Hey Look, It’s Entitled High School Me!

Seriously, I think I wrote something this snippy and spoiled in high school, but it’s still in my diary (I TOLD YOU TO BURN THAT, MOM) and not in the pages ofthe Wall Street Journal:

Like me, millions of high-school seniors with sour grapes are asking themselves this week how they failed to get into the colleges of their dreams. It’s simple: For years, they—we—were lied to.

Colleges tell you, “Just be yourself.” That is great advice, as long as yourself has nine extracurriculars, six leadership positions, three varsity sports, killer SAT scores and two moms. Then by all means, be yourself! If you work at a local pizza shop and are the slowest person on the cross-country team, consider taking your business elsewhere.

What could I have done differently over the past years?

For starters, had I known two years ago what I know now, I would have gladly worn a headdress to school. Show me to any closet, and I would’ve happily come out of it. “Diversity!” I offer about as much diversity as a saltine cracker. If it were up to me, I would’ve been any of the diversities: Navajo, Pacific Islander, anything.

Yeah, this is how I used to think, because nobody but nobody is put-upon like a girl born white to middle-class parents in America, for serious. How dare I not be able to get into Harvard? How dare I not get everything I want? It’s almost JUST like being gay or Asian! CRAZINESS.

Here’s some shit I learned in the intervening 20 years:

1. Your ethnic background isn’t a goddamn costume. You can’t put it on to look good for the admissions committee and assume you’d be able to take it off at all other times. Like when you get used as a zoo exhibit in class, sent to a shitty school to begin with, held back unfairly, called names all day long, and presumed to be either an idiot or a credit to your idiot race.

2. The assumption that all admissions committees are slavering for high-achieving minority candidates is a tough one to make stick anyway. You’d be far better off being born to a congressman than to a Native American, as far as who’s guaranteed a slot in the school of your choice.

3. Another assumption: That everybody starts from the same place, and you all end up at the admissions process having worked equally hard with equal advantages, at which point the minority candidates get some kind of massive unearned leap forward. Not in any way true.

4. Yet another assumption: That you, the lovely hard-working white lady, do not benefit in any way from living and learning amidst diversity. For example, it might teach you something about what the education system is actually like for those who aren’t you.

5. There is nothing incompatible about working at a pizza shop and having a shitload of extracurriculars. I knew a kid in college who pulled a 4.0 with two jobs and a minor in RUSSIAN. As long as we’re assuming the plural of anecdote is data …

6. I know of no college that tells you to be yourself. If you want to underachieve and free-spirit about, there are plenty of places and ways to do that. They’re not in the Ivy League, FYI.

7. This entire thing is just an extended lament that this person is not more fascinating. Which is not anybody’s fault but hers.

To those claiming that I am bitter—you bet I am! An underachieving selfish teenager making excuses for her own failures? That too! To those of you disgusted by this, shocked that I take for granted the wonderful gifts I have been afforded, I sayshhhh—”The Real Housewives” is on.


The overall problem here is not that she wrote this, by the way. Resentful children of the privileged are a dime a dozen. It’s a mystery to me why the Wall Street Journal published it. I’ve seen it described around the Internet as “satire” or “tongue in cheek,” which … not original, and not funny, and with just enough meanness in it to sour the joke. Why, WSJ, would you not choose to run something from one of the high-achieving minority students this young woman disparages? Why reinforce every stereotype of Kids Today that exists?

Oh, right. WSJ. Official newspaper of the status quo.

You know, on behalf of all the college kids I know who work like crazy and don’t front off in the papers about how the world owes them stuff, for serious, get out of their generation. You’re making it look bad.


7 thoughts on “Hey Look, It’s Entitled High School Me!

  1. I suppose they ran it in order to take as many cheap shots at as many people who are not white men as possible.
    They do that a lot.

  2. You left out her biggest mistake: She didn’t choose parents that went to the school of her dreams, and have generously supported it since their graduations.

  3. She’s delusional. There are few jobs for college graduates these days anyway. Save your money and go to a community college, then transfer to an affordable state university. You’ll still get the degree to hang on your wall while you work retail or food management while you’re waiting to compete with 50 other college grads for the entry-level professional position that starts at $21K/year with expensive benefits. The American Dream, indeed.
    I teach English at a community college, but if I was honest with most of the students I advised, I’d tell them to take up a good industrial trade. Plumbing, maybe, if they don’t mind the smell (the smell of MONEY!) Electricians. Mechanics. Morticians.
    Or you could just sell your soul and become a bankster or a day trader. We already live in Hell, anyway.

  4. You can read her article two ways.
    You can take it straight and consider her a first class, grade A whiner. If there were a Whining Level II achievement test, she would have gotten 900 out of 800 points.
    Alternately, you can read her piece as satire, weak, but satire for all that. Did you ever see Savage Steve Holland’s “How I Got Into College”? It’s humor in that vein, poking fun at the whole process.
    To be honest, it’s an uneven article with a number of soft points. The diversity dig could have been handled better. If nothing else, it’s awfully tired. I would have gone for whimsy and avoided naming any actual group – “I found out that Grandpa Bob really was from the Land of the Bunnies. There was probably a whole Bunnyland scholarship waiting for me.”
    The bogus charity idea has been used before. If I remember the Holland movie, it was fresco cleaning in Florence, where the real contenders for the elite schools would learn to say pasta instead of spaghetti.
    The dig at Amy Chua was primitive, but the Tiger Mom’s approach was pretty primitive, so it fits.
    She’s one up on Thomas Friedman with her take on those cultural awareness tours where one flies in, adopts someone as a prop – a taxi driver for Friedman – and claims to have developed insight or as a human being.
    She could have developed the internship thing more. That area is ripe for plucking, but the WSJ might have objected if she slammed the horrid work practices. You’ll notice she doesn’t talk about getting a real job.
    In Holland’s movie, the “overachiever” gag was in the waiting room where the heroine is horribly intimidated by the other students. She spots one other less prepossessing student and sighs in relief. Then she picks up a copy of Time magazine, and there is that student on the cover. It’s an old shtick, and obviously Savage Steve Holland handled it better.
    You have to give her some credit for her self deprecating final paragraph. If you haven’t grasped that she is trying to write satire by now, this is the tell.
    I’m not sticking up for her unconditionally. The piece could have been much better. Some of its barbs are pointed in the wrong direction. I’ve been tutoring a number of high school kids recently, so I couldn’t help rewriting it in my head as I went along. She definitely could have used a better editor, but it isn’t clear such a thing exists at the WSJ.
    Still, the college application process, or more accurately, the advice industry surrounding it, is ridiculous and ripe for satire. If you call her article sophomoric or like something a high school kid would write, then you are right on the money.

  5. NPR reported recently that most high-achieving, low-income high-school kids DON’T KNOW that they can go to a Yale or a Harvard because no one told them they could. They automatically assume they can’t afford it and end up in super-local state school or area community college. High-income kids don’t have to worry about that. The sky is the limit, even if you all get is Cs.

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