Kareem is an interesting student who spends a lot of time trying to come up with business ideas in order to "help people get even lazier" as he says. He goes through these random phases sometimes where all he can think about is money, getting rich and making more money.
"I've just been thinking a lot lately. Will Smith's kid. He's got it made. He's a have. I'm a have not. That's so unfair. All the opportunities he's already had and is going to get."At first, I was shocked I was having this conversation with him, because I thought he knew better by now than to simply say life is unfair and do nothing about it.
I told him sure, life is unfair but his definition of "have" and "have not" needs to be revisited. There's plenty of "rich" people out there who aren't intelligent or productive members of society and will likely waste the hard-earned money someone in their family accumulated. What does it mean to be a "have?" Is it money, or is it some sort of knowledge, support structure, etc?
Kareem agreed, and also admitted that while he would loved to have been born into wealth, he appreciates everything he's come to learn in his current life.
Phew! Crisis averted. Or so I thought:
"So, would you star in a porn movie for a million dollars? I would do it. Then I'd use that money and start my own business."This is where my kids would write, SMH. I obviously said no, I wouldn't do porn (despite all the demand) and explained my reasoning. He responds:
"I don't care if people know I did porn or somehow found out. If I was a celebrity, I would make a sex tape and secretly release myself so I could get some popularity and money out of it."At this point, I'm thinking: Uh... who are you and what have you done to Kareem?
At the end of the day, this exchange supremely depressed me. Kareem has been one of my star-studded students over the past two years. His perseverance and intelligence is something to admire. For him to seriously consider porn as an alternative makes me feel like all the conversations I had with him over the past two years were meaningless.
Beyond that, it seriously made me question if I, as a teacher, could really "change" someone for the better. Maybe he was just having a bad day and felt like his struggles were futile.
The conversation also made me thinking about myself: growing up in an industrial town off Chicago, I did everything I could to land a gig in investment banking. I really didn't care when people told me I'd have to give up my life to do it. "Sell your soul" as they say. I didn't really appreciate being happy until it was too late and I was already pulling all-nighters crunching numbers and wearing out the shortcuts to copy and paste (CTRL + C and CTRL + V) on my keyboard.
Some questions come up:
- Will most people who aren't born into at least the middle class spend their lives trying to jump classes through the acquisition of quick money? And have they "truly" jumped classes just through the acquisition of money? Or does one need to acquire more than simply wealth to jump classes?
- Is that why most of my students don't understand the Teach for America program, when I tell them it's packed with kids from among the most prestigious colleges and universities?
Okay, seriously, stop wondering why I know so much about the Real Housewives of New York and focus on the main point of this entry people!