Exploring Class and Classism

Exploring Class and Classism
St. Olaf
CILA Luncheon
Prof. Sharon Lane-Getaz
MSCS and Education
Classism in the News…
Steve Sack, Minneapolis Star Tribune, September 21, 2013
Exploring Class and Classism
• Ground Rules and Definitions
– “Ground Rules”
– What do we mean by “class?”
– What do we mean by “classism?”
• Identify the social class in which we were raised
• Identify strengths/limitations of our social class
• Share how our social class shaped our world
• Wrap up
I. “Ground Rules” and Definitions
“Ground Rules”
• We agree that we are born into our class status:
no blame, no shame, and no credit!
• We agree that each social class has strengths and
• We agree to be confidential about all we share today.
• We agree to be honest, respectful and sensitive to
each other.
What do we mean by “class?”
• Class is a relative social rank in terms of income, wealth,
property ownership, job status, education, skills, or
power in the economic and political sphere.
• Class is determined not just by “economic capital” (what
you earn or own) but also by “social capital” (who you
know) and “cultural capital” (what you know).
• Class identity affects us on the personal and emotional
level, not just in economic terms.
• Class influences how we feel about ourselves and others.
Source: Class Action, www.classism.org
What do we mean by “classism?”
• Classism is when someone is treated differently—better
or worse—because of their class (or perceived class).
• Classism is similar in many ways to racism, sexism,
heterosexism and other forms of oppression.
• Classism appears individually through attitudes and
behaviors, institutionally through policies and practices,
and culturally through norms and values.
• Classism is the tendency to make generalizations or
stereotypes about people, such as “Poor people are
Source: Class Action, www.classism.org
II. Identify Your Social Class at age 10
• Think of answers to the following questions based on
your family situation when you were 10 years old
(not now).
• Move to a station (numbered) in the room based on
your answer to each question.
• Stop and look around you after each question.
• As you shift between stations, who is with you? Does
this change from question to question?
Source: Class Action, www.classism.org
Identifying Social Class, Question 1:
What was your parents’ (either mothers’ or fathers’)
level of education when you were 10?
1 – Less than high school
2 – High school
3 – Associate degree / technical training
4 – College
5 – Masters, Professional certifications
6 – Advanced degree(s)
Source: Class Action, www.classism.org
Identifying Social Class, Question 2:
What type of work did your parents do (either mothers or
fathers) to earn income when you were 10, if anything?
1 – Unskilled labor/Minimum wage jobs, unemployed
2 – Skilled / blue or pink collar worker
3 – Salaried / manager (factory management, secretary)
4 – Professional career (teacher, nurse, manager, lawyer)
5 – Top managers, partners, doctors, government officials
6 – Inheritance/investment (CEO, stockholder)
Source: Class Action, www.classism.org
Identifying Social Class, Question 3:
How would you best describe your family home at age 10?
1 – Public housing, homeless shelter, lived with others
2 – Rental housing
3 – Owned home
4 – Owned home and could/did trade up
5 – Owned multiple residences
6 – Inherited home(s) and properties
Source: Class Action, www.classism.org
Consider stations most occupied,
your Social Class is…
1 – Low income / poor
2 – Working class
3 – Working middle class
4 – Professional middle class
5 – Upper middle class
6 – Owning class
Source: Class Action, www.classism.org
III. Strengths/limitations of your Social Class
Within your class groups appoint a scribe to take notes
to share about your group discussion with the large
What can you come to agreement on concerning …
1. What you all have in common.
2. The key strengths or advantages of growing up in
your class.
3. The key limitations or disadvantages of growing up
in your class.
(~15 minutes)
Source: Class Action, www.classism.org
IV. How has social class shaped your world?
Report back about what your group had in
common, your key strengths and limitations of
growing up in your social class.
What have we learned?
(~15 minutes)
Source: Class Action, www.classism.org
Parting thoughts…
• Americans believe we live in a “classless society.”
• About 80%-90% of the US population consider themselves
middle class.
• The US social class breakdown is:
Low income and poor
Working class, blue or pink collar
Working middle and professional
Upper middle class
~ 7%
Owning class
Class Action, www.classism.org
George Lakey, http://www.trainingforchange.org/george_lakey
What can we do to end classism?
• Change our attitudes and class consciousness
• Support a fair economy without extremes of wealth and
• Uproot racism, sexism, and class oppression which
perpetuate the status quo
• Eradicate classism in institutions, policies, and politics
Ideas for starting to level the playing field…
• View the (Sept 2013) TED Talk: How to keep the plutocracy
from becoming an aristocracy: Q&A with Chrystia Freeland.
• Refer to the Class Action web site (“Action” section):
• Lakey, George. Director, Training for Change
• Leondar Wright, Betsy. Program Director, ClassAction,
30 Germania St, Building L, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
• Sack, Steve. Political cartoon:

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