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 yanked the following cartoon off a friend's tumblr page, and I think it's a neat way to question standardized testing.
The workshop was kind of awkward for me, yet very beneficial. I invited people that I had constant disagreements/fights because of class. My original idea was for them to go to the workshop and maybe see might point of view better, yet I actually was one who learned a lot. A lot of comments hit very close to home and I definitely took them to heart. Overall, the workshop I feel was a success yet, there definetly should have been more time to futhur discussion and it also felt very isolated. Like the only people who could possibly benefit were the ones present. If we could some how get more people involved and thinking about this more critically, than I am sure than we can have some serious change on Bryn Mawr College.Yet, for the most part, I believe the workshop was a total success that needs to be repeated to more of the college's population.
While I thought that the workshop was great, I am worried that it will be easily forgotten. During my time at Bryn Mawr, I've heard repeated that people just don't want to talk about class on campus because it makes them feel uncomfortable, and I recognise that this is a good reason why the activities this year will fade into nothingness following their original run. I would like to know why talking about class makes people feel uncomfortable. Obviously it is because we are all raised not to speak about something so personal as finances, but why shouldn't we? Do we fear that letting someone know how much we have or don't have will make them think of us differently, ask us for money, pity us?
I come from interesting opposites: at home we never spoke about what we had, only about what we lacked. However, at my high school, students always talked about what they had and never what they lacked, perhaps because they weren't aware of it. In this way, the poor students were all but silenced and made to feel inadequate. In reality, you could never know who had money and who didn't because the poor kids weren't allowed to express themselves or they would be all but shunned. I don't know if that is the way it is in most schools.
Friday's workshop was a good start towards opening up a campus discussion about class and class issues. It was interesting to hear from some of the more established administrators in one of my discussion groups about how Bryn Mawr used to be. I knew from the other day that class used to be very apparent on campus, but hearing it about it from someone who was involved in distributing the list of students on financial aid enhanced my awareness. I am very appreciative of the changes around campus. It is possible to argue that the changes make discussions about class taboo and uncomfortable and that it does no good to sweep these topics under the rug. I am of the opinion, however, that there is a difference between openly discussing class and announcing a student's financial situation. It is possible to have the free-flowing and inclusive discourse without the extremes, and workshops such as this are how to achieve that balance. The next step is to augment the group in the workshop and to include some experiential activities, not just a few brave souls commenting and discussing with the rest of the group watching.
I noted that as I was interviewing, I felt I kind of "got in the person's life" and I could imagine what their daily life was like. Am I the only one or did anyone else feel this sort of connection to their interviewee?
I didn't post this until late because I chose to reflect on the workshop and its usage by putting the interview process in motion and seeing where I saw the insights I gained from the workshop in the interviews. A question that remained- as I culled it via interview- was "Why are people so quick to bring up examples of money as indicators of inequality?" A person can be money poor and yet be rich in love. I realize it is really corny to say this but cold piles of cash do not love you the same way a mother or father or lover do. Why do people measure class in wealth when really the situation varies and some with less money may have more love then those who possess a lot of money. I found it to be riveting to listen to those who attended in the 80's talk about their experiences. It made me realize how valuable elderly people's stories are to society. Invent all the ipads and iphones you want, nothing replaces experience and the hands on joy of doing something for yourself. I loved moving around to places we felt comfortable, I'm a very kinesthic learner and that really connected me to the topic. As my friends know, I never stop moving and that I got to do that in a workshop was awesome! I added an interview question- "Where do you feel most comfortable and why?" just for that activity and I loved the reasons why- they ranged from a simple "Its warm" to an intricate " I love the ambiance and vitality of it." I wrapped up my last interview 20 minutes ago and it was rather engaging to interview people and hear what they had to say.
I thought the workshop went very well. We had a fairly good turnout of people of lots of differnt students and professions on campus. However, participating in the workshop was very challenging for me. It was very uncomfortalbe, but that's why we've having workshops like this in the first place! The most difficult section was when we had to choose spaces that made us feel productive/uncomfortable/ownership. I felt strongly that I had to be honest, but also really didn't want to. They were such personal answers and I felt that I had the right to now have to share that with anyone if I didn't want to. It's the same thing with talking about money/socioeconomics. It's such a personal topic, and while we definitely need to "break the ice", we also have to respect people for wanting to remain anonymous and live their life without always thinking about inequalities. Sometimes, innocence can be bliss for everyone.
The forum on Friday really brought to light for me the idea that our campus is really quite separated between faculty, staff members, and students. This was especially obvious to me when we were asked to stand in the area where we felt the most uncomfortable and a majority of the faculty and staff members went to the dorm area where, later, a majority of the students said they felt that they had the most ownership. I feel that, though each party of the campus – students, faculty, and staff – are all essential to keep the campus running smoothly, and though we all interact with one another daily, there is still quite a significant divide between all of us. Whether caused by class, culture, “rank,” or age, it is still interesting to reflect that on a campus that is supposed to be so community oriented and inclusive, there should exist such a distinct line that these three groups so thoroughly avoid crossing. Of course, we do need to have our boundaries, but at what point do these boundaries become too distinct and actually inhibit us from understanding one another? Even reflecting on the forum now, I realize that we really didn’t have any housekeepers at the event and we discussed, prior to the forum, the fact that the housekeepers whom we did ask, turned us down because they felt that they would be out of place in that setting. This, I believe, is just one example of where the boundaries we have set get in the way of everyone understanding one another, and I really believe that we need to find a way to overcome these barriers.
Like a lot of the other commenters, I was really happy with the turn-out of the workshop, and so glad to get to hear the perspectives of upperclassmen on class and their experiences with it. I did wish I got more of a chance to speak with staff and faculty, though. I think the space questions (where we feel most productive, ownership, etc.) were really effective for mixing us up more, which was great. I know for a lot of people, the campus center was a really popular place for doing "productive work" and I found it curious that so many staff who I spoke to (deans and counselors in particular) chose that as compared to their office as a place of work doing, because for me it's always been quite social. I wasn't surprised that in general faculty felt most uncomfortable in the dorms, but I was surprised that so many people said they felt comfortable everywhere. I think perhaps people couldn't name a space in which they felt uncomfortable was because I feel that a lot of times, places in which i find myself uncomfortable aren't always that way. The spaces are liminal and their level of exclusivity changes for me based on who occupies them.
The workshop was a success. I was impressed by the turnout. From the first analysis of the images, it struck me how my group members and i, despite being of different ages and coming from different racial, economic and educational backgrounds all shared close and sometimes identical views on issues of class. We all gravitated towards using appearance, comportment, and environment as physical markers to classify our subjects.
I felt ratified to see that many people were bothered about the inequality in the pay scale for student's working with dining services in comparison to those working with other departments on campus. I appreciated the different perspertives on the issue of ownership, especially the conflict between claiming a space as mine and having to share it with a roomate or classmates etc.
I second the motion to expand the conversation to include the entire school community, possibly even making it a part of the wellness seminar. I felt proud to be a member of In Class/Out Classed.
One of the most interesting discussions for me during the whole on-campus workshop happened when we are questioned about the first time we thought about ye class issue here in Bryn Mawr College. Two students in our group said that actually before they started our seminar this semester, they have never thought about the social class issues and its correlations with education. Most students think that when they interact with students who come from different social class, especially with those who come from higher social class than themselves, they are more likely to be self-conscious and sensitive. Therefore, we came up with the idea that people should consider more about the social class issues when they interact with people from different economic backgrounds. But at the same time, when we discussed how often we thought about the class issue during our college life, the answer turned out to be: not very often. We all agreed that we focus more on the “academic elitism” that Jane Trembley mentioned in her article. I think this kind of comparison is really interesting. On the one hand, we think that we should pay more attention to the class issues; on the other hand, we agreed that class sometimes does not matter that much, because what we want is to attain a higher level in academics. I therefore wonder that for people in Bryn Mawr, how important do they think the social class is? Also, what kind of role does it play in education?
I think that the workshop was a great turnout but it could’ve been a bit better. S. Yaeger mentioned that she would have loved to see some custodial and grounds staff at the workshop and I definitely agree. However, I was kind of expecting for little to none of the grounds and custodial staff to be there just because of the feedback we got (as a class) about how some had asked their housekeepers and how most felt like it wasn’t their space to be there. I thought that the conversations that we had were great. I got a chance to speak with two Spanish professors and Kelly who I believe is a multicultural director of some sort. Their ideas were very compelling about class and the different definitions that are associated with the word. I had the chance to understand and hear different perspectives about how each individual perceives class. Something that I am still questioning is the definition of “ownership”. I feel like ownership is something that directly relates to being comfortable. In a space where we have some sort of ownership, is usually a place where we also feel the most comfortable because we feel in control. I think what would be helpful is to continue these conversations, if possible, once every two months or so.
I thought that the forum was pretty enlightening. I got the chance to be in a group with Angie Sheets, the director of Residential Life on campus, who had some very interesting ideas. She was the only non-student in the "Dorm" corner when we were asked where we felt most comfortable, and later explained that this was because the dorms are her domain, where she is the top of the chain, and where she has the most power to help students. She also brought up, in our conversation about when we felt we were in the most classed situation on campus, that she goes to the Board of Trustees meeting, and often feels out of place, especially when they are discussing what they will use our endowment toward, since she said she often feels that more of it should go into financial aid. Another interesting point that she made was that she felt in the least-classed environment during the faculty/staff kids Halloween party, where everyone is there for a common purpose, and there is not as much hyperawareness of who is in charge, has the most ownership, etc.
I thought that we could take this final idea and bring it into more events on campus, which are open to the faculty and staff, without the stress that our forum seemed to create for some people that each of us invited. I think that maybe, by not directly asking about class, but instead by sharing experiences with people from all over the campus community, we can become more exposed to their points of view.
I have so many thoughts about our workshop. It's hard to find a spot to start.
I was surprised to see how many falculty members where there, and also a little saddened to see that there were not a lot of people from the support staff there. I loved that there were people who work in admin there, but would have liked to have seen some custodial or grounds staff included too.
In many ways, the absence of housekeepers and landscapers from the worksop highlighted one of the difficulties in starting a discussion of this nature on campus. No matter how hard we work to be inclusive, there may always be a barrier between those in privileged positions, and those who are in positions of support. I wonder how we can bridge that barrier.
I was very impressed with how open people were in the small breakout groups, and I always tend to like those better than big discussions anyway. I think that the biggest thing I took from my breakout groups was a sense of understanding a little better how others feel about their own class status on campus.
One of the few criticisms I have is that the workshop might have been a little too big for comfort in terms of the ammount of people there and the ability for everyone to be heard, but I think that's the sort of thing that can only become apparent through attempting to hold these events. Overall, I thought it went well as a starting point, and I am very interested in seeing where all of this will lead.
At one point during our group discussion, we were asked to identify a time in which we noticed class divides at Bryn Mawr. I decided to talk about my experience working at Wyndham: oftentimes, I have been snapped at (literally), snubbed, flat out ignored or just plain mistreated by the customers whom I am serving. I have recently begun to notice a connection between these particular patrons: they are old, wealthy (judging by clothes/conversations) upper-crust women. After telling my story, one of my group members, a McBride scholar, said very bluntly, "Well you can't change the ways of a stuck-up Main Line lady." While at the time I agreed, I couldn't help but think after: why not? The forum that we conducted demonstrated our ability to get a variety of different people together to talk about class. And in my opinion, this was a successful conversation. Although it is not really our place to try and "fix" the attitudes of classist people, it is not altogether impossible to enlighten them and bring them into a conversation. What my group member said may be true, but if we don't start from the ground up to educated people on the effects and class and the divisions that still exist, we will always be plagued by a generation of 80 year old Main Line ladies. And speaking from experience, this is not something to aim for. After witnessing the success of our smallish group discussion, I think it would be interesting to invite the community into Bryn Mawr to join us and have a conversation.
I thought Friday's forum brought to light a lot of issues and solutions. When we had to describe an instance of how class mattered on campus I shared about my custom group's trip to Hope's Cookies. During customs week my customs people decided to take us to Hope's Cookie's for a fun activity. When we got there I noticied that a few people didn't get anything to eat. During the forum I realized it was wrong of our entire customs group to assume that everyone could afford to buy over priced cookies and ice cream. Therefore, it's important for class based discussions to happen within the customs group and for it to happen in HA and customs training. I'm glad for me this came to light at the forum and I was able to talk to a bunch of different people about how they saw this experience.
After the workshop I realized that our ESem needs to be bigger. There were so many ideas and thoughts that people had that I never thought about. It seemed like the workshop gave people and opportunity to vocalize their thoughts about class if they never had the chance before. A constant theme that stood out was the idea to keep a continuing dialogue and make these issues known and take them head on. One idea that stood out to me was the idea to talk about class during Customs Week so freshman could have the opportunity to understand what they may see while here at Bryn Mawr. Initially I was all for this idea and I still believe that this is a great idea, but it may also be too much for an incoming freshman to discuss her first week here. If this idea is incorporated into Customs Week, I think it would most likely be a one way dialogue because many freshmen may find it difficult to discuss class their first week here. I know I was shy or afraid to speak up about anything my first week here, let alone class. I think a continuation of this ESem is one way to continue the dialogue. This is the first year this class was available and it had come such a long way since the first day. The workshop brought our ideas to a greater community of Bryn Mawr. In years to come, the participants of this class will hopefully bring to light the issues of class to their peers and take these issues head on as our class does.
One interesting thing I observed in our on-campus workshop is when people tried to find the solution to class issues at Bryn Mawr. Most people suggested that we should have some open talks/ platforms about class issues in class or Wellness program. Yes, it's right that we should fix the issues by confronting rather than avoiding talking about them. However, it raises the next questions for us: Should we make the talk voluntary or coercive? If it's voluntary, we still have some people attend this kind of talk. However, I guess they are all open-minded people who are willing to solve the conflicts between different classes. Class issues are created by some narrow-minded individuals who stick themselves to certain catergories and isolate themselves from the rest of the community. I believe if we talk about class issues in some coercive environments such as in the classroom in which everyone is forced to participate, it may produce better results.
I don't generally like David Brooks' column (he grew up one block from where I raised my children, and much of what he says bothers me, which makes me wonder what I was doing in that neighborhood for all those years....). Anyhow! take a look @ his recent spoof, "The Inequality Map." It's a pointed pointing-to what sorts of discrimination we find good (as in "discriminating") and what sorts we don't (as in "discriminating against"). Food for thought this Saturday morning.....
One question that came up that really resonated within me throughout the workshop was: do we need to feel ownership over something in order to find comfortability? To me, it was interesting that some people said that they felt comfortable in the space that is Bryn Mawr without feeling ownership. The underlying principles of ownership include having freedom within the control of over one’s environment which I had felt was necessary in order to feel in responsible for one’s actions and their consequences and find purpose from that. In this way, the outcome that would make more sense to me that others would feel more productive and comfortable in being in places where they had command. Nonetheless, in trying to relate to those who did not need ownership, I realized that one could also find greater comfort in being in a collaborative community with other people or find productivity in being guided which made me think of the collaborative nature of school and the individual agency of the student.
Up until then, I hadn’t realized that comfortability held different meanings to everyone: it made me wonder about the different comforts that each class (social economic, gender, race, ability, ethnicity, etc.) nurtures for its constituents. do some cultures and classes nurture a community based on individual autonomy or collaboration? How is each beneficial? How do these clash or work together?