Sunday, May 17, 2009

Oh boy! Class privilege survey!

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 [She dropped out before I was born and finished via correspondence courses when I was in high school.]
Mother finished college

Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor. (no blood relatives, but do have in-laws) [Well, was a lawyer...step relative...]
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
[Voice, junior high]
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 [I don't know how to answer this... yes and no]
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 [I wish]
Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs [I wish]
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 [But they were few and far between]
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 [It was my art.]
Had a phone in your room before you turned 18 [I even had a cell phone a month or so before I turned 18]
You and your family lived in a single family residence [Eventually]
Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home
You had your own room as a child [Most of the time.]
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 [Pacific Science Center REPRESENT!]
You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family [I did know, however, that there was a time when a lot of our food came from a food bank.]


What were the feelings that you had during this experience? Were you angry? -- Honestly, no. I was shocked at some things because I wondered if anyone actually got to go on multiple cruises, and own an IRA or mutual fund as a child. I suppose if I had done this with other people I'd gone to college with I might have reacted differently.

Part II, in childhood:

If your body does not bear long-term signs of malnutrition.
If you had orthodontia.
If you saw a doctor for anything other than emergencies or school-mandated shots. [Frankly, I consider not being able to walk an emergency, but chiropractic is a luxury... as is having a mother who has some clue about medicine]
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.
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. [Aaand another step back because I only had the one parent who cried silently in her room because she was scared about not 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.)
If your hair was cut by a professional barber or hair stylist instead of your parent.

31 privilege points! Go mom!

Daisy wonders why the test doesn't seem to care about family relationships. I have to say that I was kind of insulted that the test assumed that my parents were together in order to argue in front of me about money. Now, not all of the bolded points were true for me throughout my entire childhood, (there were fleas in one of the houses I grew up in; for most of my childhood we lived in multiple family residences and moved around a lot for various reasons), looking at this I have to recognize that I was very lucky as a child, and have been since.

The other thing is that my mom had the opportunity to be extremely resourceful. Yes, we technically went to museums because my mom made sure that we were members of the Pacific Science Center, and going there was a real treat; we were also involved in Girl Scouts (which I was told, as a kid, was also a privilege) so we were able to go on educational outings for a reasonable price with my troop (but I usually missed out on school field trips because we didn't have the money, but I only learned that that was the reason years and years later when I started being able to connect the dots), and because my mom was troop leader, I'm certain that she often organized events that were more affordable in consideration of our circumstances as well as those of other girls' whose families were in similar straits.

So, I don't know... privileged, yes. Lucky, yes. But there wasn't a second that I took it for granted. I even remember looking at the prices of things before I told my mom that I wanted it. Now, I recognize how lucky I was because I didn't really know what was going on most of the time.

Anyway, them's my thoughts... feel free to share your own.

1 comment:

DaisyDeadhead said...

There are also indefinable cultural traditions in families... for instance, I had lots of books in my home, but one reason I was not read to as a kid, is because my family had a very strong "learn how to do it yourself" philosophy. To read to a child was seen as similar to cleaning up their messes, which my family also would not do, and made ME do. "If you want to know the story, learn to read it yourself!" was what I heard, so that's what I did. (I think this was far easier to do to children before the advent of all-kids, all-the-time TV channels, as well as videos.)

I wonder how many other cultural biases are in the test?

(And I wish more people would take it and discuss it honestly, as you have.)