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Oppression and Inequality; Classism and College

Unknown School) Originally published May 2004
Editors’ note: Caitlin wrote this, as well as Ain’t I a Working Woman: An Opinion on Inequality in the Workplace, for a class that she is taking through PSEO at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul.

My editorial today will focus on Classism. I am reading a book for a college course I am taking. The chapter is called “Why Droves of Unqualified, Unprepared Kids are Getting into Our Top Colleges.” It discusses the admission policy of such prestigious schools are Harvard and Yale, focusing in on the term legacy. As used in this chapter, legacy symbolizes a student who had a parent or guardian who graduated from the same school. The argument was that these legacies weren’t qualified to get into the school, but did, therefore taking up a spot that was denied to a qualified student. The undeniably classist argument was that the legacies were all rich and so the policy was discriminating based on economic status. It also was very likely for the qualified student to have a lower economic status.

I am frustrated with policies like this. The policy falls into the category of Systematic Classism; it could be changed, but it is practiced across the country. He culture tells us we must go to college to succeed. Inadvertently, it denies those whose parents didn’t go to college the opportunity, when in fact those are the people who need it the most. A society that emphasizes the importance of education but then denies it? If a system continually creates an educational gap equivalent to the separation of classes, I don’t think our culture will endure.

A prediction of what will happen of Americans will allow the admissions policies to slip: The rich will have computers and Masters’ Degrees, while the poor and working class will go to work. The new wealth will be knowledge and the cash will be technology. Our once literate country will have illiteracy running through it like a cancer of the class division. Most of the United States will be stricken for cash, while the other 15% will rule the world markets. The rich will literally ride to work on the backs of the underpaid, overworked people who are told they are too stupid to do anything.

If we allow the admissions policies of some of the top colleges to continue the practices of the legacy, we must also accept that not everyone is willing to hold two jobs flipping burgers for a living.

Last thoughts: My anger for the college admission policy is growing as I become more experienced with it. The importance of college to me is enormous. If people can’t get into college because an unqualified legacy gets in instead, I don’t know why they would have transcripts at all. As a student in the United States of America, I know that I will need some type of higher education to stay competitive in the working world. But if the elite continue to keep people like me left with only good grades and test scores to work with, the Classism that our country continues to ignore will suffocate our great nation.

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