Moving up from the Middle Class (Henslin ch.34, p.383-394)

​From Henslin’s book “Down to Earth Sociology,” chapter 34 discusses the changes in upward mobility of social class, begin in childhood.

From a young age children are exposed to society and quickly work to figure it out whether they realize it or not. One thing that plays a role in this is the parents social class (or social power). According to Wright the working class (lower class) has the least power. This kind of power can be translated into the home and thus social class plays a large role in child development. Other ways it plays a role is the resources and things accessible to the child and family. I know a family who is of the working class, they have little resources and little to no rules which has played a role in their children’s lives and rearing. The children are shy and don’t usually associate outside of their families class, but they are also much more creative to entertain themselves and care for themselves since they don’t have many resources. The basis of this is to say that class has a role in home socialization or just socialization in general. 

Economics and class play a role in material items available to children as well, in the study conducted and broken down in this chapter, 1/3 of respondents said they did not feel deprived and another 1/3 said they did feel deprived of material items and the rest fell in between. For instance I grew up in two different homes with two different social statuses. At my father’s we were upper-middle class, I never felt deprived nor privileged here. At my mother’s we were lower-middle class and I never felt deprived per say but I felt nowhere near privileged. 

Another factor to be considered is cultural capital and how structure is reinforced, expected, or encouraged. “… the social structure is reinforced and usually reproduced, often in subtle, nonobvious ways by the transmission of working-class culture. Parents’ encouragement and expectations are perhaps the most influential. I think this is very prevalent in the way we rear our children. I was always encouraged as a child especially when it came to school and grades. This encouragement my parents showed me is symbolic with cultural and structural reinforcement. Because they encouraged me to do well I followed rules, tried to maintain good grades, and followed the system. Which when thought about in some depth, the class system is based around groups of people following the system. I would say that I also see subtle factors of my parents rearing styles and personalities in me.

Another thing that has always been around for me and although not taught directly but encouraged through hidden curriculum is the American dream. My parents especially my father has come so close to the American dream, or at least his version of the “American dream” that he (and my mother) have always taught me that only I limit myself. My parents are not the only place I have heard this, also from the school, family friends, etc. They have always said to do better and they’ve tried to encourage me to do better than them so I could take the next step toward the American dream. But, is the American dream even real? Because I was raised in a middle class family I have less connections, acceptability, or resources to achieve “the American dream.” I think everyone has a different American dream and what is taught about the American dream is a broad spectrum.

As I had mentioned previously my parents always encouraged me to better than they had. This is inherent contradictions in parental encouragement. This and the American dream are ways to encourage the working classes to work harder. As stated in the chapter someone said that their father defined himself as “someone who actually works for a living” and I myself can recall a time or two my father referred to himself in this manner. Because my father actually did daily manual labor and did backbreaking work for his pay and was a middle class citizen he encouraged me to do better than him in anyway I can (mostly encouraging nonbackbreaking work).

Another thing my father taught me and encourages me to do is make good ties with many people because everyone can be a different resource and that I should be a resource for them too. He had many friends of all trades and they work on a “I’ll scratch you back, if you scratch mine” (if I help you, you help me) system of trade. This is more common among lower and middle class citizens with working skills. I found that this can sometimes create connections between social classes. For instance my father is a middle class worker, he had helped people of the lower class and people of the upper class who have payed him back him back in a similar way. He once made ties with a millionaire in this way, and accosionally speaks to this man even today. 

In America, Although not spoken of much we live in a class system. Some realize this and other don’t, and this in part could be to the large amount to of people in the middle class and the small amount of people in the lower and upper classes. Although the words class never came out of any of my families mouths I think they realize there is a system of classes (hierarchy) and they know where they would fall within that system. I too realize this although I may not use to word class specifically. I think for some that using the word class seems demeaning because it implies inferiority and elite, and most are and know they are not in the elite and thus find it demeaning to use classes. Whatever the case classes effect us all even beginning with childhood. 

There are other things to consider that effect us from early childhood besides class. These could include things like race, gender, ethnicity, academics, etc. These things can also be factors in class identification. There are many ways in which these things can play a role in our childhood rearing and class system and they are highly complicated. Everything mentioned in this post can affect our class or our mobility in class in someway or another. Moving in upward or downward mobility can be shocking for many because they each have different lifestyles. 

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