Social Class Experiment

Now we can test our socioeconomic class by describing the things we had in high school and college (if in fact we attended these). You bold on this list the things you had, and you get a point for each bolded thing. I got 24 points out of a possible 37, almost two thirds of the way to the top. Via Bint Alshamsa, who provides more information on this test.

If your father went to college
If your father finished college
If your mother went to college
If your mother finished college
If you have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor
If you were the same or higher class than your high school teachers
If you had a computer at home
If you had your own computer at home
If you had more than 50 books at home
If you had more than 500 books at home
If you were read children’s books by a parent
If you ever had lessons of any kind
If you had more than two kinds of lessons
If the people in the media who dress and talk like you were portrayed positively
If you had a credit card with your name on it
If you have less than $5000 in student loans
If you have no student loans

If you went to a private high school
If you went to summer camp
If you had a private tutor
If you have been to Europe
If your family vacations involved staying at hotels
If all of your clothing has been new and bought at the mall
If your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
If there was original art in your house
If you had a phone in your room
If you lived in a single family house
If your parent owned their own house or apartment
If you had your own room
If you participated in an SAT/ACT prep course
If you had your own cell phone in high school
If you had your own TV in your room in high school
If you opened a mutual fund or IRA in high school or college
If you have ever flown anywhere on a commercial airline
If you ever went on a cruise with your family
If your parents took you to museums and art galleries
If you were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family.

Cell phones and personal computers did not exist when I was in high school and college, but I think it does not matter – the equivalents were stereos and things like that.

Axé.

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18 Comments

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18 responses to “Social Class Experiment

  1. A lot of these were by no means the conditions I was brought up with. They are kind of very American and modern.

  2. Z

    Yes – they barely work for me and wouldn’t work for my parents, who would appear far more disadvantaged than they were by these markers.

  3. I had 17 of the markers growing up and my kids have added 12 of the markers to that. So they have 29 of the markers.
    Both of my parents were college educated, and my father had a CPA and my mother a higher degree. We read books and were intellectuals in a taken for granted way. And yet we never thought of ourselves as privileged. After all, many people around us did not have a single book in the house beyond Reader’s Digest Condensed books and yet had much better stuff than we did.
    The things about original art and lessons and reading to kids are telling. These are subtle class markers that can be missed by people who consider the American class system purely materialistic.

  4. I had after school lessons in art (an experience truly mystical), the piano (absolutely terrifying), recorder playing lessons (neutral), athletics (threatening), swimming (frightening but somehow also sensual). I also had cooking and sewing lessons (cooking was great because we got to eat what we made, but sewing and why anyone would do it remained a mystery for me in a negative sense). I also had horseriding lessons, which I enjoyed, and horse maintenance lessons.

    My gran painted in oils, so we had some of her stuff on the walls, as well as some of my batiques from school, some macrame I made at school, and some realistic plaster dogs heads that looked like our dogs. We had a lot of brass Zimbabwean art as well.

    We had heaps of books — Early childhood ones I can remember were Enid Blyton, Ruyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, and suchlike.

    We never stayed in hotels, and our old TV was a black and white one. Its picture used to roll, presumably when it got overheated, so you had to slap the box on the top to try to get the image to stabilise.

    We went to museums and art galleries at school, but rarely with my parents — unless we were visiting south africa, or something. Then we would see the wildlike museum or the big hole of Kimberley’s diamond mine.

    We used wood fires in winter, so there was no cost for heating. We flew on a commercial jet once, when we were looking to see if Britain might be a place to emigrate to.

    I don’t think there was anyone in the media who talked or dressed like me. Perhaps like my mother? Hard to say, really.

    I believe my father must have finished his diploma as he taught at a technical college level. My mother didn’t complete her primary school teaching course.

    Effectively I went to a private high school for the first two years of that. However it was in fact a government school, only limited to a social (but not economic) elite, through zoning of students from a whiter, more superior area of Zimbabwe.

    I never went on any cruises, but I had my own room. I also had a horse. Some of my clothes were hand-me-downs, but less so as I got older.

    Other financial stuff and professional stuff does not apply.

  5. Anyways (further to the post I made that is in moderation) — the idiosyncratic upbringing I had does in fact give me something of an idiosyncratic social classist position. The gestalt of my mind has a rather different relationship to the structure of Australian society than to the one in which I was born.

    I DO have an underlying arrogance — but “it is in the best interests of you and I” , you understand? <—— that is the expression of my underlying arrogance. The NATURE of it is more complex.

    I consider that people ought to speak to me as a human being, and that they ought, themselves to speak as human beings — one human being to another. This is my elitist attitude: I will not accept anything less.

    So, if someone is speaking to me as if they are willing and inclined bulldoze me, using the mechanisms of impersonal power that they happen to be a part of, I do not see such “people” as human beings at all. I do not and I cannot accept that they have anything reasonable or humanly valuable to say to me. Instead I dismiss such “people” as machines, who know not what they do.

    And this is very arrogant of me — since I end up dismissing 80 percent of the human race that way. (or rather, they give me cause to dismiss them, themselves.)

    Yet this internalisation of something culturally elite and absolute somehow (oddly, so oddly) fits me for finding company and resonance within the revolutionary working class (blue collars) where interpersonal authenticity is still valued. I cannot find much in common with the other classes these days, for they are themselves severely mechanised.

  6. If your father went to college
    If your father finished college
    If your mother went to college
    If your mother finished college
    If you have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor
    If you were the same or higher class than your high school teachers
    If you had a computer at home
    If you had your own computer at home
    If you had more than 50 books at home
    If you had more than 500 books at home
    If you were read children’s books by a parent
    If you ever had lessons of any kind
    If you had more than two kinds of lessons
    If the people in the media who dress and talk like you were portrayed positively
    If you had a credit card with your name on it
    If you have less than $5000 in student loans
    If you have no student loans
    If you went to a private high school
    If you went to summer camp
    If you had a private tutor
    If you have been to Europe
    If your family vacations involved staying at hotels
    If all of your clothing has been new and bought at the mall
    If your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
    If there was original art in your house
    If you had a phone in your room
    If you lived in a single family house
    If your parent owned their own house or apartment
    If you had your own room
    If you participated in an SAT/ACT prep course
    If you had your own cell phone in high school
    If you had your own TV in your room in high school
    If you opened a mutual fund or IRA in high school or college
    If you have ever flown anywhere on a commercial airline
    If you ever went on a cruise with your family
    If your parents took you to museums and art galleries
    If you were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family.

    I can only bold four of them. If you were read children’s books by a parent..

    Reading books to your children when one is poor may seem like a value more than a privilege, but to me, it has very little to do with values and all to do with privilege. The sweet parents who make time for their children after working hard all day (or worrying hard all day) happens mostly in fairy tale type movies. The truth of the matter is (at least in my family and other people I knew) adults needed time to unwind after a day of work or worry and the sooner the children were out of their face the better (its sounds cruel but there it is). I still know lots and lots of poor people. Just yesterday, I had a long discussion about why Santa Claus is not practiced in the ghetto. Because parents do not want to disappoint their children when Santa Claus simply cannot materalise. Anyway, I notice daily the differences between how I interact with my children. My values have not changed but what occupies my mind or does not occupy my mind, hence freeing me up to read (or play) with my youngest mostly has to do with the fact that I can now afford to spend time with her.

  7. charlie

    yes, i score four too. but, then, i am avowedly of working class stock. my parents were products of lingering Victorian values and two world wars. i am a child of the 60s, empowered and educated and, apparently, middle class with a vengeance. but i’m not really. i am still common and crude and overly blunt, as befits people with my roots. i read about true middle class angst, whether in university or otherwise, and smile as i recall my parents labouring in both cotton mill and mine. their own parents were too busy getting shot and gassed in various wars to feel angst.

  8. I wouldn’t count TV in the bedroom as a point of privilege, since the college-bound (privileged) kids I knew in high school never had them. Their parents could afford it but (probably correctly) saw a bedroom TV as taking time away from reading and studying. The only kids I knew who had TV in the bedroom did not go on to college.

  9. Reading through these, I can only say I’ve had a handful of these, man …

  10. I have five, three if you count only the ones I had growing up (going to Europe and flying are things I did as an adult, when I became a consultant.

    Reading books to your children when one is poor may seem like a value more than a privilege, but to me, it has very little to do with values and all to do with privilege. The sweet parents who make time for their children after working hard all day (or worrying hard all day) happens mostly in fairy tale type movies. The truth of the matter is (at least in my family and other people I knew) adults needed time to unwind after a day of work or worry and the sooner the children were out of their face the better (its sounds cruel but there it is).

    Word. My parents were such a screeching mess that they never made time to read to me–it would have interfered with their watching television. I’m glad I read the comments here because of the all the things I resented most about my parents, the ‘not reading thing’ was a big one. I understand it slightly better now.

  11. 18. what does this mean? that i’m half “classy”?

  12. Fascinating. I think that little list exposes the nature of privilege.

  13. Z

    Redstar – that you had the median amount of privilege?

  14. I read Chaser’s list.

    Here’s something on being down and out in Harare — presumably in the mid eighties.

  15. I’d be interested in seeing a list like this based on current life style. I was “young” so loooong ago.

  16. This exercise was designed for college kids as a way to spark discussion. The creators said

    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.

    I think this explains why this test doesn’t do reflect the actual levels of class privilege that people in certain age groups may have had.

    This exercise is a bit difficult for me to accept. I’m not really sure what to make of the fact that I seem to have so many more class markers than a lot of the other people I interact with on the web. I wonder whether the way I see my life matches with the way others see it. It’s hard for me to believe that anyone would consider me especially privileged. I mean, I know I’m not at the bottom of the ladder but…How does one find out whether they are often viewed as having a lot of class privilege? This exercise is a start but where do we go from there?

  17. I think it’s also oriented towards the kinds of privilege that gets you into and through school.

    The starkest realization I had of privilege was when I lived in this town in Brazil with huge class divisions. The only people whose lives resembled mine remotely – as in, they could read, had traveled, etc. – were these colonial elites I absolutely couldn’t stand.

    Yet it was clear that in terms of background, I had by far the most in common with them.

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