Elitism in schools
By: Rida Tariq
Looking back at all the yesteryears and then looking at the present years, I don’t ever remember school being a safe place for the under-privileged. Now that doesn’t necessarily refer to gun-violence or bombings ; But in fact bullying or ridiculing someone on the basis of their skin colour, wealth, physique or looks. If history has taught us one thing, it’s that schools were never a sanctuary for the “coloured” people during the late 19th century and the early 20th century. Blacks endured both physical and mental brutality at the hands of their white peers so much that most of them were denied education, their fundamental right as a human. I truly think this is how elitism stemmed in our society and then further onto schools.
Now, in the present day, where racism has toned down a great deal, children have found other ways to belittle other children that differ from them in various aspects that they deem them unworthy of their company. So much that it has jeopardized the foundation of why schools ever came into existence. Racism has now progressed into elitism. The basic purpose of schools was to educate the masses regardless of their gender, social or financial status or whatever, but somewhere along the way, we have lost the true essence of education.
Instead of focusing on the knowledge that schools bestow on its children, the children themselves are only concerned about being popular in school, being the prettiest girl at school, being the toughest boy at class and what not. My mother often tells me stories about her school days and how even the wealthiest girl would happily befriend a girl of limited financial means. How they remained the best of friends till date. Listening to all her stories, I cannot relate to a single one of them. Because in my school, children would be divided into groups of two: the wealthy kids and middle-class kids and God forbid if one of them would be the kid of a custodian or a cleaning lady. The rich kids would refuse to acknowledge them, they thought those under-privileged kids were beneath them and they didn’t deserve to go to school with us which is actually pretty absurd considering I never went to a fancy school. I remember feeling so sorry for those children who were treated like lesser beings bys kids their own age and even by teachers who often ridiculed them over their broken English or their Punjabi or Siraiki dialects.
The teachers would often say harsh things to them such as, “if you can’t speak proper English, then you don’t really belong here” “Please refer to a dictionary before talking to me” and what not. I remember their self-esteem being shattered into a billion pieces after hearing such remarks from teachers who are supposed to teach, not ridicule. Needless to say, even after graduating from school and moving on to college, the elitism did not end. In college, people with a Cambridge background were given the upper hand in class, because the teachers
thought they were smarter than the kids who had a different educational background. Because obviously, having studied under the curriculum produced by the English, made the students “smarter” and “wiser” than the others. (please, detect the sarcasm in my former statement.) I remember how anxiety-ridden I was on the first day of college when the teachers when it was time for introductions which meant telling the class what school I had studied from considering how fancy the other schools were. When it was my turn and I said my school name aloud, there was a roar of laughter from the class because none of them had even heard of the name and the name itself was quite amusing to them. I remember even the teacher chuckling a bit and she paid no heed to the children laughing their hats off at me. She instead dismissed me and moved on to the next child who had studied from yet another fancy school and how the teacher looked at that child with such admiration when he spoke in a very forced American accent. Where were the laughs then? Where were the judgmental looks then? Why was everyone so impressed by a measly accent or by the fact that he could string two sentences together and then think of himself as Lord Mountbatten? Oh how I despised them.
The two years I spent in that prison were as you all will know eventually, were absolute torture. The fact that my teachers and most of the class thought I was just a piece of furniture took a toll on my self-esteem even though I had better grades than most. But then again, I did not speak in a pretentious, trying-too-hard accent and because I never flaunted my daddy’s money, I was never “cool” enough to be a part of their clique. Fast forward to university, sadly enough, even after maturing into adults, society still hasn’t changed at all. Stay tuned for more personal miseries and triumphs.