Welcome to InClass/OutClassed: On the Uses of a Liberal Education, an Emily Balch Seminar offered in Fall 2011 @ Bryn Mawr College. This is an interestingly different kind of place for writing, and may take some getting used to. The first thing to keep in mind is that it's not a site for "formal writing" or "finished thoughts." It's a place for thoughts-in-progress, for what you're thinking (whether you know it or not) on your way to what you think next. Imagine that you're just talking to some people you've met. This is a "conversation" place, a place to find out what you're thinking yourself, and what other people are thinking. The idea here is that your "thoughts in progress" can help others with their thinking, and theirs can help you with yours.
So who are you writing for? Primarily for yourself, and for others in both sections of our course. But also for the world. This is a "public" forum, so people anywhere on the web might look in. That's the second thing to keep in mind here. You're writing for yourself, for others in the class, AND for others you might or might not know. So, your thoughts in progress can contribute to the thoughts in progress of LOTS of people. The web is giving increasing reality to the idea that there can actually evolve a world community, and you're part of helping to bring that about.
We're glad to have you along, and hope you come to both enjoy and value our shared exploration of class, in education and outside it. Fee free to comment on any post below, or to POST YOUR THOUGHTS HERE.
I just wanted to write to thank each of the students in the in class/outclassed course for participating in the conversation we held last Thursday, Dec. 1. I really enjoyed being able to come and speak with you about the ways we personally wrestle with our class statuses and how we try to make sense of this very absurd system of "classifying" people. One aspect that I did not get to address during the class was the topic of class in context of a capitalist system. In response, much your feedback to my zine has revolved around the question of "how could a wealthy person ever feel bad/guilty about having wealth?" My answer is that I feel this way due to my opposition to a capitalist system that is based in (and provokes) many social ills - competition, exploitation, persecution, and unequal wealth distribution. If you remember a quote from Ty in my zine, "people are wealthy BECAUSE other people are poor." People are poor, in part, because of the concentrated wealth that I have benefitted from. My disdain for my wealth is connected to my political desire to be anti-capitalist and to work for another economic system that does not involve colonialism and unjust resource extraction; for a economy that does not simultaneously create poverty and the many social traumas poverty brings. As you can see, this commitment is tied up into so many other causes and issues that I am devoted to. I'm open and interested to continue working through this with each of you. Please feel free to get in touch with me with further thoughts, questions, & ideas.
InClass/OutClassed arrives this week @ the Supreme Court:
"elite public and private colleges remain dominated by affluent students. Some colleges probably have more students from the top 2 percent of the income distribution than the bottom 50 percent....Racial discrimination obviously continues to exist. But the disadvantages of class, by most measures, are larger today. A class-based system would be more expensive, forcing colleges to devote some money now spent on buildings and other items to financial aid instead, but it would also arguably be more meritocratic."
...I am hearing echoes, this Sunday morning, of our conversations together 3 semesters ago..
This was possibly the most insightful, honest, awesome way to wrap up the semester. I feel as though it really mirrored my experiences in this ESem and was really happy to have been a part of it. While each of us had the opportunity to work with our groups to convey in a short, 10-minute presentation what it is that we wanted to say about class and education, I think this series of final presentations went above and beyond that goal. I think rather than tying things up neatly at the end, we left it in the spirit of our ESem, in a continuing dialog, a continuing thought process, and a continuing relationship with all the students in this class. I am really grateful for having been a part of it all and I think we really got the chance to see many talents of our peers from slam poetry to rap music videos to creative games and presentations, while bringing more ideas of class to the foreground. I really wanted to say thanks to the class and to Jody and Anne for this awesome opportunity and I hope that we continue this dialog and awareness of class on campus.
Last Friday (December 9th) I posted an opinion piece on the napkin notes and MTVu discussion that’s been happening in Erdman Dining Hall for the past few weeks. When I wrote it, I knew it would be public – that was part of the assignment for our class. However, I didn’t realize how quickly it would spread to be a topic of discussion. Even as we speak the MTVu situation is growing more and more complicated.
On Wednesday night (December 14th), I spent three hours talking to some friends about gender, class, and different appreciations for body types based on race and culture. I can’t possibly capture everything that was said, but one aspect that I felt was very important to our discussions of objectification and the television was who is criticizing the TV’s presence, and why.
For our final performance, Sam and I organized two games that inspired by two articles that we felt impressed: Pedagody of the Opressed by Paulo Freire and The Achivement of Desire by Richard Rodriquez. We hope it would make our performance more interactive and try to cover some of the main themes we talked about in class, including: social mobility and education, interactive education and generally, the affects on class on people's behaviors in and approaches to their education. Here I attached our script used for the performance:
Occupations will be posted on the backs of each participant.
Have sections of the room help people guess who they are by answering their questions.
Rule is that you can only ask yes or no questions.
- First Round: Basic (doctor, lawyer, Michael Jordan)
- Second (more difficult) Round Use money to signify the amount of questions that can be allotted to each participant (a quarter for 25 questions, dime for 10 questions, a nickel for 5 questions)
ROUND 1 EXPLANATION:
First off, I would like to commend every person for her insightful, creative, and moving representation of the issues surrounding class and education. The presentations caused me to both reflect on this course and further my thoughts. One thing I thought was neat about the presentations was that the groups were integrated from both classes. The variety of approaches to this assignment reminded me of just how successful and progressive collaborative diversity can be. The diversity of the presentations really amazed me – they showed the many ways we can approach the issue of class, the wide variety of issues surrounding class (it’s not quite as simple as one might think!), the diversity of thought about class, and, most importantly, how every single one of these topics influences and furthers the “class” discussion (no pun intended.) It was also interesting to see how some people were particularly fascinated and influenced by specific authors and their ideas. I feel like understanding what has been written about class and education and either furthering it or arguing against it is one of the most crucial aspects in continuing the discussion within the academic world. I focused paper number eleven on the way in which academic writing restricts access to thoughts and ideas, so I was especially excited to see academia engaged in so many creative ways: further proof that writing is not the only way to share and change thoughts and ideas.
So over the past weeks I've been feeling differently about how our society is. I'm beginning to believe that nothing can change. I think that is what I wanted to express in my slam poetry last Sunday. I feel like most of time we forget that ESEM is just another required class and while this was a great class, taught by great teacher, that provoked so many ideas and emotions, I sit here wondering what will be different. These will only become memories that we carry along with the rest of our accumulating baggage and we will reflect back on it once in a while. But has it really touched any of us? Are the people who sat their quiet during this process suppressing their thought, hesitating what to let go and share with us, really any more open? Or are they that much more closeted? Are the people that came to this class oblivious of many classed ideas really feeling the empowerment? Or was it just one of those little 'take a chance' moments we tell our kids about one day? With my poem I wished to have people think about the question, can we really change? I think as a group, we described our class on 'class' the way the people in the world do - differently. All these differen't connections and emotions that fill up a room, that create tension, silence, noice, freedom; I though were all conveyed in our group slam. I just wonder if anyone really heard us.
I was a little frustrated at first when I found out that we were going to meet last Sunday night simply because I didn’t want another thing I had to do during finals week. However, as my group started planning our performance and I heard what some other groups were doing, I stated to get a bit more excited. After seeing everyone on Sunday, I’m glad that we got to meet together one last time. It gave me more closure with this class and a sense of a support network because I know that class issues will come up for me throughout my time here. And while not a lot of my other friends around campus understand their own classism or care about general class issues, it’s really good to know that y’all do. I feel like I could probably turn to any one from this class if I need to talk to someone about a class issue I’m having.
For our final presentation, Jordan and I created a virtual scrapbook of the class. We highlighted the best parts of the past. What we found was that the best parts of the experience are not neccesarily the funnest part of the class. I feel the presentation went well, I was worried that our presentation would not go well and wouldn't go over well but not to fear. I liked seeing my classmate's faces as they say themselves in pictures and in quotes. All in all, the presentations went well with each flowing into the other. We ended on an indefinite note but that's okay because we will hopefully continue to see each other next semester and perhaps continue our classroom discussions outside of the classroom.
While last night's performances were really touching and funny, we all know that they went far beyond that. They showed our sense of agency to go into the world with the knowledge we've gained and actually make a change--whether that change is simply modifying how we will personally operate in the world or taking our knowledge to a broader audience through teaching, playing games, noticing bias in youtube videos, or rapping. The only thing I hope is that our efforts don't stop just because this class has. I hope we continue to keep what we've learned in our minds far beyond this class and our years at Bryn Mawr. In my group's performance, we didn't get a chance to share what Robin Kelly said, and that is that we can't change the media until we change society; and we cannot change society until we change ourselves. It is only in this sort of cyclical pattern of “making new people” that we can “make new television.”
Wow. Was i amazed? More than. I loved the various presentation formats of all the other groups. Chandrea has already summarized our group objective. I based my slam/speech whatever it was, on the phrases that stuck with me throughout the class - words i will still remember a year from now.
Time-poor versus money-poor
Rich shame versus poor shame
Room size versus pocket size
class - bridge - divide
The questions at the end were meant to provoke thought, especially the 'Can we really bridge the class divide?'. I asked the question in the hope that our conversation does not end up as 3 months of academic noise and freshman memories, but as something more concrete - that changes the face of class at Bryn Mawr.
This was an extra class in its own right and a unique learning experience for me. The piece on space made me remember the discussion we had on ownership. I remember how i moved from answering that i could claim full ownership of my dorm room to doubting myself, when someone pointed out the issues involved in claiming a space you share?
I noticed that in the creative assignment, some students came out and identified with their class. It was therefore interesting to me when Chandrea said after the performance that she might as well flaunt hers. It was a 'go girl' moment for me. And for 5 minutes I enjoyed the thrill of changing class with the wheel game. I could go on and on, but there's other stuff to do.
My performance is inspired by my previous perception about the United States. Before coming here, everything I knew about this country was through the media. Through this class, I recognize that the US is not always as dreamy as I thought. There are a lot of downsides. Furthermore, I also realize the importance of the media to form my perception about the society and this perception is somehow stereotyped and biased. And I think most people all have the same problems. It is easy to make assumptions and judgement about other people based on their apprearance and language. This powerpoint aims to make me and the rest of the class to correct the wrong perception and become more impartial
For our final performance, we decided to do some slam poetry! We all wrote about different aspects of our E-Sem experiences and from various perspectives. Mfon also did a crossword puzzle about the packing problem. Some other topics included learning about banking education and our own perceptions of our socioeconomic statuses and realizing our responsibilities as Bryn Mawr students to bring up touchy topics like class to campus and make them relevant to our peers. Our poems were personal and allowed us to share what we learned from this E-Sem and how class mattered to us back then and how it will matter to us in the future. I remember discussing the project with my group and all of us being unsure about which area about the broad topic of class we would be writing our poems about. It's a complicated subject!
I really, really enjoyed seeing all of the final performances last night. At some points, I couldn't stop laughing and at others, I wanted to burst into tears. I've really enjoyed my time spent with this class, and I feel like I've learned so much, not only from the curriculum but also my peers.
We've spent much of the class identifying different perceptions and stereotypes about every socioeconomic class. We've seen what situations they can lead to, and how to fight them. But what we haven't had a chance to touch on is where they come from. So this is what our group chose to focus on for the final performance. In our presentation, we talked about the media and how it perpetuates stereotypes about certain groups in regards to class, race and the American Dream. We also discussed how easily children are influenced by these media stereotypes, and how they continue to grow up with these negative, often exaggerated stereotypes. To do this, we provided examples of media which portrays different people in certain lights. To conclude the presentation, we offered suggests on how to resist media bias, in an effort to alleviate negative perceptions. We also included a fun animated clip about the going ons of ESem and the consequences of our disinterest in moving the tables!
Last night’s performances were amazing and seeing the different ways that our classmates portrayed what their experiences was so moving.
For our final performance, we went with an activity that was similar to ones that we did in class. We wanted everyone to write down one thing that they still felt uncomfortable talking about even after having this ESem. We decided to keep the students anonymous, since their concern made them uncomfortable. We read the responses and wrote them on the board, so everyone could see what their classmates were still comfortable with. Originally, we wanted to break up into smaller groups and discuss what we saw on the board and some common ideas. Many of the ideas were personal issues that we still faced. Our goal for our performance to convey that even after going through In Class/Outclassed, understanding and learning about class, we all had something we were anxious to discuss. This led us to another idea that the conversation does not stop. We will continue to feel uncomfortable with many issues, but bringing light to these issues and discussing them further, can make a change.
We did not get to read all of the responses because we ran out of time, but in a way that sort of showed us that the conversation is ongoing. We didn’t finish, but maybe it’s because we weren’t meant to finish. To those of you whose responses were not read, it was an issue with time is anything. But that fact that you wrote your concern down is a step in moving forward and addressing it.
For our final project, we decided to take a popular song ("I'm on a Boat") and rewrite the lyrics to try to encapsulate our freshman year Bryn Mawr (and ESEM) experience. Though, of course, the goal was for it to be funny, we were also trying to show that the discussions we've been doing in class can happen in very different mediums – including song and video. Because I don't have a youtube account, I can't upload the video to youtube. However, the lyrics are below:
Aw shit, get your lanterns ready
Its about to go down
Everybody at Bryn Mawr hit the English House
But stay on your fingers and toes
We running this, lets go
I’m at Bryn Mawr, I’m at Bryn Mawr
Everybody look at us
Cause we know who we are
I’m at Bryn Mawr, I’m at Bryn Mawr
Take a good hard look
At the place where we are
I’m at Bryn Mawr, just take a look at us
Walking through campus on the way to the Blue Bus
Thinking about class and education
It seems so easy
But look at us now cus we’re feeling kinda breezy
Take this picture of M. Carey Thomas
She made a promise
For Bryn Mawr College
She was a very important person,
No doubt about that
But now look at Bryn Mawr cus we got JMAC
I’m reading John Dewey, take a look at me
Learning from experience at BMC
Bel hooks and Freire—for the oppressed
Doesn’t matter which one was better dressed
I just wanted to say one more time how amazing this class was. Jomi and I were talking about how we hope Anne and Jody teach it again, but we aren't sure anything can measure up to this experience. It's been wonderful to see us (e-sem students, Jomi & I, and also Jody & Anne) grow throughout this semester. I'm going abroad next semester and now I'm actually kind of sad (I know, I know, you can yell at me, I should only be excited) BUT when I come back I hope you all say "hi" to me still and whatever role you saw me as before (teacher, classmate, weird in between) I hope you will be open to the idea of being friends because you are all so incredibly intelligent and I would love to continue to have amazing conversations about class with you. Thank you all for making this semester so great.