Class and college

I come down hard some time on student issue activism. I find it very uninteresting, generally misguided, and I worry that it consumes way too much activist time and energy. Don’t get me wrong: I like student activism, just not inward-focused student activism. Students are uniquely situated to do a great deal of organizing work around very important issues. However, when they start theorizing their own economic oppression as students, it gets real wacky real fast.

To be sure, there are specific groups of students that, much more than others, face serious and problematic economic pressure. Those students — poor students especially — tend to find themselves in community colleges and for-profit schools. If student activism around student economic issues was focused on those schools, that would make sense. But it’s not. Student activism is made up of students from conventional four-year colleges, and the activism is focused on those students as well. The plight of those students stands in for the plight of students more generally, and often for the plight of the youth itself.

The entire category of people called “students” is disproportionately composed of individuals from rich parents, but even more so in the conventional four-year schools.

If you look at a graph like that, but still plunge into student-focused activism work at conventional four-year colleges, you are a fool. I have no idea what you are doing. A class of people that is composed of people from those backgrounds is not a class of people that you should be spending significant effort organizing around. At minimum, do not pretend the organizing is about fighting “class war” and “economic oppression.” At least make some effort to theorize students as belonging to their own uniquely oppressed class or something. Filing student stuff under “class oppression” wont suffice, not if you are trying to be taken seriously.