so now watch what you say, or they’ll be calling you a radical

From What Privileges Do You Have?, 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.

Bold the true statements.

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. [Leaving this blank because I don’t fully understand it. Isn’t the point of this test to see what “class” I’m in anyway? How can I know this early on?]
7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home.
8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home.
9. Were read children’s books by a parent.
10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18
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.
[People underestimate how big a deal #12 is. As I’ve said before: I’m a white male over six feet with good hair and no visible piercings. I will never have trouble getting a job, loan or access to a secure area.]
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.
20. Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18.
21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them.
[First car was a hand-me-down; second car was a used Volvo]
22. There was original art in your house when you were a child.
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

26. You had a phone in your room before you turned 18.
27. Participated in a SAT/ACT prep course. [Could have if I had to]
28. Had your own TV in your room in high school.
29. Owned a mutual fund or IRA in high school or college .
30. Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16.

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.
34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family.

I don’t feel guilty about any of the above. And note that I would have had different answers to those questions at different points in my life. At age 5, mixing apple juice from the frozen Disney concentrate was the high point of a weekend. At age 9 I shared a bedroom with my younger brother and went to a public school. At age 17 I drove a car my parents drove for years – but I had my own car.

At the same time, I’d be a fool to ignore the fact that I had advantages other 26-year-olds didn’t have.

I guess the point is: I’m conscious of class in America, but class isn’t a fixed thing (like it is in most other countries in the world). My folks started out lower-middle-class and are now upper-middle-class / well-off. There’s greater income mobility in the U.S. than there is in any country in the history of the human species, and the statistics back that up.

Know your background: that’s the moral.

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