Teaching With Class Identity in Mind

Since I have worked on a paper on this, I thought this post was an interesting one.

There is something about the language of “valuing” working-class culture or approaches to education/learning that always strikes me as posing the danger of keeping the unwashed masses in their place …

as academics who come from working-class backgrounds, we have a set of class-based assumptions (that come from both the class affiliation of our upbringing as well as the class affiliation that we have acquired) that influence our ideas about how to educate our students, particularly if we’re educating students with backgrounds similar to our own. In other words, we come to the party with a set of assumptions based upon where we come from and where we’ve gotten to that on the one hand seeks to validate experiences that in our own quest for success were not necessarily validated, while at the same time we also believe in the system and we have acculturated ourselves into that system (even as we realize the constructedness of it), which means that a competing set of middle-class values are ultimately working in concert with our working-class values of origin. We stand in between the two value systems, and so our ideas about how to change education reflect that ambivalence.

I think it’s important, for those of us who’ve traveled from one class into another, to acknowledge that we, too, have assumptions based on that subject position that are traceable back to issues of class.

At the end of the day, I don’t think that I’m a class traitor by showing my students (or trying to show them) how to navigate middle-class-ness.

How does this relate to what I’m doing?

I said, in a paper proposal that we need to

understand the value patterns that these students’ communities have historically championed and call upon those values to encourage our students’ participation in building their fluency in composition. Instead of expecting them to immediately understand the preconceptions and presuppositions from which most of academia operates, we can learn their value patterns and invoke those as a means of engaging them in their own educational development (Sza).

This was in my “ensuring information literacy” proposal.

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