Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I suppose I'll weigh in on this one as well...

I remember seeing an activity of this type in one of my education classes in college, and we actually just did an activity similar to this one at our school's staff development day last week, and it seems to be making the rounds, so here we go. Actually, the ones we did had a questionnaire for lower-class and upper-class demarcators as well. Maybe I'll dust them off tomorrow and we can do those together, too. From Chickpea via DBB, here are the results of my "are you privileged" survey. It seems as though the point is to have everybody line up on a sort of "starting line," then take steps forward for each of the things that apply to them. At the end, everybody can look around and see how their class status has helped them get "ahead." I think the reason we didn't do this in my college class was that there were all sorts of steps back, too, like your race, did your parents or grandparents only speak a language other than English, or (no kidding!) did you have a history of incest in your family. Things that apply to me are in yellow.

Your father went to college (at the time, a great way to avoid being drafted!)
Your father finished college
Your mother went to college
Your mother finished college
You have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor
You were in the same or higher class than your high school teachers
You had a computer at home (and we finally got the internet about 18 months before I moved out!)
You had your own computer at home (no, but now we have one more computer than we have people in our house, just to make up for it!)
You had more than 50 books at home
You had more than 500 books at home
You were read children’s books by a parent
You ever had lessons of any kind
You had more than two kinds of lessons (two years of harp, 5 of cello, and serious swimming lessons as early as I can remember)
The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively
You had a credit card with your name on it in high school (no, but I did in college, and I have a great story about accidentally using it to rent porn)
You have less than $5000 in student loans
You have no student loans (oh, man, sometimes I have dreams like this. Then I wake up.)
You went to a private high school
You went to summer camp (a week of Girl Scout Camp every summer in elementary school counts, right?)
You had a private tutor
You have been to Europe (I was an exchange student in high school. I went to Italy for 6 months.)
Your family vacations involved staying at hotels (we only ever had 2 like this, usually "vacations" were trips to visit family)
All of your clothing has been new and bought at the mall (although, to be fair, I could probably have shopped at the mall, but wouldn't be caught dead in anything but ratty secondhand store clothes--it was the 90s)
Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them (although they did co-sign on the most recent one to save me TEN PERCENTAGE POINTS off my interest rate)
There was original art in your house (but they did hang our drawings on the fridge)
You had a phone in your room
You lived in a single family house
Your parents own their own house or apartment (Some of the time)
You had your own room (some of the time)
You participated in an SAT/ACT prep course (didn't need one; thanks to my Texas public education, I am a standardized test-taking machine!)
You had your own cell phone in High School (we only had pagers, and they were only for drug dealers)
You had your own TV in your room in High School
You opened a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College
You have ever flown anywhere on a commercial airline
You ever went on a cruise with your family
Your parents took you to museums and art galleries
You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family (although I remember being distinctly aware it was bill-paying day: pretty much the only time I remember seeing my parents drink anything besides beer was when they spread the bills out on the dining room table.)

A second list, also from Chickpea, appears below. It seems to represent some more lower-class indicators than the above.

1. Has anyone close to you ever overdosed on drugs?
2. Did you grow up with married parents? So were everyone else's. There was one kid I hung around with in 6th grade with divorced parents, and it was just kind of sad.
3. Has anyone in your family’s social circle ever been in prison?
4. Has your family ever been foreclosed on?
5. Have your parents ever been bankrupt?
6. Was a family vehicle ever repossessed?
7. Have you seen a dentist in the past year?
8. Did your family have health insurance through an employer?
9. Did your parents use pay-day loans?
10. Did your parents ever get threatening calls from collectors?
11. Have you seen a doctor in the past year? Two years? Three years?
12. Has anyone in your immediate family ever delayed an important medical procedure because they didn’t have the money? (Tyson is just now able to get to a physical therapist for his shoulders that have been causing him to sleep poorly for, I don't know, 15 years now?)
13. Did you ever move in with relatives because of financial problems?
14. Were you ever on reduced or free school lunch?
15. Was one or both parents often unemployed and looking for work?
16. Was your family ever evicted?
17. Did your family often argue about money? (This question will bring in a lot of upper-middle class folk, but lack of conflict over money is a form of privilege, too.)
18. Did your family have to deal with social workers?
19. Are you in ROTC to pay for college? (I did take ROTC in high school to get out of a PE credit!)
20. Did you serve in the military to pay for college?
21. Did you transfer from a community college? (Community college was WAY too lowbrow for me.)
22. Do you have a child?
23. Do you work more than 10 hours a week? 20 hours a week? 30 hours a week?
24. Were your parents able to help you with your homework?

So there you go, guys. Apparently Blogger is shutting down in about ten minutes, so I'll just have to leave it here for now.


DBB said...

You were way more ambitious than me - I was too lazy to even look at the second list. Though now that I have, I don't think a single one of those would apply to me. Of course, part of that might be the "small family" effect - the larger your family, the more likely some person from some branch of it has gotten into some sort of trouble, legally or financially - that's my theory, anyway. My family is rather small, all around. Which kinda sucks when it comes to things like finding someone to babysit...

Tyson said...

What I found interesting is all the discussion about priviledge, and the people who rate high on the priviledge scale that deny or minimize their priviledge, or who say "yes, but MY experience of that qualifier is different

Erin said...

I think that's the same principle that causes every teenager/undergraduate to believe they come from the craziest family ever, only to discover in their mid-twenties that the only people who go around convincing people how messed up their childhood was are really pretty WASPy. I know that was true for me. It wasn't until I actually met other people, you know, from DIFFERENT backgrounds that I realized how nice, normal, and incredibly white-bread I grew up. Overall, I think the middle class has an incredible desire to romanticize poverty so we don't feel obligated to actually help people. We don't tend to do that whole "there but for the grace of God" thing because we tell ourselves our lives have been hard, too.