• October 8, 2015
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Author Topic: I'm the only working class academic I know...  (Read 147654 times)
Posts: 183

« Reply #75 on: April 13, 2012, 3:31:24 am »

bevo98, I have a similar background: my mom raised my brother and me on a high school education, and I worked through all three of my degrees with minimal emotional or moral (and no financial) support. I'm finding that I can see entitlement in my colleagues when they complain about little things; for example, one of my friends in the same field at a different uni expects things to be handed to him. If he interviews for a job, or puts in for a teaching gig and doesn't get it, he is really miffed and confused, as if, "But why didn't I get that? I should have." When we were both on the job market at the same time, he implied that I landed my current TT job because I'm female (he was having trouble getting offers). He grew up in Cupertino, CA, and now that I know more about Cupertino, I can see how it affected him. I really think that socio-economic class does come between us sometimes... we just don't seem to have the same expectations of the world. I definitely see him as entitled and arrogant sometimes, and maybe he sees me as a bit unrefined and not as smart somehow.

I have been amused and annoyed at the assumptions people make about me -- and the disbelief in their voices when I reveal my true background -- based solely upon my physical appearance and current professional position. I'm tall and blond and seem fairly together professionally, so people assume things about me that aren't true. If they knew about my messy personal life, they may be less inclined to dismiss the reality of my upbringing.

I'm tall and blond too, haha! A funny side effect of all of this, is that I am so much better at acting middle-class than everyone else is. In my doctoral program many other students bullied me for coming from a more prestigious Masters's program, even calling me names. If they had any idea about my life experience as a child or in high school...but you can't even go there. What's the point? Oh, they had it hard, too... yeah right!

I think you can recognize privilege in those who assume you are like them, or assume they know who you are, when you know that they are way off. To succeed, I have had to assume others are not like me (or at least consider that they might not be like me) when it comes to socioeconomic and family background. Other people did not need to think this way to succeed. Maybe it's a generosity toward interpersonal difference? Or maybe this is all nonsense!
« Last Edit: April 13, 2012, 3:39:02 am by bash217 » Logged
Senior member
Posts: 635

« Reply #76 on: June 25, 2012, 4:48:11 pm »

I'm wearing NASCAR underwear right now. Shsssh. Don't tell anyone. To be fair, determining working class ecologists from non-working class ecologists is pretty difficult. Most of the time people think I'm a farmer.
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 48,520

Love your loved ones while you can.

« Reply #77 on: July 24, 2012, 5:14:51 am »

I am currently active in pharmaceuticals, I am working class, the funny thing is watching people pretend to be middle class, it's so entertaining!

Selling or taking?

Love your neighbor.

Your new cephaloverlord.

When you are accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.
who has limerick'd, non sequitur'd, and free associated her way to being a
Senior member
Posts: 499

« Reply #78 on: July 24, 2012, 6:28:11 am »

FWIW: My dad worked in textile mills (back when there were textile mills in the U.S). My best friends in grad school were the sons and daughters of postmen, shoe repair men, locksmiths, farmers, elementary school teachers. It was only in my first academic job (the job that I have now) that I spent any time with middle class people, the offspring of dentists and other professionals. They do seem a little bit foreign, but since I am in a foreign country, that makes sense. . . .


"Always forgive your enemies--nothing annoys them so much."
Junior member
Posts: 65

« Reply #79 on: September 03, 2012, 5:07:06 pm »

Surely by the time you're an academic you're middle-class by definition? Congratulations! Welcome to the club.

"Bart, don't make fun of grad students! They just made a terrible life choice."
New member
Posts: 1

« Reply #80 on: November 09, 2012, 11:53:17 am »

To use a working class acronym, the "upper class" you talk may not actually be from there but rather are practicing "BS".
Posts: 123

« Reply #81 on: November 30, 2012, 1:34:04 am »

Oh man can I relate. My family was working poor; working class was a step up. Most of my family didn't finish HS let alone go to college so needless to say no support financial or otherwise. No study abroad or summer internship for me, it was work 35 hours a week during school and 40+ in summer. Its hard to make straight  As no matter how smart you are when you work nearly fulltime hours and carry a full class load. There are so many ways in which it really does make a difference, so many little bits of privilege you miss out on and they all add up big time. My middle class husband only finally got how pervasive it is after seeing what I go through.

I'm facing it now in my job search. One little example, one committee took me to a restaurant that was fancier than anything I had ever been to before. You had to check your coat at the door and tip the guy. Well I left my money at the hotel and had nothing to tip with so one of the SC members had to tip for me. Forget having difficulty ordering or feeling embarrassed during the meal that I had opted for soda over wine. Needless to say I felt utterly out of my league even though the rest of the day had been great (when all was said and done they hired the Ivy Phd).

In grad school it was total culture shock. I learned that when trust fund babies wanted things they whined and got the extra classes (I was stunned when I found out that both people who pulled this had trust funds and one wanted the money for his new car). Apparently I was just too polite when asking; the chair knew I wouldn't cause problems so it was just easier to turn me down.  And don't even start me on the nuances of smoozing at meetings, conference, events, etc. - I don't speak the language and no matter how hard I try to learn - it just doesn't seem to stick. So, so many things and sometimes you just feel completely out of place. No I don't interview all of my colleagues to ask about their backgrounds but it really doesn't take long to figure it out.
New member
Posts: 4

« Reply #82 on: September 20, 2015, 12:18:56 pm »

Hi everyone,

I'm sorry that I've just found this years-old discussion thread.

I organize the Working-Class  / Poverty-Class Academics group, which has been in existence since Barbara Peters created an email list  in 1993.  We had our first conference in 1996 and have met annually since then.  The purpose of our group is to provide mentoring and support to graduate students and junior faculty from Working-Class and Poverty-Class backgrounds to increase representation in all types of higher and postsecondary education institutions.

We plan to hold our next conference in late June 2016 at an institution in the Upper Midwest to be named later.  If you're interested in joining the 300+ member international mail list, visit: <www.workingclassacademics.org> or Twitter @WCPCA.
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