Thursday, February 14, 2008

Advantages of class membership

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Even though we didn't have much, what we had was good, even better than what is on this list. Every vacation was a camping vacation, first in a tent, then a pop-up camper. We camped up and down the eastern seaboard, all the way from Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, to Mississippi where my mother's parents lived, and took two trips into Canada: Quebec and New Brunswick, then Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island.

The private lessons were for swimming and the clarinet. My mother did not learn how to swim until she was grown, so she made sure my brother and I had lessons during the school year at an indoor pool. Clarinet lessons were for my mediocre talent but they were also a time to bond with my father after he had moved out of the house before my parents' divorce.

I put myself through college and seminary, with the help of financial aid, VA benefits and loans, because my parents did not have the money to help me. I bought my own clunker of a car before my senior year in college with money saved from summer jobs.

The books in our house belonged mostly to my parents, as they were educated packrats, but at birthdays and Christmas, children's books were among the gifts. The original art was a few paintings purchased second-hand and in the Philippines when my father was in the Air Force and one of the crucifixion done by my father. My mother earned a degree in fine arts, like all young ladies seeking a husband in her day, but it also ensured that we were taken to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and to the Isabella Gardner Museum. We also went to Sturbridge Village, the New England Aquarium, the Franklin Zoo and the Museum of Science--infrequent and rare, these were special outings.

After my parents were divorced, money was very tight. My mother worked two jobs at one point, as an insurance agent by day and a waitress at the Barnside Tavern restaurant by night. That stopped when she got mono and couldn't work for about two weeks. I knew we didn't have much but I didn't know until I was an adult that we almost lost our house, that one year we wouldn't have had a Christmas if not for a generous, loving person from our church. My mother made sure we children did not know how much the heating bills were, even though they probably caused her much anxiety.

When I flew on a commercial plane, it was to see my father who had moved to North Carolina. Most of the time, though, I took the bus. I also was able to go on an eighth grade field trip to Washington, D.C. and Williamsburg, because my mother scraped together the money and thought it was important that I go. The same was true for a European choir and band concert tour when I was seventeen but this time, she made sure my father contributed as well.

Though my first home was around or less than 1000 square feet, though my father was an alcoholic during my elementary school years, though we could not always afford to go clothes shopping, I am thankful I grew up the way I did. I have an appreciation for simple things, for nature, for books and for art and music. It enables me to want to help others, for I did not get to where I am without a lot of help from caring, compassionate people.

What opportunities did you have growing up?

Thanks to Sharecropper for this meme.


Andy said...

My reply would be way too long for this section but suffice it to say that we were lower middle-class and yet I never knew it.

We always had new school clothes from Sears yet they had to last a looong time. There were always gifts under the Christmas tree but they were always in debt to do it.

There were evening meals that consisted of fried-dough and syrup yet I never knew that that was a bad thing.

We did mostly day trips as kids. Our first (and only) family vacation away from home came when I was 14 and we spent one night in a Holiday Inn in NH before we went to my aunt's cottage on Lake Winnipesaukee. We had a blast.

Did we have alot of money? No. Not at all. Did I have many books, and drawing paper, and pencils and art lessons and love. Yes. Yes I did.

Cynthia said...

Yet in our society/culture today, to grow up like this is seen as deprived or lacking in some way.

stef said...

Hey Cynthia,

Could you please get in touch with us. My name is Stefan from and we'd like to explore a potential link/content exchange with your blog.

Many thanks,