The Gustavian Weekly

The elitist ideas of higher education | The Gustavian Weekly

By Emily Seppelt - Opinion Columnist | February 21, 2020 | Opinion

When looking for options behind high school, most students consider many options before deciding their path. Oftentimes, financials are a huge part of a student’s decisions. When college acceptance time comes around in the spring, a quick “hierarchy” of students forms. In my experience, students heading to private schools gain a sense of superiority and are quick to judge students who are going to state schools, community colleges or technical schools. 

As our campus is a private one, within the first few weeks I was on campus as a freshman I could see evidence of this belief. The belief, or even just the implicit assumption, that students who don’t attend our school or similar private schools are inherently less intelligent, less cultured and not as good as us, which flies directly in the face of our school values and is just plain unintelligent. 

Even recently, I was sitting in the Caf and overheard someone observe that when someone walked in that they “looked like they would go to Mankato,” phrased as a humorous insult. While people may not realize it, these assumptions and judgements have classist undertones that discourage people from pursuing at education if that can’t get into an “expensive” or “good” school. This attitude is more common among students who attend private schools than one might think. While Gustavus is not the worst of them, the jokes are still cracked and the belief is still held by students on campus. 

Getting into any type of school post high school is a huge accomplishment and pursuing more knowledge and training can be a challenge. This bias is an extremely dangerous one. Turning education into a competition of who is the smartest and who can squeeze the most into their resume defeats the whole purpose. 

Creating this type of environment on campus and even in our everyday lives perpetuates the idea that only people who did what would typically be characterized as “successful” in high school and college deserve to be there or to be engaged with academically. If someone feels like they are not the right type of person to go to college, even if they want to, it may be enough to stop them from even trying. 

If every person who wanted to go to college limited themselves to a private school, we would have a lot fewer people in the country with college degrees and a broader understanding of the world around them. Thinking that you are better than someone else just because you got into or attend a different school them is honestly regressive, immature and juvenile. 

Holding this elitist worldview harms the people that believe in it, even unconsciously. When we let ourselves believe that because of where we are in life, we are better than others, it prevents us from experiencing the whole breadth of life experiences. Correcting this judgmental and detrimental behavior here at Gustavus would allow us to be more open to collaboration and would help to attract people who share the same inclusive views to attend the school. 

Every school has its attributes, and judging someone solely based on what they look like or where they attend school makes it seem like we all don’t have access to people who are literally experts in their field, people who years and years of education who are here to educate and guide us. 

While every school tries to tout its uniqueness and how much better they are than other schools, in reality we all come out of college with a degree that will be looked at as almost universally the same by employers. Employability is obviously a huge part of why people even go to college, as well as access to a community of learners which almost every and college university can offer a student. 

If we continue to allow this kind of behavior and attitudes pervade campus, we will not be holding true to Gustavus values. Being elitist isn’t what entails being a part of the Gustavus community, and the understanding that pervades the campus concerning this belief that we are inherently better than other non-private school taints our otherwise inclusive, supportive and fair community. 

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