Illiterate in 3 languages

At a meeting in Amman, Jordan, high-powered social policy analysts from many nations were deploring the limited intelligence of illiterates and the effects on their offspring; I rushed to defend illiterates. Then, I suddenly realized that my mother had been an illiterate. Indeed, I quickly recognized that Mom was illiterate in three languages. But she was exceptionally insightful and analytical. Indeed, she was one of the very smartest people I ever met. I say that as one who has known extraordinarily intelligent people in academic, policy, political and therapeutic worlds. Her sharp intelligence was sometimes annoying as when she sized... Read More

Red Carpets and Platinum: Travel and Privilege

The hardest place to pretend that the U.S. is a classless society is when traveling. After all, it’s the travel industries who put “Class” into “First Class.” Instead of the avoiding the language of class, the travel industry seems to flaunt it.

Gisele Bundchen’s clueless classist comments

Supermodel Gisele Bundchen was quoted in the September Harper’s Bazaar UK as saying, “There should be a worldwide law, in my opinion, that mothers should breastfeed their babies for six months.” Bundchen got lots of outraged reactions to her statement, but mostly from women with positive opinions about bottle-feeding, or general dismay at woman-to-woman lifestyle attacks. Very few commenters pointed out the classism in the comment. One of the exceptions was Canadian blogger Renee Martin, who wrote, “I do want to talk about the one issue that is not being addressed in many of the complaints about her statements –... Read More

Beware of Cabinet Officers Bearing “Gifts”

“We already have the privatization of the military…; we’ve seen the privatization of the prison system. Well, the next step is the privatization of public schools.” That prediction by Jonathan Kozol four years ago has come closer to reality with the enactment of President Obama’s Race to the Top educational goals. Besides continuing the previous administration’s No Child Left Behind policy that pushed high stakes testing and punished teachers and schools whose students scored low, RTTT forces states which want extra Federal funds to agree to expand the number of charter schools in their jurisdiction. All in the name of... Read More

US Social Forum: A Sour Taste of Classism

A month has gone by since I experienced my first-ever social justice conference, the US Social Forum (USSF) in Detroit, and I’ve been trying to erase my memory of that time ever since. The lack of logistical planning we experienced had a classist effect that seemed antithetical to the forum’s message, and I was left with such a bad taste in my mouth for the progressive left that I will carefully reconsider attending any conference in the future.

B&B Breakfast Classism

It was the usual chit-chat among strangers encountering each other over breakfast at a Seattle bed-and-breakfast: “where are you from?,” “how’s the weather there?” Three middle-aged couples and a 20-year-old son who immediately set off my classism alarms. The first red flag was his face, a sneer usually seen on sulky teens much younger than him. While the rest of us oohed and ahhhed at each food item presented proudly by the proprietor (berry scones with homemade jam! eggs with local tomatoes!), he appeared deliberately unimpressed, as if he’d seen it all before. I took an instant dislike to him,... Read More

Blind-sided by classism

There was an upset in Hollywood this March when the Academy anointed Sandra Bullock best actress for her role in "The Blind Side." The controversy hinged on the fact that she, an historic B-level comedienne, bested Meryl Streep, a far more Serious Actor who has a standing relationship with Oscar.

Faking your way into a working-class job

Laid-off professionals are “dumbing down” their resumes to avoid being rejected as overqualified when applying for jobs outside their former field, reported the Boston Globe. Job seekers are deleting graduate degrees and high-level jobs, and revising titles (for example, from Marketing Director to Marketing Manager). It was Globe reporter Katie Johnston Chase who chose the classist phrase “dumbing down,” not one of the jobseekers she interviewed. I understand that the pain of endless recession has even hit highly educated professionals who suddenly become financially insecure and have to scramble for work outside their familiar fields. But what makes them or... Read More