Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Today, I read the @prepschoolbtch and @ivyleaguebitch twitter feeds. Then, I wondered about privilege and stereotype. I went to Exeter, which, being a New England boarding school, has a reputation for being a school for rich WASPs.

I've actually never met anyone at school who approached the level of (somewhat funny) snottiness found on @prepschoolbtch. I do not doubt that some of my classmates' families were extremely rich. I do not disown my school's past as a grooming ground for rich, white, conservative young men. But that's not what is now.

Most of my friends came to Exeter for the academic privileges, not necessarily because saying "I went to Phillips Exeter Academy" in a room full of businessmen will get you something you otherwise wouldn't have. Most of my friends were on financial aid. Maybe it was only because the sample I'm examining right now is made up of only the people whose company I enjoy, but Exeter for me was full of people who are the opposite of the "I summer in the Hamptons; what country club do you frequent?" prep school stereotype.

I know that I was extremely privileged to be able to attend Exeter, to sit and converse directly with my peers and my teachers in class, to study in the largest secondary-school library in the world, to live in a dorm with heat and running water and eat in a dining hall open all day and not have to worry about having a job during the school year. I know that I was told Monday, Wednesday, and Friday during Assemblies that we were "the future of America", "the CEOs and presidents of tomorrow."

Not that that's actually true. I don't think that anyone can reasonably believe that every Exeter alumnus and alumna is going to accomplish something recognized as great by the general public. But yes, we received the kind of education that would benefit a leader.

My friends and I have ended up looking like pedigreed dogs. Exeter + MIT, Exeter + Harvard, Exeter + Yale, etc. Given only that, we seem like the WASPiest people in the world (a little less so with MIT). Or, some people see us as the smartest kids in the world. Even that's an unfair assumption. There are plenty of brilliant young adults out there who chose not to, or never had the chance to attend an academically renowned high school or college.

I feel like the luckiest person alive, having had enjoyed all the positive experiences and learned from all the negative ones that I had at Exeter, and having all the promise of MIT ahead of me. I know that I'm privileged. I hope others know what I mean by that, and it's not just having Nantucket Red blood.

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