Hiding From our Past?

Slavery, that once took place in America over 200 years ago, is something often disregarded in classrooms today. Most textbooks, professors, and teachers touch on the subject and then move on, leaving the profound impact it had on our country and people go unnoticed. Something that was so life changing to thousands of Americans should not be overlooked and Professor Edward Baptist understood this. In his article, “Teaching Slavery to Reluctant Listeners”, he explains the struggle he constantly had to go through with his students, when talking about slavery. He goes on to say, “as I walk into the first class of the semester, I know that I will find challenge, discomfort and even anxiety” (Baptist). But why does it have to be so uncomfortable for students like us to talk about this? Why are we hiding from the truth? Baptist then writes that most of his white students, at first, were defensive about this subject, “over the weeks to come, not only did they work harder, but their comments became less defensive, more insightful” (Baptist). When first talking about slavery, it seems as if his white students were defending themselves and refusing to look deeper into the subject. However, after a student encounter, the white students started to become more insightful and thought harder about the important impact slavery has had on our nation and what it truly means. But why, in the first place, did those white students feel the need to defend themselves? Clearly, white people are going to be uncomfortable talking about this horrible part of the past, but that shouldn’t mean it can’t be talked about. Not matter what race you are, or the history that follows you, everyone will be uncomfortable with this type of subject. But, we should still be able to have a truthful and deep conversation about it. So how can we make this an easier conversation to have? Why do you think it is still, to this day, so difficult to talk about? If you were in Professor Baptists class, how would you act when talking about slavery?

Big Words:

profound – penetrating or entering deeply into subjects ofthought or knowledge; having deep insight or understanding. 

insightful – characterized by or displaying insight; perceptive.

Overextended and Underprivileged

Ben Carson has been in the spotlight for the past few years, and has gained a lot of recognition and attention for his feats of neurosurgery, as well as during his 2016 campaign for the presidency. He hasn’t always been in the spotlight, however. He grew up in an extremely impoverished neighborhood in Detroit with a single mother on food stamps before making it to Yale University. Scott Carlson, the author of the article, “Low-Income Students at Elite Colleges Speak of Facing Pressures and Alienation,” would probably describe Mr.Carson one of the low income students he talks about. In the article, Carlson describes the high achieving, low income students who “are working three shifts, as researchers have put it: in college, at work, and at home, taking care of their families”(Carlson), that have rose from deplorable situations to face a new test at our nation’s top universities. This test includes fitting in with other students born with better opportunities, such as electricity. Harold Levy, executive director of the Cooke Foundation, which provides scholarships to impoverished students, states, “he was currently reviewing the scholarship application of a student who studies by candlelight, as her electricity was turned off after her mother suffered a stroke” (Carlson). These students face enormous pressure to succeed because their families are basically dependent on them as they work a job while trying to study at an elite college. The main focus of the article seems to be the symptom of alienation these young adults face. Is this really the most important factor to worry about when it comes to the students setbacks? Isn’t feeling isolation or alienation natural human nature after all?  The unfortunate fact is there are only hard answers when it comes to trying to help impoverished kids  to succeed. This discussion comes up within the article as top administrators, including government officials argue how to alleviate the problem. One government official stated that access and affordability were most important, but was questioned by an audience member, Ms. Hill of Vassar, who retorted, “To talk to us about cost containment, when the government isn’t doing anything about income inequality, is a little unfair” (Carlson). Does Ms. Hill’s point put her in the minority for not seeing a problem with the cost of higher education? Given all of the discussion about lowering costs, she seems to think that the education system is being singled out. Another question is how can our society create more success stories like Ben Carson? There may be a few answers but some institutions in our country may have to sacrifice a little for poor young students to achieve a lot.

Big Words:

socioeconomic (adj)-relating to or concerned with the interaction of social and economic factors

blithely (adj)-joyous, merry, or gay in disposition; glad; cheerful

anecdote (n)-a short and amusing or interesting story about a real incident or person