An Extension of One’s Environment

Matthew - Lower Gwynedd, Pennsylvania
Entered on May 27, 2008

The world is full of dismal truths and I think this is one of them. I believe that individuals are subject to the influence of their environment and our inherent nature is only a small component in the grand equation of who we are and who we become. I personally don’t like the way that sounds either, because I want to control my own fate, but as I grow older and experience brings different slices of life my way, the obvious becomes ever more and more apparent. My values, my core beliefs, even my morality are all manifestations of the environment in which I’ve been brought up in. Even now, at this very moment as I write this my belief becomes further grounded by observation. “Slices of life”, a phrase my father coins frequently almost unconsciously shows up in a paper about what I believe in. Imagine that.

Generally the easiest way to see my belief in action is when people are confronted about their political alignments. Politics by nature are divisive and often the division can be connected to a variety of influences in a person’s environment. Very recently in my advanced placement economics class my teacher asked us a series of questions and used our responses to plot each student’s place on a four quadrant political spectrum. The positions on the board varied but one thing remained constant, nearly every student gave me the same resounding “yes” when asked if their parents would plot their own spot very close to their teenager’s point. Our parents or sometimes the lack there of, are undeniably huge forces in the molding of our person.

How an individual places priority in different facets of life is very strongly connected to the environment in which they were raised. The expectations of our peers, our teachers, and our family carry far more weight than our own strangely enough because without them most would leave their lives astray. This explains why the average student who lives twenty minutes down road in Norristown, a mostly poor suburb of Philadelphia, doesn’t have half the opportunity to succeed that myself as well as most of my friends are afforded by the superior schooling and superior environment to learn that my suburb enjoys. The average student in Norristown’s friends expect less of him, his parents expect less of him, and his teachers expect less of him, all resulting in a person that falls far short of their potential simply due to a altered environment than my own.

But I must admit that with every truth there exists exceptions. Individuals escape poverty and destitution every day despite what life throws at them, and privileged as I’ve been to travel to some of the poorest reaches of the world I’ve seen them. I won’t deny that it happens and that it lightens my heart to see people exceed the limitations of their environment, but until I see a change in the majority we will all remain but seeds sprouted from the soils of our environment.