For all our complaining, students have more than enough advantages

College students have much potential to give to the world. But they are also some of the most obliviously privileged people on Earth.

Individuals get used to their world so that the highs and the lows that come with living are different for everyone. It’s the reason why a billionaire couldn’t stand living as a millionaire. It’s why loose change is valuable to a homeless man. It’s also why college students don’t realize how well they have it.

We, and I include myself in this group, complain about papers and tests and reading while 18.3 percent of the world is illiterate, according to a 2005 estimate by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

In a country where literacy seems to be a given right of birth, we forget that it is a privilege and we take for granted the resources and the knowledge we have at our disposal.

The University of Kentucky alone is more developed than Third World countries will be 50 years from now.

And we’re poor people too, aren’t we? How many times have you heard friends claim the casual aside that they are too “poor” to go out or buy drinks or indulge in other luxuries? Probably too often to mirror their actual economic standing.

To most college students, being “poor” is a novelty. It’s something to be thrown around as some label of cool gathered from popular music and movies.

Story lines of hard-nosed poor kids overcoming some established rich prejudice. It’s ironic that a middle class life of privilege is what affords this view and connection to poverty. In many minds, not being rich makes you poor.

This way any middle class college graduate can look back and fondly remember the days and nights of Ramen noodles and 13-inch televisions, before they grew up and made a buck. Hard times overcome.

Except compared to the rest of the world — and much of this country — our hard times are easy strolls.

True, school isn’t cheap. And the time it requires can leave students without a job or an opportunity to earn back some of those tuition dollars.

But, we are in school — a true privilege — and although we might not have much, we are not in poverty.

In Fayette County alone, 14.2 percent of the population is below the poverty level, according to a 2004 estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau. Take the number of UK students and add about 10,000 more: That’s the number of people in Lexington who would love to smack you across the face the next time you claim poverty.

Of course none of us mean to be insulting by these statements, and our venting about assignments in class can be warranted, but it’s important to realize our status in the global community.

Not only are college students privileged academically and economically, but we are privileged with time. What’s the difference between a college student and another high school graduate working toward a career? Not much — besides the unfair fact that society views a college student as more productive than a working youth. And really, besides every authority figure telling us we couldn’t get a half decent job without a college degree, isn’t one of the reasons many of us came to college because we didn’t know what we wanted to do?

It’s a four-year freebie card. A time when you can screw up again and again and still be free of real world responsibilities and consequences.

A tangled stretch of life to occupy your time until health insurance runs out. It’s an excuse of a plan for those without one.

Not that any of us should feel guilty for our situation. We didn’t pick who we are, but we can pick our views of ourselves and the world. And as educated and lucky as we are, we owe it to ourselves — and those without our privileges — to realize our fortune in the world.

Sean Rose is a journalism and English senior. E-mail

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