The Zankou Brothers (zankou) wrote,
The Zankou Brothers

what's your major?

A young friend of mine mentioned in an email that she was working on college applications and was trying to decide if she should study art or become a lawyer. Half way through writing my response, I knew it was going to become an LJ post:

Here's my advice. Become an artist, don't go to college.

I'm not sure if I mean that. Discontent for conventional "success" is a product of privilege. That's why suburban punks with rich parents dress like they're homeless, and impoverished hip hop kids buy Nikes and shit. Which is better? I can't decide between 3 answers to my own question: 1) I don't know. 2) Who cares? 3) That's a stupid question. The point is we all want to be what we're not.

I'm telling you to drop out of school, yet I'm a college graduate and a professional teacher. I graduated from the #33 college in the country (or that's what it was when I get in. It's #34 now.) and I teach in a district whose high school is ranked #52 of all 18,000 American public high schools according to US news and world report.

Is this a bad thing? That we all want to be what we're not? I don't know, what's worse than the rich kids who want to get richer? nothing, right? And some might say that there's nothing admirable about being at the "bottom" and not trying to get out.

Maybe this is a sort of weird system of checks and balances that is supposed to keep the middle class strong. The kids with rich parents deprioritize money, and the poor kids crave it. Why then is the gap between the upper and lower class always widening? I'll tell you why, because of the rich kids who want to grow to be richer. If that happens to one family over a series of generations, what you have left is that top 5% of Americans who have more money than they know what to do with except to use it to get even more. Then the economy grows overall statistically while there is a housing crisis, the dollar is weakening fast, we’re headed for recession, and a growing percentage of Americans are uninsured. Because the widening gap between upper and lower class is not a 50/50 population split, it’s like 5/95.

And where do I fit in to this? The hypocrite who will probably be attending grad school in a few years in order to keep his teaching certification, encouraging you to drop out of college? Let me try to explain myself. I fell into teaching music. I didn’t really work to get where I am, it was provided. The steps were laid out and I casually followed them. In the meantime, my priorities developed free of the desire to “succeed” (financially) that comes from being poor and free from the lack of understanding of financial hardship, which comes from being wealthy. Middle class, staying middle class. But I honestly feel no desire to maintain a certain lifestyle, income, social status, those things are like numbers 1000, 1001, and 1002 on my priority list. I only care about good times with good people, making art, helping people, yet I fell right into my socioeconomic place. And you know what? So do most of the poor kids in Nikes and the rich kids in the Salvation Army.

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