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 thoroughly enjoyed our shared experience of Skype this morning.
I hope that someone can record what Parkway said to Bryn Mawr--I would love to savor those words!
Here is what Bryn Mawr said to Parkway:
Thank you for inviting us to see in new ways, and speak so frankly, about our own experience at Bryn Mawr.
Thank you for making us grateful for our campus and all the opportunities that Bryn Mawr College provides.
Thank you for calling us out on our inconsistency: a bunch of us wrote that college isn't necessary for success, but you pointed out that we are in college now; it was easy for us to say that college wasn't necessary... because we're in college.
Thank you for helping us recognize that the things we say are very much influenced by our life situations and where we are right now.
Thank you for forcing us to reevaluate our choices and goals.
Thank you for reminding us of the need for positive thinking.
Thank you for opening up different perspectives.
Thank you for reminding us that we can make our goals more concrete – we can make paths to follow.
Thank you for giving us renewed faith in the youth of this city.
Thank you for teaching us that it's ok to identify ourselves as what we aspire to be, to say "I am a writer" or "I am a basketball player."
Thank you for being our friends.
Please see the attachment!
Everything that went on in class today made we realize how much I've come to love ESem. I'll admit it, In the beginning, I was quiet, unsure, and cursing myself for choosing a topic which I knew nothing about. After these 13 weeks I'm glad to say that I definitely feel differently. So, like we did with Parkway, I have some thank yous for you all as well:
Thank you for introducing new points of view to me, and being willing to share your unique backgrounds.
Thanks for always being such an open, understanding group.
Thanks for being the only one of my classes that I actually feel close to, and that I know everyone's name.
Thanks for being so awesome outside of class, too.
And finally (and repetitively), thanks for being my friends. It really means a lot.
I hope that we can continue to remain close. Thanks for a great semester!
Want to share books with me?
My name is Michaela, and I’m an upper-middle class white girl. (Hi, Michaela).
Well then. Now that we’re all a little more acquainted (or at least you know something a little personal about me), let’s talk.
I’ve been at Bryn Mawr as a student now for approximately 3 ½ months, but I spent many of my formative (read: awkward teenage) years here as the kid sister to a BMC student. My sister graduated class of 2010—another fact about me, another thing that I don’t necessarily like to bring up for fear that it reveals my unfair privilege.
In high school, I tried to empathize with the less well-off kids at my fairly diverse, but still very wealthy, public school. I’m from around DC, so I wanted to identify with the “real people” of DC, not the ones like me who were truly from the affluent Maryland suburbs but told people that they were from the city (the count is up to three on things that I’ve now told you about myself that are a little tough/embarrassing/shameful (?) to share. If you comment, will you tell me at least one?)
On Tuesday, I decided to participate in a direct, non-violent action against PNC bank in Philadelphia instead of going to class. The group I participated with is called the Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) and although they are primarily an environmental justice group, the action was actually focused on jobs and economic justice as well as environmental justice. PNC invests in mountain top removal coal mining in Appalachia, where basically mountaintops are blasted off to get the coal in the ground for energy uses. EQAT has lead a campaign to get PNC to divest from this for the past three years now. However, during the two groups’ last interaction, PNC defended their investment by stating that it creates jobs for the people in Appalachia, an area that happens to be a very poor part of the country in general. While this does provide jobs, it’s jobs that are harmful to the employees and are not sustainable. Also, the practice itself adversely affects the people who live in Appalachia in many ways – cancer rates have increased, more babies are born with birth defects, and many people don’t have access to clean water in their homes.
Masquerade Ball: A Message to the Pretenders
pretending [pri-tend-ing] (v.) – the act of being something you are not
upper class [up∙per-class] (n.) – a class of people above the middle class, having the highest social rank or standing based on wealth, family connections, and the like
middle class [mid∙dle-class] (n.) – a class of people intermediate between the classes of higher and lower social rank or standing; the social, economic, cultural class, having approximately average status, income, education, tastes, and the like.
lower class [low∙er-class] (n.) – a class of people below the middle class, having the lowest social rank or standing due to low income, lack of skills or education, and the like.
mask [mask] (v.) – to disguise or conceal; hide; dissemble
Why is it that we pretend to be something we are not? “Poor people want to be rich. Rich people want to, well, blend in”
TOP TEN WAYS TO HIDE BEING RICH
This collage is titled “New Points of View,” and it aims to represent the various experiences and cultural capital we bring with us here to Bryn Mawr. Ultimately, social class is another form of diversity such as gender, race, or ethnicity. It shapes who we are and how we experience the world around us. However, social class is different from all of these things in the fact that the topic is alarmingly taboo. Although, like race and gender, it is something we are usually born into, we feel uncomfortable embracing it or even acknowledging its existance. This collage aims to ask the viewer whose culture has capital. Do we all have cultural capital? Whose is most important? Is anyone's cultural capital more valuable than others? Is there a way that we can acknowledge these differences rather than ignore them? And finally, how do we “bridge the gap” and learn from one another?
What differences do you see between the left side and the right side? Are these differences important? Which one more closely mirrors your experience?
What are your feelings about the American Dream? Is it attainable for everyone?
I recently read in an article in GQ about how regardless of race or class, everyone is kind of pretentious in college. And in everything we do, we show this-- including our writing. I try to sound smart in my writing-- I think everyone does. And because of this, we all come off pretentious. That being said, in terms of true expression, I think pictures/images are the way to go-- they speak for themselves and say a thousand words. You dont need a college degree to look at a picture and judge it, critique, explain it, discuss, or disagree with it. It has nothing to with the bourgeiosie or the prolertariat. Anyone can talk about a picture, but not everyone could read this sentence. Not everyone would know that a comma shouldnt be used here or that a period means the end of a setnce. Pictures transcend all of that. It transcends time, language, class, and race.
As some of you may know, the Occupy Phildephia site was evicted this past Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. As a sign that there's still people who believe in the movement and are working toward a different society and way of life in the US, the working groups organized a march on Saturday. Some other Bryn Mawr students and I went and marched in solidarity. It was incredible. We marched, chanted, and danced our way from City Hall to Independence Park. The march itself was filled with such a strong, positive energy and we got many gestures of support from people on the sidewalks (as well as some people who were against what we stood for). After we arrived at Independence Park, we held a People's Assembly where anyone can speak up and say whatever's on their mind in regards to issues pertaining to the Occupy movement, social inequalities and injustices, voting, the role of the police in the movement, etc. One thing that was announced that I found very intriguing and pertinent to this course was one young man who said he and his friend were starting a Free University of Philadelphia. He stated that they would give anyone who wanted one, an education. I twinkle-fingered this announement (meaning I put my hands up to signal that I agreed with it/supported it) because I agree with the sentiment that everyone deserves access to free education.
Academic writing to me, is intimidating. The specific structure of each paragraph within a structured essay is almost like guess work. Each teacher has a different view on what academic writing really is, and the way they want their essays given.Academic writing seems more to do with your educational path, and what you've learned throughout the years in school, so class is involved. It isn't true that it's always involved but I think in most cases its involved. Theres other ways to express ideas and communicate with others besides through academic papers, such as presentations. Presentations make it easy to map out information for all to understand because you can incorporate other things besides words, such as graphs, or images.
When I think of academic writing, I think of a composition that utilizes sophisticated language, complex sentence structures, and, quite frequently, an abundance of sources to support its main argument. With this definition in mind, I most certainly believe that the majority of academic writing is classed for two specific reasons. The first reason is author orientated – for in order to have a firm grasp of how to successfully compose an academic piece, one must presumably have the background of a good education that has laid the foundation on which such academic writing is constructed. Education, as we have defined it within our class, is also a rather classed institution that is often seen as discriminating against the lower class, and as academic writing is a result of education (and is also intended for the use of education), it may also be seen as discriminating against lower classes in a similar manner. The second reason that academic writing might be seen as classed is audience oriented. For in writing anything, one writes with a specific audience in mind and it seems that in academic writing, with all of its complex words and flowing sentence structure, the intended audience is always meant to have achieved a “good” education, just as the author of an academic piece presumably has.
I am not unfamiliar to comments on my papers that say something along the lines of, "beautiful language, but what are you really trying to get at here?" The notion of academic writing has really affected my own writing, to the point where sometimes I try to be so academic, it detracts from my paper. I am always extremely aware of my choice of vocabulary and beautiful sentence structure. For some reason, subconsciously, I tend to think, "if I just sound smart, they won't notice I really have no clue what I'm talking about." The sad part? A lot of times it works. In this sense, academic writing is definitely classed. Because of the education I've received and how I've grown up, I've learned to write well, even if what I'm saying is a load of nonsense. If academic writing were more about the ideas and less about how they are presented, things would be a lot different.
Academic writing is just as classed if not more than education. The label of "academic writing" in itself expects a certain level of education and sophistication in the reader. While in an ideal world education would not be determined by class, the two are very interconnected. Class determines access, plain and simple. It is not that nobody will give opportunity to those of less privilige, but awareness of opportunity/ability to maximize opportunity is limited by class. The complex world of Academia is included in that cycle - public vs. private institutions, better or worse school districts, a lot or not so much time available for studying, etc.
It is also fair to say that academic writing is more classed than education becuase not only must you have access to the education that might allow you to understand it, but you have to be able to apply that education to the text. Whether it's disability or having to allocate after school hours to work instead of researching details of the writing, there are a multitude of things that not even attending the right school could allow you to fully appreciate academic writing. Between this is and the occassionally stifling formality associated with academic writing, it is not my favorite writing to produce but as a student I cannot argue that it has it's place in my studies.
Same with most people, I feel that academic writing obstructs the free flow of emotion. As student, I often feel stressed and nervous when I read academic essays. I keep telling myself I need to find out its thesis; otherwise it’s an unsuccessful reading experience. One thing that I really don’t like academic writing is that we have to hold a specific point and try to use our language to convince others. Even sometimes I know that the question actually have no correct answer and can be answered in many ways, I still need to write my essay pretending that only my thought is the ‘right’ one. So personally speaking I think academic writing leaves limited space for writes to develop their own explanations for questions and arguments.
What’s more, academic wring is ‘classed’ because only certain groups of readers have the knowledge that can make them understand the content of an academic paper, others, however, have no access to it. For example, if you have never studied biology, then you may not be able to understand the point that a writer wants to make in a paper on topic of human evolution. Also, I notice that the language used by writers is always ‘standard English free of mistakes’, which is usually spoken by middle-classed white people.
When thinking about the class dimensions of academic writing, I wouldn’t instantly see class as being a determining factor of whether or not a piece of writing is academic or not. But I think that this class has made me second-guess myself and think of the class dimensions of academic writing. I would like to say, “yes, class is a determining factor of whether or not a piece of writing is academic or not” but as I think about it some more, I say to myself, “well…that was ignorant”. I think that my confusion about this has led me to rethink the definition of “academic writing”.
I think that there are many different ways to express and communicate ideas—it’s not only about sophisticated and often times confusing academic papers, it’s also about poetry and performances that are useful in communicating ideas to others. I think that ultimately, you can communicate ideas in whichever way to you want depending on how you understand and want to convey the idea.
Academic Writing stays in the realm of academia. I think when talking about an issue that is very relevant and affects everyone, such as class, should be directed towards the main stream. But the writings of college grads, researchers, other unheard of intellectuals aren't going to get through to this generation. What media I think could touch many different groups is music. Music has been known to create change and influence how we think, dress, talk. The topic of class in built in many songs already but more as a description of what society is like currently. If we could utilize music in way that will foster change in how we view class I believe it will get the attention of a larger audience.
I have to admit. My first thought is; "Fuck yes!". Though this class has exposed us to a variety of academic texts that are rooted in the personal, academic writing definitely relies on a classed structure of densely worded prose and almost deliberately confusing wording. In order to unlock the meaning of many academic texts, one has to have been taught or taught themselves an extensive vocabulary that is not used in every day speech. When was the last time anyone used the word "hegemony" in everyday language? Additionally, there are academic snigletts that get used in discussion and writing, such as "problematize", while coloquial delects are excluded.
Academic writing and class go hand in hand. Class very often determines if one can write well academically because prepatory schools very often teach classical writing versus urban schools who teach more practice oriented writing e.g. technical writing. Prepatory schools are often private thus they require the family to have money and/or privelege to get into private school. Public schools have a limited budget and thus must pour money into other things versus what's really needed like writing or academics or textbooks. In that respect, academic writing is classed according to what kind of school you could afford to attend.
A speech to the privileged
Dear my friends from upper class,
Many of you here have the privilege to be the sons and daughters of wealthy businessmen, well-known politicians and respectable scholars. I also have the privilege to come from a powerful family in my city. I believe we all recognize how fortunate we are to be descended from middle and upper class, at least in terms of economic advantages and public recognition. Among you guys, some may go beyond your class-bounded community to get in touch with working class. Some may still be restricted by the circle of similar friends and relatives. Some of you may have the ambition to create a more equal society while others may not notice or desire to disrupt the class orders. It doesn’t matter which side you are in at the moment. This speech is open to everyone who categorizes themselves as middle/upper class. All the ideas I share with you tonight is not the same as a lecture that a professor gives to his students. I know I am a little bit young to be a lecturer. Everything I say tonight is totally based on my meandering experience and knowledge.