One day, a clever high school teacher wanted to teach his students one of the greatest lessons in life that eludes us all as a society on this earth.
This is what he did. He planned a simple interactive exercise. According to the Upworthy news who published the thought-provoking story, the teacher placed a recycling bin in front of the classroom and gave each student a scrap paper.
Before starting what he wanted the students to do with the recycle bin and the scrap paper, he told the students that they represent the country’s population and everyone has a chance to get rich. But there was a hurdle for everyone to jump: “To move into the upper class, all you must do is throw your wadded-up paper into the bin while sitting in your seat.”
Then when the exercise started and ended, most of the students in the front made it into the bin, and most of the students in the back failed to make it. The teacher explained to them: “The closer you were to the recycling bin, the better your odds. This is what privilege looks like.”
The only students who complained about fairness were those in the back of the room. They complained because the thought those in front had an advantage.
But students in the front of the room, however, focused only on the task at hand with little consideration for their advantage. They never complained and never got worried about their colleagues at the back because they were privileged to sit in front.
The teacher told the class “that is also how privilege works”. It was a short and simple exercise but carries a big lesson for us as a society of humanity.
This exercise gives us clearer insight into both our present and future. While it is good to be privileged, it can also distract us from the challenges people behind us face in pursuit of the same goals.
In that sense, people with privilege can themselves be an obstacle to social mobility for the underprivileged in our society.
The teacher concluded with a statement that got to the heart of the matter: “Your job as students who are receiving an education is to be aware of your privilege and use this particular privilege called ‘education’ to do your best to achieve great things, all the while advocating for those in the rows behind you.”
The students were marveled by the short philosophical and thought-provoking exercise the teacher had conducted and it became a great lesson for them.
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