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My Educational Autobiography Reflection

LittleItaly's picture

So after writing my educational autobiography some questions had popped into my head about the position I took. I believe the classroom was not the key component in my education instead my community was. I made the claim that because of the way people in different economic background created their own world within their own class that it pushed me to become more aware of myself and taught me how to understand different people's stories. It also pushed me away from being open to the influences of the neigherborhood that I viewed as destructive. So this is where I am at now. I have been known to want to help people out and get them on a better path. But in my paper I had said that class has turned into being what defines a culture. So because I made the claim that people of lower class have their own culture, is it right for people to try to change them? Yes, the lower class are associated with high health risks, high poverty and crime but if that is their culture, who are we to say that the way they live is wrong? After reflecting on that another question arose. Maybe that is my culture? Maybe that it part of the American culture? To come in unannounced, and change what we see unfit. Looking at American history we can see several times when we stepped in and justified with a 'we're creating change' campaign. So maybe it is part of my culture to want to help people I think are on the 'wrong path?' But does that still make it right? Can people from one culture change another culture becuase it goes against their beliefs or their standards and expectations?


LittleItaly's picture

Markers of a culture?


So I'm sorry if I wasn't clear... I wasn't implying poverty and crime were markers of culture. Certainly those are universal issues. I was just making the point that even if they suffer from those issues is it someone's right to just go in there and change everything. Excuse my next assumption because I don't want to offend anyone but do you really think everyone in the middle east are in love with the idea of us coming in there because we THINK we KNOW what is 'right?' But thats another question for another topic. Next, I strongly disagree with you on your comment that people from lower class don't represent their own culture and your claim that what I said just represents a stereotype? But don't stereotypes stem from cultures The way we draw certain races or look at certain religions. Are those things not markers of culture and also stereotypes? And there are a variety of cultures markers within the lower class. Culture isn't just food and movies. Culture is about customs and shared beliefs as well. Where I come from many people in lower class have the same views and bond over those commonalities. A huge group of people who bond over shared beliefs, that doesn't mark a culture? And yes of course people want to have money, and cars, and beautiful homes, and a swimming pool, the list goes on. But that is my point. Many people from lower class do have  opportunities to move up, well at least where I am from. It's because they didn't want to lose their ties with their families and neighborhoods like Richard Rodriguez did. So they don't break the cycle. As I read in school some African tribes used to sacrifice people or ostracize people. They believed that was what their gods wanted. That was their religion, tradition, part of their culture. The way people in lower classes handle their problems have BECOME their culture. If you go into any hood they will rep their hood until the day they die, they are proud of who they are and where they come from. Thats not their cultural ties to the community? How many rappers do you hear talk about they'll never forget their hood, they're hood til the day I die. I got one off the top of my, "Pot of Gold" by The Game. Yes he is definitely upper class now but he grew up in that culture and believes that is his life style. So how can class not be a culture when you see this rapper who is upper class now still living a hood life style? How about looking at all the other classes? Upper class is not a culture??????? They are a whole different world from everyone else. Their food is different, their music is different, their customs are different. This isn't just because they can afford it's because these ideas of what to like and how to act have been passed down from generation to generation in the upper class. Those aren't culture markers? I'm not saying all lower class is one big culture. Look over at Europe. Being European is way different than the Asian culture. But within Europe you have cultures such as German, Italian, French. Within those countries you have a variety of cultures. In the U.S. within the communities of each state there are different cultures and some of the cultures are defined by their class, like where I am from I believe the lower class of Battle Creek, Michigan have become their own culture. 


Serena's picture

On the Culture (?) of Poverty

Jacqueline -

I'm not sure if I agree with your position that the lower class has an associated culture, but rather think that those things which can widely observed throughout the class are caused by their poverty and would be readily changed if possible. For example, the "high health risks," as discussed in our summer reading, Class Matters, is often due to stress, location, and lack of access to health care - all issues which are not voluntary but imposed upon the lower classes. I believe that the crime is a symptom of feelings of hopelessness in regard to social mobility. Knowing that they will likely not be able to escape poverty, little matters to the lower class, and jail is not much of a deterrent: to leave the ghetto and be brought to a cell is not a great change. Of course, there is also crime among the middle- and upper-classes, which can be accounted for by a perception of need, which is universal.

In addition to these points, the lower class have none of the classic markers of a culture - that is to say, film, music, food, religion, language, etc. There is little to keep a person in their poverty once they have been given a chance to escape and there would be little guilt on abandoning the markers of poverty, which is the case with the cultures of nations. What could be considered a "culture," I feel, would be better described as statistics or stereotypes. There is no question whether the lower classes should be allowed better opportunities - better access to healthcare in the form of local hospitals or insurance would allow better health, while better education (of both children and parents) and thus a chance of social mobility would cut down crime.

- Serena

S. Yaeger's picture

Serena,  I think you're


I think you're absolutely right that most people who are living in poverty would happily abandon that position if given the chance.  However, I disagree on some of the points you made about culture and the "lower classes". There are entire genres of music, film and literature which are written and performed by those who have working-poor backgrounds.  Often, these art forms deal with issues which directly affect the working poor in America.   As far as food goes, many of the dishes which are now considered haute cuisine in our culture were created out of necessity and were originally considered peasant food.  This is especially true of Italian American food, but holds true for many ethnicities.  Instead of the lower classes lacking in classic markers of culture, perhaps the arrows go the other way, and the upper classes have happily taken culture from the lower classes for ages.

Serena's picture

While I acknowledge the

While I acknowledge the existence of arts created by the lower class, the only examples that come to mind are - in the case of film and music - more congruous with African-American culture as opposed to a more universal culture of poverty, while the literature created by or about the lower class are often marketed for the middle- or upper-classes in hopes of bringing attention to experienced hardships. In the case of food, this is certainly true of European and Asian cultures, and perhaps I should have clarified that I was writing specifically about America (since it is the only culture about which I feel I can comfortably write), but it is less common in our country - with the possible exception of Southern or Soul foods, which, again, are associated with a region and race respectively.

S. Yaeger's picture

When you were talking about

When you were talking about your post in class today, you clarified that you were talking about a cohesive culture across race racial and ethnic boundries.  I think that's a much sharper statement than I originally understood you to be making.  Still, I'm not totally convinced.  The major sticking point for me is music.  All American popular music since the dawn of Rock n Roll is steeped in the traditions of impoverished peoples.  Both Rock and Hip-Hop, which I take to be the primary examples of popular music in today's culture, are heavily influenced by blue grass and blues music.  In fact, the most influential figures in American music, including Robert Johnson, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Johnny Cash, and Bob Dylan (to just name a few) came from deeply impoverished backgrounds and created a sound that was universally accepted across racial boundries.  If you want to broaden the field of discussion beyond the borders of the US, you find four poor kids from Liverpool who actually changed the face of modern music.  It has been my experience that these musicians have influenced our culture across many different dividing barriers.  

To speak to your statement about food, I think you have a much stronger argument there, but it's not completely true.  Think of the hamburger.  It's in exepensive, easy to make, readily available, and is enjoyed across racial and socioeconomic divides.