Monday, January 4, 2010

"To Harvard."


I took a philosophy of film class last Summer. One day before class I was siting in the corner reading the newspaper.

"Anxious for class to start?" Asked the student sitting in the hall. I recognized him from class He was dressed in a suite, like the law students do, and obviously took care of his appearance. Most of us are scruffy. All us girls seem to have the same sort of casually messy hair, and the boys never have time to shave. Whenever I see him I am startled.

I remarked that I usually felt too shy to talk to the other students, and he discouraged this. He pointed out that there are lots of us who are shy, and that is why the classes tend to be so quiet. So it isn't that the other students are aloof, just that we appear aloof to each other. Over the last year I have seen this to be true.

But this story isn't about me. It is about him. There is a scene in certain movies where the father pours his son a drink and toasts 'to Harvard.' It does not need to be Harvard. But somewhere with equal prestige. No one toasts 'the the University of Toronto,' and really who would toast 'to Uvic?' I might toast 'to Victoria' but as great as these schools are it has to be better then that. But these are movies. This is the American dream of higher learning. Sending the son off to law school. Off to Oxford. Off to somewhere where anyone who gets in has a grand future ahead of them.

My roommate and I arrive early to the Philosophy Christmas Party. There aren't many people yet and there is a loll in conversation. Over by the bar the student who encouraged me to do things like go to Christmas parties is talking to his friend. I glance over in hopes that someone I know has arrived and see them raise their glasses. I hear over the noise of the room, 'to Harvard.'

1 comment:

Elisabeth said...

Sadly, it's like this everywhere, in Australia too, and continues over time. There are people hell bent on success, while others simply struggle to do well enough to survive.

One of my clearest memories of my first year at university is the experience of walking into the cafeteria and surreptitiously looking to left and right as I walked up the corridor between the rows of tables. I hoped desperately to see someone I might recognise, someone I might pluck up courage enough to sit beside, but more often than not I recognised no one, not a soul, and the sense that I wished the floor might swallow me up stays with me to this day.

Thanks for a powerful and evocative post.