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people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation

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children of dune - leto 1
Continuing adventures of a very small cubicle. In that there aren't any adventures. There is, however, a creepy amount of CNN reading. That can't be healthy.

So this is going around my flist. Privilege meme, below cut. Honestly, I had to read it a few times, because these are--to me--deeply random questions.

The list is based on an exercise developed by Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka at Illinois State University. The exercise developers ask that if you participate in this blog game, you acknowledge their copyright.

To participate, copy and paste the list (below) into your blog, and bold the items that are true for you. (comments added in italics)

Father went to college
Father finished college
Mother went to college
Mother finished college
Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor
Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers

Had more than 50 books in your childhood home
Had more than 500 books in your childhood home
Were read children's books by a parent
Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18
Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18

The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively.
Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18
Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs
Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs
Went to a private high school
Went to summer camp
Had a private tutor before you turned 18
Family vacations involved staying at hotels motels count?

Your clothing was bought new before you turned 18. - sometimes. It depends on what year.
Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
There was original art in your house when you were a child
Had a phone in your room before you turned 18.

You and your family lived in a single family house

Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home - does owing one and a half times the value of the house count as owned?

You had your own room as a child
Participated in an SAT/ACT prep course
Had your own TV in your room in High School
Owned a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College

Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16
Went on a cruise with your family
Went on more than one cruise with your family
Your parents took you to museums and/or art galleries as you grew up
You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family. - literally or figuratively? As in, did I see the bills, or as a child, was I aware that the utilities were hideously expensive?

Okay, I give up. What is that supposed to prove? Somehow--call me crazy--a question on whether one could afford electricity and heat at all, whether one's family vehicles were repossessed regularly, and whether or not pawning things for food might have been slightly higher priority than museums.

Feel free to explain how I'm wrong. I just have no context for what these questions are supposed to be slanted toward--for privilege, there's a very odd mix of socioeconomic/educational without actually hitting the main points and what appears to be culture. Is there supposed to be some kind of correlation between education and parenting skills/parental emphasis on certain things and not others?

ETA: context here from siderea, picked up from another livejournal.

Even with that context...this still doesn't make sense. I have a vague thought on the standard being set here is lower-middle class, reading through, which explains why so many of the questions are an utter mystery for me, but I'm not sure what specifically is being tested for. Involved parents, educated parents, really motivated kid while in school?

I actually posted a "what do you think of this meme?" question to my LJ last night, and I'd love your thoughts on it, if you have the time.

Sorry about the excessive CNN reading, and the small cubicle. You're not prone to claustrophobia, are you? :)

(Deleted comment)
I'm not sure it's even a true privilege meme--the base assumptions are all over the place in terms of family education, economics, property ownership, and parental involvement.

There is some background here: http://siderea.livejournal.com/549293.html?format=light&style=mine

The meme has been repurposed for blogging and, in the repurposing, has lost some coherence and common ground. (Kind of like nominating a fan fiction challenge story for a Tiptree award.) I see why it's raising hackles, especially since thinking about class & privilege almost always makes lots of people uncomfortable and angry to begin with, and then online we lose the face-to-face contact that might help (or at least change) our emotional responses. But I can see its utility in education, if the person leading the discussion can manage the emotions invoked.

I read the context, but for me, it's a privilege meme for the privileged, literally, when the base assumption is one's parents have a car to pass on, that there was access to museums/art galleries, and that one's parents even graduated high school, and that the family utility bills were paid regularly.

I guess in this case, it doesn't look very much like an honest set of questions to make a point, because the randomness of them don't actually--well, prove anything but whether or not the parents went to college and if they were involved, or conversely, if there was a very motivated kid in the mix.

Hmm... a lot of these questions aren't really that inclusive, or give a good stance on what is privalege. For example;

Your clothing was bought new before you turned 18.
My back-to-school clothes were bought new... from the bargain racks at Value Village or K-Mart.

Your parents took you to museums and/or art galleries as you grew up.
I went to museums and art galleries, but as school field trips or with the girl scouts, both of which I paid less than half the admission price for group rates. Like you said, making sure everyone had food in their bellies and the electricity was paid was more important to my family than museums.

And the car thing made me laugh; my *parents* got hand-me-down cars, us kids have to fend for ourselves!

I can kinda understand what the original exercise was getting at; not everyone has the same social-economic class, and some people need to see it for themselves to really understand it. But this meme is just, well... stupid.

Regarding clothing and museums--yes for me on those too. And what year it was, and if it happened to coincide with a month where the electric bill was really low. Cars, too.

I can kinda understand what the original exercise was getting at; not everyone has the same social-economic class, and some people need to see it for themselves to really understand it. But this meme is just, well... stupid.

I can see what they were trying to do, but the problem--and this could be totally me here--the base assumptions of a person's life and what constitutes privilege in it isn't the same anywhere. It's *random* in what it is choosing to emphasize. The car thing might not be applicable in a family who was in say, New York or Chicago or other cities wiht high traffic and an excellent public transit system; extra cell phones come free with plans and some families don't even use landlines. It feels--again, maybe just me--that the baseline assumptions aren't consistent with anyone.

(Deleted comment)
Okay, so it's not just me that was thrown completely by that one? The mix is so *weird*--it's a combination of middle-middle up to lower-upper (or heck, what is the subdivision on upper), and everything else just confused me on where they wanted people to start thinking of privilege and in what sense; wealth, class, education, parental involvement, heck, with the museum/art thing, that could be a location issue if the parents were rural and worked nights, even if they had sufficient transporation and the child had interest.

I have to wonder what kind of kids they were giving this to; the baseline on this, to me, would be the difference between upper and lower middle class, but even then some of the assumptions on that are odd.

Er. IN short, yes.

I wonder what the demographics of the college that invented this thing are.

Most of the statements are less about what I think of as 'privilege' and more about investment in children and their education. I know my parents would do without in order to get me (or my sister) exposure to all kinds of opportunities. Also, there was no question, ever: we would go to a 4-year university. That was my mother, pushing, because she got very 'feminist' in the seventies, and she had no sons (which I totally think makes a difference with people my age).

We weren't wealthy: one car (which took dad to work), one phone, one TV (antenna), no A/C (not even a window unit). Mom started working part-time at the same time we did (I've had some sort of employment since I was 14). But even with what I guess is a middle Middle Class income, priorities in spending defined us more than the actual income did.

And I think I'm going to take this over to my own journal, before I take up more of yours... :)

*grins* You can post here all you like. But I do look forward to seeing what you write up in yoru own--link me when you're done?

I wonder what the demographics of the college that invented this thing are.

*thoughtful* Trust is thrown in there with knowing how much the utility bill is; assumption that you *get* a car, on top of the assumption of graduation from high school--it's like, if we were speaking in stereotypes, conflating everyone below upper-middle class into one massive class, while ignoring everyone below upper-lower class.

....huh. I wonder if that's what I've been trying to articulate about this one.

It really irritates me how they equate reading with privilege. I lived next door to a minority single mom who had grown up in crushing poverty, had an abusive ex and resorted to dealing drugs to pay for her apartment. Yet, surprise, she was well informed and had a pile of thrift store books, mostly non-fiction like Margaret Mead. I suspect they are equating being poor in a city with ready access to culture as being more privileged than rural poor, but it kind of comes off as assuming poverty means you're stupid and tasteless.

*nod* Even at the worst times in my family, we always had books, and we always had a few dollars for me to take to the used book store once every month or two, or my grandmother sent over boxes she got at garage sales; that was me and my parents (not so much my sisters) *thing*, even moreso than TV in some ways.

I suspect they are equating being poor in a city with ready access to culture as being more privileged than rural poor, but it kind of comes off as assuming poverty means you're stupid and tasteless.

*mulls* I keep trying to articulate what about this feels so off, and that's part of it. Even rural middle class more than an hour from the city might find it hard to get to the museums/art, assuming the kid didn't go with his school for field trips and that the kid *wanted* to go, etc.

It's very--something. You know, I almost want to go with vaguely smug, but I'm not sure why I'm getting that.

I, too, found the assumptions and the lack of context misleading. My parents finished college, but were the first on either side to even go and that is a far different sort of privilege than a case where either parent was expected to proceed to higher education. The phone in my room came from another room in the house after my father got sick of my teenaged prattling. There's no way to explain just how much my parents sacrificed to be able to pay most of my college tuition versus a situation where that was a given and not a choice made. And, as you pointed out, there's no space for the bounced checks and creditor phone calls and paying for things in coin change only that are not exclusive to having books in the house that my parents read to me.

Exactly- yes, my mother went to and finished college, but it took her twelve years of working around child-raising and full time jobs.

I filled it out, and I enjoyed doing it, but I found myself qualifying a lot of things in it.

I did the list too, and I think this list needs updating:

Did you have access to a computer at home in high school?

Did the computer have internet access?


Did you have access to a computer in high school?

Did you have access to programming classes in high school?

Did your parents drive you to school most days before you got a license?

Was your parents car was as nice as your classmate's?

Did you parents volunteer to pack you a lunch most of the time?

If you needed help on a school project, would your parents help you?

If you needed it, would your parents buy you more than $10 worth of supplies for a school project?

More than $20?

Was your allowance the same as most of your friends?

Did you parents listen and talk about popular music when you were a child?

Did you usually shop at department stores or boutiques like the GAP for clothes?

Did your school offer honors or AP classes?

Did you have a library less than 5 miles from your house?

Did your parents take you to the library?

Did your parents pay for you to have a cell phone in high school?

In one sense, some of your technology questions are very ageist -- I'm 32 and the internet was just a budding thing until I was already in college and beyond. Hell, cable TV wasn't available in my neighborhood until I was in my teens. Forget cell phones.

Also, some of those questions reveal an urban/rural divide -- even in the most rundown housing projects in my city, there's a library nearby (sometimes on the property itself) and cars and licenses are less a function of privilege than necessity or the lack thereof.

That said, for a certain age and beyond, these are telling questions because they address luxuries, necessities, and where that distinction is made.

the 'lessons' one threw me till i read The siderea post, since it didn't specify music lessons.

weird one. helpful link, thanks!
interesting. i think i'll fill it out just to see what turns up.

I have a vague thought on the standard being set here is lower-middle class, reading through, which explains why so many of the questions are an utter mystery for me, but I'm not sure what specifically is being tested for. Involved parents, educated parents, really motivated kid while in school?

I don't think it's testing _for_ anything.

It's intended to make people (according to the original web page, residence hall staff at Indiana State University) more aware of the range of experiences that students might have had growing up.

I mean, just -- so I, and my husband, and a non-insignificant subset of my friends, were raised upper-middle-class (or right on the border between that and middle-middle). We might, individually, have occasionally had to worry about finances (when my husband's parents divorced, for example, and his father did not pay alimony or child support), but as a group, money was just there and accessible and if we needed stuff, we asked for it and got it. There are a lot of things on that list that I wouldn't bold -- but which, if I had ever asked for them, I would have gotten (SAT prep course or a private tutor, for example).

Those are privileges that I had that two of my very dearest friends, one raised...working-poor, I suppose, and one lower-middle-class, did not. And they have meant all kinds of different things in my life and educational experience.

I work with college students every day. And I can't just assume that all the ones who look and/or sound like me actually have the same kind of background that I do. After all, if you put me in a row with those two of my dear friends, we are all white American women in our early 30s with master's degrees. Wouldn't it be easy for a stranger to assume that we were all raised in our current apparent-social-class? That we all got to go on family vacations? That none of us had to fight tooth and nail to _be allowed to go to college_, that none of us had to go into debt to go to college? We're so alike! We have good professions and expensive degrees and good-looking professional husbands and nice houses and nice cars and we all sound just right...but we're not coming from the same place. _I started here_. They got to fight their way here.

And it is worth it, to me, to keep in mind that many of the students I work with are also making that journey -- and it is worth it to keep in mind that some of the students I work with are _not_ making that journey and might not be _aware_ of that journey because they, like me, started here...and maybe they need to be made aware of the journey, gently, from time to time.

(By the way, I do think that it's not the best-designed example of this kind of thing I've ever seen. And I think Barrett is an idiot who misuses the word "prestige" a lot. But that doesn't mean it isn't a worthwhile thing, in concept; it also doesn't mean that it isn't useful -- just that it could be better at doing what it does.)

*nods* I read the context for it; but anecdotally, at least (at fifteen years ago, I would have been sixteen), it--hmm. I don't know how to explain how *bizarre* the questions are, because the things considered here as 'privileges' were, again, anecdotally, things that weren't off baseline, and I grew up rural lower-middle with forays into upper-lower.

Again, and this is hard for me to articulate; what are mentioned as 'privilege' here are scattered even when I was sixteen in being the norm for kids in my same general socioeconomic class. The only difference I would see is the material value of the objects (cars), the phone lines (extra features), lessons (whether there were teachers available or if the teachers at school also gave lessons, sometimes for free for some groups), flying (I got a scholarship to go abroad when I was seventeen, but the program allowed for younger), prep course (school offered several), etc etc etc.

It feels like its assigning the word privilege far, far too generally for too large a group of things.

I do see what you're saying, and obviously I can't possibly approach it from your perspective, but it seems--to me--to assume a *lot* about the middle and lower classes right off the bat, and a lot of it is, again, anecdotally, utterly wrong and scattershot in approach to what constitutes a privilege.

There is something immensely wrong with this--sociologically, anthropologically. They aren't taking into consideration geographical concerns, propensity towards an interest in these things (by participant or parent), intelligence, parent's willingness to ensure that their child has the best possible education--and much, much more. It's not balanced in any way and the questions seemed skewed towards the upper-middle class and above--but, in their assumptions of what constitutes "privelege". Like, having a high stress, overly time consuming job equates the possibility of privalege. I grew up dirt ass poor, but both my brother and I went to private school 'cause it was the only option for a descent education in the area. And, to compensate for the tuition, I was work study all through high school and had a job as early as I could. Hell, I helped pay things like the heating bill and the phone bill, but that doesn't mean that I lacked lessons or tutors when I needed them (geometry kicked my ass severely and one of my other high school math teachers was my paid tutor to get me through it) or museums/galleries to go to (it also helped that I volunteered at the Illinois State Museum and my dad works/worked [he's retiring Friday, yay!] for Lincoln's Home so I grew up wandering about historic sites).

...all of which echoes what you were saying.

I guess, for me as an ex-college-instructor and current-Writing-Center-tutor, I'd have told them that there was a lot that needed to be fixed in this and sent them back to write more drafts 'til it was more balanced and representative.

I saw this meme but didn't bother to do/ post it. I can see what the meme is trying to do, but it doesn't work on a large scale.

Father went to college
Father finished college.
You and your family lived in a single family house
Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16
You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family.

Yeses to the above, but they were all courtesy of having being in a military family--military housing, commercial plane flight returning from an overseas assignment, dad who went to college and graduated as an adult while taking advantage of some of the military benefits. I'm not sure I'd call that privileged.

I'm not sure I'd call that privileged.

It's a hell of a lot more privileged than my friend who grew up in a ratty-ass trailer park, with two parents with no post-high-school education and only occasionally enough money to pay to heat the place in the winter.

The point of the thing is that privilege is relative. I don't think it's particularly well-executed, but just because Person A is more privileged than Person B doesn't mean that Person B is not privileged at all.

I think the point of it seems to be to make people for a more priviledges background feel bad. Seriously. I grew up upper-middle-class and was abruptly tossed into blue-collar when I moved out and my dad lost his job. I still have more access to things than other people of my economic class because my uncle pays for my college and my dad will bankrupt himself to make sure I'm okay, but as someone with experience in both worlds... Yeah, this seems to be all about making slightly higher-class people feel bad.

My experience of higher class people is that it takes a lot to make the seriously privileged feel badly about it. My experience of college freshmen is that they're too oblivious circumstances other than their own to get there would be anything to feel badly about. I felt that, in the context of college freshman, it was more about making them think--'yo, not everyone in this room had their bills paid and spent summers on pony rides at camp.' That's news to a lot of kids in college.

I think I kind of get it. Most people read the word "privileged" as meaning sort of well off, or a higher class than others. But that isn't really the only definition of the word.

For example, my family wasn't well off, but my parents made sure that even though they couldn't afford to buy me private lessons, I was signed up through school for the cheaper rates. That way I still had the privilege of being taught an art that was not automatically taught to children. Do you know what I mean?

I mean, I've had friends who were financially way better off, but their parents did not make sure that they were offered chances to experience summer camp, or learn an instrument, or have some time where the entire family spent a week of two together on a vacation. These were privileges that my parents made sure I had, that my friends lacked, because their parents didn't make sure they got them, despite totally being able to afford them.

My parents were huge readers, so I always had the privilege of having books around, and was read to at a very young age. My brother and his wife have more money now than my parents had when I was young, but they never go out of their way to make sure that their kids have books outside of school, and I doubt my niece and nephew are ever read to, if they don't ask for it.

I think the idea was that while many college kids who were in the class first given these questions often came from the same socio-economical background, their parents did not make sure the all had the same privileges and experiences. Of course, with this meme going around LJ, I think it's taken way out of context, as many of us do not come from the same socio-economical background, thus totally losing the point of the questions in the first place.

privileges that my parents made sure I had

That's exactly it. Parents giving their children access to opportunities. I think that 'privilege' is the wrong word to use. Perhaps 'advantageous experience' would be better.