educational privilege and humanity

April 12, 2009 § 37 Comments

1. what do we deserve?  as human beings?  as sentient beings in this universe?  and why do we deserve them?

2. i do not deserve a good job, or a beautiful home, or health care because i went to school and got my degree.  i deserve them because i am a human being.  if i were to say that i deserve them because of how many years i spent in school, or how much money i paid to go to school, or the number of letters behind my name, then i am saying that i deserve basic human dignity because of my educational privilege.

3.  and if i were to say that then i would be saying that other folks who dont have a degree dont deserve healthy food, or a safe environment to live in, or rewarding and fulling work.

4. and if i am saying that those things that human beings deserve simply because they are alive. here. in this universe.  those are the things i deserve because of my educational degree.  then i am saying that i deserve basic human dignity.  but other people, who dont have a degree, and dont have healthy food, or fulfilling work, or safe living environment, they dont deserve basic human dignity.  and thus they, who are not as deserving as i,  are sub-human.

5. and why would i say this?  why would i couple my education with my right to live a dignified life?  why would i say that my privilege is what makes me human.

6. and it is not enough to say: well, if others had the opportunities i had, they would do the same thing i am.  i have opportunities, because they were taken from others.  i can go to college because the land that that college is built on was stolen from another people.  the information that i am studying was stolen from another people and then given to me.  the paper that i am writing on was stolen from trees which were stolen from forests which were stolen from another people and then that paper was given to me.  and those other people dont have a high rate of doctoral candidates.

7. there is a difference between what i can do.  what i am allowed to do.  and what i deserve to do.

8. i am saying this to remind myself.  that i too deserve to be treated like i am fully human.  because i am.  and i dont have a college degree.  and someday i will have one.  and i will not deserve a better life because i have that degree.  i will deserve exactly what i deserve now.  my humanity.

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§ 37 Responses to educational privilege and humanity

  • Isabel says:

    2. i do not deserve a good job, or a beautiful home, or health care because i went to school and got my degree. i deserve them because i am a human being. if i were to say that i deserve them because of how many years i spent in school, or how much money i paid to go to school, or the number of letters behind my name, then i am saying that i deserve basic human dignity because of my educational privilege.

    SO MUCH YES. quoting & linking at my place.

  • the questions that come to mind are:
    what is a “good job”?
    what is a “beautiful home”?

    i don’t mean to argue i’m just wondering aloud…. i can’t help it. it’s the anthropologist in me.

    PEACE

    • mama says:

      @shay
      i guess a good job is one that is fulfilling. work that is rewarding.
      and a beautiful home is one that is sustains and promotes health, happiness, joy, peace..and those other more ethereal qualities that we value.

  • Amy K. says:

    I can’t say AMEN enough!!

    May I link to this post?

  • I affirm that getting a degree doesn’t entitle you or me or anyone to greater dignity. And to be honest, I haven’t seen any of the “honors, privileges, and rights pertaining thereto” that my diploma has supposedly conferred. Except for the relief of not having to put up with academic culture anymore! Maybe that’s why I didn’t stick it out and get a higher degree: I don’t believe in the dream that the academy will win me more creativity, resilience, or esteem in the last judgment.

    I don’t agree that a good job, a beautiful home, or health care are matters of basic human dignity. Basic rights, those things that every human deserves, are life: security and subsistence; and liberty: the freedom to create good jobs, beautiful homes, and well-being, and the freedom to bond with others into community that creates these things. Good jobs, beautiful homes, and well-being grow from creative communities that protect the security, subsistence and liberty of their members. They are the products of the legitimate demand for human dignity, integrated into social norms and legal practice.

    Everyone deserves the protection and enjoyment of security, subsistence, and liberty, but a good job, beautiful home, and well-being are choices of free people, creative people who freely bond into community that nourishes creativity.

    I don’t think that someone who plants thistles deserves a harvest of potatoes or grain or dates. But she does deserve a life without rape, torture, or deprivation of her land or thistle seeds, and she deserves the respect to choose what she plants and harvests.

  • Amy K. says:

    @ John:

    I think it is pretty presumptuous to assume that everybody who gets thistles planted thistles. An awful lot of folks would love to plant corn or potatoes, but all they have access to is thistles.

    As someone who also doesn’t have a degree, I can guarantee you that there are honors, privileges and rights that come out of it for you; in fact, as someone who couldn’t afford a degree, I can guarantee you that just being able to attend a school somewhere where you were able to finish a degree is an honor and a privilege for you. It may not feel like it to you, but to those of us who could never get there, and may never get there, trust us- it changes things for you.

    I happen to agree 100% with what this post says.

  • > I think it is pretty presumptuous to assume that everybody who gets thistles planted thistles. An awful lot of folks would love to plant corn or potatoes, but all they have access to is thistles.

    Yeah, I didn’t say that. I agree with you: some people plant corn or potatoes and get thistles because someone has violated their right to security, subsistence or liberty. Or all of them. Sometimes systematically, and for thousands of generations.

    I also didn’t say that graduating from college wasn’t a privilege. It was. I also couldn’t afford school. But I got a lot of help from the government and from people in my community who didn’t think I was insane. And I took on an insane load of debt. Those are all privileges I didn’t inherently deserve, but were granted to me deus ex machina. I also worked three jobs while going to school full time, and I will be digging myself out of a mountain of debt until Armageddon.

    The attending privileges of being more employable or whatever haven’t manifested yet. Like before my foray into higher education, my employability depends on showing people that I can solve problems and serve others. If I had invested the same amount of time and energy in entrepreneurship as I had college, I could have maximized those qualities much more than college did.

  • belledame222 says:

    ideally a degree should mean

    a) i am now qualified to practice whatever specific thing it is the studies were supposed to prepare me for

    b) i have completed a course of generalized edjumacation either as preparation for a specialized degree, or for its own sake, which ought to be valid in its own right and available to anyone who wants that.

    Beyond that, no, it shouldn’t mean anything. And the specialized degrees in question shouldn’t be about “this is one of the few select ways to make shitloads of money, or even a living at all, whether or not I actually want to pursue this path.” It should be about “I actually want to pursue this particular path.”

  • belledame222 says:

    “ought to be valid in its own right,” but also “not mandatory for anyone who doesn’t feel called to it just so they can have half a hope of making a decent living”

  • > “I actually want to pursue this particular path.”

    Thank you! Right on.

    > “not mandatory for anyone who doesn’t feel called to it just so they can have half a hope of making a decent living”

    Also right on. Human creativity trumps training. Training is for programmed reactions. Education happens anywhere creativity is practiced with openness, boundaries, and hospitality.

  • belledame222 says:

    the thing about “planting” is that those metaphors made/make a lot more sense when they’re literal. These days? Not so much connection between “labor” and “product” for, not everyone, but a fuck of a lot of us. /boneheadedundestandingofadvancedcapitalism#101

  • > /boneheadedundestandingofadvancedcapitalism#101

    Don’t worry– you’re not alone.

  • Derek says:

    “i have opportunities, because they were taken from others. i can go to college because the land that that college is built on was stolen from another people. the information that i am studying was stolen from another people and then given to me. the paper that i am writing on was stolen from trees which were stolen from forests which were stolen from another people and then that paper was given to me.”

    —brilliant. And I totally agree. Privilege, as far as I’m concerned, is another word for usurpation. A sustainable life, a healthy environment, freedom and dignity, all these things are a given. It’s natural for all human beings to have them. The only reason why anyone doesn’t enjoy these basic rights is because they were stolen from us.

  • Derek says:

    @ John Stevens,
    I personally don’t have a very high opinion of the ideas of Hayek, Rothbard, or von Mises. Generally speaking, I think free markets can’t really exist, and even if they could exist, it would lead to utter slavery the for the vast majority of the population.

    Capitalism is the problem.

  • @Derek

    If you could choose to live under capitalism, socialism, or some other system at the community level, that would be free enough for me.

    I haven’t read Rothbard or Mises– I have only the summaries given by friends to infer that I wouldn’t really like them. For Hayek, I’ve only read The Use of Knowledge in Society, which I find very compelling, and some of Road to Serfdom, which I found boring. So by lumping them together, I have no idea what you’re talking about.

    Did you have a specific critique of The Use of Knowledge that pertains to the questions raised here?

  • Derek says:

    Not specifically no. But generally speaking, I find anarcho-capitalism, as espoused by Hayek, Rothbard, and von Mises to be a threat to liberty.

    In my own estimation, this is a more ideal solution.

    http://www.parecon.org.

  • > A sustainable life, a healthy environment, freedom and dignity, all these things are a given.

    Not so much– they come from cocreative effort.

    > It’s natural for all human beings to have them.

    Nature is these things because of a decentralized, dynamic, continuously evolving order that humans can’t “manage” without degrading. It’s natural for humans to participate in this cocreative effort when their basic rights aren’t under threat. The basic rights are security, subsistence, and liberty.

  • > Not so much– they come from cocreative effort.

    Oops. Except for freedom and dignity– I agree that they are given, and are only demeaned when taken.

  • Derek says:

    In most parts of this world, it’s natural for human beings to live in a healthy environment. If civilization ended tomorrow, then most of us could very well live sustainable healthy lives. I’m not advocating primitivism, but these things very much are a given. Liberty, health, security, and dignity can be continuous under human management, the question really is who is doing the managing, and for whom does it benefit. So long as a market economy exists, then that management will be directed to benefit the wealthy few at the expense of everyone else.

  • whatsername says:

    Nice call. I know I’ve fallen for the thinking of “I got my degree so I deserve something more than x” line of logic before. I don’t think I will again.

  • sexetveritas says:

    I’m LOL’ing at how this conversation immediately became an intellectual/philosophical pissing contest and namedrop-a-thon between two (apparent) dudes, drowning out everyone else’s voices.

    Talk about missing the point.

    • mama says:

      i have to admit being a political philosophy geek myself i kinda enjoyed the conversation. i was kind of laughing out loud myself this morning. i mean anarcho-capitalist vs. anarcho-socialist duking out it. ahhh….reminds me of old times….

  • Derek says:

    …considering I was duking this out with a guy I went to high school with…jesus…12 years ago, it reminded me of old times too.

    It wasn’t really a name-drop-athon, or at least that wasn’t my intention.

  • mama says:

    dude yeah we should all be sitting together during lunch or after school…

  • I’m glad for the attitude of hospitality, especially with the saying of “dude”. ;) Last time I went off topic in a conversation here, I got sanctions by the collective.

    In the spirit of further laughter and geeking:

    I’m not so much an anarcho-capitalist. While I’m severely critical of states, I believe strongly in governance: basic rights take priority over consent of individuals. It’s not the ideal, but states play a role in protecting rights under the rule of law. Maybe I’m an archonoclast, but I don’t see myself as an anarchist.
    I’m only a capitalist insofar as I believe that a system that invests in and understands wealth as human creativity is morally superior to a conservative economy in which wealth is land/natural resources. Human creativity is potentially infinite, whereas atoms on Earth are finite.
    When I talk about wealth, I’m not just referring to cash and resources, but all kinds of wealth: longer, more fulfilling lives, lower infant mortality, art, music, and everything that can make life richer. Making life richer leads to diminishing marginal utility; that is, the happiness generated by wealth is monumental at the survival level, huge at the comfort level, slight at the luxury level, and corresponds to unhappiness after that (these categories are made-up). But with the majority of Earth’s seven billion people living in grinding poverty, we are in no great danger any time soon of making life too rich.
    Conservative economies that see land/resources as the only wealth are caught in a zero-sum, fixed-pie game of domination. Capitalism, on the other hand, shows that wealth can grow because creative people can create new ways to solve problems. Society can get richer from entrepreneurs (including social entrepreneurs) who make better things and better processes. In conservative economies, innovating is too risky, but capitalism opens the way for creative people to fully harness opportunities that offer scope for their creativity.
    Without liberty, capitalism leads to very distorted and dehumanizing outcomes. Political capitalism exploits this, allowing entities that degrade human rights to operate with impunity, like the Devil’s Mafia, as long as they maximize short-term profits. Political capitalism treats profit-maximizing as a zero-sum game, without regard for long-term good, liberty, or basic rights, and denying the scope of human creativity. Political capitalism and cartelism depend on the broken window fallacy.
    Liberal markets are a separate issue from capitalism, and one that I deem more important (but not more important than basic rights of security and subsistence, without which freedom cannot exist). A free market is one in which people are free to choose what they are willing to give and receive from others.
    The precedence of liberty is essential. Without protection of freedom based on protection of basic rights, “free market” is reduced to Orwellian doublespeak. Cf. “liberalization” of Latin America, et alia.
    As a rule, states do not allow market freedoms to extend beyond the interests of elites.
    But market freedom and capitalism have a lot to offer none-the-less. Michael Strong writes: “Except for those countries ravaged by war, citizens in even Africa’s poorest nations have a higher standard of living, less infant mortality, and a longer life span, than did the average peasant in Europe, China, India, or Africa in 1400. If we believe that being alive is better than being dead, capitalism has made everyone on earth better off.”
    I have other problems with capitalism too, and not just what I would call “cartelism” or “political capitalism”– I have problems with capitalism as a way. While I deem capitalism morally superior to fixed-pie conservative economies, it isn’t the end of our moral growth as a society. We need to go further, extending freedom to all life on Earth. Under capitalism, Nature is regarded as an input to production, rather than a cocreative partner in the dynamically stable, spontaneous order of life on earth, of which the human economy is merely a satellite. Under free market principles, capitalism as it presently exists is unconscionable. We can evolve beyond capitalism not by rejecting free markets and segregating humans from the land, but by extending rights to the land itself and engaging the land in our own symbiotic naturalization.

    I wish I had time to write more, but I have to get back to work.

    @Derek: I’m disappointed that you’re lumping Hayek in with Rothbard and Mises without looking over the short essay I posted in reference to the conversation. But, I know you’re busy, as am I. To boot, I haven’t looked at the link you posted yet either.

    • mama says:

      @john
      some quick thoughts (have to run to work)
      1. when marx said that we should create a society : from each according to his ability to each according to his needs. he was valuing human creativity and talent highly. i dont see why the value of creativity is solely in the purview of capitalist theory. furthermore most socialist anarchist, ie the link that derek posted which is basically in the realms of michael albert and noam chomsky and z net – a bit too macho for me but i am more in line with the analysis – greatly values human creativity and actually one of the central arguments of that school of anarchist thought is that human creativity will solve alot of the issues that will come about once this whole fascist, colonialist, neo capitalist bullshit empire is finally done. i.e. they argue for creativity and not chaos.
      2. there is a common dynamic on blogs in which a. someone posts something that deals or addresses a particular marginalized community. b. the more dominant voices cannot really relate to what is posted so they latch onto the one or two lil things that they can relate to even if those things are pretty peripheral to the conversation c. they assume that they have the right to comment on those peripheries. d. by the commenting and subsequent comments the central idea that was addressing the marginalized communities is disappeared in the conversation and the issues that are more relatable to the dominant voices once again take center stage.
      this is a really annoying thing that happens all the time. so thank god for poc and others who are willing to call it out when it happens.

  • Sorry for the lack of line-breaks in my message above. I couldn’t preview the message, and WordPress got rid of my ordered list.

  • Katie says:

    This was really powerful. I’d love to quote and link over at my LJ – may I?

  • [...] guerillamamamedicine recently blogged: i do not deserve a good job, or a beautiful home, or health care because i went [...]

  • Todd says:

    @mama, 1. the socialist perspective on human creativity should be discounted, because however highly socialists may claim to rank it, they have no solution for how to efficiently coordinate the diverse interests, values, and creative energies of the vast multitude of strangers that comprise the modern society. The only mechanism that has yet been discovered capable of achieving this coordination is the evolution of prices in the free-market. The gas-lines from the ’70s are a good example of what has happened when human beings have tried to interfere and consciously set prices without reference to or in direct contradiction of the market price.

  • Christina says:

    Thank god Todd cleared that up for us.

    (This is a wonderful post.)

  • [...] accessible to most people who don’t have white privilege, thin privilege, class privilege, educational privilege, Western privilege, cis privilege, Anglophone/English privilege, blonde privilege, and able [...]

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