It Wasn’t You, Though

I recently had a conversation with a couple of my classmates. A lot of the time, those don’t really go well, because I end up sticking my mouth into conversations I have no right to care about, and state opinions I know these “thinkers” simply cannot ever agree with. The theme of this conversation is one that has really been burning in my chest for far too long now: the prestige of institutions and whether or not they deserve them.

One classmate was saying something along the lines of how he was worried that the schools he was applying to were not going to accept him because of his grades not being ridiculously excellent. Okay…if you don’t know about my stance on grades/school as a measure of intelligence, you don’t know me well enough. Fighting against academics is basically all I ever do with my life – but that isn’t the focus right now, so with great restraint, I shall temporarily leave that matter.

My response to said classmate’s comment (his comment was, by the way, not even directed at me, but at the classmate sitting next to me) was something along the lines of: Apply. Forget about whether they accept you or not. Your intelligence is not defined by which college you get into. Go wherever, and make yourself great, and show those who rejected you that you can always be great, with or without them.

His response to my response: that when he’s applying for a job, the first thing they’ll judge him on is which school he comes from.

My response? That if an employer wants to judge me not on my actual capabilities, but on the institution I am affiliated with, I don’t freaking want him/her as my employer.

Here’s the part where we enter a brief, fruitless argument, I am left with self-contained anger, and they are left basically looking at me like I will never understand how the world truly works.

Just to clarify, I understand how the world works, thank you very much; I just do not agree with it, and I will fight to change that every chance I get. But one thing I am sick of is institutions claiming merits for things that they honest-to-goodness do not deserve.

I never really saw this as a problem before I came to this school. I never wrote BECE, but coming here was the first time I’d ever heard of a school having its own, tailored entrance exam. (Of course, since then, I’ve come to know that this is a common thing I had just been oblivious to.) I also heard that “SOS people are sharks oh.” But somehow, I never previously connected this claim to the entrance exam, nor to the claim “SOS is a very good school”. Let’s not even begin to talk about how the main reason they think this is the academic achievements of the students inside it, but hey – let’s move on.

People are under some illusions that certain institutions with recognizable names somehow make you a better person. Popular cases in point: the Ivy League universities. But are they functional as places that better their students, or they’re just elitist?

In my opinion, the selectivity is that defining factor we don’t always seem to take into account. They don’t accept ordinary students and propel them to greater heights just by their existence. LOL, no. They filter the people they accept by these individuals’ own qualities before they accept them, and then when said individuals go on to do the great things I insist they were always capable of doing, the institutions proudly take credit for them…And I just feel like telling these institutions sometimes that, “Umm, hello, it wasn’t you, though.” But duh, they know that already. They MADE the filters, for goodness’ sake.

I have memories from when I was about twelve or thirteen, around Form 1 in Faith Montessori School (LOL I’m never going back there). I had already decided by then that I wanted to be a writer, of course. This really is my longest lasting aspiration. But my English and Literature teachers were like my enemies, somehow always trying to find new ways to tell me that I couldn’t write, couldn’t analyse, like my brain and imagination worked wrongly, marking me down constantly, for reasons I knew, even then, were not logical. They, whose every lesson-plan for every poem or story analysis was a word-for-word recital from Sparknotes, were berating me for using my brain?

The antagonism is long. But basically, somewhere around 2011 or something, I had decided that when I eventually published my first book, I would dedicate it to all my useless English teachers, thanking them for having basically no effect on my life and education. Yeah. I was (am?) that mean. Because somehow, I knew that the school where I was absolutely miserable and mentally confined may one day try to take the praise for moulding me positively, when I became successful – which would, of course, be some type of blasphemy. That vision haunted me.

It didn’t end in high school. By the end of my second year, Literature was my least favourite subject. Absolutely despised it. So, of course, that experience did nothing to dissolve my resolve to put that pre-decided dedication in my first book. Am I still going to do it? Who knows? (I might never even get published in the first place, never even be successful.) But I still maintain that these institutions are not the ones that achieved the people’s achievements for them.

So now, the idea that a Princeton graduate of equal or lower capabilities than someone from a college you’ve probably never heard of is more likely to get a job you both applied for is only serving to further destroy any shred of hope I might have in coming to like this nasty political franchise we call Planet Earth.

The last thing I need you to tell me right now is that “that’s how the world is.” Don’t you dare play that “and you can’t change it” card. First of all, rebellion is in my very blood and if you bore me, I’ll frickin’ hex you! You’ll be literally dead by the next story I write. See, the only reason these silly things stay as they are is because you humans are content enough to accept the unfairness of the world, convince yourselves you can’t make a difference, and integrate yourselves into the corruption.

Define thyself not by thy institution.


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