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What I Learned From the Privilege Meme - Mo's Journal — LiveJournal
January 3rd, 2008
11:42 am

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What I Learned From the Privilege Meme

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From:libgirl
Date:January 3rd, 2008 11:23 pm (UTC)
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I find this whole thing very curious indeed. I haven't posted my results yet (that's on my agenda for this evening), but I have looked at it. As far as a good bit of this goes, I agree with you in regards to the could versus would issue. My parents could take us to Museums and Art Galleries and things when we were growing up, but they didn't. Part of that was distance to them, part was my Dad's aversion to driving much; but we still had some of those opportunities because they were provided through the school.

The other thing that I noticed is that my sister's answers and mine are very different. We're 5 1/2 years apart that made a huge difference in how this questionnaire measures our privilege. She had private art lessons for years, for example, but by the time that was an option for her, I was already in college. It wasn't in anyway an option when I was growing up, but it was something that became available by the time she was at that age.

But we had the same parents and the same value systems. Also, I don't remember my parents reading to us, but I read to my sister. And we were both reading for ourselves by the age of 5. I'm not really sure how to talk about this, or how I want to. My sister and I rarely had clothes that were bought new, and if we did, they were on layaway for months prior. But that was because my parents had a skewed (and in my opinion, terrible) way of handling personal finance. My father's considerable salary went to the big bills--mortgage etc., and my Mom's just-barely-minimum wage was expected to feed, clothe and entertain the whole family (and pay for any gift-giving). It's a method that caused me all sorts of tears and angst growing up and even now the thought really disturbs me. It's almost certainly one of the reasons their marriage didn't make it and one of the things I'll avoid at all costs--but what does it mean about any perceived privilege?

My father made good money most of my pre-teen and teen years, but that money was never funneled down into the family. It either went straight to bills or to the things that he chose to spend it on (computers for example). So, I wasn't privileged in those ways, but I could conceivably have been.

I think part of the reason that people are so upset about this, or could be, is that this is value thing. I think a "privileged" upbringing has a value connotation that may or may not apply. You could have had two parents who were professors and paid for everything and you were always given anything you wanted, and still have had a rotten upbringing. Or vice versa.

Also, I think that this questionnaire isn't actually getting to the heart of what it wants to investigate. I see more and more often, particularly in college-age students today, the view that it's the parents' responsibility to pay for college. It's not a privilege, it's a given. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but it's certainly a prevailing stance and one I didn't benefit personally from. It also lacks the ability to see nuances. My sister is going to an exclusive private college and probably will do the same for Graduate School. And she's doing it via hefty scholarships and equally hefty student-loan debt. She's not receiving a penny for tuition or books from either of my parents (either because they can't or won't help).

My father is from the self-made school of thought. He made his own success and we're expected to do the same. After the age of 18, we may still live there (while in college) rent-free but all health-care etc. is our own responsibility.

Wow. I'm sorry. I've gone into a huge ramble now and I should definitely stop while I'm ahead.
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From:mofic
Date:January 4th, 2008 03:03 pm (UTC)
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This was interesting to read, and really shows how there are so many differences among families not captured by a quiz like this.

On the parents paying for college thing: as I said elsewhere, I don't think it's really feasible now for kids to fund their college educations themselves without significant debt. And an undergraduate degree is considered the entry point to work in many fields where previously a high school diploma was sufficient. So if parents can't pay for college, kids are left with either having that huge debt or going to college slowly while working, or not going. I would like my kids to have a college experience if they want it, and I'd like them to be able to do so residentially and I don't want them to graduate with huge debt. So that's why I'm trying to come up with enough money to fund their college. It doesn't mean they won't work - Doran is working now on break and needs to get a summer job, too - but I just don't think it's feasible for them to put themselves through college like I did. The money they earn should cover spending money, incidentals, etc. but with a public university education here costing $20k a year (and I think it's a fine education and still much less than private) I don't think I can expect a kid to fund a significant part of it him/herself.
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From:vanessa_musing
Date:January 4th, 2008 03:42 pm (UTC)
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I graduated college in 1997, a 4-year State college. My parents didn't have the resources to help, and on principal my Dad wouldn't have helped anyway (self-made and all that). I worked when I was in high school to save money for college. I joined the Air National Guard for GI bill assistance that wouldn't delay my college years (that would be different now, for sure). I worked as a restaurant server 25-35 hours per week my entire college career. I also had a small merit scholarship my first 3 semesters, but lost that when my GPA fell below 3.5 (3.47, yes I was upset!). I tried very hard to avoid debt and it was a difficult road sometimes. 2nd semester of my junior year, I ended up borrowing $5000.

Also, I made the personal decision to move out on my own during school. I could have stayed home and that would have made it easier financially. I also could have taken more of my courses at the local community college and saved tuition costs. I did consciously choose an engineering degree partly for the reason that I could get a good paying job with just a 4 year degree. I never saw graduate school as a viable option, getting a 4 year degree was huge enough for me.

This stuff is so variable and expectations can be so different between families. The fact that I chose to go to college was my responsibility, considering I was the first in our entire family to attend right out of high school (my Dad attended as an adult, graduating while I was in high school)
So I think it can be done.
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From:mofic
Date:January 4th, 2008 05:29 pm (UTC)
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So I think it can be done.

Well, as I said, I did it on my own and I think in some places and at some times it's possible. But for my kids here and now I don't think it is, without large loans or delaying graduation or living at home during college, none of which I want for them to be stuck with. It is just not feasible - here and now - for an 18- or 19-year-old to earn the $20k (after taxes) needed each year with part-time work and summers.

And even when it is possible, I don't think it's necessarily a *good* way to go to college. I was able to manage with 15-20 hours of work a week during they year and 60 during the summer but I lived in *constant fear,* because I was living totally hand-to-mouth and anything that stopped my income - even temporarily - would mean I was sunk. I worked sick, including with high fevers, because I couldn't afford to take a day off. I was in terror of slipping on the ice in the long winters and breaking my leg. I don't want that for my kids.
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