“I determined while in school to go to college partly because other men went, partly because I foresaw that such discipline would best fit for my life… I believe foolishly perhaps, but sincerely, that I have something to say to the world and I have taken English 12 in order to say it welll.” – W.E.B. DuBois
As a first generation college student and graduate many people including family, friends, and strangers have congratulated me on my achievements but are usually taken aback by my not so enthusiastic response and attitude. Entering college as a freshman on a conditional acceptance because of my poor performance in high school, I didn’t know what to expect neither from myself or the university. Upon my arrival and prior to my first day of classes I told myself that I wanted to take my studies seriously and would try to learn as much as I could during my time at Cheyney. Having been a part of the mentally gifted program at Shawmont Elementary School during my adolescence, and finally putting my mind to work after so many years of hiatus I quickly realized that I would be able to excel in the classroom beyond many of my peers.
Though I always knew I had the mental prowess, I became disinterested with all academic endeavors during highschool and did what was barely required to pass. I finished high school with a 1.7 GPA and planned for a career in the military, which didn’t exactly pan out either. After my first year at Cheyney I applied for the Keystone Honors Scholarship and was subsequently inducted the fall semester of my junior year. By this time I had already begun taking the things I learned both inside and outside of the classroom to social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and made a name for myself amongst family and friends as someone with a solid background on historical information and discern for social and political issues. It was during this time I became radicalized and after so many debates and arguments over social media I began to feel isolated in my views and questioned why others were unable to draw at least similar conclusions.
Reflecting back on perhaps the easiest course of my college career, Critical Thinking, taken my freshman year as I began to realize that many of my classmates were unable to put together logically structured arguments and I was indeed much more academically sound than many of my peers. Priding myself on my ability to produce arguments that flowed logically and dissect ones that didn’t, I knew that by expanding my base of information and knowledge I would easily be one of the smartest people in any setting I found myself in. However, I lowered my expectations in the ability of others to grasp my ideas so easily due to the years of pushback by my peers and university faculty. And not to claim that I have some sort of grand theory, but anyone who has attended college knows of someone who graduated that is less than competent in their field and likely copied assignments or paid others to do them. Yet the degree grants them authority.
Sure I’m all about the hustle and finessing the system but when will we begin to admit that people who graduate from college without being able to do the required work of a college student devalues our degrees and the entire education system as a whole? Although I have been disillusioned with the education system in the United States since my highschool years it was not until years later that I am now able to critique it and prosecute it to the fullest extent. As a system that is known to breed and produce many incompetent, racist, and immoral individuals who have ascended to the highest positions of our society, I cannot pride myself on proving able to do something that they have been able to do also. The only difference is that many people of color often do not have the financial means to pay for higher education and are systematically locked out of the system due to racial disparities in economics and wealth distribution. Because of this, obtaining a degree seems like a major feat to accomplish for many first generation college students who are more often than not a racial minority.
Although I was fortunate enough to have parents that were able to support me to begin my college career and then receiving the Keystone Honors Scholarship, I know that this is not typical for most college students from lower economic backgrounds. It is imperative to understand that without the economic barriers placed to blockade people of color from attending college the rates of enrollment and graduation would skyrocket and it is exactly why higher education should be 100% free. My college experience has taught me that graduating from college is primarily based on how much and how long you are willing to pay until you receive your degree, while your academic abilities may determine both of those factors. Yes I am grateful to have afforded the opportunity to study at a university and have a family that was able to support me but I am not at all impressed with myself. To posit my personal gain over the urgency of revolutionizing society is a disservice to the plight of oppressed people all over the world and only until that great task is completed I shall never be satisfied.
They giving degrees to anybody outchea!