Really? An Ivy League? This must be a joke. Geniuses with perfect GPAs go to Ivy League schools. This kid—the quiet one, who isn’t in every club, who can’t claim legacy at an elite university—somehow claims to have an acceptance letter from a crème de la crème school. The fact is that they did get in, and there is no plausible reason to make us think otherwise. Why do we internally label our peers and force them into a category where we think they belong? Intelligence does not correlate with appearance in any way, so why do we pass judgement?
People judge subconsciously others without focusing on the moral conflicts and pain that will inevitably result from such judgment. People may believe that we have the highest moral standards due to our misconstrued perceptions of ourselves, but this perspective has only contributed to more biases and prejudices. High-achieving students, specifically, tend to hide their flaws in order to compete in the classroom. However, acceptance of our flaws must begin because, although Beyoncé might be an exception in today’s world, flaws remain inescapable and help us connect and empathize with each other. People have permanently printed footsteps on the moon and cracked the code to understanding quantum mechanics, but humanity remains stagnant because we stereotype and judge in order to make up for individual insecurities.
Putting others down allows people lacking self-confidence to feel powerful, but this mindset parallels the attitudes that have resulted in systematic oppression and a lack of equal protection under the law. Even if the implementation of the Grandfather Clause and poll taxes seems like ancient history, the recent wars against terror and immigration have contributed to surges in close mindedness, often stemming from fear. What makes this fear so dangerous is that it stems from deep-seated prejudice and misinformed stereotypes—stereotypes that are often subconscious.
The fear of failure and the consequential ignorance towards one’s own biases should not stimulate discrimination. Just because someone isn’t decked out in Vineyard Vines doesn’t mean that they’re struggling financially or that they’re not smart. The same distinction applies to intelligence because the prevalence of self-interest in our society encourages competition. Just like the Americans who basked in the theory of Social Darwinism in the late 19th century, people today still correlate success with a predestined “fitness” for prosperity, thus highlighting one of the defining aspects of human nature: inherent insecurities.
Unfounded criticism and judgment may appear deeply embedded in Princeton High School, but we need to eliminate it because, as we all know, intelligence and appearance have zero correlation. Just as race is not indicative whatsoever of intelligence, neither is socioeconomic status. The achievement gap between high and low-achieving students correlates with race and financial stability because we give people labels based on their appearances and have been establishing these labels since cotton production made slavery endemic to the South’s economic success in the 1800s. If we stop competing with each other and doubting our own abilities, we will eventually recognize the negative repercussions of these biases and change the status quo.
Stereotypes and biases are created by people who are scared of failure. Often, the fear felt by students of not thriving academically or socially leads them to put down others in order to compensate for their own self-consciousness. By managing individual stress and accepting ourselves, we can work together to eliminate the injustices of criticism and stereotypes. Instead of making a judgement based one’s appearance, we should think about how we can become better people. When we begin to focus on eradicating negativity within ourselves, the end of discrimination will follow.