Bringing up class a few posts ago reminded me of another subject. At Profecero's a few weeks back and now at Whatever , as Dance pointed out, there was a discussion about an exercise in class privilege wherein students have to stand up and move forward or backward depending on whether they had SAT prep courses, television sets in their rooms, trips to Europe, etc.
A lot of people responded by saying, "Well, I had X but I worked for it myself" or "I didn't have a television set but I had books" or "This test is measuring the wrong things." There are lots of good points on all sides, so read the comments, too, at both places, which like the posts are excellent.
I think that what the exercise is trying to do--reveal the existence of class privilege to students in a real way--is important, but one thing was troubling: if you were a student, and especially if you had been bullied in the past for being different in some way, how would you feel about being forced to do this exercise in class? The teachers who chimed in on the comments all said versions of "oh, we don't make it mandatory; they can sit it out if they want to." Some said that they just had students write the answers on a piece of paper and turn it in.
Right. Would you sit it out, if you were 17 years old and your grade was on the line? Would you sit it out if you could see that your instructor thought this was a crucial part of the class and was clearly enthusiastic about the exercise? Would you write nothing or refuse to turn in the paper, again, if you believed that you'd be losing the good will of your instructor--and a grade--for doing so?
Since the admitted object of the exercise is to make students aware of and uncomfortable (in a good way, the authors imply) about their class privilege, most students would probably learn from it and shrug it off. Some are probably going to have their every statement greeted with eye-rolling about class privilege from then on, as I've witnessed when students in my classes volunteer information about trips to Europe or other markers of privilege.
But for a few, those who have been singled out and bullied for having the wrong haircut or being too smart or wearing the wrong clothes or being the nondominant race, it's going to make them feel like dodgeball targets all over again. Remember dodgeball, where some were out there flinging balls at the opposite team and aiming for those cowering in the corner, the ones you knew couldn't catch the ball on a bet, the dodgeball targets?
What's your take on this?
[Edited to add: I can see this as a class discussion, since students often love to share their experiences--as, indeed, do commenters; look at all those testimonies in the comments at the sites linked above. It's the forced marching around that is a problem for me. On the other hand, those who use this would probably say that a simple discussion wouldn't make the point strongly enough.]
[Edited to add: I couldn't find this post at chaser's when I first posted this, but check out her additions to the list: http://lisachase.blogspot.com/2007/12/social-class-meme.html]