I may have been the first member of my family to go to university but I was not the first to obtain a degree. When I was around 12 years old, my mom worked full time, raised two kids almost by herself and somehow managed to work on a degree in criminology at my country’s largest distance learning institution. She had earned a certificate in nursing in her younger days but her mind was curious and she seemed to have endless energy to think.
I remember two things about the time my mom studied. 1) I felt resentful at times about her dedication to her studies and not spending time with me…because, ya know, everything was about me. And 2) enormous, incontrovertible pride.
One evening, as she was hunched over her books at an old, wooden table covered in evidence of her other pursuits like sewing, I stared at my mother handwriting an assignment. I felt sincere pity for my friends. How lonely and dull their lives must have been without a mother who learnt and worked and wondered. I looked at her and hoped that one day, that would be me.
My mom beamed with pride every time I obtained a degree. But I could also sense a scintilla of envy. Her curiousity never waned but time, money, fatigue and other of life’s little surprises meant that her studying days were over. But I can testify today, without hesitation or reservation, that had it not been for my mom’s love of reading and learning, I would never have developed my own love of learning. And that has made all the difference in my life.
But as much as I adore learning, nothing irks me more than intellectual snobism. The idea that your qualifications, your parentage, your schools, your grades or the number of books you’ve read elevates you somehow to superiority scratches at my sphincters. Every time the other parents (mostly attorney, doctors and pharmacists of course…) at my fancy freaking school looked at my mom and her shabby nursing clothes like she was a dead mouse carried in by a feral cat, the rage built. When my mom – who payed her own way through nursing college and a degree in criminology – asked for more affordable options at my school and the other kids would snigger, the rage built.
Today, a new professor with a massively impressive reputation as high-class intellectual told one of my colleagues with 27 years of teaching experience that he clearly does not understand the teaching of law. He said of another of my colleagues that she is nothing more than a plumber for teaching law students the practical black-letter law instead of sticking to the philosophical underpinnings of our legal system.
I smiled. Any person who refers to craftsmen in a context that suggests their inferiority is a giant can of worm turds.
But then I chucked my smile and lost my temper and I conducted myself in a manner that I’m not proud of now. That type of elitism toward wonderful people he has not bothered getting to know dissolved my polish and turned me into an moma ostrich that discovered someone stealing her egg.
I had to apologize to this egg-stealing wanker later today and I was reminded of the humbling effects of regret and shame.
But the first opportunity I get to spit in his fancy cappuccino, I’m taking it.