Harvard's Kennedy School Adds 'Checking Your Privilege 101' to New Student Orientation

If you plan to attend Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, better get oriented for your orientation; you may be privileged. 

But don’t worry; there’s always room for spiritual growth. The school is adding a class titled “Checking Your Privilege 101” because of pressure from student activists, and that class will be part of your orientation!

Lucky you! Reetu Mody, a first-year masters student in public policy and a campus activist, exclaimed, “We’re at one of the most powerful institutions in the world, yet we never critically examine power and privilege and what it means to have access to this power. We’re excited to have the administration on board for training all Harvard Kennedy School first years.”

The attack on those who come from walks of life without a sob story to tell engulfed Princeton freshman Tal Fortgang, who wrote an article for the Princeton Tory in which he stated that calls to “check his privilege” – meaning to feel his shortcomings in empathy due to his “privileged” background – “threaten to strike down opinions without regard for their merits” and “solely on the basis of the person that voiced them.” Fortgang’s grandparents were Holocaust survivors, but apparently their success after their World War II travails is cause for denigrating their grandson.

Mody said patronizingly of those she considers “privileged:”

If what you’ve been told all your life is you’re really talented and you deserve what you have, it’s going to be really hard to find out Maybe I don’t deserve it, and all these other people equally deserve it but never even had a shot. Schools are not giving students a space to manage that loss of identity.

Mody joined other activists last fall, when they shared their experiences in which people were intolerant of racial "critiques." In October, they organized a meeting called HKS Speak Out so students could share their stories, too. In the spring, they started a Tumblr so those who wished to could report their stories anonymously. In April, they mounted a “privilege walk,” featuring a “privilege visualization exercise.”

One of the students on the side of the activists wrote:

Sometimes I feel that whole topics would be glossed over or completely misunderstood if I weren’t there to share my poor minority perspective. I remember sitting in class first semester and thinking, “No wonder the policies in America are so ass backwards! Harvard policy makers have no idea what they’re talking about, no accurate historical knowledge, no personal context, and no humility or courage to simply admit they don’t know and ask someone who does.”

Mody puffs:

The substance of the training, while still under discussion, is to prepare students to understand the broad impact of identity on their decision-making and to engage them in constructive tools for dialogue… If you don’t have an understanding of sociology, political science, critical race theory, feminist critique, and revisionist history, it’s going to be very difficult to talk about certain groups’ experiences, and why these other groups continually have this advantage in society.


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