Home » my life » Class and Privilege – Arguments, Qualifiers, Ownership

Class and Privilege – Arguments, Qualifiers, Ownership

Via My Private Casbah. Though I originally swiped it from a friend and former classmate on LJ.Those that were true when I was in college [now a full ten years ago ::shudder::] are bold. Some things are kind of hard to answer because I never went to high school. Things that seem like they might be true if you equate college to high school, are italicized. But of course, there are still qualifiers, as this list couldn’t possibly cover every individual’s family situation.

The original intent of the exercise was to note privilege through the physical act of taking a step forward for each true item on the list. Actual differences in location demonstrated clear differences between classmates. Discussion of the exercise and its emotional impact, in addition to all others, followed the exercise.

I will discuss my own qualifiers, arguments and ownership after the list.

Step into Social Class: A Social Class Awareness Experience
Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka
Indiana State University © 2007

When you were in college:

  1. If your father went to college.
  2. If your father finished college
  3. If your mother went to college
  4. If your mother finished college
  5. If you have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor.
  6. If you were the same or higher class than your high school teachers
  7. If you had a computer at home
  8. If you had your own computer at home
  9. If you had more than 50 books at home
  10. If you had more than 500 books at home
  11. If were read children’s books by a parent
  12. If you ever had lessons of any kind
  13. If you had more than two kinds of lessons
  14. If the people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively
  15. If you had a credit card with your name on it
  16. If you have less than $5000 in student loans
  17. If you have no student loans
  18. If you went to a private high school
  19. If you went to summer camp
  20. If you had a private tutor
  21. If you have been to Europe
  22. If your family vacations involved staying at hotels
  23. If all of your clothing has been new and bought at the mall
  24. If your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
  25. If there was original art in your house
  26. If you had a phone in your room
  27. If you lived in a single family house
  28. If your parent own their own house or apartment
  29. If you had your own room
  30. If you participated in an SAT/ACT prep course
  31. If you had your own cell phone in High School
  32. If you had your own TV in your room in High School
  33. If you opened a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College
  34. If you have ever flown anywhere on a commercial airline
  35. If you ever went on a cruise with your family
  36. If your parents took you to museums and art galleries
  37. If you were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family.

Qualifiers and Explanations

§ I have an uncle that was a professor, on my mother’s side. And then, of course, the molester-uncle was a lawyer. On dad’s side I had a second cousin or two that were lawyers. And we had a friend of the family that we called ‘Uncle’, that was a doctor.

§ I actually didn’t think much about my teachers having lives of their own. I was a very egocentric child, and teachers pretty much just existed in relation to me. And my mom was a teacher. So I knew they had families and stuff – I just didn’t think about it…or really care. So I have no idea what their social status was. I’m guessing it was similar to our family’, but I don’t really know.
§ I never counted how many books we had. Coulda been over 500. Coulda been 350. wev.

§ I had two kinds of lessons: piano and hula. So I just missed the cutoff.

§ I have a hard time deciding about the statement concerning whether people who dress and talk like me are portrayed favorably. Overall? On network or cable? I think, on the whole, no.

§ I went to a private school up until college – my first year was also private, but the subsequent years were at a public college that turned into a university as I graduated. That’s also why I didn’t have student loans. Cuz it was cheap. [<$2k/year]

§ I only took the SAT once. In 7th grade. The prep I had was…pre-algebra and Latin class. I also have taken the MCAT and the GRE, but I didn’t have prep classes for either of those – although I did get books from a friend who took the prep class for the MCAT. So…I don’t know how that plays.

§ I got a cell phone when I was in college…probably 18 yrs old. Does that count as HS or college?

§ I got a tv in my room around 18 – does that count as HS or college?

§ My parents didn’t tell us what the bills were. They just told us that we didn’t pay them and that if we were cold we could put on a sweater. And that we better turn off the light when we left the room. To the point that now, in my own house, I sit in the dark with a blanket over me while I watch tv and only turn the heat up for company. Seriously – the light’s on right now, but I have a blanket on my legs and another around my shoulders. I figure if I save money that way, I can spend it somewhere else. [sometimes I have to wear a hat.] (OTOH, I don’t skimp on AC cuz I can’t stand to be hot.)


I scored 22/37 or 26/37 if you count the shady/maybe stuff. I definitely knew I was privileged. And haven’t always been grateful, but mostly I have. My dad would often point out the sacrifices and choices that were made for us, because most of the time, my sister and I didn’t really get what some other people’s lives were like. Or actually, what his own life had been like, growing up.

Looking through the list, my dad would probably be able to bold three items. He took piano lessons for a little while, and his parents owned their home (SFD). Mom would probably be able to bold eight. [Same ones as dad, plus: summer camp, private HS, #books, same class as HS teachers, and media portrayal.] But you know, my parents were from the high-achieving generation – and both entered professions most likely to change one’s status [education and nursing].

So, it’s great to be able to have so much based on my parents’ achievements and sacrifices. I still don’t know how they afforded to send us to private school all those years. Although they must’ve saved quite a bit buying our clothes and shoes at Kmart [once we outgrew our hand-me-downs]; grocery shopping on post; and almost never buying things brand name. Both of my parents can pinch a penny. How I came out with the philosophy that “money is just a conduit for goods and services, and who needs to hang on to every cent?” – that’s beyond me.

There are, undoubtedly, defining moments in people’s lives, which determine their trajectory from then on. Ultimately deciding their impact on the world. I think the biggest determiners for me were actually who my parents were. Not that they’re so rich and powerful, but that they really did want us to be better off than they were. So – thanks mom and dad!


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