Earlier this month, students at Carmel High School in Carmel, Ind. proudly showed off their campus in two separate TikTok videos which now have a combined total of 8.5 million views.
What started out as a fun little tour of one beloved high school has wound up sparking a major debate online about wealth inequality within America’s public school system.
During both clips, students give viewers a sneak peek inside the sprawling midwest high school, which includes an epic swimming pool, a state-of-the-art theater, a TV production studio and even a planetarium.
By all accounts, the school is impressive — and definitely the kind of campus most of us would’ve liked to attend as teens — but as many TikTokers are now pointing out, it’s a far cry from what most American high schoolers get to experience. Especially those who don’t live in high-income areas.
Just days after the original videos went up, TikToker @sanilarena posted a duet in which she silently reacts to the tour while watching it back.
Right away, it’s clear where she stands on the matter, as her eyes widen and her head tilts while she listens to the students describe their high school as though it were a luxury apartment complex.
“Carmel High School really demonstrates the problem with U.S. public school being funded by property tax,” @sanilarena wrote in the video caption.
And boy, does she make a valid point.
“Bookstore?? PLANETARIUM?? MARKET?? WHA-” wrote one commenter, in disbelief.
“This is literally the high schools off of movies that made me have unrealistic expectations,” someone else said.
A lot of people couldn’t help but compare Carmel to the high school that they attended.
“When I was in high school we shared a building with 3-4 other schools and had classes in trailers,” one person wrote. “*cries in underfunded school*”
“We didn’t have enough chairs for lunch in my HS so we sat on the floor,” someone else lamented.
“I couldn’t take a book home because there weren’t enough,” another person chimed in. “Plus the ones we had were raggedy.”
Other TikTokers have posted reaction videos of their own, including one by Carlotta Berry that also went viral.
According to NBC News, Berry was shocked by what she saw — especially because she lives just 30 minutes away from Carmel in the much less affluent town of Avon.
“I think that was the most appalling part to me. … At what point do you say, ‘Let me stop throwing money at this high school and consider the other schools in the area,'” Berry told the outlet “If you’ve got a natatorium and three cafeterias, can we get all the schools within a 20-mile radius of the school to have one cafeteria? One gym?”
The problem, according to critics, has to do with the way our public school system is set up. For starters, school funding is determined by property taxes, which are of course larger in higher-income areas. As a result, these schools have large budgets to dip into for building upgrades, enrichment classes, sports programs, and other educational perks. Simply put, kids who come from wealthier families are often at a much greater advantage academically just based on their zip code.
A lot of people on TikTok couldn’t hold back their reactions.
“This makes me so sad,” one person confessed.
“The way my jaw kept dropping every time they showed something new,” added someone else.
But more than a few people pointed out that while all of the perks seem cool, what they really represent is opportunity.
“It’s not about the stuff,” one person commented. “It’s what the stuff connects you to. Which leads to college entry and [better] job prospects after that.”
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