This campus epitomizes arrogance. A University degree inflates our egos to the point where others can sense our presence before our arrival. If you don’t believe me, take a campus poll. The people here know how true this is better than anyone else. And make sure to consult our University “servants” on the issue. I know that you know what I mean, but we’ll pretend that you don’t for the sake of entertainment.

Jasmine Clair

Here are a couple examples of the people that we treat like servants. First, we have the University janitors and technicians who go unnoticed until we need something. Responsible for cleaning sinks decorated with toothpaste-covered ramen noodles and repairing urinals clogged with dried vomit — always happy to clean up after us, but never performing up to the standards set by mom and dad.

Then we have those pesky security servants — a.k.a. rent-a-cops. Because our parents feel more comfortable knowing we have our own personal police force, we reluctantly agree to spare them their jobs. But every now and then, they get out of line and we have to put them back in their place. How often have policemen heard, “My parents pay your salary asshole!” from a drunken co-ed? The same one crying in their faces a week later when someone “breaks” into his house because he was too careless to lock the door behind him.

If you won’t admit that we’re arrogant despite the survey results, then I will. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. The University goes out of its way to provide us with the largest libraries filled with books and technology to assist us in proving to everyone else that we know it all. And we do know it all …

But before I go overboard with my sarcasm, let me pose a more serious question. What is the purpose of our education here? Do we come here simply to appease our parents? Or to satisfy society’s standards of success?

Unfortunately, some find the University a place to showcase what they already know rather than to learn what they don’t. Rather than searching for fresh new perspectives, we instead look for evidence to build stronger cases for our own personal biases. Too afraid of damaging our delicate egos, we learn new things to justify old ways. Therefore, we don’t have people studying issues to find out if they are more liberal or conservative. We instead have bright young minds staunchly declaring their allegiance to a party and using coursework to reinforce these ideas.

Rather than seeking objective truth, we subject and limit ourselves to the thoughts of past thinkers. We supplement our readings of Marx, Locke, and Plato with our own agendas. Often misconstruing their arguments so that we can formulate ideas of our own, we fail to realize that our “new” ideas about why going to Iraq is wrong are the same old ideas that were used for the Gulf War and Vietnam. The same new ideas that we use to justify banning gay marriage are the same old arguments used to support slavery and racism. Hence, we find ourselves reinventing wheels.

So once again, why are we here? Well, because we’re pragmatists. Many are not as interested in learning new things as they are in using this world-class degree to prove our greatness to future employers. Let’s be honest. We aren’t spending tens of thousands of dollars to read books while sitting on broken couches in student ghettos when we could easily read them for free in the comforts of our lavish homes. Education is a means to an end, and along the way, we enhance our analytical and trade skills.

Is there anything wrong with using education for the convenience of egos or to satisfy a prescribed requisite for success? Well, it depends on who you are. I once read about a man who idolized America’s system of meritocracy because it allowed him to work his way out of poverty, and now he’s a very successful lawyer living out in the suburbs. He was very proud, almost to the point of arrogance. His story was new to me, but it was the same old story used to argue that racial and socioeconomic barriers no longer exist — the same old romantic American tale that’s been told for centuries.

However, the ghetto, which he left his relatives living in, still exists. His success brought nothing new, his people were still poor, and their schools still produced a handful of successful students.

We study history because it tends to repeat itself. Unfortunately, there are too many disadvantaged people here to let this cycle continue in America. If we are truly the best of the best, we should be shaping fresh new perspectives, not finding support for the arguments that our parents have already made many times before.

As the future comes, we can’t continue to follow the footsteps left to us because this will only produce another broken-down, squeaky wheel. So what are you going to do? Pretend like the wheel ain’t broke? Do an oil-and-duct tape job? Or scrap the wheel for some custom-designed low profiles on spinning 22s.

 

Clair can be reached at jclair@umich.edu.

 

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