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Sunday, May 15, 2005

Classes of Philocritics.

It's time to bring back the Philocritics poll and discussion question! Conveniently, the New York Times launched a two-week series of articles today about class in America — so let's talk about class.

The introductory essay observes:

One way to think of a person's position in society is to imagine a hand of cards. Everyone is dealt four cards, one from each suit: education, income, occupation and wealth, the four commonly used criteria for gauging class. Face cards in a few categories may land a player in the upper middle class. At first, a person's class is his parents' class. Later, he may pick up a new hand of his own; it is likely to resemble that of his parents, but not always.

The Times also offers an interactive graphic that allows you to see how the hand you currently hold places you along the American class spectrum. So for our poll, visit the Times to find out what percentile your education, income, occupation, and wealth put you in and then — anonymity guaranteed! — mark your percentile in the poll.

For discussion in the comments: Which of the four cards in your hand has been a more important class marker in your own experience? Is your class position different from your parents'? And, if you participate in a religious community, how do you see class play out within your congregation?

("Class in America: Shadowy Lines That Still Divide," Janny Scott and David Leonhardt, New York Times 5.15.05, reg req'd)

Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 15 May 2005 at 3:20 PM

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May 15, 2005 04:17 PM | Permalink for this comment

hmm, I wanted to take this poll, however I was dismayed to find that my "job" does not even make it to the radar. Unless I just missed it. Did anyone else see it? I'm a full time parent....


May 15, 2005 04:34 PM | Permalink for this comment

Good catch! You could fudge and select Child Care or something similar — or you could select the occupation you might choose if you weren't a full-time parent.

Matthew Gatheringwater:

May 15, 2005 06:13 PM | Permalink for this comment

"Governess Class" is how I describe my own status: high education and low wealth! The NYT poll (neat!) averages it out to make me middle-class, which certainly is an improvement on my parent's status. Education is the trump card in the hand I've been dealt. It was interesting, however, that my choice of career (in the field of religion) is also an important factor, especially as I graduate into professional life.

Class-passing has been an important part of my religious life. As a child, I was not only unconvinced by evangelical and fundamentalist doctrines, I was embarrassed by the shabby one-room and store-front churches my mother attended. When asked by strangers, I said I was an Episcopalian.

As an adult, when I joined a UU congregation, I joked with non-UU friends that I got an NPR tote bag with membership. By which I meant--I think--I recognized that I was joining a community that was more class-defined than religiously-defined and that I aspired to belong to the class of professional people who valued education and civic involvement. In seminary, I would learn that Unitarians and especially Universalists had historically attracted people interested in improving their own status through education and hard work. During my internship in the Midwest, I have seen echos of history, in the bib overals and calloused hands of thinking and dissenting farmers.

I am not ashamed of this part of the UU class experience, although I do recognize it comes with special challenges and some unearned privileges. I am glad I have a better life now, compared to my childhood, and glad that I have more opportunities then my parents.

Doug Muder:

May 16, 2005 09:22 PM | Permalink for this comment

My father was a factory worker with a high school diploma and I became a mathematician with a Ph. D. I eventually decided that "transitional class" is its own thing. I felt a definite culture clash in my first UU church, where everyone seemed to have grown up professional class. It was always risky to admit that I watched commercial television and followed sports. I still get a little uneasy around people who are gung-ho to help the poor, but have never met one of them.

Matthew Gatheringwater:

May 17, 2005 10:16 AM | Permalink for this comment

My first experience of UU culture clash came when I discovered the congregation I was enthusiastic about attending was closing down for the summer. It was fine for other people to go on vacation, but what about the rest of us who had to stay home and work? Didn't we need our religious community, too? But that was nothing to the ingathering service in the fall, which was one story after another about all the great places other people went on their vacations! I'm happy to say that other people in the congregation addressed both of these issues and we now offer more in the summer and emphasize the religious rather than the show-and-tell aspect of our ingathering service.

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