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The Politics of “Waiting for Superman”

I fidgeted throughout the film Waiting for Superman, through the bells and whistles, the graphs, the close-ups of the five cute kids and their caring single moms, grandmas and parents, having read enough reviews, and having listened to enough critiques to know that I wasn’t going to like the film.  And I didn’t,  but what disturbed me the most wasn’t Davis Guggenheim, the film maker,  playing fast and loose with data and attacking teachers and their unions every chance he had.  As is turned out, for me, the most painful moments of the film were the charter school admissions scenes... Read More

Classed Relationships on the Internet

“Social class and the Internet” usually implies issues of access to high-speed Internet and newer computers. But recent online discussions have me reflecting on how my Facebook friends are divided clearly along class lines, in how we interact online. Class differences in dealing – or not dealing – with conflict show up starkly in my online conversations. Well-educated middle- and owning-class people surround me today, but my upbringing was in a working class neighborhood where Mr. Shoemaker fixed televisions, Mr. Overstreet delivered Pepsi, and Mr. Church delivered Wonder Bread. (No, I didn’t make up the names OR the jobs). My... Read More

Obstructed Views from the Country Club

I was born and raised in New England, half Jewish, half WASP.  Went to the same prep school as my grandmother, and the same college as my great-grandfather.  I ended up in graduate school for sociology, with a specialization in class + race + gender inequalities. I heard the occasional call for studying the unmarked side of those hierarchies (rich / white / men).  I thought, “I could do that – those are my people.” And so I embarked on a dissertation project interviewing members of exclusive private country clubs. They too are acquainted with these inequalities. They are also... Read More

25 Reasons why working at McDonald’s is better than being a graduate student

25. In order to get promoted at McDonald’s, there is no need to invent an original sandwich and defend it. 24. You are guaranteed a meal at McDonald’s. 23. McDonald’s has more people of color in top positions. 22. Once you submit an order to a customer, either the customer tells you what is wrong immediately or that is it. You don’t spend 100 hours making a quarter pounder, submit it to your co-workers to be peer reviewed, only to be told months later that it is too cold. 21. If you quit McDonald’s, no one will guilt trip you... Read More

Illiterate in 3 languages

At a meeting in Amman, Jordan, high-powered social policy analysts from many nations were deploring the limited intelligence of illiterates and the effects on their offspring; I rushed to defend illiterates. Then, I suddenly realized that my mother had been an illiterate. Indeed, I quickly recognized that Mom was illiterate in three languages. But she was exceptionally insightful and analytical. Indeed, she was one of the very smartest people I ever met. I say that as one who has known extraordinarily intelligent people in academic, policy, political and therapeutic worlds. Her sharp intelligence was sometimes annoying as when she sized... Read More

Red Carpets and Platinum: Travel and Privilege

The hardest place to pretend that the U.S. is a classless society is when traveling. After all, it’s the travel industries who put “Class” into “First Class.” Instead of the avoiding the language of class, the travel industry seems to flaunt it.

Gisele Bundchen’s clueless classist comments

Supermodel Gisele Bundchen was quoted in the September Harper’s Bazaar UK as saying, “There should be a worldwide law, in my opinion, that mothers should breastfeed their babies for six months.” Bundchen got lots of outraged reactions to her statement, but mostly from women with positive opinions about bottle-feeding, or general dismay at woman-to-woman lifestyle attacks. Very few commenters pointed out the classism in the comment. One of the exceptions was Canadian blogger Renee Martin, who wrote, “I do want to talk about the one issue that is not being addressed in many of the complaints about her statements –... Read More

Beware of Cabinet Officers Bearing “Gifts”

“We already have the privatization of the military…; we’ve seen the privatization of the prison system. Well, the next step is the privatization of public schools.” That prediction by Jonathan Kozol four years ago has come closer to reality with the enactment of President Obama’s Race to the Top educational goals. Besides continuing the previous administration’s No Child Left Behind policy that pushed high stakes testing and punished teachers and schools whose students scored low, RTTT forces states which want extra Federal funds to agree to expand the number of charter schools in their jurisdiction. All in the name of... Read More