Degrees granted by genies are an illusion of privilege

Meredith Comas, Online Editor-in-Chief

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Hello again, reader.

Those who know me know I love stories. The story of Aladdin has always been one of my favorites since reading it in “One Thousand and One Nights” as a child.

The idea that a genie could appear out of one odd object or another and grant me any three things I wanted seemed more than amazing to my little mind laying in the room I shared with my siblings at night. I’d look at the dark ceiling and hope that one day I would get my wishes and everything in my life would be magically fixed.

Unsurprisingly, I’m still waiting for that genie.

You see, I grew up knowing I would never actually be granted wishes and suddenly achieve my goals. I grew up knowing my college education wouldn’t be granted to me by wishing on a childhood story of fiction. I grew up knowing that a degree is a privilege, not necessarily a choice of laziness or ignorance.

I am one of many who believes a college education can put you ahead in life, that careers and job security are only strengthened by pursuing a degree.

However, I am also one of many who understands there are many different paths to achieving a degree, that success is not always defined by a degree and there are many different paths to achieving success. I also understand the absence of a degree due to any circumstance — whether it be a financial matter or a matter of simply not needing one for an expected career — is not a determinate in one’s value.

This is the reality ignored by privilege.

We live in a world where college degrees are gained by bribery and financial privilege, not necessarily always on the work ethic and proven talent of a student. We live in a world where the fundamental right to education has become a competition of who can sign the largest check.

I live in a world where I cannot afford the degree I require for my chosen career pathway due to a bank account number that doesn’t meet the requirement of our universities.

Does this make me a less successful person — the fact that my bank account and resume will look different than those who had the financial stability to gain a higher degree? Does this make me unhealthy and prone to a shorter life because my occupation could be less than a certain degree-holder’s? Does this make me less confident and able in social situations — despite the fact even a degree-holder can become mentally and socially unstable? Does my economic inability to pay a full tuition fee truly degrade my value as a person or the value of other hard-working Americans? Does a number of zeros truly determine one less than their peer who may or may not know the effort they’ve put in to get a “low-grade job” and support their goals?

I believe that the answer is no. America was built by lawyers, and waiters, and scholars and janitors. Not by one or the other. No job or degree makes anyone less.

People are not shaped by their position and title, rather they are shaped by the experiences they hav, and America is full of a myriad of different experiences. There are many pathways besides pursuing a degree that get people exactly where they need to be. There is no shame in taking a different path; in fact, I find that to be the most American way of reaching our goals.

So before you go spouting off the beauties and glory of financially-unattainable degrees, ask yourself if you speak out of experience, or if this is just privilege telling you anyone without one is an unsociable degenerate from the bottom of the melting pot.

That, or give me a genie.

Until I write again,

“I’m still waiting for that genie.”


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