Sunday, September 9, 2007


As you might know, my mom is a first grade teacher, and every year before school starts, she spends a few days taking classes. This year, one class she took was all about education, race, and class. The idea is, that for some teachers, maybe raised in the upper middle class, there are sometimes hidden class or race codes that, if you're just sensitive to it, might explain why a kid has trouble grasping certain concepts or subjects.

Mom and I find all of this stuff fascinating. In her class, the instructor had the teachers split up into different groups. One of the markers of people raised in the lower middle class is probably having to pay your own way through college, she told me. I remember my own first weeks of college and how startled I was when I realized that the women in my first-year suite had, without even meaning to, segregated ourselves into our class stratae. All my friends, like me, were on scholarships and had hefty student loans. We hadn't been to private schools, and when break came, we worked.

I was nervous when Practically Perfect came out because I thought that the class issues in it were too naked. People would certainly see the sort of raw discomfort that I felt about money, authority, the sense that it all could go away at any minute—in other words, having some issues with class mobility. I thought that people would call me on it. Yo, chickee, it's a book about class and you're not even addressing it.

But what's weird? Nobody noticed at all. (Which is why, I suppose, they offer classes on race, class, and education in the first place.)

Do you remember that series that the New York Times ran a couple of years ago about class? They collected the whole shebang into a book—Class Matters—that I somehow missed when it came out. I just ordered it, and I'm looking forward to reading. It seems messy and interesting and crazy, in a good and possibly helpful way.

Speaking of that, do you love an online quiz? Well, here you go.


Libby said...

I find this stuff fascinating, too, Jennifer--esp. b/c my own class status has always been vexed (high education, low(er) income). I went to a great workshop on it recently done by Felice Yankel, who does lots of such workshops--really eye-opening stuff!

laundrylessons said...

Wow, very interesting topic, especially since I've been dealing with the subject with my 13 year old daughter. Trying to help her be aware of how people may perceive her and how she may judge others.

Julianne said...

I was one of those kids whose parents paid for everything in college, EVERYTHING, including my living expenses and a monthly stipend for clothes/food/beer/whatever my heart desired. I appreciate that they did that but it left a deep chasm in my brain between what I did in college and where I'd be financially when I left. I did not make the connection between education and money, hence the choice of majors: philosophy. It was the only thing I had "passion" for. What a crock.

I'm 32 years old and I've finally accepted that my choice of majors was a mistake and my college years were wasted writing lengthy essays on the distinction between free will and determinism. I also feel that I am entitled to more financially then I have (just being honest). I am a cautionary tale in entitlement issues. I obsess about how to prevent these issues in my children but come up short everytime. The topic fascinates me.

jessica said...

Because I grew up in cultural and economic privilege, and was regularly made aware of social justice and my (our) responsibilties to my fellow man, class and economics have always been an important concept to me. Thanks for posting the quiz (meter?).

Oh, and as a writer, I rank around the middle on that first bar. That ain't right! Priorities, world?