I should start this essay by proudly announcing that one of my parents has no college degree and the other was abandoned by his parents as a toddler. Neither fact has proven to be the least bit relevant to my upbringing, education, or career but it turns out that I’ve been sitting on a gold mine of potential grievances.
The New York Times, the nation’s arbiter of social classes, produced an appropriately turgid and approving essay about the new trend in various elite colleges for the students who similarly hail from low social classes to form their own social groups to help them come to grips with the disadvantages their modest upbringings afford them in their education.
The Times is here to tell us that, while leaping from a lower-class upbringing to an Ivy League university may be a good start to one’s life, it’s not enough: the social classes make life on campus uncomfortable for many of these students, who find themselves awkwardly having to confess that they don’t have a favorite renaissance-era painter, parents with Ivy League degrees of their own, or bluchers.
Support groups for lower social classes that the article hails are the reducto ad absurdem of a left-wing agenda that completely depends on fanning race and class differences to call upon the government to take a larger role in the economy and society at large. The “betters” can run society, as it should be, and help the lower class peons who—Buddha knows—need their help if they’re to make anything of themselves.
Or You Could Be Proud of Your Accomplishments
The Times offers two traumatic vignettes to illustrate the exogenous forces that make life so difficult for the scions of the lower class to succeed in an institution where by dint of graduation one can enter the ranks of the privileged. The first was a party in Beverly Hills for the families of children about to matriculate at some prestigious university, and the host—no doubt some heartless Republican—asked a student’s father what undergraduate college he had attended, forcing him to shamefully confess he did not have a college degree.
As fate would have it, I’ve been at a party where I witnessed the exact same question being asked of the migrant farmer father of a Harvard University alum. He answered—smiling wide and punctuated with laughter—that he didn’t even finish high school and still managed to send his kids to Ivy League schools, and what the hell did we think about that? We raised our beers, slapped him on the back, and saluted a life well-lived with his appropriately proud offspring. The thought that anyone—whether at the rarified Ivy Leagues or anywhere else, for that matter—would look askance at such a person or his offspring is slightly astounding, but colleges are adept at encouraging its students to find offense where none was possibly intended.
The other shameful vignette portrayed the pain of a Harvard Sociology major (a field of study that made her “hyper aware” of class differences on campus, she reported) of having to save up for two years to buy good boots while surrounded by classmates with pricey Canadian goose jackets. Harvard tries to minimize such painful encounters by making sure that the hoi polloi on financial aid do not room with wealthy classmates.
Let’s Have Class-Riven Ghettoes
Special programs for working-class students, their separation in living arrangements, and classes that emphasize class differences to the utmost degree result in the further ghettoization of college campuses, where everyone lives, studies, and socializes with people from his or her own socioeconomic milieu. This inculcation of identity politics is positively harmful for our society and does a grave disservice to the very working-class students who overcame myriad hurdles to have a chance to further their education at the very best schools in America and not be condescended to.
The most apt word for this trend is “despicable,” and it’s also the right word for the Times’s boosterish reporting on the propagation of these so-called class differences.