Crucial Skills Schools in Asia Don’t Teach
Ai Goto

The Privilege Excuse and the Importance of Critical Thought

I can relate so much to this. Having lived in both Indonesia and Australia as a child, I was also fortunate enough to experience both ways of education. It’s also very true — especially in Indonesia — that so many people have never been exposed to even the idea that you are allowed to set your own goals and measures of success, instead of just following what others are set on measuring you by.

Some years ago I was invited to give a talk to several hundred students in my almamater. Most were amazed that I was able to forge my own path towards this certain level of success despite having gone through the exact same classes they did. For me, critical thinking, courage, and resourcefulness were key to breaking free of the road too often taken. I knew I could be more than a cog in a machine, and I worked really hard for it.

The students were inspired, which made me happy. But many also came up to me and said, yes, of course I could do that — I’m a genius with middle class privileges — and they can’t, because they’re not talented, or rich, or have supportive parents.

I hear this over and over again. Of course, it would be naive to assume that we live in a world where everyone has exactly the same chance at success — culture, social class, race, gender, and other factors still come into play, sadly — but where do we draw the line?

I guess this is why most of my work right now is focused on fostering critical thought. For me, being aware of the social constructions and power relations that place us where we are in society is the first key to dreaming up new possibilities for our lives.