EDPS 360 (A2) Fall 2013

Hidden Injuries

In Uncategorized on September 30, 2013 at 4:26 pm

By Liz:

In Hidden Injuries of Class, Sennet and Cobb explore the issue of upward mobility within classes and the underlying discontent associated with such a shift in status.

Previous class readings have established that there are indeed systems in place used to categorize people within society. Whether its Webers’ determination of class-situation by market-situation or Bourdieu who believes that socioeconomic positioning is correlated to capital, there is an overlapping notion that economics plays a large role in class differentiation.

Throughout the reading, the driving force to pursue upward class mobility is entirely based on material gain, Success is measured not by honor but by acquiring possessions and wealth. Perhaps here is where the discontent stems from.  A house and a nice car are easily measurable within society as a sign of success whereas the honor associated with providing for your family at the age of 16 may not be.

In distinguishing between economic success which is easily graspable and the more abstract ideas that Sennet and Cobb present such as honor, respect and prestige, I am reminded of my Uncle who in trying to explain to me the importance of education, described his own personal discontent.  Though he has achieved tremendous economic success through hard work he recalled attending charity events in which he was seated with Doctors and Judges, and although he felt respected, he also felt displaced. He said that no amount of money could buy the prestige associated with higher education.

Sennet and Cobb describe this discontent as “Status Incongruity” or “an antithesis between working-class struggle and educated ‘higher’ culture”.  In the movie, Goin’ Down the Road, we are again reminded that in order to advance one must be equipped with the correct education.  That even if a person is somehow able to achieve upward class mobility, society views it as ‘luck’ and the achievement is somewhat lessened.  Borrowing from Bourdieu’s concept of social capital, I do believe that class mobility is much more widely accessible and accepted depending on region but this leads me to a deeper question. Is education the key to bridging the gap between classes? If higher education is achieved does society allow class mobility without the stigmas of socioeconomic status? And why is it so difficult to achieve the same results without an educational background?

By Savannah:

When I graduated with my B. A. in drama I knew I wouldn’t find a high paying job in drama. But I was passionate about drama and as an optimistic (and perhaps naïve) student I felt that the pursuit of art trumped the pursuit of money. Then reality hit: to quote a song from the John Kander and Fred Ebb’s musical Cabaret  “money makes the world go round”. So I set out to find a job. I applied to many places but found that few places were interested in my drama degree.  Ultimately I ended up getting a job at Walmart because they were the only place that called me for interview. (I was graduating with a University degree but I had very little work experience, since at the time I was only working during the summers.) To be honest I felt, and still feel to some extent, that I am too good for Walmart. One line from the article that really resonated with me is when Frank is describing his educated coworkers who “because they got an education, [sneak] out early and [come] in late” (Sennett&Cobb, 1966, p.21). I am guilty of this. I am a hard worker and my boss considers me reliable, but because I consider myself above the work I do, it is hard for me to care about my job.

My best friend at work is a woman in her early fifties. She has two children. She moved here from the east coast. She is a brilliant writer but never had the opportunity in life to pursue it as a career. She became pregnant when she was quite young, married an abusive man, and had to work in a fishery to support her family. When she left her husband, she left the east coast, moved to Alberta and came to work at Walmart. When I heard her story, and read her writings, and came to know her as a person I realized I am no better than her, simply because I am ‘educated’. I am educated because I had ‘life chances’ she didn’t have.  I am no better than her but I had economic, social, and cultural capital she didn’t have access to. That’s the only difference between us.

This has led me to create some questions about my future as a teacher. How can help ensure that my students have optimal ‘life chances’? How can I help them find ways to build their economic, social and cultural capital?

By Shenai:

The over arcing theme I have found in both sources that has stood out to me considerably would be whether or not the poor should stay poor and the rich stay rich, or if there should be an amalgamation of the two when labourers work hard enough to essentially earn their place as middle-class citizens who must simply deal with the confusion the transformation will cause.  Although, I am aware of the chaos a mixing of the classes would make if it were easier, I still think that lower class citizens should not be limited any more than they already are more based on the family they were born into.  It is a system that is based on previous generations and the means a family has to either push their offspring farther up the ladder or not.  If a family has been well-off and a middle class family for generations, the means for their offspring to pursue equally dignified jobs with freedom is abundant; however, those from lower-class families simply do not have the resources to be furthered by their families and parents and must individually make the decision and sacrifice themselves.  So few are actually able to pull it off in the grand scheme of things, that I think the dignity is within being one of the few to do so and be successful even if the work itself is not dignified.

By Mike:

I found that both the video and the book were an interesting and powerful look at the way that class and socioeconomic status connect with education.  Although today we are much more fortunate in terms of the availability of education for our children the reality is there are still ways in which where we grow up and what our parents do has a profound effect on how we view education and society.

In particular I was struck by the conflict in Frank Rissarro’s story of how he worked hard to find himself working alongside University educated people.  Although at the face of it the story to me seems like one of success it’s clear that Frank has different feelings about it.  That conflict in himself of the status he has achieved against the disrespect he feels for himself is a conflict I would not have anticipated in someone who has clearly worked hard throughout his life.

When watching the video again I see how social reproduction can have a powerful effect on people’s lives.  The two characters have taken the initiative to get out of their situation in a working-class place to try to advance themselves in their career.  However because of that working-class upbringing where education was of low priority they find themselves essentially back where they started.  It’s not ambition that limits them but rather their situation.

Considering both of these pieces together I feel that we are extremely lucky today to have more options and more accessibility of education.  However I am also wondering a little more whether there are still some vestiges of the effects that socioeconomic status have on education for today’s students.

  1. This article also made me think of another article I had read on Huffington Post “Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy”

  2. I think you have all done a fabulous job with this. I find the references to outside experiences and materials especially useful. I’ll have a look at the Huff Post article, which should be interesting from the perspective of theory. Do the theories we’ve been reading in class “work” with the unhappy generation y story? Does that story seem to have a different understanding of personal problems and public issues? Does it give short shrift to the systemic side of things?

  3. An afterthought: I was reminded of this article I read recently: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/02/mac-mcclelland-free-online-shipping-warehouses-labor It raises serious questions about the nature of the so-called “post-industrial” economy. Are people really becoming more free from labour? Or is it simply that fewer people are doing more and harder work for less money with less security? Others point out that, in fact, there are more people doing more labour than ever before globally. The notion that there are not is mainly the result of the failure of those with the most power to define the situation. They see fewer shoe factories in their neighbourhood, they know no labourers in shoe factories, and conclude (wrong, of course) that there are fewer people making shoes than in the past.

  4. Savannah, I have the same feeling with my job. I don’t even have a degree yet, but I work at Sobey’s stocking shelves during the school year to make some extra money – more so to pay off both my car and my summer-time travelling – and I also have the subconscious perception that I am “too good to be there”. I see people from 15 years old to 60 years old that are either still in high school, or going from menial job to menial job as they make enough money to survive as their life continues to roll on… and I feel out of place. I don’t want to have this attitude, and I actually enjoy working with a handful of my co-workers, but I feel like a fish out of water. Some of my co-workers legitimately enjoy their job and didn’t necessarily always dream of working at Sobey’s, but are completely content with it. I don’t feel bad for them or look down on them (intentionally), but I just know that I would not be happy in a job like that for the rest of my life. That definitely shows in my dedication to the job. I do what is asked of me, always show up, and am reliable and (I hope) enjoyable to work with and be around, but “my head just isn’t in the game”.

    Whenever I express this to others (even as I write it now), it sounds borderline arrogant, but that is not my intention. Maybe I am the odd one of the group and I should just be taking the job like most of my co-workers – at face value: a job is a job and there is more to life than that.

    Ramble ramble ramble… My friend “succint” and I had a falling out years ago!

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