by Madeline Barnes on Friday, October 3rd, 2014
Although together we form a single community, all Milton students differ in race, religion, academic and athletic interests, and opinion–no two people at Milton are alike. This diversity makes Milton the thought-provoking institution it is. We embrace dissimilarities and support individuality, enabling each of us to appreciate the value of diversity. However, within our mostly heterogeneous community, more private factors, such as socioeconomic class, define each of us in ways that may not be apparent to the community as a whole.
In the classroom, we discuss differences of opinion on topics ranging from religion to race and culture issues to historical events and works of art and literature. Socioeconomic background is a topic rarely, if ever, discussed at Milton, largely because students come from all different walks of life and money is not a topic easily brought up. Dissimilarities in talents and interests are embraced both inside and outside of school through sports, clubs, and extracurricular activities. However, even though the unique and welcoming aspects that make up Milton often become topics of academic discussions, I believe that dialogues surrounding the assortment of socioeconomic strata present on campus are best left out of the classroom.
Ray Brogan, a psychology professor, writes on Education.com that “socioeconomic status (SES) is the measure of the influence that the social environment has on individuals, families, communities, and schools. In many ways SES is related to the concept of social class. Both have financial stability as a foundation for classification. Both are important to a child’s optimal development and an adult’s satisfaction with life.” The Milton community, I believe, is far past discriminating based on the monetary status of students. For the most part, we as a community tend to promote the idea that one’s personality and unique traits, rather than economic status, define him or her as a person. Fortunately, financial based differences are overlooked by the community and, if needed, tended to by the Financial Aid Office. Milton’s Financial Aid Information page notes that “Milton seeks to include families from a broad economic range, including not only those families who have substantial need, but also those who, with some financial help, would be able to consider a Milton education.”
Socioeconomic status is something that is personal to one’s family, and only students and their families should have the privilege of sharing that information. With this opinion in mind, I believe openly discussing differences in financial backgrounds in the classroom would accomplish little and would be, for the most part, irrelevant to topics ordinarily examined in a Milton academic setting. Many students might easily feel embarrassed if discussions focused on economic backgrounds, no matter their own socioeconomic status; in fact, many would probably prefer to hide their economic class from faculty members or fellow students by dressing or acting certain ways.
Obviously, the Milton community cannot avoid the topic of socioeconomic differentiation or discrimination in the broader sense. Socioeconomic class has played a significant role in the history of the world and still applies to current issues. That stated, we need to be aware of the variety of socioeconomic backgrounds in the Milton community. We also need to be mindful that it can be a topic that is often more sensitive than race, nationality, and religion, and is, therefore, an aspect of a student’s identity that should remain inconspicuous.
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