Class Advantage

Smitha Gundavajhala

The ever-changing environment of Silicon Valley business has provided the backdrop for many immigrants’ and other residents’ unexpected rise to wealth. Cupertino property values have risen because of the high academic performance of students here. In order to pay for these expensive houses, the people must be rich. Right?

Not exactly. Prices for activities are escalating beyond what most people can pay. Field trips can get as expensive as the Government Team’s, which this year costs $1400 per member. Bids for dances are higher here than at other schools, with $95 on the upper end of singles’ ball bids. Why is it so expensive to be a student at MVHS? The answer is relatively simple.

At MVHS, students judge each other by academic performance. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford private tutoring, which is an obvious advantage academically. Illustration by Smitha Gundavajhala.

Those that pay the prices control them. Those that have enough money drive up the prices of activities. This is reflected in the field trips, for instance, and dances. Prices like our those of our expensive ball bids are formulated upon the assumption that because Cupertino citizens are rich enough to live in the area, they are willing to pay extra for educational and extracurricular activities. According to a study done by David Hunt for the Sociological Spectrum in 2005, “the leading crowd theory hypothesizes that participating in activities outside of class raises one’s status and creates bonds with teachers and therefore enhances academic performance.” This concept is obviously something that students have grasped, as is apparent from MVHSís high scores.

What they do not take into account is the huge disparity in the social dynamic of students that feed into MVHS. Because it is a public school, students come from $1595 apartments and large, $3 million mountainside houses alike. However, Cupertino’s unique financial dynamic, that of a Silicon Valley bubble isolated from America, leads many to forget this.

While everyone feels the impact of recession, those that are more well-off are better cushioned from the it. But the recession impacts education the most. The MVHS school budget is relatively secure, but that only reflects the small community of Cupertino.

Cupertino has a very generous community that pays extra parcel taxes year after year to keep educational programs from being cut, but that is only at the most basic level. School should be the great equalizer, but since the quality of education has been impacted by the lack of funds, well-to-do families are seeking accessories to their childrenís education elsewhere.

Resources such as resume consultations, tutoring, test prep courses and college essay editing are available to those who are willing to pay a lot of money. Much of MVHS social culture is grounded in education, so students evaluate themselves and their peers by comparing test scores. Having money distorts that culture with a gap in opportunities to achieve the best scores. We judge our peers by academic performance, but forget that much of it can be bought.

As the first step in addressing this issue, we need to remember that while some students can pay high prices to get ahead, not everyone is able to. We must also realign our social markers to expand beyond the narrow world of academia, where so many students live. Money and academics are the main factors by which students judge each other, and we can break both barriers by first acknowledging their existence, and then by making an active effort to break it in our daily interactions.