Pressing Your Advantage

Years ago, when a coworker kept talking to me about the importance of not sacrificing one’s children to public school, my mentor suggested to me that men who do things like this do them for a reason.

Let me offer a little background, so you can see where I’m going. I was married at the time, and my husband worked in the same division. Our children were 6 and 8 years old. My coworker was a single man and a recent immigrant from Uzbekistan. We talked about faith as we were each discovering our own.

In a very real way, his faith had set him free. Christian missions from the United States lobbied his government to allow Jews to emigrate. Through 2 generations of communist rule, his family only knew they were Jewish because it was considered an ethnicity and it was documented on his papers. When he arrived in the United States, he began an earnest exploration of what it means to be Jewish.

His concern about public education was grounded in his own public education. For him, school was chiefly about political indoctrination and he was not allowed to talk about questions of faith. I agree with him at some level, and we both agree with Marx, at some level. Marx suggested that public schools are a tool to shape workers. But I don’t think my coworker was actually interested in my children or their education.

I think he was interested in having less competition in the workplace. I say this because he never had this conversation with my husband, who was also a collegue. Also, when I asked him to stop he did not. When other male colleagues pointed out to him that I felt hurt by his attack on my place at work, he did not stop. I think my mentor was right. When people in positions of social advantage talk about that advantage or press the point they do so to enhance their advantage.

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