Tag Archives: Achievement

A Few Thoughts On Privilege

A video clip is currently making rounds on social media in which some kids – probably around high school – are told to line up at the start of what is probably a football field. For different statements which the instructor makes, if it applies to them, each kid is to take two steps forward. Statements ranging from parents still being married, to kids growing up with a father figure, and to having access to private education are made. Obviously, as with such an exercise, after a point some of the kids had a massive head start.

At a point, the instructor stops and tells those in the lead to turn around and look at their position and realize the head start they have in the game of life. He then goes on to say that their privilege is not because of their choices or anything they had a hand in – which is absolutely true. After some quick pep talk, the instructor instructs the kids to race towards the finish line. Obviously, those in lead won while those at the back lost.

The video clip then ends with a voice which says “if you didn’t learn anything from this activity, you are a fool.”

While I concede that the clip does contain some wisdom, I believe care must be taken in trying to apply its lessons to complexities of life. For one, such a setting is highly controlled and is at best a static snapshot of a point in life while the real world is dynamic with a lot of variables at play – both known and unknown. Furthermore, in analysis talking about privilege, little focus is put on the actions and values of those who  seem to have a head start in life. Finally, even if the exercise had good intentions, the wisdom conducting such among children should be questioned.

A fundamental fact of life is that values, preferences, and wants differ from person to person. Such affects peoples outlook on life and in many cases how they end up in life. Sure, some might have a massive head start, but its not a guarantee that they will have positive life outcomes. For example, some might be sent to the best prep schools in the world but if learning is not a priority, nothing can be done. On the other hand, some might be born on the wrong side of the tracks, but yet have a yearning to know all they can and make themselves better. Sure, their path might be rough and might take longer than it should, but for those who have grit, they will make and in some cases outshine those who had a massive head start.  I have seen too many examples – both up close and at a distance – of people who seemed to have it all but either blew it or can’t really account for themselves. On the other hand, I have seen kids who never had a massive head start in life and have gone on to do things which statistically speaking,  few in the world would ever do.

The wisdom of such an exercise among children should be questioned for a number of reasons. For one, many of these kids probably don’t have any coherent worldview and are just entering the stage in life were they begin asking questions. Many of those kids definitely left the field that day asking questions which they simply cant answer or handle. For the kids who did not seem to have a large head start, such an exercise is capable of undermining their self-confidence (after all, self confidence is the big thing in education today) and could send a wrong message which says that they are doomed at the game of life no matter how hard they try. Yes, there are many who come from backgrounds which might not be very privileged, but as a society, we make a mistake when we emphasize these things and never focus on how individuals can rise above their circumstances.

I know that this is a sensitive topic with a lot of complexities. But we owe it to ourselves to approach this topic with the most utmost wisdom possible if we truly seek the best solutions.