COLUMN: The prestigious college pipeline is setting America up for unfair representation
The majority of elite political figures and government officials were educated in the top prep schools and universities of the country. Most Americans did not have the same education, making it difficult to find a common ground between the two.
Sep. 22, 2020
Campbell Biemiller is a first-year journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about political/environmental controversies and entertainment for The Maneater.
Of the 435 members of the House of Representatives, only five percent lack a college degree. Every member of the U.S. Senate has a four-year diploma. The majority of American adults over the age of 25 do not have a college degree. Level of education is the primary source of the division between Congress and the American people.
People born with privilege tend to have an easier life. There is a superiority complex attached to the “rich and elite”. Concepts such as social origin and material wealth create the elitism superiority complex where the upper class uses its privilege at the expense of others.
In the education system, these qualities given at birth are an advantage for members of the upper class. Most will find they attend private or expensive prep schools throughout their primary and secondary education, which puts them on an invisible pipeline to Ivy League institutions or universities with the same prestige.
Post graduation opportunities are often high for those with privileged backgrounds. Members of Congress and high-ranking political officials often come from this background, unlike the large majority of American citizens.
The more familiar a person is, the more likely they’ll be chosen as a candidate by the public. Figures like President Donald Trump and Arnold Schwarzenegger were well-known names before they entered the political scene. Names that are familiar provide a sense of familiarity to any voter. These white-collar candidates have the time to hold a campaign since they are not needed at an hourly job like the majority of the nation.
Some of the best prep schools in America act as feeders to higher institutions and the price tags resemble that. There are three top prep schools. Phillips Exeter Academy was founded in Exeter, New Hampshire as the second school to Phillips Academy. Phillips Academy was founded in Andover, Massachusetts. Finally, Trinity School, which was founded in New York City. When they originated in the 18th century, they were set in place to send their students to Harvard, Yale and Columbia, respectively. These schools have “branched out” to reach all Ivys and higher institutions like MIT and Stanford.
These institutions have notable alumni throughout the government and in political stances. At Phillips Exeter, alumni noted for their work in government include Judd Gregg, Jay Rockefeller, Kent Conrad, John Negroponte, Robert Bauer and Peter Orszag. Phillips has educated both American presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. Other notable alumni include politicians such as Katie Porter, Seth Moulton, Jeb Bush and Patrick J. Kennedy. At Trinity, notable alumni in political fields include Daniel Garodnick and Eric Schneiderman.
Aaron Hedlund is on leave from the MU economics department as a senior economist at the Council of Economic Advisors in the White House. He received his B.S. from Duke University and Ph.D. from University of Pennsylvania, one of the eight Ivy Leagues. Like most officials, he had an elite education, which helped bring him to his position in the White House today. He fits into the mold of an upper level education providing access to grander opportunities.
These are in no way the only notable alumni nor the only prestigious prep schools, however the names above are mostly belonging to middle-aged white men. They make up the majority of upper level education to government position track. What about the other Americans that make up the majority of the population?
For some Americans, the school to prison pipeline is prevalent and largely centralized around communities of color and the contrasting demographics. Black students are three times more likely to be suspended or expelled than white students. Some secondary institutions with larger populations of students of color have made an initiative to separate school discipline from juvenile detention. Unfortunately, the two have been connected due to racial stereotypes. This ideology has created the “school to prison pathway” that exists today.
Many schools have students arrested on campus to shift disciplinary action onto the criminal justice system and away from the school. This starts the prison track early on. It’s much easier for a student to get a juvenile record when they are exposed to law enforcement in high school. When being arrested becomes a reality or the school’s way of implementing discipline, it begins to feel like daily life.
The contrasting demographics of these two pipelines from education acknowledge the ever growing need for reform because of these racial injustices across the country. The government has tried to set guidelines to improve the education system and its inequality. However, as a nation with leaders that are primarily white and privileged, it’s difficult for these officials to understand the hardships of less fortunate communities.
High-class prep schools create a social divide between upper class students and other students by revealing social differences in identity, learning abilities and behaviors. The posing threat of lower classes lead to a psychological need for the upper class to distinguish themselves as elite. This concept eliminates the need for a real education if one can pay their way to higher opportunities. Higher education has become a system that values financial standing over intelligence. The system in place for these reputable schools weeds out those without the financial means to fit into this prestige pipeline model.
This issue with many current government officials being from the prestige pipeline is few Americans have followed the same path growing up. 52% of Americans are middle class. 29% of Americans are in the lower class, leaving 19% of the country in the upper class. The upper class can’t relate to the rest of the population’s needs, yet takes part in deeming what is best for the country as a whole.
Black Student Fund’s goal is to support academically motivated Black students advance their education through access to opportunities and independent education. We at The Maneater encourage you to donate to this cause. Donations can be made at: http://blackstudentfund.org/donate-v2/
Edited by Sofi Zeman | firstname.lastname@example.org