My brain is filled with a complicated knot made from different fragments of information. Over the past week, I have been rapidly acquiring pieces of knowledge about charter schools, magnet schools, the Philly public school system, racial quotas, Supreme Court cases, the college application process, integration vs. equal opportunity, subtle forms of discrimination, and the consequences of funding issues in education. I’m still generating opinions about, forming connections between, and digesting the facts involved in all of these things. In the middle of this disorganized pile is a really simple fact that seems to tie a lot of it together.
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I think institutions are maybe the most important vaariable when speaking about identity and access, because most (if not all) of the times when we speak of access it is in relation to some sort of institution. I'd like to change the word institution to a much more larger, wider range term: social structure or organization.
A hot topic at Haverford, and it seems at Bryn Mawr as well, is having a diverse student body that hails from a variety of backgrounds. To do this, selective schools such as BMC or HC accept certain high-achieving students from many different schools across the country and world. It is likely that students who are accepted to these schools have some kind of learner identity, as they must have done quite well in school to gain acceptance. Alternatively, they might not have performed amazingly in high school, but written some kind of essay that expressed what prevented them from achieving great grades, and why an education is important to them for the future. My question for this post comes from what happens after we have been accepted.
The recent events at Bryn Mawr have caused me to consider the role exposure plays within the realm of education. Exposure to cultures, values, religious beliefs, political positions, and experiences other than my own. Humans tend to isolate themselves with the familiar, which can affect our access to learning about and understanding people who don’t fit into that category. I realized that although my generation still has a ways to go in terms of seeking out and benefitting from diverse communities, we have far more opportunities to do just that than our parents ever did.
While I studied abroad in Hyderabad, India, I lived with a fantastic host family. They were a farirly wealthy family, and had many people working at their house. I spent quite a lot of time with 3 of them: Durgamma, the amazing live-in cook, Naresh, the driver and Laxmi, a young woman who helped Durgamma.
Growing up my parents always made it clear that education was #1 priority, because of this I can't tell if me going to school and prioritizing education is natural or socially constructed. As I sit here re-reading the prompt, I realize that it is hard for me to tell whether it was my identity influenced my access, or the other way around. I always knew I had to go to school because my parents always told me so, but it wasn't until I got to high school that I realized that going to school wouldn't be enough if you are not receiving adequate education -- which was the case for me in high school. This is when my passion for equal access to adequate education began.
Until I left home, I never saw myself as brown.
Until I stumbled into places of whiteness, I did not know that I was an other.
Until I came to Bryn Mawr, I did not know the term “person of color”—partially due to my own ignorance, but mostly because that was not how I had ever seen myself. I know now that that was a privilege.
Pierce Jones: You wanna know something? You just made me realize how selfish I am, just because you’re so unselfish.
Me: What do you mean?
Pierce Jones: Whatever you just said made me realize that you constantly think/care about these big systematic issues, while I’m over here thinking about what next pair of shoes I will buy