I have a lot of pet peeves: slow walkers, litter, bragging and — most importantly — condescension. I cannot stand it when people patronize others. The most irritating example of this that I’ve encountered since starting college is the talk of “the real world.” I’ve noticed that many professors, administrators and other adults like to tell students about how it is in the real world. I don’t think I’d have an issue with it if they used the real world as a way to praise someone. If my professors told me that I was doing well and that, in the real world, my work will be valuable, that’d be one thing. But they aren’t doing that. They are using the real world as a way to discount the opinions, experiences and work of young people by telling them that, because they are in a collegiate setting, they are less valid.
Telling students that the way they are behaving won’t pass in the real world is rude. It might be correct but it is still rude. I hear a lot of that from my theatre mentors in particular. “In the real world, early is on time, on time is late, late is unacceptable and absent is fired.” “In the real world, you have to respect your director’s wishes.” “In the real world, an outfit like that would immediately put you on the no-call back list.” Although the expectations might be true, the delivery of these lessons is inconsiderate and humiliating.
It is, in my opinion, the responsibility of teachers to raise up their students, not tear them down. By speaking to their students as if they are lower class or less intelligent than they are, professors effectively eliminate those students’ confidence in their intellect and abilities. By talking down to people younger than themselves, adults suggest that the younger you are, the less respect you deserve.
I have a lot of passions: feminism, dogs, coffee and — most importantly — respect. I believe that mutual respect should be the foundation of every relationship and every interaction we engage in. I believe that respect is earned, not inherent. I believe that age and experience are not indicative of whether or not a person should or shouldn’t be respected. My issue with the “real world” is that it suggests that the thoughts and lives of students are somehow less real or valid than those of adults.
Speaking down to college students discourages them from speaking their minds and flourishing as people responsibly engaged in the world. Condescension toward the assertions made by young people benefits no one and teaches them that they don’t deserve to be treated with the same respect as their elders. Patronizing college students convinces them of something that is not true — that their opinions, experiences and ideologies are less real and worth less time and consideration than those of their mentors.
My dorm room desk is no less real than your corner office. My bus tokens are no less real than your frequent flyer miles. My papers in class are no less real than your presentation at work. The experiences and opinions college students have are no less important or real than those adults.
Natalie Dulka is a sophomore English Writing and Theatre Art double major from Minneapolis, MN. She keeps herself occupied by holding the position of Chief Executive Officer of Feminism Club, being involved with the theater, and writing plays. Her passions include sarcasm, wool socks, and equality.