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Some thoughts on our discussion today

S. Yaeger's picture

This afternoon, when were discussing the roles of class and gender in education and in life in general, I was surprised to notice that, when discussing class issues, I become extremely tense.  This was shocking to me because I normally have no problem discussing class in the US, and even tend to welcome discussion of it.  I thought about this a lot on the way home today, and over the course of my evening.  

As I tried to determine why I felt uneasy in class, despite that fact that this topic is not one which usually makes me uneasy, I came to the realization that, up until now, most of my discussions of class (and classism) have been with members of my own social class.  In fact, a great many of them have been carried out in the kitchens of restaurants where we are all instantly equallized by the very act of serving.  In that environment, everyone is on the same level, despite their background, history or race.  Those who work in the restaurant are on one side of the class divide, and those who dine are on the other.  With that type of clear and visible divide, it is easy to know, before a single word is uttered, who is going to be able to empathize with you when you can't afford new work pants and have to cover the hole in your critch with your apron, and who will look down on you for it.  This provides a certain kind of comfort and ease.

In the classroom, these lines are invisible and it is impossible to know what each other's experiences and ideas are.  Of course, we all read the same texts, and we all recieve the same guidance.  We are, I assume, all bright and ready to learn, but that is somehow not enough for me not to feel more than just a little uneasy when we discuss class.  It is, if I'm being honest, very difficult for me to open up and share some of my own experiences, and the view points that they have fed, in this environment.  

Does anyone else feel this way?  



JHarmon's picture



I can definitely empathize with the anxiety you feel about discussing class because I feel the same way. While talking to another student in our ESEM, we concluded that discussing class is embarrassing and awkward. As newcomers to Bryn Mawr and college life in general, we have left our communities, reputations, and some indicators of class behind us. Many of us are eager for a fresh start. If our experiences back home were riddled with racism or classism, we could use college as an avenue of mobility. Personally, I feel comforted by the fact that my class isn't associated with who I am and that at the end of my higher education, I might have the ability to choose the class in which I emerge.

However, I think education shouldn't be comfortable. Education involves pushing the boundaries of the self, so I hope that by the end of the semester, we'll feel empowered to embrace these facets of ourselves.