July 8, 2008

On class

Og has an interesting post about class linking to this guy. The catalyst for at least three posts is this article. The author discusses the lack of true education at the nation's elite colleges and universities. In one sense I understand his point. What bothers me is he cannot get over the notion of elite and that there are classes of people. In the end the author still believes that there are the Ivy League schools, the private schools and then the State schools.

I went to a very good college. Top 50 in US News rankings. I guess I got a good education. I got book learning. I got exposed to more knowledge than I could have found on my own. Just as importantly, I met a wide range of people. My roommate's family made more in a week than my parents in a year. His trust fund, I am sure, was worth more than my families house, cars and annual salaries for several years combined. He had a better car than me. He had a new sports car, purchased with the interest from his trust fund. I had a $400 rusted and dented pickup that was 15 years old. My roommie and I got along great. You see, he had more ready cash than I did, but he was not better than me. I am not sure how he looked at me, because I did not care. In my mind we were equals. And that is what counts.

In my wide travels I have seen those from the Northeast and larger cities look down on me because I am from a little town in the heart of nowhere. I have a bit of an accent and talk a little slow. Those of you from Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois know what I mean when I say I have a "south of I-70 accent". That does not mean my mind is slow. I am a smart guy. Oh, there are many that are smarter than I. As Og says, there some who can plumb, work on car engines and wire a house safely. Some people can build things. Some can read the arcane language of the law or speak foreign languages. Some people understand the stock market, some are accountants, while others can adjust a machine to make a perfect widget. Whether you get your hands dirty or your mind cluttered with facts, it takes a sense of pride and knowledge to be successful in this world.

Let's not fool ourselves. Some people are basically dumb. Some are so smart we will never fathom their thoughts. But like Jefferson said, we are all created equal. We all have the same opportunity. You see, it is probably a good thing I will never meet the Queen of England, or the Pope. I will never bow down to another person. I take pride in the fact the Stars and Stripes does not dip to foreign leaders during the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. I firmly believe you are no better than I and I am no better than you. Yes you may be smarter, I may be more successful, you may have a better car or degree or I might live in a better neighborhood. So what? There is no class system in my mind. You may have better opportunities if you go to Harvard. You can become a Senator, or the Head of AT&T if you go to little Wabash College.

I once laughed at my Philadelphia born and all so superior boss as we entered negotiations with a smart boy from North Carolina. The customer came from the western hills of the Tar Heel State. He had a thick drawl and lulled my boss with his easy ways. I warned Steve that the customer was sharp, but he was from the Northeast and way smarter than us hicks. The southern guy drew him in and tore him up in negotiations and I laughed to myself. I saw what was happening and let it happen.

Look, there will always be those who think they are superior. Their belief they are a better class does not make it so. We may live paycheck to paycheck. I may have a huge debt ratio and low credit score. My cars are old. We have clothes on our back, food on our table and love in our house. That makes me pretty elite in my book.

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