I’m fortunate enough to have pretty great Facebook friends that skim through the worldwide web for me and pick out some of the day’s gems. This article from the Atlantic, that I stumbled upon this morning, brought up a topic that incensed me back when I was first learning how to be indignant.
To anyone that knows me, it will probably seem unnecessary to point out that I’m a generally peaceful person. If anything, I err on the side of being too diplomatic, too conflict-averse. I have lost count of the people who have claimed they have never seen me angry (ha!). Without a doubt I will always disdain pointless antagonism, be it knowingly irritating other customers at a restaurant or intentionally escalating an argument.
All that said, there is a place and time for anger and resistance. To shrug your shoulders in the face of injustice and corruption is cowardly…we all know that, right? But I think few people are born knowing how to walk the line between antagonistic and conformist. Even if you are trying in earnest, you will probably make some missteps in one or both directions that can leave you with burned bridges or a troubled conscience.
I feel like I could go in a lot of directions right now, but I’ll return to my 9th-grade self–a girl who was starting to question a few things around her:
1) the war in Iraq
2) the Southern Baptist church’s view on women in leadership
3) a school system that felt increasingly segregated and of shockingly inconsistent quality
Maybe I was always a bit indignant; I have an oddly clear memory of preaching to my 4th-grade friends on the virtues of large glasses. I wasn’t going to be made to feel bad about my less fashionable glasses that reached to my eyebrows! That just meant there was less fuzziness around the rims! (It’s funny writing this through small lenses that put only my computer screen in focus. Oh, life!) But as I began high school, the topics making me angry were getting more serious.
The lack of socioeconomic diversity in our highest-ranked colleges is ridiculous, and I caught wind of this issue years before I went to college myself. In tenth grade I was just starting to realize how much strategy it required to craft a perfect college application. As the Atlantic article above spells out, universities are looking for “high GPAs in ‘demanding’ high schools and extraordinary character-defining extra-curricular activities.” Many don’t realize that it often takes a certain level of financial security to graduate high school with a Golden Résumé. The number of A’s in high-workload honors courses it requires to be in the top of the rankings of an excellent high school is difficult to accomplish without cheating–arguably impossible to do while working. Of course, some types of work pad a student’s résumé even more, but I challenge you to call your U.S. Senator and ask how much his/her office pays summer interns. Nothing? And how much is rent in Washington, D.C.?
I was fortunate enough to go to a well-known high school that was already on the Ivy League’s radar. I took tips from others on how to find extra-curricular activities that I enjoyed…but that would also make me look good. Lastly, I didn’t have to work during the school year; I could focus exclusively on making good grades in my 6+ AP classes. Even over the summers, I had help landing office jobs and internships that would stand out. I worked really hard in high school, don’t get me wrong, but I knew early on that the cards were stacked against some of my classmates that were just as intelligent or more, just as driven, but had adult-sized preoccupations that took priority over everything else.
This made me angry when I was 14, and it makes me angry now. God knows writing a blog post about it does not count as taking action, but it will hopefully start a conversation. I’ll now hand the mic over to someone who is much wiser and more eloquent than I: