Mandatory Privilege Training at Harvard University

Check your privilege, especially your white privilege. Instead of breaking down barriers and doing away with stereotypes, now we are apparently creating more. “Privilege” is the new buzzword, and it isn’t positive. It’s an attempt to shame someone when someone else “happens to think” that person “appears” to be privileged.

Yet even our best and brightest over at Harvard University have latched onto this term and are using it as a rally cry to change the culture of leadership. A group of students have penned a letter to the University that you can read here. In part it says:

“We gravitated to Harvard Kennedy School, in part, because of its explicit mission to “train exceptional public leaders and generate the ideas that provide solutions to our most challenging public problems.”

But they felt like they were missing something in their education:

The HKS Speak Out is asking for a mandatory power and privilege training for every incoming student every year.

Power and privilege training? No, it’s not teaching them how to be powerful and privileged. Those things are not considered desirable. Which is kind of confusing to me, because most leaders are both powerful and privileged, and they are attending the School of Government (which is leadership!) to become leaders. In any event, they are requesting:

A mandatory power and privilege training that examines components of race, gender, socioeconomic class, sexual orientation, ability, religion, international status, and power differentials for every incoming HKS student starting August 2014.

The school agreed and they are working together. Now the above was posted on their tumblr feed 4/29/14. The next post on 5/5/14 issues the following correction:

Correction: This article incorrectly said the administration has agreed to design a “privilege training.” The new training will encourage students to examine how systems and identities play a role in the way policy affects different groups, but the exact content and title of the training is yet to be determined. We regret the error and have edited the sentence.

Apparently the University changed their collective minds about a “privilege training.” Or maybe they’re changing the terminology so as not to be quite as obvious. Either way, be alert. This type of “lingo” is divisive. We need to pull people together, not further divide them by encouraging class warfare.

You can read more about it here.

Photo credit MS Office ClipArt

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