I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of news stories about colleges panicking over potential dropout rates due to the coronavirus. Can you blame the college-aged students of America, many of us already thousands of dollars in debt, jobless, and ineligible for the federal relief money due to our tax status, for not wanting to pay upwards of $6,000 for college via Chromebook?
I’m a theatre major, verging on my senior year at Boise State University. What am I supposed to do, perform Hamlet into a webcam, and pray that prepares me for the industry? A degree in theatre is a degree in presence, in storytelling, in collaboration, there is so much lost when this learning translates online.
My mother, a teacher, said to me “grading a student right now would be grading their privilege, not their ability.”
When classes inevitably transition online for this fall, people will still get degrees. But most of those will be students who have money set aside for college, homes with consistent wifi, students with laptops of their own, their own study space, somebody to help them if they get stuck, access to online resources, etc.
The people who get degrees in an entirely online learning environment will be the most privileged of us. They will enter a job field with a leg up. All those without what it takes to be successful in an online classroom will not.
Students need support more than ever right now. And you need us, too. You need our brains, our ideas, and our innovation. There has been so much focus on reopening our economy but I ask you this: when are we going to start supporting our educational systems?
Choices made around education will make or break the careers of future doctors, politicians, engineers, and yes… even playwrights like me. It’s time to be mindful of the privilege that comes with a college education and to use our resources to support our college students.
The very act of going to school is a small act of revolution. Let us not forget that Brown vs. The Board of Education dates back only 66 years from today. Let us not forget that two-thirds of the world’s 796 million illiterate people are women. Let us not forget that Boise State University can only boast a 38% graduation rate and Idaho’s rate of students continuing their education after high school is still less than 50%. This issue of privilege is so deeply steeped into our system that we oftentimes forget about it. COVID-19 is making this even harder to ignore.