Friday, January 26, 2018

Children, Social Class and College

I was talking with my students yesterday in our Social Stratification course about children and college. I said something about how my kids (ages 7 and 10) talk about college as something they will definitely do. Even when I, a college professor, do not go out of my way to tell them that college is something they have to, or should, do.

My wife is a first-generation college graduate. Her parents are high school graduates and never attended college.

My dad is a community college graduate (and Air Force veteran) and my mom is a high school graduate who never attended college. They made a lot of sacrifices and strongly encouraged my brother and I to go to college.

My first memory of a college campus is visiting my older brother when he was a student at SUNY Cortland. When it came time for me to apply to college, I applied to three schools. I got accepted by two and went to one (SUNY Fredonia) largely based on a recommendation from a friend and on one visit to the campus. There was almost nothing to my application and search process. No science, no system, severe lack of knowledge.

The point I was making about my kids is they have a huge advantage in being able to come to my campus. It's not often that I do bring them to campus, but occasionally I do. They see my office filled with books. They've come to classrooms. They've met students and my colleagues. To them that's all normal. And our home has books stacked to the ceiling.

If our kids do want to attend college someday, they'll know 5000% more than my wife and I ever did about the college search process (my wife's college application process was similar to mine). A lot of students in my class could relate to the point, considering many of them are first-generation college students. This was all part of a lesson about social class being an ascribed or achieved status. I kept saying how the general public likes to focus on the work that people put in, but overlook or underestimate the significance of the social class position people are born into. And when people from relatively privileged backgrounds talk about themselves, they tend to emphasize their work and accomplishments rather than acknowledge their unearned advantages, power and privilege. Eddie Vedder says it well in the Pearl Jam song Bu$hleaguer: "Born on third, thinks he got a triple."

No comments:

Post a Comment