m sitting in class and it turns out that I’ve misunderstood something in the reading because we’re all supposed to just know how a trust fund works?  Fuck that.  That is ridiculous.  Am I knocking my classmates who have trust funds?  Hell, no, and it annoys the shit out of me when people are resentful.  They’re in school trying to figure out a good way to earn a living, just like me, except they have even less incentive to do so than I do, and it would be laughable to disrespect them for that.

Fuck it.  Be mad at the school charging you fifty grand a year.  Be mad at a country so distrustful of higher education that it can even get that far; be resentful of the cultural myth that says “you can be anything you wanna be” and leaves out the crushing debt you’re going to have to incur, and the fact that so few of us even get that chance, and the years of anger you’re going to have to feel about it.

There’s even this privilege in the non-profit sectors of the legal world.  I visited an admitted student’s weekend  at one of the other schools where I was accepted, and this asshole (who wasn’t even supposed to be talking about public interest, he was there to talk about clinics) went the fuck off about how “no public interest group will hire you after you’ve worked in a corporate world, you should just suck it up and pay back your loans, just cause you make a lot of money doesn’t make you a better lawyer blah blah self-righteous into infinity” and it was so obvious that he just had no clue what it was like to be in this kind of debt.

Which just makes me want to smack the next person who mouths off about corporate lawyers, too.  Corporate law is probably not for me – although it might be, and that’s fine.  Because for better or for worse, we live in a hypercapitalist society, and that means we need a lot of people who know the rules of the game.  But lots of people who don’t want that life – and that’s fine too – really don’t have the choice.  Some people who are in corporate law are there because they like it, and some people are there because they had the absolute temerity to be born smart but not rich.  (And yes, I said born smart, because there’s a lot of – I don’t know how to say it, but I guess intellectual privilege at work?  The fortune to not have a learning disorder, or if you do the money and parents who care enough to have it diagnosed, and to have a certain level of native intelligence of a type which is prized in society.)

Oh, and even if you are lucky enough to get someone to help you out?  Guess what, kids, doesn’t apply to political work.  So it’s really not that you can be anything you wanna be, at least not until you’ve paid your dues and suffer like you deserve to, trying to get yourself educated.  It’s a serious impediment to getting people without an immense amount of class privilege into politics.  I’m less and less surprised about the level of tooth-pulling difficulty there is toward national health care reform, or anything else that disproportionately affects people not at least upper-middle-class.

It’s really interesting, too.  At Undergraduate University,. I went to another really expensive school which, while obviously just as good as many, many other schools, has this amazing amount of class anxiety.  It’s the nouveaux-riches school in Beloved City, and now at Law School I’m studying at Bad-Ass Big Name University, which is literally just up the street from UU.  The difference is so patently there.  I feel a swagger in my step, a note of confidence in my voice, when people ask where I go to law school, and I tell them BABNU.  It annoys the shit out of me that I do find this particular privilege useful – even though I know I deserve it.  Even though the law program at UU is probably just as high quality.

Not to mention, the pressure to go into corporate law at UU is intense.  Because why else would those ladder-climbing rabble rousers go to law school?  And the LRAP program, which is my only hope for having a job I want and not being in debt into my next lifetime, at BABNU is one of the best anywhere – I’m not even sure UU has one.

Maybe I was weirdly protected at UU, because I was in my little Women’s Studies bubble, and in large enough classes for IR that I didn’t really have to pay attention to what was going on around me.  And UU was pretty generous with the scholarship money, to me and to lots of other people – I guess in the hope that we’ll just donate.  (Or in recognition of the fact that school really isn’t that expensive and they’re just making a disgusting profit.  Ahem.)

Wow.  I thought I was like, a paragraph of swears angry.

ETA:   See?  SEE?  http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/24/opinion/24karabel.html?ref=opinion You heard it here first, kids!  (Except probably not really.)

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