So you're in college, and things are moving right along.
You've finished yet another tough assignment, quiz, exam, homework — whatever. Classmates around you remark how happy they are that the task over.
But you offer a different perspective. You say, "It was easy."
Now you may be telling the truth, or you may be lying through your teeth in the hopes of making yourself appear smarter or more capable — but for Stanford instructor Ruth Starkman, it all boils down to one thing.
You've committed a "microaggression," she wrote in a Huffington Post op-ed.
"Competitiveness need not produce thoughtless behavior; nor should the drive for excellence be discouraged. Striving to finish first, snare the top grade, create something new, better, and completely original — that’s what students at top universities do," Starkman said. "But they can also achieve all this without indifference, microaggressions, or worst of all, Schadenfreude, the joyful relishing of others’ misery."
She then offered suggestions for staying successful without giving up "being good."
"You wouldn’t say to your dearest buddy or sibling who was visibly struggling, 'Oh, it was easy.' Nor would you dare suggest to anyone important to you: 'Really, you don’t know this?' Or, 'this is from week one,' duh…. " Starkman said. "So, why would you say such things to the random student next to you in class?"
She added that "the explanation: 'Well, it was easy for me, because I had this already in high school' or middle school, or in the delivery room, when you were born... even if it’s not a lie, is also a form of bragging. Not everyone went to your high school, had your fortunate circumstances, or such a dazzling delivery room arrival, and even if they did, they might still be suffering because of the genuine challenges of the assignments."
More from Starkman's op-ed:
How did you acquire that knowledge that the student next to you lacks? If you already know how to properly use anadiplosis and chiasmus and took AP Computer Science in high school, chances are your parents paid substantial sums of money for that knowledge, either in property taxes in highly resourced school districts or in private education or pricey enrichment. The going rate for SAT tutoring is $180 an hour. Your response “I already had this in high school” really means “not only do I have rich parents, I somehow took exactly the right courses to be perfectly prepared.” Congrats if you did. Try not to be a jerk about it.