Friday, June 05, 2015

going back and forth between extremes

Every time she returns to Xtown, the small town of XUniversity, an excellent school in the US where tuition runs $58,000 a year, she's shocked by the extreme social difference between these students and the students at state-university. Xtown students own high quality and fashionable clothes, shoes, and backpacks; their skin complexion is healthy looking; they are jogging; they are reading non-bestseller books. In public they interact politely, attentively, maturely, confidently, happily. Their hair looks naturally shiny and flowing. Obesity and fast food are absent. One can see a high level of conformity amongst the students of XUniversity, a lot of polo shirts, khakis, and brown loafers and, in the winter--beautiful leather riding boots, and for the rain--Hunter rain boots. The students of XUniversity are taller than your average college student. Visually they match closely to what one sees in contemporary Hollywood films that take place in California or NYC, but without all the make-up and hairspray. Since she's usually in Xtown at the beginning and end of breaks, she sees their parents too, because they visit Xtown around the same time. Many of the parents wear fine jewelry and drive nice cars. Like their offspring, they too have nice skin and shiny hair. She thinks, "What do these external decorations have to do with having access to top educational and employment opportunities?
The image appears of the faces of some students at state-university, the faces of students who are stressed or depressed because they are working 40 hours a week while failing some of their classes. (But many students at XUniversity are also necessarily stressed or depressed. Is this system failing both parties?)
The conforming and acceptance of fashion styles parallels the conforming and acceptance of an extremely stratified educational system in the US. It annoys her that, in general terms, some students can have so little while others have so much, and when she talks with students from both extremes, it seems neither party is aware of the gap, two separate microcosms. She thinks, "But many of them are learning about these issues in the classroom, right? We know many students have to write papers about inequality because it's the hot topic that everyone studies at college... So, what's missing then? 
Making personal connections/experiences outside the classroom? 
Educating the trustees, administrators, politicians, and businesspeople?" 
And then, in a matter of days, she gets used to it, the scene of comparison fades away and she gets used to the local scene again, the scene that initially seemed luxurious becomes normal, as it did when she was in grad school, and she stops being annoyed and starts enjoying the high quality; she browses rider boots on the internet. And since, in some ways, she also benefited from this stratified education system inequality, she wonder if some people think similar annoyed thoughts about her.

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