Elitism at Nashoba

Elitism at Nashoba

The fundamental definition of an elitist is simply someone considered superior by society, and this sense of superiority is usually based off of the person’s own world view. It is interesting  how elitism is accumulating and acquiring negative connotations and attitudes towards groups of people. In other words, the notion of elitism is becoming increasingly synonymous with snobbery, which is not appropriate in most situations.

The generalized elitist attitude within Nashoba is partially a result of unchangeable aspects like demographics. The vast majority of Nashoba students and faculty are clearly Caucasian and most families are not impoverished or financially challenged. According to U.S. News, only 9% of Nashoba students are of a racial minority. Additionally,  only 6% of the community is “economically disadvantaged.”

These statistics unarguably prove that Nashoba students come from a very small range of demographics. These students mostly come from similar backgrounds with some levels of comparable privilege. It makes sense that there would be an inborn preference towards people of the same type within the community. These demographics and similarities are not inherently bad, but they do further promote certain beliefs of superiority which may unconsciously diminish the worth of those outside these demographics.

Nashoba students are not perpetuating elitism intentionally. It is the unfortunate result of a lack of knowledge and exposure to prejudices and lifestyles which exist elsewhere. So how do we fix elitism within the community? History teacher Melissa Snediker is trying to combat elitism at Nashoba by teaching a one semester sociology class introducing the basics. Terms such as deviance, empathy, and social class are focal points of this introductory course.

In the fall semester of the 2015-2016 school year, she asked her sociology class to consider a problem that they could work to improve at Nashoba, elitism is the topic they came up with. A little more difficult, however, was the question of how change in this area could be inspired throughout the school. What stumped these students, was how they could get their message across to a population that is, in many regards, blind to elitism. Without witnessing, studying, or experiencing the effects of elitist actions, most Nashoba students would not be able to see the prejudice and covert discrimination occurring right under their noses.

In a society where everyone is constantly competing, it becomes even more important to bring light to this issue. All over the country students are spinning their wheels to become the smartest, the most attractive, the most popular, the most talented, and the most athletic young people in the nation. These issues and goals are elitist in nature with the ultimate endgame being the best college, the best job, the best family, and the best life in the future.

In communities of higher privilege, such as Nashoba, students are able to pour all of their energy into achieving such goals. Many students in other communities may have more important worries like helping support their family or working to pay for college. Unfortunately, the higher education system largely benefits the students of higher privilege who have had the opportunity to build a full resume of experiences and the resources to pay for the expensive price tag many colleges possess. This only further prolongs elitist tendencies within our society.

The Nashoba community should raise awareness about these issues by incorporating more sociological concepts into all of their classes. The sociology class offered by Mrs. Snediker is a great start to this process, but it isn’t enough. Currently sociology is only being offered for a half year and is only available as an elective to seniors. Students should be learning about sociological concepts and developing their sociological imagination starting Freshman year. One of Snediker’s largest challenges has been working around the strong and varying opinions at Nashoba. “The teenage brain isn’t capable of thinking in different ways,” she said, “often like thinking outside themselves.” The earlier students begin learning of sympathy versus empathy, the sooner they will be able to see situations from the point of view of others.

“It wasn’t until I started thinking like a sociologist that I really had an empathetic and open mind, it just doesn’t come naturally” said Melissa Snediker on the topic. In her opinion, elitism isn’t an easy fix, and it’s more widespread than most people think. Although Nashoba’s community is a petri dish for breeding this sort of behavior and mentality, it is also a microcosm for American actions. Many countries feel as though America inserts itself in the business of other countries without educating themselves on the history or culture of its people. One actor from Pakistan said, “The old men who run your country make decisions for us based on what they’ve been told by the old white men who came before them. They never stop to consider how the people effected actually feel.”

Nashoba students and faculty have the chance to educate themselves on such issues and motivate change in the community. Who knows, maybe Nashoba could inspire change in our country or even the world!