I grew up in the farming community of Floydada, Texas. My family was working class, and my scope of the world was severely narrow. Neither of my parents attended college; although, my mom was a voracious reader and instilled a great and enduring love of reading in me.
As a kid, my grades were always solid. I learned easily and had a real talent for test taking. But, if it hadn’t been for my relationships with friends whose parents were college educated and who had been groomed to aspire to higher education from birth, I’d probably never have given it much thought.
As it was, my first semester at college was a lesson in cluelessness. I didn’t know how to negotiate the system. I had no idea how to secure funding, and my parents hadn’t saved money for my education. Naively I felt the whole college experience seemed like more bother than it was worth.
Long story short, after that first semester I dropped out and married Studly. While most of my high school friends earned degrees and entered the work force as professionals, I was raising babies and trying to help Studly Doright make ends meet by working in clerical positions. Not until we hit a huge bump in our marital and financial road did we consider sending me back to college as a way to create a better life for our family.
Studly negotiated all the ins and outs of college financing, and my grades qualified me for scholarships and grants, but we still owed a considerable amount in student loans after I’d earned my degree. Sometimes the weight of the debt felt impossible to bear, and that was before we started funding our children’s college educations. Bottom line–it costs a bundle to send kids to college.
Now, I’m no Alberta Einstein, but I performed admirably as a college student. Early in my second year as a returning student in my 30’s, a classmate glanced at my grades and gasped, “You have a 4.0?!”
Apparently his sister had graduated summa cum laude with a 3.99 grade point average, and that was a big deal. I’d never even heard of such a thing, but all of a sudden I had a goal beyond earning a degree. A single “B” in my college algebra class kept me from a perfect 4.0, but I still had the summa cum laude etched onto my diploma.
Often I wonder at how many others are out there who, through accidents of birth, never understood what their options were or didn’t have the means or knowledge to fulfill their destinies. How many super bright young people will be stuck in low end, low paying jobs because they aren’t exposed to the possibilities of a better life? Or if they’re aware of them, the opportunities seem out of reach due to a lack of financial resources and/or a certain savvy that children of college-educated parents have simply through environmental influences.
And then there are the kids with every advantage whose parents still feel the need to bribe and cheat in order to move their progeny even higher on the food chain. How utterly crass and elitist is this practice? Is it a status thing? Like having a trophy kid?
As conservative politicians push for public funding of private schools, we are going to witness an even greater divide emerge between the educational haves and have nots. I predict that the elites will become more so as those who were raised as I was become even less likely to have the means to access higher education.
And yes, I know that life isn’t fair, but don’t we owe it to our society, hell, to our world to make higher education a right instead of a privilege? It seems some in higher office prefer to have an uneducated populace. I can only imagine why.