Power and privilege are interchangeable as the ladder and the wall that allows some to climb higher than others. Sometimes, the support is the wall of power that defends the ladder that infers license to wield additional power. My array of pretentious permits; race, gender, age, education, confidence, place of birth, time of birth, wealth all conveys unearned and unwarranted perceptions (both internal and external) of where I fit in relation to others. I can deny, ignore, undermine, or accept the condition and/or choose to deny, ignore, undermine, or accept the responsibility that comes with the state. Power and privilege can be a destructive and abusive force but it can also be an equity building mechanism if used as a strength to strengthen others. If someone with power agrees to either use their influence to reshape the landscape or willingly demonstrates that they are able to share power or is compelled to cede to authority (a different brand of power, equally susceptible to corruption), then the dynamic can create a semblance of equity.
Education and intrinsic knowledge are the great levelers and are the most difficult to distribute across birthright barriers (or any other concession advantage). Can we go much beyond creating infrastructure? Public education serves as a conduit to the egalitarian expression of opportunity but genetics, socioeconomic realities, parental involvement, peer influence, resource availability, familial and kinship experiences, and expectations have an impact on the how widely the opportunity is accepted and exploited. Imagine that two students of equal ability but from widely different homes are provided with the necessities of learning; same school, same teacher, same curriculum and same cohort. They have the same attendance (nearly perfect) and the same disposition towards classroom learning. One student has parents that have attended and graduated from university who work white color jobs and are home for supper every evening. The household is relatively quiet, well appointed, and has an Internet-ready computer. The second student’s parents both work two part-time jobs in the service sector and struggle to earn enough to maintain their rental accommodations and pay all their bills. While they try to provide a good model, they are usually working before the student rises and don’t get home until 8 or 9 pm. The home has an older computer without the ability to connect to the Web.
While the public playing field is level, the private has barriers and embedded disadvantages.
One child will likely acquire more knowledge, better grades, and have a richer understanding of the importance of post-secondary education. He will have access to better employment opportunities and his knowledge (and society’s admiration) will add to a power imbalance.
This wandering, wondering post began when a question about knowledge popped into my head a week ago. Is epistemology always privileged? The summary of my meanderings is above and my conclusion is that always is too strong a qualifier. But, there is a definite advantage to having knowledge and the ability to learn. The imbalance magnifies through each life-stage and may be insurmountable by high school.
Under our current equality frame, I can’t imagine a solution. In an equitable model, where each student received what they need, we may be able to offset disadvantages but populist pressures seem opposed to anything resembling equitable treatment.
I can only do what I can do, we can only do what we can do. What I have figured out is that I have some skills and abilities (as do you) that would be an asset to one student. I have or could easily acquire mobile Internet access. I can read and comprehend difficult material and can share my understanding in one-on-one volunteer tutor sessions. I can encourage the young people in my life to demonstrate that they care by ‘helping’ a fellow student.
Is this a perfect solution? No, or at least not yet. Would or could a bureaucracy create and sustain a better solution? Likely not. Would we be a better community, city, country if we cared enough to involve ourselves in each other’s lives? Definitely.
Make Today Remarkable for someone else,