Privilege: Education Edition

Hakeem is ‘Gifted and Talented.’ He is part of an accelerated science discovery program that he sometimes misses class for because of the projects that he gets to work on through funding from the government. None of his teachers give him any consequences for missing multiple days of class due to this special exception.

“Oh, Hakeem? He needs academic support because of his proclivity for higher understanding and learning!”

Carissa also misses classes, but not quite for the reasons as Hakeem. When the economic strain on her family is too hard, she has to make sure to work to help feed the family. Or when both of her parents are working, she needs to stay at home to take care of her younger siblings.

But where’s the equal amount of support for Carissa?


A teacher from Colorado wrote an extremely interesting piece on her perception on the disparity between those who are more fortunate and those who are less fortunate in a blog post, written anonymously under the name Shakespeare’s Sister.
The whole post is very much worth a read but there was one sentence that really struck me:
“I am ashamed of an educational system that provides such privilege to some students, while willfully and purposefully denying it to others.”

Now, wait a second. What is privilege?
According to an article in the New Yorker, W.E.B. Du Bois first wrote about a “psychological wage” that systematically allowed poor whites to feel superior to their black counterparts. Yet, it wasn’t until the late eighties when Peggy McIntosh wrote a paper called “White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women’s Studies,” that really outlined what privilege looked like through forty-six examples of white privilege.

Everyday Feminism gave a Quick and Dirty Guide and states that “We can define privilege as a set of unearned benefits given to people who fit into a specific social group.” Another source writes that “The concept of privilege refers to any advantage that is unearned, exclusive, and socially conferred.” There are many many different forms of privilege, from Sexuality to Ability to Passing to Religious, and it’s important to understand where you stand and perceive these privileges.
Some examples of privilege include, but are certainly not limited to, being able to…

  • assume that most of the people you or your children study in history classes and textbooks will be of the same race, gender, or sexual orientation as you are
  • assume that your failures will not be attributed to your race, or your gender
  • not have to think about your race, or your gender, or your sexual orientation, or disabilities, on a daily basis…

So, the question I am asking is: Why is it that those who are systematically formulated by society to succeed the ones who are receiving more support, more attention, and more power towards education? There is most definitely an importance in supporting the avid learner, but what makes one form of an avid learner take priority over another just because the circumstances may not be the same? The education system is slowly moving but still caters to only a specific, narrowed type of student. This is a call for the recognition and education of intersectionality in the classroom context.
Education is not a right. It is a privilege. Let’s make it not only accessible but acceptable no matter who you are.

One thought on “Privilege: Education Edition

  1. I never realized how privileged I was in elementary school to be able to miss classes for TAG. When I was there I obviously didn’t think about it, and now that I’m aware of privilege as a general concept, I still didn’t really think back to ways that I experienced privilege in my early years of schooling. Thanks for making me reflect!


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