On College, Three Strikes and Bursting Someone’s Bubble
Why the hell am I not allowed to burst someone’s bubble? People do it to me all the time and it’s a great learning experience. Why I am not allowed to call out privilege when I seet it? The only privilege I seem to be allowed to recognize is my own. And I do. And then people say “and you think you’re better than us” for it. What? What sort of demented, obtuse logic am I working with here?
I live with children. Not “too young to sit in the front seat” children, but mental children. I do not live in a dorm but I live in an apartment building inhabited solely by college students. And many of them have the same if not worse capacity for responsibility that most 9 year olds have. We have laundry machines. They regularly have a laundry service do it for them at a greater cost. Fall asleep drunk in the bathtub and flood the hallway? Someone else comes to clean it up. Don’t worry. 15-page paper? Pay a grad student to do it for you. They lock themselves out on a regular basis. Consitently the maintenance guy can be heard saying: “Dude, you forgot your keys again? You guys forget them all the time.” Not like I have never forgotten my keys. Twice I think. But every weekend? Come on, like I said, the only people who do not have to remember to take keys with them when they leave their house: children.
Yet these people drive up the street in BMWs and Benzs and one of them even has a Rolls Royce. Someone who cannot manage their own laundry is being entrusted with a Rolls Royce. But of course, they’re not privileged. Not at all, no, just misunderstood. They’re just here to chill, man. Just do their own thing, man. Right.
Sorry, but I do not think someone deserves the “jackass” moniker for calling someone out. For saying the truth. For being realistic and straightforward. Did I hurt their feelings? Am I being a self-righteouss prick? Three strikes. Three impertinent strikes. Likely, you have few naivetes about the behavior of privileged college students. And I find myself exposed to those on a daily basis. I am not at the entirely commuter state school in Boston anymore. Where my classrooms were once filled with people working two jobs, 60 hours a week, 30, 40, 50, 60 year olds some to finally earn a degree, veterans just returned from Iraq or Afghanistan, international students from every corner of the globe, mothers, fathers, I am now mostly surrounded by 18-24 year olds studying, getting drunk and getting high. Yay.
And who cares? I don’t care. I’m not opposed to alcohol or weed or studying. But it’s a privilege. You have undoubtedly heard of the three strikes law they have here in California. Some kid in Inglewood or Hollywood or East L.A. can go to jail for what might as well be forever for: smoking pot, shoplifting an Arizona iced tea, and smoking pot again. Or maybe being publicly drunk. The college students here (not all of them I have to stress) do the same things. And people know about it! It’s no secret! The police could bust their asses in one hot second! The frats?! Come on people, the only way it could be more obvious and easier was if they decided to party in the actual police station. But where be the problem? Like I said, they get a free pass, 17-year-old in South L.A. gets jailtime. They get a free pass and a job and a degree. 19-year-old gets jailtime. I say just once, just one time: arrest them. Arrest them all. You know where they are. Give them a little scare. Come on, just a little shock to the heart. Does that make me a jackass or a prick or self-righteouss or ridiculous? Fine.
Yesterday I was at work and talking to one of my female co-workers. She’s just a few years younger than me. High school graduate. So I asked her, “What do you do outside of work? Do you go to school?” “No,” she told me, “I just hang out and stuff.” Okay, that’s fine, but any interest?s? “Do you have any plans? Or, I mean, is there anything you know you want to do?” Because I am presuming a smart, friendly girl like her has goals exceeding part time shifts at a frozen yogurt shop and hanging out. “No I don’t know, I mean,” Here it comes! I knew she had something. “I don’t know.” Just like that. Deflated back into disaffection and dormancy. Am I not allowed to call someone out who is not privileged either? Was that wrong of me? Was it wrong of me to assume she should expect great things from herself? But listen, when her shoulder slumped, that was the first step. She recognizes at least, that, at least if she does not know what her “dreams” are, she recognizes she should have some. Bursting someone’s bubble does this. Believe me. I am not the same person I was five years ago and that has almost everything to do with what I have learned from someone else. Usually bursting one of my many foolish bubbles.
Lastly, let me tell you about the light at the end of the tunnel. I and some of my fellow students tutor at a nearby middle school in what the L.A. Times heedlessly refers to as “Historic South Central”. The school has 2/10 rating. 96% of the kids at this school are on free or reduced lunch. After we had finished the tutoring portion of our session (there is a wicked fun dance-part too), my student, an 11-year-old girl, was hanging about with some of the other kids and I was flipping though her binder. She had earlier told me, when asked, that her favorite class was one where they “prepare you for college.” I asked her to explain. They tour colleges arond the city, they learn about setting goals, about critical thinking. I wanted to look at her materials from that class. One sheet stands out. “What does college mean to you?” it asks. My student, in legible but quirky pencil, had written in: “Where your dreams get to come true.” The worksheet asks whether she thinks she can get to college: “I don’t know. But I know if I work hard that I will get there.” Doth the audience protest? Do we at least have a place to start? Can we agree that we should be working as hard as we can to make both of these statements become realities more than they already are?
Tip of the hat to you all.