Social Class at Yale

Yale isn't the bad guy here -- they have generous programs to try to recruit poorer kids like this writer. However, when so much of your student body is from a narrow social class, it's hard.
Even though my experiences were unique, I never felt like a foreigner in Middletown. Most people’s parents had never gone to college. My closest friends had all seen some kind of domestic strife in their life—divorces, remarriages, legal separations, or fathers who spent some time in jail. A few parents worked as lawyers, engineers, or teachers. They were “rich people” to Mamaw, but they were never so rich that I thought of them as fundamentally different. They still lived within walking distance of my house, sent their kids to the same high school, and generally did the same things the rest of us did. It never occurred to me that I didn’t belong, even in the homes of some of my relatively wealthy friends.

At Yale Law School, I felt like my spaceship had crashed in Oz.
I had a similar experience, switching high schools halway from the rural public schools I'd always been in to an elite public school in Atlanta. I didn't even apply to elite universities, though doubtless I could have gotten in and gotten good financial aid for the same reasons he did. It was just utterly clear that I did not belong.


raven said...

I switched from high school to the streets. It was an education, in it's way. That bit about the others never having had to clean up after themselves was the harmomy line for Farages comment to the EU about "most of you never having worked a real job".

Grim said...

A stint in the Army is good for rich boys for that reason alone.

douglas said...

Because of the work I do, I occasionally have reason to measure and draw as-builts of the homes of people who live in wealthy neighborhoods in the L.A. area, which means I spend a fair amount of time in their house. Yes, they live in entirely different universe than you and I do. Houses upwards of four or five thousand square feet, maybe much larger. 2,500 bottle wine cellars, his and hers closets with their own powder rooms and dressing areas (and bigger than your master suite most likely, but then so is their master bathroom), kids rooms that are more like master suites of their own, kitchens equipped with appliances that cost more in aggregate than the average American family makes in a year. Let's not forget the maids quarters, and of course, they have maids, nannys, gardeners- haven't had a client with a driver yet. The local eateries are very nice and what you would think would be what you'd pay for a nice sit down dinner, they'll spend on a counter served lunch (organic, sustainable, and supporting some fair trade initiative probably). I work within a block of a Ferrari and Masarati mechanic, so I see 'exotic' cars every day. It's almost a little embarrassing sometimes driving up to clients homes in cars from the early 2000's. Most of their kids don't know what hard work really is, don't know what it's like to share a room with a sibling, don't know what having a used car is like, which is probably good as they wouldn't know how to jump start it or change a flat tire. Probably never worked a service job either. Now, I'll admit that I can interact with these people as if I were 'one of them', but still, I feel quite alien around them, and I suppose the likely political differences we have are a big part of that. The more the regular middle class and working class get pushed out of the city to the more extremely far out suburbs (hour or more commutes), the less I like this place. It becomes a place of the poor and the super rich, clogged with traffic and people and an utterly insubstantial fashion culture.

Anyway, this person is quite right that the divide isn't between the children of professionals and the children of blue-collar folks, it's between the super rich and the rest of us. Jeez, I sound like a Bernie supporter, but there's some truth there. It's just that perhaps oddly, many of the super rich lean left, not right.

Grim said...

Yeah, it turns out that Trump is the candidate of the non-super rich, which is thickly ironic. But like Brexit was won on the votes of old Labour guys, many of Trump's voters are guys who probably used to vote Democrat.

These are people, the article says, who've never had to clean up after themselves. The 'white privilege' campus theorizing makes a lot more sense when you realize that it's coming out of this environment. They really are privileged. They have just misidentified the cause.

douglas said...

The cleaning up thing really touched a nerve with me.

"we all decided to stop at a New Haven chicken joint. Our large group left an awful mess: dirty plates, chicken bones, ranch dressing and soda splattered on the tables, and so on. I couldn’t imagine leaving it all for some poor guy to clean up, so I stayed behind."

I hate that. I'm the guy who picks stuff up off the floor that I didn't put there to do the staff a little favor. I grew up fairly well off by national standards, upper middle class, son of professionals (though my Dad was first to go to college and my Mom too, technically). Even so, when we did have a cleaning lady who came once a week, we were definitely not allowed to leave a mess for her to clean up. She was just doing the finishing work, not tidying and putting things away.

For some reason though, when I was young and stupid, I was a bit of a litterbug for a while, then I had to work at a park for a few weeks. Once you've spent time picking up after other people who are terribly inconsiderate, you sure get a different outlook on things. That, along with the lessons my parents tried to put across to me, surely are a big part of why it bugs me so now.

douglas said...

Oh, and this:

"At Yale Law School, I felt like my spaceship had crashed in Oz. People would say with a straight face that a surgeon mother and engineer father were middle-class. In Middletown, $160,000 is an unfathomable salary; at Yale Law School, students expect to earn that amount in the first year after law school. Many of them are already worried that it won’t be enough."

Part of the problem there is that there's a big cost of living difference between living in a small town in Appalachia, and living in NYC or L.A. Here, a decent house that you'd consider solid middle class would be starting at around $500K. In Appalachia, I'm guessing that would buy you the biggest house in town. So it makes sense that salaries aren't the same, and it's a reason we shouldn't even talk about federal minimum wages.

Grim said...

In Appalachia, outside of some resort communities, there are no houses that cost $500K. I was looking at a listing for a very fancy mountain home, log cabin, even had an internal waterfall -- under half that price.

Grim said...

You know, Raven, on reflection what stood out to me most was how much the young men at that school had no concept of physical violence. They honestly didn't know how to think about it, and certainly had a deep, deep assumption that they were not subject to it. So there was no reason to be strong, or brave, or to pursue the physical virtues. A few liked sport, and so were strong and healthy for that reason, but most were weak and small. Whole parts of themselves they never used.

I've always been grateful for my exposure to violence. It's caused me to flourish in ways that were simply unavailable to them, just because I realized young that I had to hold my own.

douglas said...

An internal waterfall? Intentional, correct? ;)

Sounds fantastic.

douglas said...

Grim, that underscores a bigger problem culturally- never having really been subject to a direct threat to their safety, they think that concerns about things like concealed carry to protect yourself are overblown fears. Many of them really think that the human race has 'evolved' beyond violence, and it's only the 'knuckle draggers' that lag behind that persist in violence. How do you get through to these people? I don't think we're going to get significant numbers to turn back to religion where we learned that we all had that dark side and that evil would always be with us in this world, so violence might be necessary.

Grim said...

I didn't actually ride out to see the place, but I hope it was intentional. :)

As for getting through to those people, I find that exposing them to violence works well. It's one of those things that even real philosophers understand: from time to time, in lectures on skeptical philosophy, someone will say: "Well, what if I punch you in the face? Will that convince you that there's an external reality?"

The higher class philosophers maintain that it won't, but it really will.

Ymar Sakar said...

Violence is great as a tool. It just isn't very useful compared to other skills that are referenced more. When it is needed, it is the only tool however to get the job done, so it has exclusivity benefits to it, like swimming. Even some 9 year olds are advanced enough to get it, when I teach them some physical movements. The 12 year olds seem to have a greater adaptation.

Once you get them old enough to be in college, they are set in their ways, except for the 3-10% who are still malleable.

I find that exposing them to violence works well.

Show them CCTV footage of muggings and executions, that always seems to work well from TFT's system. And with modern tech, it's just, "look what's on my smartphone now".

People who think violence means MMA or Hollywood, needs their misconception corrected first, before one can speak on the topic.

In certain Asian schools for kids or older teens (junior adults), you have to clean up the classroom yourself. In the US, I noticed high schools have janitors and teens litter like crazy. Why not, janitors pick it up.