Higher Education IS Privilege

I was listening to a podcast the other day, and one of the hosts is a woman working toward a PhD in women’s studies. She’s a white woman, though that really doesn’t matter. If you have a collegegradPhD it doesn’t matter if you are white, black, brown, yellow, green, or orange (though if you are orange you might want to get your liver checked). I would also guess she is around thirty-something years old.

Anyway, I was listening to this podcast and the subject of women working in the sex industry came up. With all the zeal of a DKS*, this woman proclaimed that this was bad, bad, bad, always bad and always destructive. The other hosts raised the issue of women who had reported working in the sex industry to pay their tuition at college or because it was the only job they could find to feed their children. Almost predictably, this woman responded that no, no, no; bad, bad, bad, this was a terribly destructive thing. Then it hit me. She doesn’t have the first clue about how privileged she is!

queen-red-dress-sitting-throne-symbol-power-queen-red-dress-sitting-throne-symbol-power-wealth-146335691If you are lucky enough to be skating through college and graduate school in one continuous period of immersion in the academy, good for you. You should recognize that you have had a series of advantages that most people don’t have, including but not limited to financial advantages, class advantages, support of family and friends along your educational path, personal wealth or access to financial aid to pay for your education, and a host of others. You likely don’t know the first thing about worrying where your next meal is coming from, finding a job that will cover your housing expenses, or trying to find a way to feed and care for a child or children as a single parent. You are clueless. Worse yet, you are clueless that you are clueless.

You may ask, “how can she be clueless, she is educated?” The truth is that the academy is full of professors who have never set foot in a working class neighborhood, much less an economically disadvantaged neighborhood. Even if they have studied the lives of the average person, the odds are very good that they have not lived that life. They think that economic distress is having to eat Ramen noodles during college, but in truth there was never any danger of them not having a roof over their heads and they could always call home for a quick $100 to tide them over.

Before we pass judgment on what people do to survive, we should be very sure we understand the challenges they are facing. We should get off our thrones and talk to people who have had these experiences. We should recognize how lucky we are to not have been faced with similar challenges and choices, and we should refrain from offering our “wisdom” until we have lived a bit.

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*DKS is a term I coined for new graduates from seminary – and higher education in general. These folks tend to think they know everything, but in reality their knowledge is only theoretical and hasn’t been tested in the waters of reality. Therefore, they Don’t Know Shit.