Education for all or education for the privileged?

Lets all take a minute to think about some of the predisposed privileges that we are born with as individuals. Here are some of my privileges:

  • I live in Canada which is a stable and developed country
  • I have financial support
  • I am Caucasian
  • My family is middle class

Privilege can be defined as a special advantage granted or available only to a particular person or group of people. There are many privileges which exist for many individuals but there are also many people who do not have this luxury. This idea is supported in one of Jenkin’s articles regarding the eight traits of the new media landscape. Those who have the resources succeed but there is no such option for those we are left behind due to privilege and inequality (Jenkins, 2006). Does this mean that those who lack privilege also lack basic human rights, like education? Children especially are victims of this unfairly distributed privilege as they do not have control over their background, culture or financial situation. Children who come from a high social class are given endless opportunities whereas those who come from a low socio-economic status (SES) are left to struggle in poverty.

Does this mean that the right to an education is for all or just for the privileged?

I believe that education is a right that every adult, adolescent and child should have but this is not always the case. We are living in an age where education has become a determinant of a person’s living standards and SES. Children without access to these essential experiences and knowledge are falling farther and farther behind.

I found an interesting example of the impacts of privilege that we as a global nation seem to ignore. A high school teacher taught his class a lesson on privilege using a recycling bin and some scrap paper. You may be thinking, how did this teacher get his message across? Let me explain.

He started by giving each student a scrap piece of paper and asked them to crumple it up.

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Then he moved the recycling bin to the front of the room.

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He said, “The game is simple — you all represent the country’s population. And everyone in the country has a chance to become wealthy and move into the upper class.” and all you have to do is throw your paper into the recycling bin (Pyle, 2014).

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Although the instructions are simple the message which came across was enormous. The closer you were to the front of the room, the easier the game was which represented privilege. Similar to real life, only the students in the back of the room complained about fairness as they lacked privilege which is also seen in real life as people who live in a higher class are unable to see the struggles that others face.

Overall, our jobs as students who are receiving an education is to be aware of our unearned privilege and advocate for others who’s lives are different from our own. As a global community, we can work towards giving all students the opportunity to receive an education and break down current injustices.

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