Friday, April 04, 2008

How Privileged Are You?

I was thinking about posting a news story today, but I'm finding that folks aren't visiting the blog for news stories -- the Baha'i posts get far and away more visits. The only non-Baha'i subjects that get any significant traffic are those on education and Maggie Ross. So, there's no sense in me posting news stories just to keep the blog updated.

This has been doing the rounds of the blogosphere, though, and I thought I'd chime in. It was based on an exercise about class and privilege developed by Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka at Illinois State University. If you participate in this blog game, they ask that you PLEASE acknowledge their copyright.

Some of these were difficult to answer because I had four different "childhood homes" before I was 18 -- and they were quite different from each other: 1. My brother and I lived with Mom and Dad (birth to age 9); 2. My mother and us kids lived with my maternal grandparents during my parents' divorce and ensuing custody battle(age 9 to 11); 3. My brother and I lived with my dad and stepmother, and her two kids(age 11 to 14); 4. I left my dad's house to live with Grandma and Grandpa again. (age 14 to age 20).

So, answering something like this gets a little complicated for me. (Probably that in itself makes me less "privileged". ) Dad had more money than my grandparents, but they were more likely to have an interest in things this test marks as high status, like books, art, and music -- in spite of not having finished high school. My paternal grandmother had some college education, as well as musical training, but I didn't live with her -- and Dad had a different attitude.

Everybody else who has this on their blog bolds the ones that apply, so I'll do the same.

1. Father went to college
2. Father finished college
3. Mother went to college
4. Mother finished college
5. Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor
6. Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers.
7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home. (Probably my grandparents had this many.)
8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home.
9. Were read children's books by a parent. (This one's really a "maybe". I have memories of reading to my mother, but not vice versa.)
10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18 (Swimming lessons)
11. Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18.
12. The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively.
13. Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18.
14. Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs.
15. Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs
16. Went to a private high school
17. Went to summer camp
18. Had a private tutor before you turned 18.
19. Family vacations involved staying at hotels. (Dad liked to travel, but he always pulled a trailer.)
20. Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18. ( I had hand-me-downs when I was living with Dad and stepmom -- where there were four kids to take care of, but not in the other homes I lived in.)
21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them. (I bought a hand-me-down car -- Grandma's Mustang.)
22. There was original art in your house when you were a child.(I had a great-grandmother, my maternal grandmother's mother, who loved to paint. The smell of oil paint always reminds me of her, and one of her paintings adorns my wall to this day. But she wasn't a professional artist or anything.)
23. You and your family lived in a single-family house.
24. Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home.
25. You had your own room as a child.(from age 10, although for a brief period when I was 12 I didn't have a room and slept on the couch.)
26. You had a phone in your room before you turned 18.
27. Participated in a SAT/ACT prep course.
28. Had your own TV in your room in high school.(not in high school -- my brother and I had a little black-and-white tv when we were little kids, but I never had one after that.)
29. Owned a mutual fund or IRA in high school or college.
30. Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16. (Once, I think. Actually my flying experience was mostly on my paternal grandfather's Cessna.)
31. Went on a cruise with your family.
32. Went on more than one cruise with your family.
33. Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up.(I went with people other than my parents.)
34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family.( I find this one kind of weird -- how many parents tell their kids how much their bills are?)

So, I only have nine of the 34, so that makes me approximately 26% privileged? I'm actually uncertain as to how this is supposed to be scored -- I wonder what the original authors actually did with this exercise. Just count up how many kids in the class had their own rooms growing up or had parents who bought them cars?

This appears to exclude anything that would be considered a necessity -- like food, shelter, or medical care. Compared to much of the world, just the fact that we have those means we're in the upper tier. Also, there would be a significant difference between generations here -- my grandparents wouldn't have been able to answer "yes" to any of these, and my parents to very few, and my children to several more.


Anonymous said...

Hi Karen,

My guess at the reason for no 34 would be along the lines that, if your parents were poor, you might have overheard them discussing or arguing about how to afford to pay a utility bill, whereas if your parents were well off neither you nor they would have paid very much attention to how much it costs to heat the house. It does seem odd compared to most of the rest, though.

Karen said...

Hi Paul,

Arguments about a bill are not necessarily a sign of poverty -- it could just mean that one parent is a spendthrift and one is a tightwad. In other words, it has more to do with attitudes about money than the actual wealth of the household. Some rich people are quite stingy.

Now, I could understand the question if they asked if the power had ever been shut off due to nonpayment of a bill -- kids would be aware of an event like that. But my guess is very few children know the amount of any household bill -- even in the poorest families, with perhaps the exception of adolescent chilren who are expected to contribute financially.

Now *that* would have been a much better question: Did you ever have to contribute your own money towards household expenses while still living with your parents?

Will Barratt said...

The degree to which children are aware of the family finances, like heating bills, is class related, and in interesting ways. Our point was to create a collection of statements taken from research that when taken together form a collection (not the collection) of statements reflecting privilege that is related to class

Karen said...

Thank you for stopping by and clarifying, Professor Barratt. I suppose the very fact I find the question odd is probably a reflection of my own class.