The night janitor

A night janitor at Stanford learns English from a student. Samuel Freedman writes in the New York Times:

Learning even the rudiments of English can save a janitor from being fired for not responding to a request he does not understand. With some fluency, a janitor can get off the night shift and onto days. A rank-and-file janitor can try to become a shop steward. An immigrant can try to pass the citizenship test.

For the Stanford students, meanwhile, the tutoring provides a sense of purpose and human connection that cannot be taught. Many of these undergraduates won admission partly by doing “community service” for the most cynical of reasons, to build their résumés. Their courses here resound with the armchair radicalism of Orientalism, neocolonialism, deconstructionism, white studies, critical race theory, queer theory, blah blah blah.

“There’s a lot of privilege in this place and a lot of ignorance about that privilege,” (tutor Eric) Eldon said. “People are used to having maids and servants. If they trash their dorm, they’re used to having someone else clean it up.” He continued, “You can take classes on all sorts of highfalutin political theories and trends. But to me, none of them teaches as much as being connected to people outside of Stanford.”

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