According to the creators, this is an activity "designed to help the participants gain awareness of the vast range of social class that exists within themselves and others". It was originally done with college students but I think it makes for a very interesting tool that helps me put my own experiences into perspective. I wish that there was a version for examining non-disabled privilege. Who knows? Maybe I'll create a version.
I go back and forth about whether I was really poor growing up. I knew lots of kids who were richer than my family was. Still, I've very aware that there are folks all around me who were a lot poorer than we ever were, even during our roughest periods. Our lights were never cut off. We always had a home phone. We always had food in the house. We always had clothes that fit and were at least fashionable enough for us to never have reason to feel embarrassed around our peers. My older brother and I had our own rooms but my younger brothers shared a room. We went on vacations but they were mostly to attend religious conventions or family reunions.
I think I'm going to have to consider this a bit more thoroughly later on today. In all I would have to take 21 steps forward (out of the total 37 possible) if I was in a room participating in this activity.
How many privilege-steps would you have to make?
Step into Social Class
A Social Class Awareness Experience
Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka
Indiana State University
A big room with space to move for all participants
Chairs to sit for discussion
Pay attention to how you feel. Angry, sad, happy, winner, loser . . .
No talking – we will talk about this a lot when it is over
Line up here and take a step forward of about 1 (one) foot or one foot length
When you were in college:
If your father went to college, take a step forward.
If your father finished college
If your mother went to college
If your mother finished college
If you have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor.
If you were the same or higher class than your high school teachers
If you had a computer at home
If you had your own computer at home
If you had more than 50 books at home
If you had more than 500 books at home
If were read children's books by a parent
If you ever had lessons of any kind
If you had more than two kinds of lessons
If the people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively
If you had a credit card with your name on it
If you have less than $5000 in student loans
If you have no student loans
If you went to a private high school
If you went to summer camp
If you had a private tutor
If you have been to Europe
If your family vacations involved staying at hotels
If all of your clothing has been new and bought at the mall
If your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
If there was original art in your house
If you had a phone in your room
If you lived in a single family house
If your parent own their own house or apartment
If you had your own room
If you participated in an SAT/ACT prep course
If you had your own cell phone in High School
If you had your own TV in your room in High School
If you opened a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College
If you have ever flown anywhere on a commercial airline
If you ever went on a cruise with your family
If your parents took you to museums and art galleries
If you were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family.
Now everyone recognize that you are at the same place academically.
Everyone turn around.
Everyone has permission to talk.
No one has permission to accuse any one or any group of anything.
Everyone must use “I” statements.
Note that the people on one end of the room had to work harder to be here today than the people at the other end of the room. Some of you had lives of more privilege than others. There is no one to blame, it is just the way it is. Some have privilege and some don’t.
(this can be said now or later, I don’t know where it will be appropriate)
What were the feelings that you had during this experience? Who was angry?
(Anger will be a primary emotion at this point.)
What, specifically, makes you angry?
Who are you angry at?
Who was happy?
This experience was about creating awareness of privilege. What it is, what it does, and what it means. Having privilege does not mean that you worked less hard. All it means is that you had a head start, so maybe it does mean you didn’t have to work as hard . . . .
During the next week notice how your high school years helped or didn’t help your experience in school/at work . . . .
Explanations and Notes:
All of the step taking was about things not requiring effort on the students’ part, that were things done by others.