Chapter 10 assignment
Create an autobiographical sketch in which you:
- Place yourself within the US class system based on â€˜The US Social Class Ladderâ€™ on page 272. How did you get there? Through your own hard work and sacrifice or that of others? Was it a bit of both? Talk about the class experience of your mother and father as well as your maternal and paternal grandparents (if possible). What did they do for a living? Did they experience social mobility? What kind (upward, downward, structural–see page 283)?
In doing this you may identify and discuss personal factors such as intelligence (or lack of), attitude (positive attitude or negative attitude), and work ethic (strong work ethic or weak work ethic) which led to success or lack thereof, but try to focus on structural factors that can also account for success or lack thereof. In other words, try to locate yourself within the larger sweep of United States history. How have your opportunities and your life been shaped by large scale historical events and shifts over which you and your family had little direct control? All human beings are â€˜dealt a handâ€™ by history. I want to know about the hand that history has dealt you and your family, then I want you to talk about what you and your family have done with that hand, being as objective as you possibly can.
- What has your placement in the US class system meant in terms of your life chances? Life chances refer to the likelihood or probability that one will have access to the things which are needed in order to live a decent life, including food, shelter, clothing, education, and health care. Remember, life chances are not distributed equally or randomly. Rather, they are distributed unequally based on things like race, gender, and class. In fact, that is what stratification is all about: the ranking of people into a hierarchy in which societyâ€™s resources are unequally distributed. Remember, just as you inherit the class position of your parents you also inherit your life chances based on that class position. Those who are born to the â€˜capitalist classâ€™ will have better life chances than those born to the â€˜working classâ€™, etc. As you move down in the system of stratification life chances diminish. This does not mean that every single son or daughter from the capitalist class ends up being successful, nor does it mean that every single son or daughter from the â€˜underclassâ€™ is doomed to failure, but it does mean that opportunities for success are not equally distributed.
Keeping all of the foregoing in mind, specifically address the following. I want more than simple â€˜yesâ€™ or â€˜noâ€™ responses.
- The neighborhood in which you grew up: Was it safe? Did you live in a decent home? Was there always food in the refrigerator if you were hungry? Did you have adequate clothing?
- The schools which you attended: Were there up-to-date textbooks? Were there rats or roaches in the school?
- Health care: Did/do you have health insurance? How did you get it? Was it given to you or did you have to earn it? If you are sick and need to see a doctor do you pay for it out of your own pocket?
- Your experience, if any, with the criminal justice system: Broadly speaking, the higher one is in the class system the more favorable his or her treatment by the criminal justice system. Does your experience reflect this? Discuss.
- Higher education: Who is paying for your college education? Are you a student who also has a job or are you â€˜justâ€™ a student?