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Following on from the "bright child" thread is it cultural capital that is really needed to succeed & if so how??

(76 Posts)
winemummy1 Tue 09-Feb-16 21:52:45

I am following the bright child thread with interest as I'm resigned to the fact that due to income & where we are based our little dc will not be going private or to a well regarded state school, dh & I are determined to do all we can to help them succeed. I have read on here before about cultural capital & thats what gets one ahead as opposed to academic success. All the private school kids I know & grown up ones too have this buckets of this... Is it all foreign travel, private school extras, confident parents, money... & how do parents who can't afford to buy in the catchment of good state or afford private fees provide cultural capital.

NicolaMarlowsMerlin Tue 09-Feb-16 22:03:32

I'm probably not best person to comment as I grew up quite privileged, but I think only some of what you're describing as 'cultural capital' costs a lot of money. So museums, art galleries, are often free. Public transport to get there in the UK is pretty affordable. Theatres have 'kids go free' weeks in the summer. Local music classes etc. are often inexpensive or there may be bursaries available. Depending on your income a foreign holiday every few years might be possible, esp if you can go out of season eg to Italy at Christmas rather than in the summer etc., and drive rather than fly....I know it doesn't cost nothing but it's also not £££££. Music on the radio is free, concerts don't have to cost a fortune, esp if you go to music school concerts etc. You can see royal ballet/Royal opera house performances in the cinema.

Nature is free (ish) and you can do science and history/geography while you walk (rainbows - why/how? flooding - how does the water find its path, why is that castle built right there, why is the river shaped like that....(I do maths with my perverse 8 year olds, she likes problems about numbers of cows in the field).

From the reading I have done, I think the two traits most correlated with performance at GCSE and earning potential at 30 (which aren't always the right marks of success for all children) are confidence, and self-management - ie the ability to work hard at something and know that working hard gets you better answers/situations. Those I think you can do without money, although money does of course make things often much easier.

titchy Tue 09-Feb-16 22:12:40

Be interested and involved in your dc's education and education generally, not just what topics your dc are currently doing, but learn and discuss things yourselves. Read different newspapers, get different viewpoints, understand those viewpoints. Embrace any opportunity for the whole family to learn something. Read lots! Read a variety, classics, modern, chick lit, biography. Make sure your kids are familiar enough and comfortable with theatre and concert going, and decent restaurant eating.

Get the dcs into Scouting, and do some voluntary work yourself.

Not sure if that really covers the concept of cultural capital, but it'll go a long to balancing out a less than satisfactory schooling.

horsemadmom Tue 09-Feb-16 22:13:07

Reading, talking about current events, going to museums and theatre, encouraging DCs to seek out opportunities to learn. One of my cleverest friends grew up in a rural community miles from anywhere and went to a very poorly performing comp. She wrote letters (back in the day!) to all sorts of people she admired in her chosen field asking for advice about what to read and how to get into the field. One of them remembered her from her correspondence when she came to interview for a very entry level job and became a mentor. DCs can make their own 'cultural capitol' if they are given the confidence to be persistant and curious.

TooMuchOfEverything Tue 09-Feb-16 22:16:13

Be careful what you wish for OP. The majority of privately educated people I have spent any length of time with have not been the sort of person I want my child to become.

HeyBells Tue 09-Feb-16 22:32:44

Also what you watch on tv. We watch/ed lots of science programmes and documentaries, the level depended on age and interest, such as Bang goes the Theory (popular science programme a few years ago) and the Brian Cox planet series. We always watch the Royal Institue Christmas lectures. To me this is normal and what I grew up with but most of my RL mummy friends have no idea about half the programmes we encourage.

findasolution Tue 09-Feb-16 22:45:45

Instil your child with natural curiosity. The list is endless, but above PPs have started a great list.

Children with these skills to read, see, digest, understand a little deeper behind the headline, know what's going on beyond their doorstep with a genuine spark will have far more differentiation than the stereotype rich kid. And of course, be way more more interesting.

Don't under-estimate the stand out of the intellectually curious child. This really doesn't need the materialistic wrap around bumf either!

This is very different to creating an intellectual bore, and hopefully, much more fun grin

AalyaSecura Tue 09-Feb-16 23:00:26

A past thread that may be of interest:

senua Wed 10-Feb-16 01:17:39

My DD did music lessons and DD played sport. They both got involved in competitions. From this they learned
1) how to cope with all eyes in the room/playing field on you
2) that the show must go on
3) that practice makes perfect (ish)
4) teamwork, communication, camaderie
5) how to cope with triumph and disaster
6) to have confidence in their abilities

there are probably loads more good side-effects that I have forgotten for the moment.

FordPerfect Wed 10-Feb-16 09:23:42

Lots of brilliant suggestions here, many of which don't involve big bucks. Whether playing an instrument, singing in a choir, playing chess (inexpensive and excellent for developing the ability to handle yourself whether you win or lose as well as good for problem-solving), dance, acting, sport, all of these activities will help build confidence and tenacity. While foreign holidays are very nice, they aren't a prerequisite for building cultural capital. If you live in London, there are many free galleries and cheap tickets for U16s or U25s at the theatre. It is harder work for parents but very possible on a budget.

EricNorthmanSucks Wed 10-Feb-16 09:27:29

Cultural capital are the assets you have outside your wealth (real capital) that can be turned into wealth.

Your education, your contacts, your location, your behaviour, your knowledge etc.

The value of said cultural capital is not static.

Many skills, behaviours, knowledge which were valuable in the past are now no longer so ( they may have personal value but they're not transferable into wealth).

Middle class British people are terrible at keeping up with the changes in the ( transferable) value of things. Almost resistant to it.

OP you need to build up real cultural capital not a bunch of middle class signifiers which though nice, are not transferable in the long run.

senua Wed 10-Feb-16 10:31:20

Cultural capital are the assets you have outside your wealth (real capital) that can be turned into wealth.

I question your definition, eric. Wiki (and others) say that "The term cultural capital refers to non-financial social assets that promote social mobility beyond economic means. Examples can include education, intellect, style of speech, dress, or physical appearance." (my italics)

So if OP wants her DC to "succeed"* then taking on board MC signifiers seems exactly the thing to do. It's not all about money (what a very MC thing to say!)

* I am assuming that "succeeding/getting ahead" equates to wanting to be MC. (Striving is another very MC thing!)

bojorojo Wed 10-Feb-16 10:53:45

One aspect which is currently overlooked is confidence. I see young people time and time again who are well educated, regarding exams and university, but have no confidence and are poor at interviews. The way young people present themselves and can think at interview, giving well thought out and coherent answers goes a long way. Speaking clearly, not mumbling, and being able to engage with people is really important. Sometimes just being the "computer geek" is good enough but in lots of work situations being able to hold a conversation, look directly at people, be engaging and confident are extremely important. The young person may not have the top qualifications, but they are the more rounded, employable, package!

It is not just about going to museums. Lots of public schools offer drama and public speaking is encouraged. Holidays to cultural capitals are worthwhile and seeing something wonderful and being excited by it is helpful. You never know when your experiences will come in useful. Going to Disney World year after year wont help!

My DD, recently, was asked to talk about something her interviewers may not know. She chose to talk about a Degas painting. She has not studied history of art but had seen Degas paintings and read about this particular one. They all agreed they had not known what she told them and were interested in what she had to say. She (and other candidates) could have talked about anything they liked, but it was unprepared and off the cuff! Mumbling and not being able to think of anything would have been a problem. Therefore holding conversations with young people is important. Showing them things, explaining things and developing their confidence to express themselves really helps (but make sure their spoken English is correct!).

Some of the cultural capital suggestions also benefit school work directly. For example, encouraging your DC to read a variety of news sources, learn about the political structures in the UK and review reporting of current events critically thinking about who is commenting e.g. why Boris Johnson has a different view on the tube strikes to the leader of the RMT. This will be good background knowledge and skills for things like source analysis in history.

misscph1973 Wed 10-Feb-16 11:14:11

I find that reading to/with your children and reading yourself is extremely important. Participate in the summer reading challenge at the library, make visiting the library as normal as brushing your teeth. As they get older, manipulate them towards the "good" books, ie. ensure they read classic books, difficult books, books that make a difference. You can easily google age appropriate books. I often go through lists I find online and just order as much as I can get from the library. It's always a winner!

Visit museums. Spend time outdoors. Limit electronics as much as you possibly can.

Be inquisitive, ask questions, answer questions and if you can't find an answer. Also ensure that your teach your children that often there is more than one answer, and sometimes there is no answer.

Build on your child's strengths. Show them that it is not necessary to be good at everything, but that it its important to develop talents/interests.

Spend as much time as you can with them.

But the most important is to be a good role model. By that I don't mean that you have to be perfect, but that you strive to do what you expect them to do. Children will do as you do, not what you tell them to do.

BoboChic Wed 10-Feb-16 11:28:20

Cultural capital is absolutely not about turning assets into wealth. Cultural capital is what enables people to access networks and positions of power and influence.

BoboChic Wed 10-Feb-16 11:29:42

To use a quite useful piece of jargon: cultural capital allows people to join in the conversation.

findasolution Wed 10-Feb-16 11:31:33

The Degas story is a lovely example.

The value you derive from 'culture capital' is subjective, and dependent on what you want it to achieve. Value in itself can be (in some circumstances) a simple equation of:

value = benefits minus cost. And how we engage and support our children to interact, learn, speak etc can have a major benefits without costing the earth.

That's why so many people often question, at the end of spending circa £250k on their child's private education, was it really worth it? (rhetorical question).

They didn't see that you need to work in partnership with the school, your family, surroundings etc to maximise culture capital to its full. I hate the term personally, but it's the on trend label of today I guess...

And you can create it for sure OP by some of the ways PPs are suggesting, if you are clear from the outset what you want this means to you. If it's the ski holidays, money, bling etc that your peers displayed and currently enjoy, then maybe not, given your current circumstances.

mercifulTehlu Wed 10-Feb-16 11:36:56

I'm really interested in your post, EricNorthmanSucks. Do you have any examples of things that MC parents erroneously consider to be good cultural capital or, conversely, erroneously consider not to be worthwhile?

My dc (10 and 7) generally come across as having this, I think. Dh and I are both teachers and can't afford to send them to a private school. They are very articulate, confident when talking to adults and well-read for their age. They are well-spoken and interested in non-kiddy things as well as the usual kiddy things.

But... we haven't deliberately trained them this way. Yes, we take them to museums sometimes and we've always encouraged reading. But mainly we just talk to them - about things we find interesting.

I think that if you only ever interact with your dc on a fairly basic level, assuming they can't cope with more, or wouldn't be interested in adult conversation topics, that can really limit their scope. Museums and galleried don't compensate for that.

This might seem like a slightly odd one but get your DC interested in a wide variety of sports - not necessarily playing them but watching them. I work in the City and a fair bit of corporate hospitality takes place at sporting events but it is often cricket, tennis, rugby even rowing (Henley) rather than just football. Knowing the basics about these sports helps (and I say that as a woman).

EricNorthmanSucks Wed 10-Feb-16 13:34:04

senua I guess it depends what we mean by the term social mobility.

If a person wants to increase their real capital, then transferring their cultural capital is one method.

If they want to become part of the conversation as bobo puts it then again using cultural capital is part of it.

If increased wealth and influence = social mobility, then transferring cultural capital is highly effective.

But if social mobility = moving classes, then transferring cultural capital is not effective.

EricNorthmanSucks Wed 10-Feb-16 13:37:58

merciful I will put my mind to some specific examples of things that I personally think are outdated and not as valuable as people think.

But obviously I'm not saying they have no inherent value. Lots of things have inherent personal value and so we prioritise them. But depicting them as having higher order value ie something we can transfer into wealth or influence, is IMVHO incorrect.

BoboChic Wed 10-Feb-16 13:59:31

The thing about cultural capital is that isolating knowledge or skills and debating the usefulness of that single skill in isolation from others generally leads one to conclude that the skill is not especially meaningful per se as a means to getting ahead.

Having cultural capital = having a whole host of skills and knowledge that, combined, are worth more than the sum of the parts.

FellOutOfBedTwice Wed 10-Feb-16 14:15:32

I think I grew up with excellent "cultural capital" and conversely DH didn't. Any CC he gained was picked up after he left home and went to uni. Both had parents with similar amounts of money/levels of education/jobs but his parents weren't bothered. Differences:

- I was taken to the library every week from age 2ish and made to take out however many books I was allowed and read them.
- from the time we were about 5 or 6 my parents would collect whatever vouchers they could to get money off things like the theatre/musicals (back then you could use Nectar points or the equivalent for that- and my mum saved hers all year to take us to the West End for something every main school holiday ie Xmas, Easter and Summer Hols). Money wasn't in great abundance, but we would go and see whatever was around and cheap. I saw everything from Cats and Grease to Lady Windermeres Fan and MacBeth.
- parents and grandparents were members of the ramblers association and took us to different locations for walks. We were encouraged to get books from the above library visits on plants and stuff and help identify them on the walks.
- audiobooks in the car were a massive thing in our family and we were always listening to something as a group. I really loved that.
- parents let us stay up later to watch programmes or films that they thought would benefit us or we would enjoy. They were never rigid about censorship or strict bedtimes if there was something worth our watching on. I remember reruns of I Claudius which we loved aged about 9 or 10. My husband never watched anything but kids tv, conversely j never watched much kids tv at all.
- great family discussions. Especially including our grandparents ...we could debate for hours.
- radio 4
- being encouraged to read the broadsheets and all the supplements and weekends and having time put aside with the radio on just for this.
- being taught to cook and encouraged to cook
- competitive family quizzes with trivial persuit and university challenge etc
- parents saved hard to afford cultural foreign holidays every few years and nice restaurant visits every couple of months
- visiting a gallery or museum in London every month. We lived by this rule and were allowed to pick which one.

Written down it all sounds a bit worthy but it wasn't, what my parents did well was seamlessly slot it all in with a very normal childhood. I'm really grateful to them as I have a good general knowledge and am confident of my cultural knowledge and in talking to people about "stuff", you know that chit chatty conversation you can't have if you've got no cultural capital and that my DH struggles with.

BoboChic Wed 10-Feb-16 14:22:31

Cultural capital is also stuff like knowing how to play tennis and how to ski and being a member of the right club and going to the right resort the right week and being known at the right restaurant and bumping into the right people on the slopes etc... Year in year out...

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