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To think denying the class divide just helps it persist

(75 Posts)
playmobilpeacock Thu 26-Jan-17 07:55:36

A new study has shown the pay gap between working class professionals and those from middle class backgrounds.

Social mobility: Class pay gap found in UK professions

There are other studies that show children from working class backgrounds have to work harder at school and are less likely to get a place at a grammar school.

And it goes on

However, here on MN whenever a thread about class is started, scores of people will come along and say how class doesn't matter. But it obviously does.

AIBU to think that denying the issue is damaging for our society and doesn't actually make the problem go away?

Gardencentregroupie Thu 26-Jan-17 08:02:16

I agree wholeheartedly, and thought the same thing reading that news article thus morning. Also an article about child health suffering massively across the income divide. A lot of MNers seem to think that because something shouldn't matter, and doesn't matter to them, then it doesn't matter at all, which is breathtakingly naive.

FruitCider Thu 26-Jan-17 08:02:38

Of course it perpetuates the problem. But you'll never have folk from more affluent backgrounds acknowledging their privilege, as they are blind to it, in the same way white men are blind to their white male privilege. The thought of having privilege they haven't earned makes people uncomfortable if the choose to think about it, so they ignore it.

How can we close the class gap? I've got a few ideas, which seems to have helped me.

Reading lots of books helps increase vocabulary.

Changing the way you speak. I can make myself sound more/less affluent, depending on whose company I am in.

When negotiating salary, over inflate your worth. And aim high, ask for more than you was planning to.

Motherofhowmany Thu 26-Jan-17 08:03:04

I agree. It's the same as people saying 'I don't see colour'.

toomuchtooold Thu 26-Jan-17 08:17:00

I think you're right, I think that as with other forms of discrimination/disadvantage, acknowledging it exists is the first step in doing something about it.
In terms of my own experience I used to work for a fairly prestigious public institution and they had a policy on employing people from a mix of educational backgrounds. They needed it: about 90% of my colleagues were public school educated. The higher echelons of the civil service are the same. These people are responsible for designing policies that affect everyone, and they have very very little collective experience of what it's like to be poor.

One of my (posh) friends once remarked that "once you got through university the class divide doesn't really make any difference". And I thought WTF? Your parents paid for your university. They live a commuting distance away from London so you could do an unpaid internship or a PhD or a pupillage and stay with them. My parents are in Glasgow, I love Glasgow, but the options up there are much more limited. You have older family/family friends in professional jobs who can give you extra advice on interviews, how much money you should be asking for, you even sound the part: I'm going in and my dress, my accent, my cluelessness, everything says "I'll be grateful for the experience and anything over minumum wage." It still seems entirely theoretical that I would even be hired for one of these jobs, where you have been brought up to expect it. You're onto a fairly big inheritance at some point, so you can afford to take career risks knowing your retirement's secure. Mine depends on whatever I can earn now.
I didn't say any of it, I should've, but it makes privileged people uncomfortable when you point out their privilege. It's no way to remain friends. But as a society yes we need to be talking about it. I think it would benefit kids from working class backgrounds to have acknowledgement of how hard they have worked for their career success, even if you don't do anything to make it easier for them.

29redshoes Thu 26-Jan-17 08:18:02

I find the problem with diversity and equality type conversations is that nobody wants to acknowledge that they're privileged, possibly because they feel it undermines their achievements. The media don't help with this (hence why politicians feel the need to stress how "normal" they are these days).

So rather then focusing on the bigger picture, every time this comes up everyone feels the need to come up with reasons why they aren't really privileged. You see it on MN all the time. I bet there will be some of it on this thread.

It's all "yes I own a four bedroom house in the south east and work in a professional job and go on holiday twice a year and my kids have tutoring and ride horses but I'm not really middle class because my father was a bricklayer".

29redshoes Thu 26-Jan-17 08:21:00

I also think the confusion around what it actually means to be middle class doesn't help. There's always a lot of emphasis on being privately educated but I thought only 7% of kids go to private school? I presume nobody thinks that means the other 93% are working class.

toomuchtooold Thu 26-Jan-17 08:28:24

yes I own a four bedroom house in the south east and work in a professional job and go on holiday twice a year and my kids have tutoring and ride horses but I'm not really middle class because my father was a bricklayer

Well my dad was a storeman, and I don't have a horse, but otherwise that's me in a nutshell. I'd never claim my kids were working class but I did have a working class upbringing. The thing is though I'm ancient so I got a grant to go to university, and I came out of uni in the 90s when the property market wasn't totally mental and there wasn't that erosion of workers' rights that you see now. I did an internship for a big consumer heathcare company and they paid me £350 a week plus board. It was hands up that allowed me to have the career I did. It is so much harder for working class kids now.
(Maybe if we'd done more about helping working class kids establish themselves in a career, we wouldn't have Brexit now. I'm a Remainer and I don't think that Brexit is going to help things but I can see why people thought that restricting immigration would help the housing crisis and availability of decent entry level jobs.)

SaskiaRembrandtWasFramed Thu 26-Jan-17 08:28:59

No, the other 7% won't all be working class. The middle class ones will be going to grammar schools and selective academies, and will be brought up to have different expectations. Plus, as the Op says, they will have a social network that opens doors for them.

SaskiaRembrandtWasFramed Thu 26-Jan-17 08:32:51

93%, it's still early blush

FruitCider Thu 26-Jan-17 08:52:12

And middle class children, of course, live within very close range of all the best non selective state schools, as their parents have house buying power. This is why the current system of catchment/closest in a straight line is very biased towards people with money. Random allocation would be far better.

makeourfuture Thu 26-Jan-17 08:58:44

AIBU to think that denying the issue is damaging for our society and doesn't actually make the problem go away?


building2017 Thu 26-Jan-17 09:04:19

Very privileged person here. Very VERY aware of my privilege and wishes we lived in a more equal society.

People deny class exists because that perspective serves them. It means they can believe they got where they are on merit alone.

But I am constantly aware of what money and education can bring for children and don't take it for granted. I give to charity, I volunteer in the community, I fucking hate the Tories, I do what I can (but could probably do more and better) .

I think of that awful phrase 'champagne socliaists' and think 'Well, better than a champagne elitist.' <swig>

playmobilpeacock Thu 26-Jan-17 09:24:02

That's a very interesting point redshoes and building about people feeling as if their achievements are undermined.

However it can't be that hard to see that if you start climbing a ladder at rung 5 and someone else starts at rung 1, if you both climb at the same rate the person on the lower rung will never catch up. That's privilege. It doesn't mean you didn't work hard.

I support children from poorer families getting more points towards a grammar place. However, loads of people I've met locally are horrified at the idea and claim it's all equal when judged on merit. Despite the fact they all tutor heavily and have been hearing their dc up for the exam for years.

JustAnotherPoster00 Thu 26-Jan-17 09:27:41

Changing the way you speak. I can make myself sound more/less affluent, depending on whose company I am in.

You change the way you speak? confused Just weird

playmobilpeacock Thu 26-Jan-17 09:51:34

Not that weird when it can result in a £10000 pay rise.

senua Thu 26-Jan-17 10:08:01

You change the way you speak? confused Just weird

Everyone does it, don't they? You don't speak the same to your mates, your colleagues, your boss, your interviewer, your customer.
Perhaps that's one of those things only known to the 'priviledged'.wink

29redshoes Thu 26-Jan-17 10:10:06

toomuch yes, that probably wasn't the best example from me.

What I'm trying to say is that it can be so hard to define.

For example, what about the children who are materially wealthy but have an alcoholic mother and a father they never see? Are they still privileged? They might not feel very privileged.

Or the children of people with traditionally 'working class' occupations who actually make quite a lot of money and are able to buy a brilliant education for their kids? Are their kids privileged or working class? Their kids might be the ones on the MN "are you middle class?" threads saying, "no, I'm working class through and through, I came from Romford and my father was a plumber".

I worked with someone once who went on and on and on (and on) about the fact that he was "working class made good" hmm. His family were working class, based on the old-fashioned definition, but he'd received a grant to a great private school, gone on to Oxbridge and then got on to a competitive grad scheme. He completely refused to admit that he'd had any advantages at all, because he was working class, and so that was that.

Was he really less privileged than me? I'd describe myself as middle class (father a dentist) but I didn't go to a private or selective school and didn't have any extra tutoring. I didn't even go to a particularly good comprehensive (it certainly didn't provide me with any career networks!) See, now I'm doing the "can't see my own privilege" thing grin.

I don't know, I'm not arguing against you OP because I totally agree with your point. I just mean I can see how we end up in a situation where people deny the class divide, because life is rarely that simple.

building2017 Thu 26-Jan-17 10:13:13

I agree! And when one parent can afford to stay home and help with homework and answer tricky science questions because they have a degree, that matters to the overall outcomes of that child!

And when you can afford to pay for help so every weekend isn't spent tidying up or gardening or stressing about odd jobs, but instead giving the kids 'experiences' that matters!

And when you can afford for a socially awkward kid to have his own minecraft several and be a tiny bit cool for once, that matters! Or pay for private assessments of their issues, that matters!

And when you don't have to rely on in school swimming lessons for your kid to learn to swim, that matters!

And I could go on an on. People who pretend children are all starting out equally are absolutely deluded.

senua Thu 26-Jan-17 10:17:13

AIBU to think that denying the issue is damaging for our society and doesn't actually make the problem go away?

It also doesn't help if we engender a feeling that we are doomed to a pre-determined path. There has to be some personal responsibility in there too. For example, I used to try to encourage one of the shopfloor workers to try for a supervisor role but he was full of doubt and 'not for the likes of me'. Plenty of others (from a similar background) wanted the position so one of them got it instead.

PortiaCastis Thu 26-Jan-17 10:17:24

It's not class that matters it's money

Efferlunt Thu 26-Jan-17 10:18:24

It's interesting I'm not from a well-off background, but we've done okay for ourselves. I'd say my path is different from my richer peers though. They are able to be more creative take time out risk setting up businesses etc secure in the knowledge that there is something to fallback on. The only secure thing that I have is my job and the house I brought with the wages. it pushes me to keep working and not take those kinds of risks that could pay off.

building2017 Thu 26-Jan-17 10:19:08

Sorry, I was agreeing with the OP.

29, I do agree it is complex. People are all going to interpret their own histories and others differently. And maybe some types of privilege and choices matter more than others. There isn't just one 'ladder' of success, success can defined different ways.

But it is okay to acknowledge that having a loving stable family is one type of advantage, and having financial choices is another type of advantage. And some people get neither, and that matters.

senua Thu 26-Jan-17 10:22:57

See, now I'm doing the "can't see my own privilege" thing.

Isn't that human nature? We all think that we are above-average clever or better than the average driver. We all do the keeping up with the Joneses thing - benchmark ourselves against people doing better than us. So we compare ourselves unfavourably to aristocracy or networkers and forget to compare ourselves to those in lesser circumstances. And it's not that simple: I had a good education but lousy parents and a non-existant wider family network - where does that leave me on the priviledged/disadvantged scale?

SickNotes Thu 26-Jan-17 10:23:45

Also because there's a huge amount of confusion and denial about social class, as evidenced on practically every thread where it's discussed on Mn.

I'm always baffled by the people who claim to have no idea what class they are or what class anyone they know is, to have never given the issue any thought, or those who think social class ended in the 1960s, and is a sort of quaint period idea, like vintage teapots and retro furniture. And other people appear to genuinely think it's 'a Mn thing' rather than a fundamental inequality which is very much apart of UK society in 2017 - presumably because it's not much talked about in their lives...? And still others who can't distinguish between a social class marker or shibboleth, and the actual class system, and just shout about how it's ridiculous to care about what/pardon/sofa/settee/lounge/sitting room etc etc, as though social class was about certain key words being arbitrarily better than others.

In a way it seems to me to be to be part of the real damage done by the continued existence of the royal family -- that it encourages deference towards a specific tiny subset of people whose birth gives them enormous wealth and privilege. I'm not sure we would have Boris Johnson (or a cabinet so often stuffed full of Old Etonians) without the royals.

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