Via Bint Alshamsa, this is a version of a “social class awareness experience” used in the residence halls (and possibly also classrooms?) at Indiana State University by Will Barratt et al. In the classroom, students are asked to take a step forward for each of the statements that describe them; they don’t talk about the exercise (and how they feel about it) until after they’ve gone through the whole list.
Doing this online, I’m bolding the statements which describe my background. Also, I’m including a second list that Lauren added based on the suggestions Bint’s commenters made as to other markers of class privilege.
ADULTHOOD [up to and including college]:
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 (Commodore 64!!)
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 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 me are portrayed positively
If you had a credit card with your name on it (not until right before grad school, when I could get approved for one based on my own meager income)
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 (not until I was 29)
If your family vacations involved staying at hotels (assuming motels count, not to mention circumstances where at least one child was supposed to stay out of sight)
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 own their own house or apartment
If you had your own room (had I a sister, or if I had been a boy, this would not have been the case)
If you participated in an SAT/ACT prep course
If you had your own cell phone in High School (they didn’t have cell phones back then; I didn’t get one until I was doing a long commute with a baby — my in-laws insisted it was a safety thing)
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 (I think it used to be cheaper — when I started college, PeopleExpress flew between Boston and Newark for $25, plus $3 for each bag you wanted to check)
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.
If your body does not bear long-term signs of malnutrition. (For example, teeth marked up from poor nutrition when they were forming.)
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. (I’m assuming that home heating oil is relatively “clean-burning”)
If you grew up in a house without vermin. (unless you count ants…)
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. (they got driven till they fell apart, though, and some were bought used)
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. (didn’t hunt or fish meat)
If your laundry was done at home in a washer rather than in a lavandaria.
If your hair was cut by a professional barber or hair stylist instead of your parent. (mostly by mom)
THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS:
*These lists are pretty good at illuminating a lot of things it’s easy to take for granted if you have them.
*I do wonder, though, whether the American tendency to transform “wants” into “needs” might require a new list in another generation. (Cell phones and computers strike me as two items that are no longer viewed so much as “luxury” items. College education might be shifting that direction as well.)
*I’m not sure whether I think there should be some questions that capture awareness of shifting your economic class. I know that there are things that can make you more aware of your privilege — for example, remembering when you were drinking powdered milk rather than fluid milk. It was a big deal, in my childhood, when we left powdered milk behind.
*Would an eating out/eating at home question identify a real divide in class privilege, or would it need to be more fine grained (e.g., fast food or fancy restaurants, what kind of food at home, what kinds of issues of time and money drive the eating habits)?
*I imagine this exercise might be more of an eye-opener at schools with lots of “traditional” college students (i.e., right out of high school). At universities like mine, where our students tend to be older on average, to have taken a “break” of some sort after high school, and to be working close to full time, I think there might be a whole bunch of questions that could be posed about economic privilege right now.
*I’m not at all sure, though, what the effect would be of posing those questions at the start of class.
Generally, this strikes me as a better exercise as the social class knowledge quiz described by Chad. It’s worthwhile to think about the infrastructure and support team that makes it possible for us to do the things we want to do, whether that’s going to school or pursuing a particular career or life path. Noticing that not everyone has the same level of infrastructure and support team helps you see that many choices are more constrained than we like to think they are.