Sunday, February 1, 2009

Driving when I was 17 got me into college

Cars are a mark of privilege. Cars are money, time, a certain skill set. Cars are status. And for me, cars are a scholarship to a private college.

I got my driver's licence rather late. Most people in middle America get theirs shortly around the time they turn sixteen. I got mine two months before I turned seventeen, the summer before my junior year of high school. There are several reasons for this-- I moved in from out of state, so I went to the end of the Driver's Ed class list, and a late August birthday, to name a few. But was allowed to drive my mother's car for two years.

During those two years, I joined the creative writing club at my high school. The club was small and most of last year's members had graduated. This proved to be a huge problem due to the fact that no one knew how to run the school's creative writing magazine. I was "volunteered". I had a car. I could stay fours hours later every day after school and come in every weekend.

Thanks to my car, I got such titles as Chief of Staff, Creative Writing Club President, Editor of the Creative Writing Club magazine, and so on and so forth. As The Big Cheese, I felt it was my duty to submit writing to every single contest I could find in the state. And I won. I won a lot, actually, which gave me a long string of awards to tack into my titles.

Now, don't get me wrong. I worked hard. I stayed after school four hours a day and came in on the weekends for this magazine. I took an independent study class to write my stories and my poetry, and I sweated blood over every word. I lost sleep and sanity and hair over this club, and I'm proud of every moment of it.

But it was my car that allowed me to do that. Without my car, I couldn't have even joined the club-- I had no way to get home. A friend of mine had no car and ended up with no extraciriculars, no scholarships, nothing special on her transcript. And she didn't get to go to college. Her parents couldn't drive her anywhere--they both worked, and even if they didn't work, they were broke. They lived miles out of town and couldn't afford the gas to come and get her an hour or two after school. My privilege, my car, got me into college.

18+ driving laws work well in countries that have public transportation, that have small school districts, that have families that live in the same area for generations on end. There's a network. Suburbanite kids are privileged. They have parents that can put a priority on driving the kids to soccer, driving the kids to ballet, driving the kids to tutors. 

There's a reason that the "soccer mom" is unemployed. Someone with a job can't spend hours dragging around kids. 

The only students that will be able to continue to participate in after-school activities are those from duel-caretaker families where one caretaker works either part-time or not at all. And those kids, for the most part, are the white, wealthy, privileged ones. The poor kids, from single parents families, or duel-worker families, will see their chances for college slip away in a bout of car exhaust. 

No comments:

Post a Comment