On Privilege, Ivory Towers, and College
In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.
"Whenever you feel like criticizing any one," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."
—The Great Gatsby
There was an editorial in the Times this week that pretty much argues that everyone should go to college, which is something I definitely believe. The argument, though, seems to be mostly economic, based on the fact that college graduates make more money, which is definitely not my reason for believing in the importance of college. I think college is important because of the diversity of ideas and opinions to which it exposes students. College is a unique time in which one has few responsibilities and has the time to come to his or her own beliefs and opinions about life and the way one wants to live. This is a pretty big deal.
I was surprised by the editorial's claim that the "case against college is an elitist one — for me and not for thee." It's true that the argument is elitist in that it is exclusionary, but I think those who argue that not everyone should go to college are arguing that college isn't really that important and that people who go to college don't deserve an elite tag and have garnered no worthwhile benefit from that education. Which seems to be a pretty anti-elitist argument to me
When I make the pro-college-for-everyone argument, I am told that I am an elitist and am in an ivory tower, which is true (also, one summer, I lived in a dorm called Ivory Towers). I have had an incredibly privileged education, and I recognize that and am immeasurably grateful for the opportunities I have had.
But the consequence is that I fail to understand the costs of education. Call me an elitist, but I don't think you can put a price on the kind of intellectual growth that a college education provides, even while recognizing (with sadness) that not everyone can afford a $200,000 price tag.