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Late Night: Look, It’s Entitled High School Me!

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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 of the 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 stuff 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 say shhhh—”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.


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Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel is a 10-year veteran of the newspaper business. She publishes First Draft, a writing and politics blog, with her partners Holden, Jude and Scout. She is the author of the books Chicago's Historic Irish Pubs (2011, Arcadia Publishing, with Mike Danahey) and It Doesn’t End With Us: The Story of the Daily Cardinal, about a great liberal journalism institution (2007, Heritage Books). She also edited the anthology “Special Plans: The Blogs on Douglas Feith and the Faulty Intelligence That Led to War” (2005, William, James & Co.) Her work has appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the Daily Southtown, Sirens Magazine, and Alternet. She lives in Chicago with her husband, two ferrets, and approximately 60 tons of books.