Thursday, May 22, 2008

Disgusting class perceptions in Britain's universities

This appeared on the BBC news site today in the education section.
And once again we’re reminded of the elitist attitudes of some university professors, doctors, lecturers with regard to the intelligence or as they would have people believe, the lack thereof of the working classes.

Of course we all know their opinions aren’t worth the air they’ve expended to utter them. Simply because these type of people aren’t professional psychologists, they are simply expressing their bigoted right wing "nurture over nature" academic views as yet one more way of defending the class discrimination that still goes on in UK universities at all levels from application to graduation.

Charlton’s view is yet more protection of the status quo and his idea of academia. And he seems so caught up in his idea that the upper classes are more intelligent, that responses stating the logic of cause & effect, like that from Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, seem to be something he can’t absorb or is unwilling to acknowledge.

Sally Hunt said: "It should come as little surprise that people who enjoy a more privileged upbringing have a better start in life.”

Exactly! And I’m reminded of a research project on class perceptions that was carried out in England almost 20 years ago.

One part of the project interviewed a societal cross-section of 12 year old girls to identify how they viewed themselves and what expectations they had.
One indicator was the following simple question “Can you ride a horse?”

Now, in well-off middle and upper class areas the girls at private and boarding schools invariably answered “Yes, I can” or “Yes, but I’m not very good at it” or “Yes, but I don’t really like it” or “I don’t know, because I haven’t tried yet” or "I'm sure I'll be able to when I try" and other similar responses, but none of them answered “No”. Because clearly they had been given the chance to try horse riding and could ride. Or clearly expected that they would be able to try it in the near future. Note the use of the word “yet” in the last response.

In less well off mixed middle and working class areas school girls at comprehensive state schools responded invariably with “I don’t know” or ”I’ve never tried” or “Yes” or “No” With no clear future expectations identified either way, but rather a clear ambiguity amongst the different social/class types of the respondents, who obviously had varying expectations of what they might or might not be likely to achieve or try in the future.

Then finally they asked school girls at comprehensive schools in poor working class inner city areas. And now they found, as they had expected from the outset, that there was now absolutely no ambiguity whatsoever. All the girls simply assumed based on their own perceptions of their class and social situation, as well as the perceptions of others about their class and social situation, that horse riding was something that wasn’t even considered and dismissed as an impossibility for them, it was even lower than that, it wasn’t even given a second’s thought. And so close to a 100% of the girls, when asked, “Can you ride a horse?” simply and in a matter-of-fact manner answered, “No”.

The fundamental fact is this: that denial of access to something doesn't mean you're no good at it, or not suited to it, mentally or physically, it simply means you haven't even been given the chance to try it.


Eva said...

This subject is extremly interesting for several reasons. Number one is that what you describe is a society (UK, or for that matter France or German) well aware of the secret codes describing classes - they are no secrets at all! So what you have is a society aware of classes, even pretecting them, or at least preventing them - by language, social codes.
No two: In Sweden those classes are almost hidden, but just almost. You need the code (there are many more than the example about riding or not. Do you keep you shoes on inside your or your friends house? Do you carry a gift when invited to someone, and in case you do - What do you bring to your friends? What do you read? Do you read at all? How do you react when someone asks about your opinion about wines, clothes, gardening, cars or movies. How do you mix colours. Lesaure friday? What´s on your walls?
And so on.

If you see a youngster in jeans, full of holes, too big, too dirty pair of jeans - you can bet that kid comes from a middle class home. (Upper middle class if it goes with a matching shirt - and a lose tie.)

So therefore I am so unbelievable proud of my young friends, that originally comes from all over the world, some refugees, some from war or poverty, but have studied in universities here. At Södertörn I think about one out of Three by now are kids from suburb areas, who´s parents have no education at all.

That is what I call High Society!

(XCuse mi lousy inglish. Cant resist a temptation, or rather, I stick to Oscar Wilde;
The only way to defeat Your temptations is to obey them.)

Intressant med en seriös blogg och en mindre seriös.
Jag har funderat över den varianten också, men det blev som du vet en otrolig blandning istället.

See You!

James said...

Hi Eva, good to see you here. Your English is fine, don't worry about that.

I think the main difference that I see anyway between Sweden and the UK, is that in the UK you are aware of the class system, you know what it entails and you know roughly what class you belong to. Or more importantly, let's be honest, you know what class other people think you belong to.

Whereas in Sweden, many people will deny the presence of a class system. But any observation on any given day of a poor suburb of Stockholm and then of Östermalm or Danderyd reveals the contrary.

As regards actual classes, Sweden doens't have a true working class

It has
1. An underclass - people who are on or bleow the poverty line- really struggling to make ends meet,maybe even unemployed and homeless

2. A working middle class, which comprises people from all fields, from all sorts of workers up to executives and up to nouveau riche millionaires.


3. An upper class - which comprises the nobility and old money and a lot of new money people trying to climb the ladder

But well over 50% perhaps even 60-70% of those considered or who consider themselves middle class in Sweden would be considered working class in the UK.

And the vast majority of those pretending to be upper class would simply be seen as middle class nsobs
That of ocurse is due partly to the so-called classless society of Sweden, so that the vast majority are in that group.
And thankfully only a small percentage belong to the under-class. And an even smaller percentage belong to the upper-class.

In the UK, just one look at a perosn tells you what class he or she belongs to. But the classes in the UK are farm ore defined and not at all as loosely formed as in Sweden

1. The working class contains most of what in Sweden is the under class and the middle class.

2. The middle class contains people of certain professions only - military officers, clergy, senior medical and legal professionals, senior govt and parliamentary officials, senior educational staff.

Swedish middle class govt agency employees like you an I Eva are considered working class in England, thank God for that! ;)

3. The upper class contains the nobility - that's it.

James said...

In other words, I forogt to say, in Sweden the vast majority belong to the loosely defined working-middle class, probably because most people don't see themselves as belonging to a class anyway.

Eva said...

I agree. And - as for a fact as well - in Sweden there is a stream of class climbing, trying to do ourselves a little bit better than we actually are.
You know my grandma was far older than 80 before she actually dared to tell the true story about her origin, nothing wrong with her family, just "wrong" class.

(Maybe more, maybe less than in UK I don´t know)

James said...

The ironic thing is that "working class" was in the 1980s seen as something many people didn't admit to belonging to, both in Sweden and the UK. Nowadays though you've got middle and upper class kids putting on fake working class accents and hanging around in dodgy inner-city areas trying to blend in, hopelessly of course.