With the end of my first semester of College nearing, I am able to take some time and reflect on what these past few months have taught me and revealed to me.
Coming from more liberal and welcoming surroundings in the San Francisco Bay Area, I, in many aspects, have been in shock from the reserved and pretentious nature inevitable amongst the student body at Trinity College. I was not used to being judged based on my clothing and appearance nor my cultural, political or religious beliefs. At first I thought these were all just disparities that existed in part due to the Class of 2017’s universal unfamiliarity with its new collegiate surroundings. However, with some help from my First Year Color and Money Seminar, I’ve now realized that this judgmental and exclusive culture is engrained into the old wealth of the northeast and more than likely the old wealth of America as well.
Before coming to college, I’m not sure I appreciated the prevalence of money as a social separator. I was aware of the classist-based movements sweeping the nation but simply saw our nation’s class divide in statistics; I never realized the implications it had. In other words, I knew the nations wealth was dispersed unevenly, but was not aware of the extent an individuals personal wealth would push them to separate into an elitist group of their own. This is Trinity College.
The abundance of wealth and egoism at Trinity College is overwhelming, and seeing as it consistently comes from extremely affluent northeasterners; I believe it to be indicative of the old wealth of the northeast as well. I’ve heard a wealthy prep-school graduate with below a 3.0 GPA at Trinity state that he feels that poor people are bringing down America and that people who grew up in extreme poverty should’ve simply worked harder to make it to a prestigious collegiate institution. Mitchell L. Stevens describes the intrinsic unfairness of this statement in his book Creating a class: “Keenly aware of the terms of elite college admission, privileged parents do everything in their power to make their children into ideal applicants” (Stevens, p.20). Regardless, this hypocritical idea appears to be the consensus of a good portion of Trinity’s predominantly conservative student body. Additionally, I’ve heard another wealthy individual on a separate occasion refer to workers of the college as peasants. This may be an abnormally outright statement, but it unfortunately accurately represents many individuals negativity toward the lower classes at Trinity. Lastly, I’ve seen a significant amount of apathy towards academic achievement at Trinity. Many individuals feel with the connections and wealth that their family has accrued, there is no need to apply themselves in their academics.
In conclusion, my experiences at Trinity have helped me immensely to see money and social class in new light. I now see money’s ability to make the college admissions process unfair, to keep its possessors wealthy, and to make its owners elitist and discriminatory towards those of lower classes. I now see the many routes money has to keep its families wealthy, and the abilities it has to separate society.
On a personal level, this raises concern for me, as I feel old familial wealth will eventually prove itself to be a gateway to societal and American mediocrity. Familial wealth allows individuals to be extremely successful without appropriate credentials due to their own familial connections. Although this may seem particularly relevant only to those in the high upper class, I believe its impact will soon be widespread. The apathy of some Trinity students is particularly of concern to me. Individuals who don’t apply themselves to amassing proper knowledge in college are often unsuitable to be in important high-paying positions in America. However, old money, even now, is allowing the US to put under-qualified persons in high paying, important, and powerful jobs. This could prove increasingly problematic as it could cause a significant America stagnation. If the wealthy continues to put under qualified individuals in important positions, which it will, America will begin to produce mediocre results in many fields. The negative repercussions of this are endless. With America being known for its extremely innovative economy, a lack of innovation could lead to America’s impact and power decreasing on a global scale. Additionally, with global economies being so intertwined, if America begins to consistently produce mediocre goods and services, it could prove disastrous for the rest of the world.
Unfortunately, however, I don’t see the attitudes of the wealthy changing anytime soon. Money constantly boosts egos, and I feel this kind of egoism will prove as a barrier to the wealthy being driven to excel in whatever field they are pre-destined to be in.
Regardless, I feel it necessary to state my own opinions as to what can be done to better the bleak outlook I’ve presented. By no means am I an expert on the matter, but in this context it seems appropriate to share what I feel can be done. This situation is no different than any other in that education is key. I would suggest our nation do its best to expose wealthy children to the prevalence of the discriminatory dynamic that is taking place in the US, and work on achieving the most possible socio-economic diversity in all lower education schools in America. It’s possible that through this the upper class could lessen its alienating ways and create a better social dynamic. This being said, I don’t know if this would more evenly disperse the wealth, as I believe this to be an implausible immediate goal, but it could definitely lessen the tension between classes.
The old wealth of America is dismantling the American Dream, and remodeling the meritocracy for which America has so long been known. It’s an extremely relevant issue at this time, and it must be properly acknowledged and addressed.
Stevens, Mitchell L., and EBSCOhost. Creating a Class: College Admissions and the Education of Elites. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009. Print.