We are the youth of elitist America. We saturate the top ranked schools on U.S. World and News, and feed into the recruitment cycles of the Fortune 500 firms every fall. And we gently mock our pretention, how we have boat shoes but (some) of us do not really own boats. There is new found subculture of ignorance that is permeating the top colleges of the United States. This ignorance comes encased in the guise of elitism, in the form of justified apathy.
No longer can the stereotype of rednecks in flannel prevail when ignorance can come dressed to a T in Brooks Brothers, holding an Ivy League degree. Ignorance comes in privileged white males and their minority counterparts of the “whitewashed” variety touting how they “do not support failure” without ever picking up a book on inequality in the United States. Ignorance prevails through the children of working rich parents who they wield their family’s ascent into wealth as anecdotal evidence for the personal responsibility argument against social welfare reforms. And while there is merit in the virtues of hard work and perseverance, I have been disappointed by the lack of hunger for exploration of the alternative perspective. Rarely do I see from those who hold such viewpoints or any at all, an exhibition of true intellectual responsibility towards thoroughly cultivating an opinion. Instead I see an acceptance of ignorance.
Therefore, it is not merely the stereotypical children of privilege that I see exhibiting such mindsets – they are merely the poster children of a more overarching subculture. This subculture takes on an apologetic, unbridled attitude of not bothering to understand the existing infrastructures that facilitate income disparities and inescapable cultures of poverty. My friend vented to me once, frustrated, how many students ignore the fact that they are a synthesis of advantages – a strong cultural ethic, natural intellectual ability, or generous, caring parents.
This elitism is not defined by a privilege born into. It is not defined by a private school or a political party. And it is no longer reserved for those of old money ancestry. Instead, it has become a variety of humor of the young elite, encased in the haven of prestigious social and professional organizations where this unapologetic attitude is accepted. It applies to the “pulled myself up by my own bootstraps” intern who landed the big job on Wall Street and makes it known that everyone should just “get a job”. It is reinforced every time a student-run organization rejects all start-up or non-profit companies as irrelevant and unworthy of presentation time compared to their corporate god counterparts.
Now, the opinions of students among these campuses can hardly be considered homogenous. Admissions makes sure of that. However, the swell of rising tuition costs has pulled in with them students of a corresponding status. And with such privilege comes influence on campus and the unintentional endorsement of other students. For example, where the Greek community reins and such status plays a part, it is more difficult for a student removed from such a culture to win student assembly elections or harness attention for an issue on campus. Negligence of such an issue should not hinge on the fact that there will always be a faction of mavericks.
A myriad of diverse perspectives and opinions exist on these campuses. The issue simply arises in those form fact that at the colleges breeding and grooming the students that have the network and intellect to truly make a difference, an apathetic culture exists of competitive superficiality and neglect of intellectual responsibility. We are ambitious, we want to be the best, even at being shallow.
Receiving an education does not make one educated, even at an institution we define as one of the best. With our right to our opinions comes our accountability for the process we use to derive them, especially when exercising a role of privilege. We are responsible for the standards we perpetuate. To the students in such positions, there is still time to think for yourself.