Sunday, May 17, 2009

Dead Air Church: Class privilege meme

It has taken me all this time to do the well-worn class privilege meme. It first circulated all over Blogdonia about a year and a half ago, but I just wasn't ready. I found it embarrassing and awful, and avoided it like the plague.

I finally decided to go ahead and take it anyway. I knew it would be unpleasant!

I initially read of this quiz (and accompanying online discussions) at Bint Alshamsa's blog.


How many privilege-steps would you have to make?

Step into Social Class (this is an updated version)
A Social Class Awareness Experience
Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka
Indiana State University
© 2007

(NOTE: it is taken for granted that you are in college or did attend, since this test was first given to college students.)


An activity designed to help the participants gain awareness of the vast range of social class that exists within themselves and others. This has been updated based on the wide range of feedback we received as this was becoming a popular experience.


A big room with space to move for all participants
Chairs to sit for discussion


Pay attention to how you feel. Angry, sad, happy, winner, loser . . .
No talking – we will talk about this a lot when it is over
Line up here and take a step forward of about 1 (one) foot or one foot length for every fact that applies to you.

For blogs, bold the following facts that apply to you:

Part I, when you were in college:

Father went to college
Father finished college
Mother went to college
Mother finished college
Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor. (no blood relatives, but do have in-laws)
Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers
Had more than 50 books in your childhood home
Had more than 500 books in your childhood home

Were read children's books by a parent
Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18 (as I've said here before, they forced the violin on me to shut me up about the drums)
Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18
The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively
Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18
Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs
Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs
Went to a private high school
Went to summer camp
Had a private tutor
If you have been to Europe
Family vacations involved staying at hotels
Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18
Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
There was original art in your house when you were a child (by relatives, not by recognized "artists"--but it WAS original!)
Had a phone in your room before you turned 18
You and your family lived in a single family house (off and on, not consistently)
Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home
You had your own room as a child
Participated in an SAT/ACT prep course
Had your own TV in your room in High School
Owned a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College
Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16
Went on a cruise with your family
Went on more than one cruise with your family
Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up
You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family


Now everyone recognize that you are at the same place academically.
Everyone turn around.
Everyone has permission to talk.
No one has permission to accuse any one or any group of anything.
Everyone must use “I” statements.
Note that the people on one end of the room had to work harder to be here today than the people at the other end of the room. Some of you had lives of more privilege than others. There is no one to blame, it is just the way it is. Some have privilege and some don’t.
(this can be said now or later, I don’t know where it will be appropriate)

What were the feelings that you had during this experience? Who was angry?
(Anger will be a primary emotion at this point.)
What, specifically, makes you angry?
Who are you angry at?

Who was happy?

Summary Statement
This experience was about creating awareness of privilege. What it is, what it does, and what it means. Having privilege does not mean that you worked less hard. All it means is that you had a head start, so maybe it does mean you didn’t have to work as hard . . . .

During the next week notice how your high school years helped or didn’t help your experience in school/at work . . . .

Explanations and Notes:
All of the step taking was about things not requiring effort on the students’ part, but were things done by others.


FIVE WHOLE POINTS. How did I feel, taking this test? Bad. Which is why everyone else did it a well over year ago, and I've been too ashamed to do it until now.

Chaser of The Paper Chase (who also got only five points!) added another level and I got some more points! :P

Part II, in childhood:

If your body does not bear long-term signs of malnutrition. (14 root canals)
If you had orthodontia.
If you saw a doctor for anything other than emergencies or school-mandated shots.
If you heated your home with clean-burning fuels or had properly vented heating.
If you grew up in a house without vermin.
If you had running water.
If you had a basement or foundation under your house. (sometimes yes, sometimes no)
If you had an indoor toilet.
If your parents and immediate family were outside the criminal justice system.
If you yourself remained outside the criminal justice system.
If your parents had a new car.
If you never went barefoot so that you could ’save your shoes for school.’
If your parents never argued in front of you about having enough money for food to last out the month.
If you ate hunted and fished meat because it was a recreational activity rather than as the major way to stock a freezer.
If your laundry was done at home in a washer rather than in a lavandaria. (Laundromat) (sometimes yes, sometimes no)
If your hair was cut by a professional barber or hair stylist instead of your parent.


Four more points!

Seriously, I find this terribly depressing. janevangalen at Education and Class commented:

Speaking of that “privilege meme” that’s still buzzing around out there after oh so many days (even a blogger from Atlantic Monthly chimed in today, critiquing the exercise from her perspective as the graduate of a private school attended by “ultra-privileged” classmates for not reflecting her particular experiences)…

The protocol of the meme has been to “bold” the items that apply to you and to then say a bit about your background.

When something like this is done in person –as it was designed to be –a moderator can facilitate discussion among those whose lives have followed different paths and ensure that all voice are heard. A central point of an exercise like this is typically to generate conversation among the people in the room that would not take place otherwise.

But the people in this virtual room who keep batting this thing around seem to be people from very similar backgrounds.

While I’ve seen all sorts of assumptions made about how others live and what they value (and about how easy it would be for parents anywhere to find free museums to take their kids too “if they cared enough”. Have these people ever been outside a city?), I’ve not yet seen, in all of these hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of posts and comments, anyone who has thought to say:
So, most of the things I’m reading on this are written by people who “score” relatively highly on this meme.

But I wonder: what does this all look like to people whose backgrounds included very few of these things?
Might it not be bold to even wonder whether one might have it wrong?

Indeed, I believe there is plenty wrong, but I don't know how to define it. For instance, why so few questions about the nature of families? No mention of traditions or religion; skills inherited or learned within mention of family inter-relationships. I consider these crucial. Why doesn't the test? (Does this fact mark me as low-class also?)

Undine at Not of General Interest wrote about the subsequent internet discussion over this meme (which I found painful and tried to avoid):

A lot of people responded by saying, "Well, I had X but I worked for it myself" or "I didn't have a television set but I had books" or "This test is measuring the wrong things." There are lots of good points on all sides, so read the comments, too, at both places, which like the posts are excellent.

I think that what the exercise is trying to do--reveal the existence of class privilege to students in a real way--is important, but one thing was troubling: if you were a student, and especially if you had been bullied in the past for being different in some way, how would you feel about being forced to do this exercise in class? The teachers who chimed in on the comments all said versions of "oh, we don't make it mandatory; they can sit it out if they want to." Some said that they just had students write the answers on a piece of paper and turn it in.

Right. Would you sit it out, if you were 17 years old and your grade was on the line? Would you sit it out if you could see that your instructor thought this was a crucial part of the class and was clearly enthusiastic about the exercise? Would you write nothing or refuse to turn in the paper, again, if you believed that you'd be losing the good will of your instructor--and a grade--for doing so?

Since the admitted object of the exercise is to make students aware of and uncomfortable (in a good way, the authors imply) about their class privilege, most students would probably learn from it and shrug it off. Some are probably going to have their every statement greeted with eye-rolling about class privilege from then on, as I've witnessed when students in my classes volunteer information about trips to Europe or other markers of privilege.

But for a few, those who have been singled out and bullied for having the wrong haircut or being too smart or wearing the wrong clothes or being the nondominant race, it's going to make them feel like dodgeball targets all over again. Remember dodgeball, where some were out there flinging balls at the opposite team and aiming for those cowering in the corner, the ones you knew couldn't catch the ball on a bet, the dodgeball targets?
As I've said, it took me a long time to do this. If I'd had to do it publicly in a class, I can easily imagine a few fibs here and there, so that I would fit in with the majority. I can also imagine attempting to "sit it out"--which is, in fact, exactly what I did when I first encountered it online.

Chaser responds:

Whenever I use these types of exercises in class, it's painful. For example, for years I have used "unpacking the knapsack of white privilege" and unpacking the knapsack of male privilege" and there are *always* students who are offended.

To address privilege in some way is to threaten people's notions of what they "earned themselves." They have to face the fact the have not earned much of what they take for granted. It hurts and it is threatening.

Ultimately,so what if you earned the money for your car yourself--that's great. But it's not necessarily a sign you don't have class privilege. I worked in the fields with my parents for *nothing*. No allowance; no chance to get wage-earning work for car. People who tell me they "earned" their sports scholarships--sure, you worked very hard: but the leisure time you had in which to engage in those sports was bought for you by your class privilege. Oh, it's hard to hear that when these are things people are (understandably) proud of!

My favorite reaction to this discussion on the blogosphere was a grad student who is ALWAYS theorizing about race/gender/blah. When I added some point to the exercise--points that noted just how much more impoverished people can be than middle class people assume fellow Americans can be--somebody suggested this grad student should go look at my list. She said dismissively "I've read that list"--and then went right back to abstracting. It was the typical academic reaction to class privilege: it's too hard to face in practice, so we will chatter about it. It drives me crazy sometimes; I feel helpless enough as it is without having people I usually respect respond to these like this. I don't know how my colleagues of color stand it sometimes.
John Scalzi, who surprised me by defending his private school education as no big thang (!) provided the link to the follow-up Social Class Knowledge Quiz, with a derisive snort. (WARNING: Link is to a Word file!) As a confirmed coffee junkie, I knew the coffee question, but that was it for the "Blue Questions." By contrast, I knew all of the answers to the "Red Questions."


An example of the tenor of Scalzi's commenters can be summed up by one outburst from someone named udarnik:

This is not just a conversation starter, as the loaded term “privilege” indicates. Some of the questions are meant to make people feel guilty for having parents who cared about education and the welfare of their children, and instead of abusing those kids as privileged, the profs need to commend the other kids whose hard work landed them in school despite lacking some advantages.

I would have resented the hell out of this as an undergrad. Why should I be accused of privilege in a faux-Marxist confessional because my mom was a schoolteacher and my dad was an adjunct prof?
"Accused" of privilege? No, you are RECOGNIZED AS HAVING privilege.

But hey, his parents' educational background didn't land him in school, his "hard work" did!

((((runs away screaming)))) See, this is why I hate this thing. It just makes me upset.


Did you do the quiz the first time it appeared on the net, or is this the first time you've ever seen it?

Any thoughts?


John Scalzi said...

"John Scalzi, who surprised me by defending his private school education as no big thang"

What, now?

I'm not at all sure that what you're getting out of that is what I put into it, because in fact my private high school education was exceptional, a point of fact of which I am well aware. Also, I feel no need to defend my education -- it rocked, I'm grateful, and don't feel in the least bit guilty about having it.

Kia said...

I've never seen this before so I need a little time to process it...

At the private college I attended I would have been in the "bottom" quarter during this exercise. If my peers had answered yes to the spirit of the questions, tvs in rooms, hotels during vacations, first cars that were less than 4 years old etc...

But everything is relative and I grew up in an loving, economically stable 2 parent home and am providing the same for my children. Maybe it's because I'm black or that I grew up in a neighborhood where my family was the exception and not the rule, I fully recognize my life for what it was and currently is.

Discussions like this don't make me feel angst, I've got enough unrelated baggage on my very own, I'm not carrying anything someone else is trying to foist upon me. FWIW, my white husband, who would have been at the "head of the line" during this survey doesn't feel any guilt about his child/young adulthood either. It does drive him crazy when some of his peers don't/won't/can't acknowledge the impact money and class have had on their adult lives.

Meowser said...

I've seen this quiz, scanned it briefly, and my first thought was that a lot of things that "middle-class" kids take for granted today were not so when I was a kid. Having a TV and a phone in your room? Going to Europe? Private tutors? A credit card with your name on it? Only richie-rich kids ever had those things when I was growing up. I got a 12 on the first section and a 13 on the second.

But I remember hearing "we can't afford it" a lot when I asked for things, so I thought we were poor, or at least lower-middle-class. And when my parents split up in my early teens, I'd get a lot of ask-your-dad/I sent-her-a-check/no-he-didn't crap back and forth, so after a while I'd just give up and do without. I could have used a damn tutor for some of my classes, let me tell ya.

Turns out, as I found out later, we (or at least my dad) had a lot more money than he let on, and he spent it on himself and his girlfriend instead of us. HE got to go to Europe; WE didn't. And we never questioned that; after all, he worked soooo hard and he deserved it.

CrackerLilo said...

Eight for both parts--and I had, I thought, some really poor points in my childhood!

What made it really amazing to me is that my wife, who lived in Siberia (yes, literally) until she was 13, could only bold three things from the childhood segment, and even those, she waffled on.

This is a very interesting exercise. I never did anything like it in college, though. (Marketing major here.) Actually, I'm pretty glad I didn't.

Jay said...

I haven't seen this on the internet before, but have done very similar exercises in workshops - with skilled facilitators, willing and skilled participants, and no grade or evaluation on the line. It was hard and painful and bewildering, and I was an adult (in my 40s) who had chosen to be there. I can't imagine doing this as a college student. I don't see how a space in which kids are being graded can be safe enough to do this work.

I do believe this work is really important. I am still struggling to maintain awareness of my class privilege (28 on the first one, 17 on the second). It is a big thang. I don't feel guilty about it, or "accused", but I do feel that I need to keep unpacking my own knapsack.

Rachel said...

This is the first time I've seen this little quizzie thing, and I decided to do it on my own blog.

John Powers said...

I am privileged. The shorter version of this exercise might be to answer whether or not bolding the "haves" creeps you out or not.

Slightly off-topic but reminded by the items about books in the home. Over the weekend a couple of friends were here and for some reason looked at a few children's picture books.

Two of my favorites--neither books from my childhood--were both mended neatly with cloth tape. My mother thought books should be shared. Most of the books from my childhood were also mended books.

One of the picture books was Gyo Fujikawa's "Oh What a Busy Day!" It's very engaging and empowering for kids. It's a remarkable manual for living.

There must be an element of children's books inculcating class consciousness, but the presence of books in the home doesn't neatly correlate with the amount of money as some of the others do.

Sharing books is something we can do to enhance the lives of children.

Ann oDyne said...

'embarrassing and awful'

and very British to be class-conscious.

SnowdropExplodes said...

I scored 12 on the first one, but I wonder how free college education for my parents' generation in the UK factors in to the calculation of class privilege for me.

Part 2, I scored 6 - but some of them were shocking to me because they are familiar from the tales of people of my father's generation or older, but not for anyone since. While in the UK there may well be people who suffer some of the privations highlighted in Part 2, they are a very small minority, and would qualify as absolute poverty.

La Lubu said...

Like you Daisy, I wondered about the questions that weren't asked (like religion and family structure and other languages spoken in the home, etc.). I thought that because of that, the quiz can give a really truncated version of class. It can separate the rich from the poor, but not so much show the gradations of class that are critical in the U.S. (and yeah, it's U.S.-centric and very 90s-and-above-centric---as an older woman, I thought some of those questions were completely irrelevant). What it doesn't give is a picture of the pecking order, or changing times. And being nuclear-family-centric is a huge weakness of the quiz.

It seems to me that the quiz was written by someone (in the U.S) who was solidly upper-middle-class, who wanted to show other upper-middle-class folks in the U.S. that their classmates didn't necessarily have the same experience. Nothing wrong with that, but on the 'net it seemed the quiz was being used as a solid measure of class, which I don't think it is. I especially don't think it reflects the tenuousness of working class people who entered the middle class via education (yet didn't necessarily see that reflected on their paycheck). Those are the folks being foreclosed on now, or finding out that despite the privilege of education, they spend their elder years in poverty. I think the author of the quiz could stand to read Alfred Lubrano's "Limbo", and add another paragraph of questions!

FWIW, I knew all the "red" questions, too. I knew the coffee question and the tie-knot question from the "blue" section (mostly because of being a bookworm---I can't tell you how to tie that knot, just that it is a knot). Why is that called "blue" and "red" though? As a blue-collar union member in the rustbelt, I can guarantee most of the folks I know voted "blue" yet wouldn't have been able to answer the "blue" questions. It seemed to me that the "blue" questions could really be answered most accurately by someone whose voting was conservative Republican. Or does "blue" and "red" not refer to politics but something else?

Matthew said...

Never seen this before. I get 16 and 10. I'm sure other people have pointed out how US-slanted this list is; it finds a lot of fairly universal flags, imo, but the details would differ if you were making a list that was tailored around a different culture.

For instance, why so few questions about the nature of families? No mention of traditions or religion; skills inherited or learned within mention of family inter-relationships.That's a wonderful point... I don't know if this would be included under its umbrella, but family stability - living inside the same, unchanged nuclear family until you turn 18 - is one of those structural things that corresponds strongly to privilege too.

As for books, even if they don't correlate to money I think they do correlate to family aspirations, and what you might call family traditions - I grew up with a house-ful of old pulp thrillers because my grandparents and parents had been people who read; even though the financial expenditure involved in providing me with those books was miniscule, even if my household wasn't a beautiful shiny one, I had the beneficial heritage of people who read.

Matthew said...

Wow, forgot I wasn't on my own Google account. This is Thene. ^

sheila said...

I'm no UNpriveliged. And love it. lol. btw, 8 root canals here! You've got me SO beat! :)

SnowdropExplodes said...

An interesting thing about the red/blue questions that I noticed:

I found myself as a non-USAian at quite a significant disadvantage with several of the "Red" questions but many of the Blue questions were clearly applicable in many different (European) nations as well as the USA.

For instance, "number 8"? "Achy Breaky Heart"? "Funnel cake"? All very much US culture specifically.

But placement settings, The Four Seasons, Pinot Noir, Blue Mountain etc, fairly universal.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Snowdrop, it's from Indiana State, which is as middle American as it gets. I apologize for the US-centric aspect of the test.

No funnel cakes in Europe!? OMG!

DaisyDeadhead said...

John S., that was sarcasm.

It seemed like you were saying 1) the test was dopey and meaningless, but 2) I DID have a great education, but 3) not that it really means anything. In short, trying to have it both (all) ways, while de-emphasizing your privilege as no big IS a big thang, and you appear (even in your comment here) to want people to know that about you. You might consider why that is.

As we were learned in RaceFail 09, guilt is not what we are going for here, but just general awareness and acknowledgment of how some have "started out" already way ahead of others.

John P, I credit Mary Baker Eddy with my family having so many books, which is why I can't trash religion as keeping people ignorant. In the case of my grandfather's family, autodidacticism was next to godliness: Our brains are what separate us from the animals, and we have a responsibility to develop them, just as our bodies must be taken care of as "the temple of God." I was brought up to believe that was true, and I owe MBE bigtime. (Gonna try to write about her influence on my family, at some point.) Most of the books were very old and discarded, but they were read, and I was taught to read at a very young age and always read way above my grade level.

Otherwise, you wouldn't be reading this. :)

Ann ODyne, not British so much, as exposing oneself as not having class and thereby inviting the attendant disrespect. I think Blogdonia is already divided into various classes, and I am kinda reticent about solidifying my spot in the lower echelons. ;) said...

Hey there!

This is a great quiz...

I have YET to meet those who are privileged who feel that they should apologize for it...

Privilege is part of this society's infrastructure....NOOO BIG DEAL to me...

Of course, saying that smacks of privilege, I will admit...

Imagine how quiet my blog forum became last week when I presented a discussion titled, "We Are Not Equals"!

SnowdropExplodes said...

"No funnel cakes in Europe!? OMG!"

Wikipedia tells me that there are similar delicacies in the traditional cuisine of some Germanic and Scandinavian countries, but they go be completely different names. I don't know of anything similar in Britain, though.

Matthew said...

SDX - funnel cakes are made of what I'd think of as fresh doughnut batter, and as USians (imx) rarely get the opportunity to eat the kind of straight-out-of-the fat doughnuts you commonly get at street markets in the UK, this makes them seem special. I think they're alright, a nice chance to mix doughnut flavour with fruit and icecream and suchlike. :)

Jha'Meia said...

20 points on the first part alone. I kind of expected it, though - growing up, the stark difference between my life and others' were pretty clear, and my parents also liked to drive home their own living conditions growing up.

Some are only equivalents - for example, I don't have a relative who is an attorney and whatnot, but I do have relatives who own their own businesses. I didn't have more than 50 books, but we had a lot of Reader's Digests and National Geographics and I counted those, too. SAT/ACT prep course, we don't have those, but similar courses for passing high school finishing exams.

There are some on that list which I could *possibly* have had if my parents were more generous than they already were. Not only that, but I grew up in an Asian country, which appears to be markedly different from North America - stuff was a lot cheaper, for example, and we don't pay for heating. Of course, being able to attend university in a foreign country cancels that out.

10 points on the second bit. Confused me a little though - low-cost housing in Malaysia does involve houses with running water and we still recognize them as "poor" (which isn't as poor as rural, but still). So, I agree, the quiz doesn't quite allow for the gradation of privilege, and I'm at a loss as to whether there's a cultural gap involved as well...

Great meme.

BostonPobble said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ruchama said...

Funnel cakes are also very much a regional thing. I scored 27 on that first list, and funnel cakes were just about the only thing I knew from the red questions. I grew up in NJ. One of my friends from college, who grew up in North Dakota, grew up much more working-class than me, and had never heard of them.

Why were there fishing questions on both the red and the blue lists? I actually wasn't too good at either side on that one. (I also disagree with the given answer to the question about what kind of water to wash white clothes in -- white clothes go in warm water, because washing anything in hot water is a waste of energy, is what my mother always told me.)

SnowdropExplodes said...

Why were there fishing questions on both the red and the blue lists?

I think it's because they are different kinds of fishing, and I suppose (not being anything close to familiar with all the types of class differences that exist in the USA) that one type of fishing is generally practised by rich folks - or require expensive tackle - while the other type is cheaper/usually practised by lower class folks.

The reason I think this is because I know that you use a different set of tackle for perch than for trout, and stuff like that (I know this because I read Swallows and Amazons when I was a kid!) so I guess if you've got different kinds of fishing, then maybe they correlate well with social classes?

Lauren O said...

I haven't taken that privilege quiz because I'd be embarrassed about my very high score. I've come to acknowledge my class and race privilege, and I struggle every day to own them better, but that was something I had to do in private (aided by lots of blogs on the subject). I'm not saying that I can really fully acknowledge those privileges, but that I'm at a point where I definitely realize they exist and that they've given me a lot of advantages.

It's a good quiz to pass around online, but if I were forced to do that in college, it would have been bad news. The creators even say outright that anger will be the primary emotion. If I'd had a bunch of my peers angry at me - possibly permanently - for advantages I had that were nonetheless out of my control, I would almost certainly have closed myself off to the idea of privilege and been hostile right back. And I don't imagine the less privileged kids need this exercise to show them that they had less than others. It would take some exceptionally gifted mediators to make that activity worthwhile.

Lauren O said...

Also I miserably failed both the Red and the Blue side of that quiz. Apparently, I'm neither high-class nor low-class. I always knew I had no class!

yinyang said...

I've seen this meme before, but never taken it until now. I got 12 on both parts. Also, on the red and blue tests, I got 3 blue, 6 red.

I find some of the items on the first list to be deceptive, though. Like, I don't have a TV or phone in my room, but that's not necessarily because we can't afford it - I'm just not interested. Also, I waffled on a lot of them because, for example, I have had homes with vermin in them, but not all of them, and not constantly.

Vanessa said...

I scored a seventeen, including the extra bit.

I kind of feel this exercise is too vague to really measure anything. I don't know that having books is a class privilege thing, honestly. I know plenty of upper class people who don't read, and plenty of poor people who obsessively collect used paperbacks (me, my father, my husband). And getting read to as a child also seems to have little to do with class. While I think that it *is* a privilege to grow up in a family that cares about education and knowledge, I kind if think it tips towards negative stereotyping of the poor to suggest that caring about books and reading is something that only the middle class does.

Vanessa said...

I couldn't resist posting on this, if you're interested.

Jha'Meia said...

Vanessa: It's not really about the stereotype that the poor "don't care" about education and reading. It's just if one of your parents found the time to read with you, instead of being too exhausted from [house]work day after day, that's privilege over those whose parents worked 12+-hour days just to get by.

Vanessa said...

My parents regularly worked that long, had schoolwork on top of it, and still found the time. Later, they often relyed on me to care for my sister in those ways, as I do now for *my* daughter after going to school and working (well, currently I'm unemployed but I do housework, and was working up until recently *and* doing schoolwork *and* housework) and I still find the time to read to her.

Like I said, I don't think its a class issue. It makes the meme sound like a middle class person who doesn't know (or doesn't think they know) any poor people wrote it, and assumed poor people don't do any of those things.

All of my life I've been the poor person (occasionally the homeless person) "passing." I know what that kind of life is like, thank you very much.

Vanessa said...

Also, I took the blue/red quiz, and got 6 of one, half dozen of the other.

Jha'Meia said...

Vanessa: Sorry for making the assumption, was simply drawing on my experience. Between my two parents, only my dad ever managed to make the time; mum was the one always too exhausted for us. I do agree that the meme lacks a greal deal, though.

ArrogantWorm said...

Counting both sections, my scores' nine. Better than half of those were 'sometimes' answers. The quiz is missing a lot, I especially dislike the section about the books. There seems to be an assumption that poor people don't care for literature. S'far as I know that's exactly opposite, I can't think of one household I've been in as a child that didn't have books for youngsters. We had books, but less than fifty, and both Ma & Dad found time to read b'fore bed, when they were there, though that was mostly long before school. The amount of books 'possible' is off as well - I collect 'em, and they're plentiful and cheap at library sales.

The question of the television in a bedroom at high school smacks of 'they shouldn't have that if they're - poor -', makes me wonder who wrote the quiz, among other Q's. They're also dated and really ignore culture. Seems to only take into account extremes instead of the many and varied nuances wrt class. There's an aweful lot of leeway between 'more than one cruise' and ....everything else.

Will Barratt said...

What a wonderful discussion, which is the entire point of the original experience that we wrote. Discussing class is better than not discussing class.

Will Barratt

Amber Rhea said...

I really can't stand this class privilege meme.

John Powers said...

I'm glad I clicked on Amber Rhea's link and from there to the many discussions. There's so much, but a couple of points stand out. First "privilege is a matrix, not a linear quantitative measuring system." And second making a distinction between privilege and class.

What came into mind after reading doesn't really come together, but will take a stab.

I know someone online who spent a dozen or more years living and working in Uganda on behalf of marginalized communities. She's wonderful, has at least one advanced degree and has received numerous honors. Probably surfing around somewhere I saw some information about her siblings and they're very accomplished people in their own right. And via online social networking have gotten to know her mother.

A strong theme in her mother's life has been somehow making not enough, just enough. In discussions of development and aid issues she always points out how smart and educated others in the conversations are and then proceeds unselfconsciously to make the wisest and best comments. She is class-conscious.

danah boyd has done lots of great research about teens and online social media. A recent post is Facebook for old people? raises some interesting questions about class by digging a little deeper into the My Space vs Facebook idea. She profiled two students from different schools. The one who uses My Space doesn't include adults in her online social network, or see any reason why she should; whereas the Facebook user does.

Both students are white living in the South. About half of the My Space user's online friends are black, but almost all of the Facebook user's online friends are white.

Some of the kids of my friends have friended me on FB. I noticed that a young freshman in college has a very ethnically diverse group of friends. There are obviously lots of reasons why, but one of them isn't that he went to a very ethnically diverse school. I think one of the reasons has to do with the teacher who made a big difference in his life is a person of color.

Online we become aware of friends of friends. For example I don't frequent the same blogs as Daisy, but because I come here I get some exposure to her online comrades.

Privileged and class are different. My African expert friend has all sorts of privilege markers and in my screwed up stereotypical thinking probably presumed she came from an upper-middle class background. Then I met her mother--online--and discovered that her mother supported herself and kids doing the hardest working class jobs. So my friend has knowledge, a working class consciousness. She also has privilege by virtue of being raised by an extraordinarily kind and brilliant mother.

danah boyd believes the "healthiest environment we can create online is one where teens and trusted adults interact seamlessly." She also points out one class marker is argued to be that teens from wealthier environments are "much more likely to integrate with adults than teens from poorer backgrounds."

I think there are lots of advantages whatever our age to bridging differences. Online like in facetime, people tend toward "birds of a feather flock together." But because privilege is a matrix, some people can be bridge figures who help others to cross over to experience difference and a more abundant life.

Online some of the bridging comes from the ways that online social networking makes us aware of friends of friends.

La Lubu said...

She also points out one class marker is argued to be that teens from wealthier environments are "much more likely to integrate with adults than teens from poorer backgrounds."John, that's a really provocative comment. Does she mean "online only?" Because that's so counterintuitive---I would have thought the complete opposite because teens from poorer backgrounds are more likely to live with elders and in neighborhoods where elders live. (again, this might be regional, but in central Illinois elders that can afford to---or have acces to moving in with children who've moved---usually move out of state because it's harder to endure the cold when you get older, and because it's harder to pay winter heating bills on a fixed income.)

Then again, maybe the dynamic is that teens from poorer backgrounds use online friending as a way of breaking out of the confines of "real" physical life---and if one of your confines is being responsible for younger siblings and grandma, keeping online friends in your age group could be a way of taking a break.

(this said by someone who has no myspace or facebook experience at all. Not tryin' to sound like a cranky oldtimer, but geez, how to people find the time to do all that? I've been setting up a new blog all month long and still haven't found the time to post my first post yet! Obviously, I need time management skills from some teenager!)

Jess said...

I got 4 blue and 5 red, even though I imagine I'm exactly the type of person the test writers would have been trying to fit in the blue category (raised by two well-educated parents with plenty of money, from a major urban area, went on vacations, read lots of literature, attended elite private schools, played classical music, vote reliably for Democrats). Why do they imagine that only "red" folks wash clothes? Are they restricting "blue" to people who actually have servants? I thought the first quiz was much more illuminating.

DaisyDeadhead said...
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DaisyDeadhead said...
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DaisyDeadhead said...

NOTE: I am having major issues with formatting! Excuse my deleted comments please!

John: She also points out one class marker is argued to be that teens from wealthier environments are "much more likely to integrate with adults than teens from poorer backgrounds."La Lubu: John, that's a really provocative comment. Does she mean "online only?" Because that's so counterintuitive---I would have thought the complete opposite because teens from poorer backgrounds are more likely to live with elders and in neighborhoods where elders live.LL, I think John's statement correctly reflects the fact that some of us are "staying where we are" economically and socially, while affluent teens are "moving up"--or are perceived to be doing that (whether they do, in fact, remains to be seen--but lots do). So, they never meet poor teens, but end up working with poor adults in the same places, often. For example, in retail, I work with lots of affluent kids that will eventually be attending elite schools...but retail is their summer job, or something they regard as temporary. For me, it isn't.

I get the idea many do not regard me as their parents' ages, even though I am. I don't "act" like their parents, due to class differences. It's often these kids' first exposure to working class mores and values. It's very jarring for some of them, others really seem to enjoy it and choose to work in the environment for a longer period than expected, or even stick around for good.

But they have even told me, they never met older people who acted in a different way than suburban bourgeois professionals, and who did not prize the things in life that those people tend to prize... work is the first place they were ever exposed to the diversity of "real life"...

La Lubu said...

I get the idea many do not regard me as their parents' ages, even though I am. I don't "act" like their parents, due to class differences.Ahh, I see. I get that too. Some of it is because I look younger (you do too, especially with that transgressive long hair that "older" women aren't supposed to have, even though the stuff just keeps on growing!), some because I dress younger, but mostly because I "act younger" ---I don't feel the need to put on some veneer of adulthood 'cuz hell, I get up in the morning and go to work, I pay my bills, I cook dinner and help my kid with her homework---I figure I'm doing a bang-up performative rendition of adulthood already without the middle-class visual trappings (i.e., "mom jeans" instad of Levis, that sort of thing).

It's funny for me when I find myself being the exhibit-A "old broad" (and I mean that tongue-firmly-in-cheek), because I always enjoyed talking to older people, and most especially older women, even when I was a teenager. My dad says he did too, and that he learned a lot about how messed up the cultural myths about the days of yore were back in his day, because all the old folks told him what complete b.s. those myths were. It's kinda funny to find myself on the other side of that fence now, but I think it's great, too.

John Powers said...

Oh no, part of being prolix is not having my thoughts together. So I'm sorry for my really long comment joining together things that maybe shouldn't have. And sorry in advance for another too-long comment.

LaLubu makes a really good observation about the counter intuitive nature of the argument that that teens from wealthier environments are "much more likely to integrate with adults than teens from poorer backgrounds.

Also LaLubu asks if danah boyd is talking online with that. I'm sure she is talking about online, but I think that she also believes that online social networks have something to say about what teens do offline.

I was trying to think about talking about class and had recently read boyd's post. Back in 2007--when boyd was still in grad school--a blog post Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace caused a big Internet kerfuffle. Mainly I think the problem is talking about class in America. In that essay boyd approaches talking about class in America from a social networks perspective.

The broad brush picture of her article is that teens buying into the dominate paradigm gravitate towards Facebook and kids from the non-dominate paradigm My Space.

A couple of years doesn't seem like a long time, but in Internet years... Facebook isn't so new now and I'm not sure the kinds of divisions she was talking about in the earlier article still lay the same way. But the two profiles in the more recent article point to the pattern she noted in the earlier article.

The profiles were of a girl and boy. Both were middle class but the boy from a more well-off family. One of the things that pleased me about the My Space girl was she valued the diversity of people at her high school.

So the My Space girl values the diversity of her high school and has many black friends. She thinks it strange to have adults in her online social network. The Facebook boy is happy the racial balance at his high school is roughly 30% black and 70% white. He finds it normal to have adult in his online social network.

I like that the My Space girl values racial difference and it bums me out that the dominate paradigm is segregated. Clearly this is not the Facebook boy's doing, he's just going with the culture.

Like many of your readers, Daisy, I want change. Online is not everything, but it is something. And I do think it's significant that online now people are becoming more aware of social networks. We've got the possibility at least to share in ways that weren't so easy before.

Already too long, but one last anecdote. Last summer I was at one of my niece's weeding in Miami. I smoke so I was out the back door with the rest of the smokers. My family is Anglo so it was amusing to hear "white people" this and "white people" that. My sister is a dear person and some of these smokers remembered her when she was a teacher's aid. And I realized it never occurred to them to think of her as a "white person."

Too many of us Americans are held down by class, there's too little ability to move along the economic ladder. Think about the McCain's presidential pitch about taxes; perversely many middle class Americans take the side of the rich. The denial of how hard it is to actually get ahead in the USA, to rise up on the economic ladder, seems weird.

Our social networks are one way we can begin to address the knotty problem of class here. Through our social networks, even online, bridges can be built.

Cassandra Says said...

I did this when it first appeared but don't remember if I posted it or not.

It occurs to me that I score pretty high on this test but my parents' scores would have been closer to yours. I'm in a wierd spot class-wise. Also, at lot of the questions on which I say no (having a car for example) are cases in which my parents could have given me that privilege and deliberately withheld it because they didn't want me to grow up as a spoiled brat who took things for granted. I've always been grateful to them for that.

(And yep, I recognise that having those privileges withheld on purpose is totally and completely different to having them simply not be an option. That's something I have my proudly working class parents to thank for, too.)

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Anonymous said...

Another social class quiz: