Honest Conversations – How?!?!?!?!?!?

This final week’s readings are very interesting especially as two of the 3 texts pertain to my identities. Since high school, I have been learning about my gender and socio-economic identities. Going to a private high school with teenage boys that were both extremely smart and tremendous athletes, I couldn’t help but feel lesser in both respects. It was neither my teachers nor our Writing Center fixed either of these problems. Rather, it was more painful and awkward – it was through hard and often one-sided conversations with my male and often more well off peers. It was telling them that I could not go skiing during Spring Break because I had to work. It was telling them that I needed to wait until my birthday for new cleats to play soccer or that no, I couldn’t “just” play in my sneakers – I didn’t have multiple pairs of shoes. After these “conversations”, I would have to ask myself what Rihn and Sloan ask, “Is confrontation alienating? More alienating than homophobia?” but in my case more alienating than addressing their microaggressions?

Rihn and Sloan’s point on “curious silence” is a very interesting one that affects people across all identities. It’s the fear of the unknown that makes it easier to observe from a distance as a bystander instead of intervening/ speaking to the aggression marginalized people receive from others. Therefore, marginalized people must “come to tolerate and cope with [aggression] as a grudging cost of existing in an otherwise often hostile world,” when we should be striving to make our world accepting to all people. Instead of thinking about how to use the privileges we have to help others, we use our privilege to stay away from honest conversations that make us uncomfortable.

Bielski’s article hit many points that I would like to address about class consciousness here at the Colleges – sorry about the tangents. Earlier this semester I read a research paper by Annette Lareau (Here’s a link to her research paper: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3088916?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents) about ways in which class affects the child raising methods parents use. One child raising method, concerted cultivation, requires a lot of money and time on behalf of parents for organized activities to ensure their children learn valuable skills that will prove useful in adulthood, including prolonged discussions with their children to develop their opinions, judgments, and ability to express themselves. On the other hand, accomplishment of natural growth is centered around the notion that as long as kids have the basic needs met, food, safety, and love, they will develop well. While working-class parents would like to enroll their kids in organized activities, they simply do not have the time nor money to make sure their kids can participate in such activities. Working-class parents clearly establish that they are not to be questioned or challenged by their children and they do not engage in long discussions with their children that would develop their child’s ability to express themselves more clearly. Due to many factors such as language and education, many working-class parents pass onto their children their mistrust and sense of powerlessness towards dominant institutions like colleges and universities. Because my parents raised me using the accomplishment of natural growth method, regardless of the skills I picked up at my private high school – both academic and life skills- I will still lack some skills/ confidence/ knowledge that come to my middle/upper-class peers as second nature because of their upbringing.

Last year, when I was a freshman, Quest Scholars organized an event called Money Matters – a week-long campaign that encouraged all students to talk about class. Quest Scholars, a chapter of QuestBridge and a community of 1st gen and/or low-income student at Pomona, hosted different types of events for a week but only once did a few students who did not identify as low-income showed up. The rest of the events were filled with low-income students and you cannot have a fruitful conversation in an echo chamber. It was then that I realized that although Pomona and the other Claremont Colleges were fairly liberal and open to talking about race and gender, still tiptoed around conversations on class and I’m sure many other conversations. Being part of Quest leadership this year, I’m helping plan Quest’s Money Matters event in the Spring and the planning committee is stuck on Bielski’s advice on talking honestly about class. As I mentioned in class last week, you cannot have a conversation if the another party is not willing to listen or participate. So how do we start full conversations instead of one-sided conversations? How can we get people to go one step past curiosity and join the conversation? And, further, how do we get them to take action? What role can professors and the Writing Center play?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *