Saturday, March 5, 2011

Why education matters

In undergraduate school, I majored in Political Science and Sociology. I’d always felt the two were related as one is the study of politics and government and the other is the study of society. Well, you can’t have politics without a society, now can you? I can remember reading those little diatribes on sociology and thinking to myself, “Why does inequality exist?” After years of study, I came up with a simple conclusion: because some people don’t know any better. Not the most intellectual premise in the world, but it got the job done and I still agree with it today. The height of sophistication, it ain’t … but it’s pithy, and we liberals love pithiness.

What an education in such topics will give you, if you endeavor to acquire it, is the ability to turn off the ugliness of your own humanity. Education gives you the ability to stop your innate hatred in its tracks. When you have an education and you’ve put some thought into your thoughts, it’s much easier to ignore the voice that tells you that the homeless man begging for change in the street is a “bum.” It will remind you that you cannot just assume that the couple in front of you with twelve children do not have so many because they are Hispanic.

For much of my college and graduate school years, I worked at Domino’s Pizza in various positions: CSR, Pizza Maker, Delivery, Secretary, and Assistant Manager - you name it and I did it. We got some interesting customers, not all were college students and many were, like a lot of people, seeking something for nothing. What my education in sociology taught me was to ignore that annoying impulse to label them as some slur or stereotype simply because I could.

I’ll touch on a subject here that I typically like to avoid: racism. Many of the delivery drivers at the stores where I worked would sometimes grouse (to me, of all people,) that they disliked delivering to African-American customers because they felt they were certain to get “stiffed” (not be tipped.) If they were “stiffed,” that meant they only received the company’s small allotment for gas (then about $0.50/delivery.) They made their living off tips, so this was akin to taking money out of their pockets. They would often become upset and, if they didn’t know my ethnicity, would seek out what was certain to be a sympathetic ear (me.)

That’s usually about where “Mr. Sociology Major” came in and explained the inequality inherent in American society with regard to African-Americans. Once my lecture on the basic unfairness of property taxes funding education was complete, they’d usually curse at me and leave in a huff. My point was that if all people were given the same access to education (and the funding necessary to ensure its’ success,) then all people (regardless of color) would be doing better financially and would be a little freer with that last buck or two.

My favorite (true) story of those days: One such driver came to me, then a veritable stranger, and said “I don’t know about you, but I hate delivering to black people.” At that point I looked at him, patted my right arm, and said simply: “Do I look white to you, genius?” We both laughed at the awkwardness of the moment and moved on. He learned not to judge a book by its cover and I learned that my new friend wasn’t all that observant. (We remain close to this very day.)

My little lectures did not make me a popular guy; in fact, they made me a laughingstock. My (Republican) boss would often berate me (in public) by saying things like, “You’re the typical Democrat: you’re fat, you’re stupid, and you work for minimum wage while you go to school to learn crap that you’ll never use.” (That was a great lesson in Republican hypocrisy as he weighed about four hundred pounds and had studied engineering only to become the Pizza King of Gainesville, Florida!)

The point of this little diatribe, my dear readers, is to point out the value of education. Even if you don’t use it for the aim in which you intended, you can still use it throughout your daily life in an attempt to better yourself and those around you. So get one, encourage or help someone else to get one, and never say it’s useless.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Paul, good to see you post again. What field are you in now?