A Meme of Privilege

I saw this at Charlotte’s Web today. She got it from the Noble Savage, who got it from What If No One’s Watching. The original authors of this exercise are Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, and Stacy Ploskonka at Illinois State University. If you participate, they ask that you PLEASE acknowledge their copyright.

Bold the true statements. You can explain further if you wish. (I added italics for ones that were almost true, or where I’m not entirely sure.)

1. Father went to college
2. Father finished college

3. Mother went to college
She probably should have, but she was busy working and being a mom.
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
Um, I assume so.
7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home
I probably had more than 50 books in my room alone. I was even a member of a book of the month club for kids.
8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home
Considering that we even had books stuffed on the high shelves in our closets, I’d say yes.
9. Were read children’s books by a parent
I have to assume so, since I have been told I started reading on my own at age 4, and I don’t remember much before that. No wonder I’ve had glasses since I was seven!
10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18
11. Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18

Swimming (briefly, hated it), one summer of tap/ballet/baton twirling (it was like the girly trifecta), and several years of piano.
12. The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively
Uh, I have no idea. Tell me how self-employed, college-educated, geeky, overweight, semi-esoteric, married mothers of two are portrayed, and I’ll get back to you.
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
I had an academic scholarship that paid for my tuition for a few years, then some of the tuition for the rest of the years, but my parents paid for everything else.
15. Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs
16. Went to a private high school
I went to a private elementary school from kindergarten to third grade.
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
No one I knew shopped at thrift stores (to my knowledge). It was a very upper-middle-class to upper class area. I’m not even sure there are thrift stores there.
21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
God bless them, they bought me a car while I was in college.
22. There was original art in your house when you were a child
We had a giant Peter Max serigraph of Ringo Starr, a giant Toulouse Lautrec-style vintage poster, and various watercolors and lithographs, some done by family members.
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

I’m assuming this means that we weren’t renting, not that they had paid off the mortgage!
25. You had your own room as a child
I was an only child.
26. You had a phone in your room before you turned 18
I think so, the memories are dim.
27. Participated in a SAT/ACT prep course
I’m saying yes on this one as a technicality. I didn’t actually take a course, but I did take the pre-SAT, from which I became a National Merit Scholar and got the scholarship. The SAT was huge at my high school, with some kids taking it multiple times to increase their already high scores.
28. Had your own TV in your room in high school
But it was black and white and approximately 7 inches across, and still had dials for UHF and VHF. That hardly counts, right?
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
Up until I was 8 years old, my parents both worked on “Museum Row” on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, so we went to the LA County Museum of Art many times. I remember the 1978 King Tut exhibit quite clearly. We also went to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu, and the Norton Simon in Pasadena.
34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family

So, this was an interesting meme. I would say that in my childhood I perceived a degree of family struggle to maintain the level of luxury enjoyed by our neighbors. My schools were mostly white, mostly college-bound. There was an assumption in my family that culture, reading, learning, going to school, etc. were all highly valued. We certainly had a comfortable life in pleasant surroundings, compared to many people in this world. I’m not sure how that falls out as far as privilege.

This brings up again some of the thoughts and concerns Anthropapa and I have had about sending our kids to Waldorf school, because for the most part these schools are white and upper middle class. They are expensive private schools. Do we want our kids to grow up thinking that is the norm? Do we want our kids to grow up feeling they are less privileged than their peers, because frankly, we’re not upper middle class?

More about the origins and background of this meme here and here.



Filed under Family, life, Memes

9 responses to “A Meme of Privilege

  1. This is really interesting. Answering the statements in my head made me look at myself in a totally different light. I hadn’t thought of myself as privileged until now but I can see that I am.

    My view is, and I hope this isn’t too blunt, but if you can afford the Waldorf school then send your children there. I certainly would if I had the opportunity for Kiko. I went to a conventional private school for two years where the other kids looked down on me but I was aware enough to know that they had the problem not me. Also, from what I know of Waldorf education (which admittedly isn’t that much) the kids would surely be encouraged against that sort of snobbery.

  2. Funnily enough, I also perceived a degree of struggle in my family. But that’s probably because my brother and I were scholarship kids at private schools, where there was a lot of wealth.

    What I know is that I was immensely privileged compared to 95% of South Africans. I had the unfair privilege of being born white in an apartheid society, but I also had the privilege of parents who put my education first.

  3. Very interesting about the TV in your room… did you watch it much? I’m guessing no.
    Wonderful how so much emphasis was placed on education, books and reading.
    We live in a very affluent neighborhood… this talk about wisely spending money, saving, and we have four kids, we can’t afford those things, comes up a lot. I worry sometimes that I am teaching them more about scarcity than I should.

  4. This was a very interesting meme. I went to a private elementary school where most kids had more material things than my family and I remember thinking I was much less privileged than many, but from looking at these questions, I can see that I was in fact very blessed with parents that valued education even though they themselves never went college. Thanks for sharing this.

  5. I’m tempted to pick this one up . Very intriguing. And if we find we need to send either of our children to a private school to make sure they get a good education, that’s what we’re do.

  6. Helen: Yes, I think that children in Waldorf schools generally are not snobs. But they are privileged! I think we would send them to Waldorf school anyway, it’s just something for us to consider regarding our overall values.

    Charlotte: It’s harder for me to see my life situation as privileged, because I grew up in a fairly homogenous place. The hubby and I have discussed this, how it’s hard for me to understand that racism still occurs, because I’ve never experienced it–and similarly that it’s hard for me to see that being white is being privileged, because I don’t know any different.

    Susie: I didn’t watch that much by myself, but certainly as a family we watched our share. Lots of BBC shows, PBS, etc., but also plenty of sitcoms. The emphasis on reading and education made up for it! I think that it’s good to help kids see that things aren’t to be taken for granted, not so much in relation to scarcity, but to value.

    Dawn: I think it’s hard for kids to see the value of the nonmaterial blessings they have! Just to have a steady home, enough healthy food, appropriate clothes, and a feeling of safety is huge, no less books to read and art to appreciate. I have relatives who haven’t always had all that, and it certainly has its effects.

    URD: I count myself as extremely lucky to have lived for the most part in a city with excellent public schools (using the US term “public”). I was able to take advanced-level (AP) courses in high school, we had art classes, nice facilities, etc. For my kids however, even if where we live had all that, I would probably still choose Waldorf, if only for its sheltering of the kids from materialism and over- or premature intellectualism.

  7. I see a difference between the kids in Hels’ class and Lou’s. The kids in Lou’s class are more well-off than Hels. Heck, half the kids in Lou’s class traveled this week… well so did we, but we stayed in a trailer with N’s parents LOL. I can assure you that at 6th grade, only the parents really notice the differences among the kids. Because of the Waldorf philosophy, the kids aren’t focused on clothing, technology, materialism. They really aren’t.

  8. What a wonderful collection of comments. Our point in designing the experience was to generate awareness of privilege as a reflection of class, and hopefully have folks reflect on their ideas of class.

    Class is quite complex, and often relative. I any community someone is richest, someone has the most education, etc. and most people live in homogeneous communities with little social class contrast.

    I chose not to go to a private school (a name brand New England prep school that manyof my friends went to), even though I got in, because my local school was pretty good and the social class diversity was much wider in a community school and that was a good thing from my perspective.

  9. Sarah: While at my rather homogeneous public schools, everyone was aware of and valued material things. It would be fascinating to do research on Waldorf students’ understanding and experience of class and privilege.

    Dr. Barratt: Thank you for reading and commenting, and thank you for starting this conversation with your work.

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