Privilege at Thacher: Part IV

Lessons

As Thacher students agree that responsibility comes with privilege, many were excited to discuss what they should do to help the underprivileged.

Many agreed they should not pity. One survey respondent declared that pity “is not equal and fair,” and Dr. Pharr, a principal who has worked at many of the poorest Title I schools in Texas, believes it might be misguided as well. “A lot of people,” she lamented, “fall into the deficit mindset when thinking of poverty. ‘Oh those poor kids don’t have… [but] what the masses miss are the assets a child gains from poverty: empathy, resourcefulness, financial responsibility, and a love for the simplicities life offers”: lessons which Thacher students should take to heart, as well.

Additionally, students concurred that they should not feel guilty “because it does not do anything.” One teacher agreed, and with a sigh he said, “it’s not about feeling. It’s about experiencing.” He suggested that instead of feeling needlessly guilty, students should go out and “experience” the world, as that might actually teach them something. This might be travel, it might be working a job, and it definitely includes being open-minded, and in order “to be open, you have to listen.”

Another lesson to be learned is that there is power in talking about privilege. One junior admitted that she had never really deeply considered privilege, but after having a fascinating discussion, she proclaimed “it makes me want to go out into the world now.”

Thacher certainly provides opportunities for students to educate themselves on the issues. Many international trips are being offered this year, like Mr. Sanchez’s to Costa Rica, Mr. Sawyer’s to Nicaragua, or the Marvin Shagam Program for Global Ethics and Citizenship’s to Cambodia. It also offers numerous workshops on campus, such as those on Martin Luther King Day or Cultural Weekend. Clubs and extracurricular activities like Black Student Union, Latinos Unidos, and the Human Rights Coalition can also prove essential to providing the education students need. One teacher even insisted that Thacher’s Extra-Day Trips allow students to experience food insecurity (albeit briefly) as the end of the week approaches and they are out of Clif Bars.

Whether the opportunities for service be big or small, on campus or off, during the school year or during the summer, it would be a shame to not utilize them.

In conclusion, being a student at Thacher comes with numerous blessings. We students, individually, also come with our own privileges, whether they are as commonplace as being able-bodied, as inherent as being white, as visible as being able to captivate a room, or as coveted as having a good work ethic. And, coupled with the exceptional gifts this school has given us, from the passionate teachers to the rigorous, meticulously planned curricula, we can do great work. We can make this education the first step in a lifetime of service.

“Be aware of what you have and be aware that others don’t have that,” said Dr. Pharr. Always ask yourself, “how can you take your privilege and bestow it on someone else?”