Consider a comment from last month.

Part of the Williams education (and not necessarily the pleasant part) for people like me whose parents were not ultra-worldly professionals, consists of exposure to the intellectual and professional possibilities available to students who came from a long line of elites. Less well off students (if they don’t rebel in disgust at these folks privilege) learn to expect for themselves (professionally, socially, financially) what those born privileged have been bred to believe is their birthright. I think of this as a kind of acculturation to power, and its a very important part of what Williams offers its lower income (and minority) students. Williams is a place to get a wonderful and enriching education, but it is also a finishing school, and its role as such may do more to bolster low-income folks’ life chances than the formal education.

Indeed. Comments:

1) What would make the mixing of people from various socio-economic backgrounds at Williams less unpleasant? From the perspective of the the “rich” kids (top 75% of the distribution), there probably isn’t a problem. It is almost impossible to judge student’s wealth from clothing or dorm room. But there is no doubt that some aspects of Williams (fancy trips? nice clothes? no need to do work-study?) make the non-rich students uncomfortable. Might anything be done to help?

2) Any “poor” Eph who is tempted to “rebel in disgust at these folks privilege” needs to get out more. Rebelling at the bizarre (to you) cultural practices of the rich is no more mature than being disgusted with the practices of other strange (to you) tribes. Would you “rebel in disgust” when visiting another country? (Hint: Societies in countries like Venezuela, Macedonia, Jordan and Thailand are, on occasion, every bit as foreign (to you) as the world of rich Ephs appears (to you). Why accept the former in the spirit of enlightened multiculturalism while being disgusted by the latter?)

3) Does the phrase “bred to believe is their birthright” make a lot of sense in this context? We are all “bred” to accept the practices of our family and culture as right and proper. This applies equally to poor and rich Ephs. We all inherit “birthrights.” Now, it is true that (some of) the beliefs of rich Ephs will be foreign to poor Ephs, but the same is true in reverse. The goal is to understand the beliefs of all the Ephs around us. Hating on the rich won’t accomplish that.

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