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HOW CLASS STATUS AND THE NEW COLLEGE EXPERIENCE AFFECT CLASS IDENTITY AND CRITICAL CLASS AWARENESS BY JASMINE BRENTON A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Sociology New College of Florida In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Laura Hirshfield Sarasota, Florida May, 2013
!! DEDICATIONS To Jacob and our constant struggle for awareness, equality, and peace.
!!! ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS There are many individuals who have helped brainstorm, develop, and edit this work throughout the entire process. I would like to thank my fellow sociology graduates for their love and constructive criticism throughout the e ntirety of this experience: Mariana Zapata, Barbara Suarez, Lewis Winstanley, Brandon Berry, Jake Paiva, Hannah Brown, Wenonah Venter, Mar Echevarria, Lauren Brenzel, and Mia Newell. Professors Sarah Hernandez, Emily Fairchild, Laura Hirshfield, and Susan Marks were key faculty supporters in editing, thinking, and revising my work. Finally, I would like to acknowledge the particular set of experiences I have had as a working class white cisfemale and first generation college graduate. The variety of environ ments and interactions I have encountered in life coalesce to form the particular lens through which I see the world. I am grateful to all communities and individuals that have shaped my interpretations and look forward to continuing to reassess my own ide as and identities in an effort to promote equality, freedom, and both self and social awareness.
!" # TABLE OF CONTENTS Dedication..ii Acknowledgements..iii Ta ble of Contents....iv Abstract..v Introduction..1 Literature Review..7 Methods19 Findings26 Conclusion ..44 Appendix A References #
! HOW CLASS STATUS AND THE NEW COLLEGE EXPERIENCE AFFECT CLASS IDENTI T Y AND CRITICAL CLASS AWARENESS Jasmine Brenton New College of Florida, 2013 ABSTRACT Using data from 12 semi structured interviews with first and fourth year students I explore how cla ss status and level of conscious c lass identity influence awareness of class structures and inequality. I identify three main categories that represent different manifestations of identity and critical class awareness and divide participants among them: Cr itical, Aware, and Class Blind. Critical students are conscious of their class identity, they un derstand that structures limit agency, and they feel confident in their self identified class status. Aware students only think about class in response to a cat alyst in their environment and fail to see how class is a structure that matters for all interactions. Class Blind students do not mention thinking about their own class status and hold an unconscious class identity. In addition to class related variable s, other factors also intersect to affect participants awareness of structural inequality. Students who were non
!" # white, who had diverse experiences along the lines of class, and who came from non traditi onal schools or family types were more likely to hol d a conscious class identity regardless of their level of critical class awareness. Dr. Laura Hirshfield Division of Sociology
1 INTRODUCTION Education in the United States has been determined to play a "sifting and sorting" role, in the sense that educational institutions contr ibute to class difference s rather than help alleviate them (Collins 1971, Stuber 2011). This is no surprise given that educational institutions have also been found to operate in accordance with cultural values associated with members of the elite class, w ho inevitably attempt to sustain their ideological and economic dominance (Lareau 2003 ). Through the entire experience of education and upbringing, students gain different levels of cultural, economic, and social capital, which are associated with success depending upon one's original, acquired, and employed levels of those forms of capital (Stuber 2011 La reau 2003). Students previously exposed to elite norms before college move in and encounter a structural and social environment similar to past experienc e s; as a consequence higher income students are better positioned to nurture greater levels of capital throughout the educational process (Lareau 2003). Therefore, students from any particular class position each possess different levels of economic, socia l, and cultural capital; as students act in and on society they are able to employ these levels to varying degrees as a means for socioeconomic attainment (Stuber 2011, Lareau 2003). The United States has continued to expand its system of education in a n attempt to provide equal opportunity to individuals regardless of their backgrounds (Ravitch 2001, Tyack & Cuban 1995). In spite of these attempts, class status at birth is still a factor that affects eventual level of economic
2 attainment, along with oth er variables, such as family background, race, sexuality, and gender (Bowles and Gintis 1976, Dreeben 1967). College students are much more likely than individuals who do not graduate from a post secondary institution to attain elite positions (Wright 1997 ). Type of school attended also contributes to the level of success in the form of capital and power (Howard & Gaztambide Fernandez 2010). For example, 1/3 of U.S Presidents, Senators, and Supreme Court Justices attended one of eight ivy league schools ( Vander Broek 2009). Additionally, h igher levels of capital at birth, better grades, and post secondary degrees all contribute to eventual elite status attainment S uccess is th en more likely for individuals born into families with higher levels of capi tal than for individuals who are born into a lower class. College graduates, especially those graduates of elite institutions that communicate social and cultural capital are more likely than non college graduates to attain positions that affect policy T his is evident in the overrepresentation of ivy league graduates who occupy high status political positions. Ex ploring class identity and critical class awareness as a lived experience for college students aids in understanding interactions and environment s that susta in or challenge class inequality. College Students and Identity Identity formation is a process each individual is continually engag ed in as they interact with others and their environment (Goffman 1959) In that case,
3 each person negotiates t heir own identity in relation to the environment s, people, and ideas that they encounter As one acts and reacts in different environments they gain insight into what others think about them and continuously re form their sense of self (Goffman 1959). Ident ities held can then be described as constantly challenged and created ideas about one's own individual personality, value, and position in society (Zhao 2005). Education is a nuanced process individuals constantly engage in both inside and outside of the classroom (Stevens et al 2008) rather than a possession or set of tools. The educational process affects identity b ecause it functions as an interactive and social experience. As students move away from or stay close to home for college they bring to ca mpus their previous experiences and identities along with their individual levels of economic, social, a nd cultural capital (Karp et al. 1998). The academic and residential environment, other students, structures, rules, and atmosphere then begin to affect individual identity formation (Gerber & Cheung 2008) Once on campus, students respond to and interpret interactions within classrooms and other social situations in different ways depending on their personal beliefs and identities. Each interaction negot iated is an experience that combined with past ideas, experiences and social norms, coalesce to inform one's concept and valuation of the "self" and others (Goffman 1986) Recognition between individuals of similar power, status, social, and economic posi tions can result in collective identity formation and may also result in political action along the lines of that social
4 group identity. The growing disparity between the rich and poor in conjunction with the link between education and socio economic mo bility make class based identity formation in college a salient issue. Individuals' conceptions of both society and others in relation to themselves necessarily inform their assessments of public policy and general attitudes about the places they live and the people that they interact with. The fact that students of differing class backgrounds respond to and utilize education differently, with consequent socio economic repercussions (Stuber 2011 Gerber & Cheung 2008 ), justifies the study of the college ex perience. Exploring how college experiences affect class identity formation allows for an examination of ho w class is being reproduced and how in equality is being thought about Thus, the possible effects of college students' class identity for NCF and lar ge r s tructures can be examined. Class Identity Formation at New College In line with recent work related to identity development in the process of education (Stuber 2011, Lareau 2003), this project examines how students think about their own conscious or unconscious class identity within a college environment that they constantly co create. Through semi structured interviews with first and fourth year students at New College of Florida I ask how participants negotiate their class status and identity as wel l as if they feel class matters for possible attainment. I find that students fall within three categories of critical class awareness (Critical, Aware, Class Blind) that is, they differ in the
5 degree to which they claim that class matters. Two key variabl es emerged as related to the development of each student's critical class awareness. First, individual class status (levels of capital) and the degree to which they claim a conscious class identity affect participants' awareness that class matters. Second, the number of diverse class environments each participant experienced in their life was a key component of awareness. I find that most students do not often think about class and hold mostly unconscious class identities. Participants felt that class was a neither visible nor discussed within the community. The lack of perceived class issues at New College and lack of attention to the income distribution of students mean that individuals who were not previously class conscious may fail to see how class pl ays a role in their peers' lived experience. Thus, students without a diverse experience of class fail to recognize that class matters for attainment. Future policies, opinions, and inequality will be affected by the current structures and ideologies that college students encounter and create during the process of college, making these key topics for sociological inquiry as researchers act to address and understand increasing inequality. In order to contextualize concepts related to how the NCF experience in particular may affect students' class identity formation I first discuss relevant research on understandings of class. I then examin e research on identity, connections between class and identity, and follow this with an explanation of why education is relevant to class. Next, I discuss individual experience and the
6 concept of intersectionality in relation to class and class identity. I then explore how this project contributes to fields of sociology related to class, identity, intersectionality, and ed ucation. I describe the methods I used to gather and analyze my data and present my findings. In the final section I summarize emerging themes and limitations followed by an exploration of both practical and theoretical implications and conclusions.
7 LITERATURE REVIEW The Contested Concept of Class The concept of class was understood and popularized in relation to capitalism (the current economic system), primarily by Karl Marx and Max Weber (Wright 1997). Both of these theorists conceptual ize "class" as categories that individuals may be divided into according to level of economic wealth and by extension, power that they possess ( Tucker 1999, Weber 2009 ). Bourdieu (1986) was key to extending ideas related to class as not just a category or economic experience, but a learned way of being or "habitus" (1977) S pecifically, he articulated class as a combination of social economic and cultural dispositions, or forms of capi tal, differentiated by taste ( Bourdieu 1977) These forms of capital af fect one's ability to negotiate dominant environments (Bourdieu 1986). In this understanding, class functions on the individual level in relation to cultural traits and individual tastes and is not always a conscious activity or identity despite constant p erformance of cultural traits (Bourdieu 1986) Since class has come under discussion a variety of academic scholars have discussed what "class" is by examining some ways it does or does not function to produce and reproduce status differences. Education is one social institution specifically found to play a role in the relationship between the economic status one is born into and one's eventual economic attainment (Collins 1971). Two key sociological frameworks analyze and define the concept of class
8 as it is typically theorized. The first is the traditional notion that class "stands for economic/power inequalities structured by production, market, and/or occupational systems" (Acker 2006). Marx focused on the overarching structure of the economy as a me ans to discuss social phenomena (Tucker 1999). The "class consciousness school" arose predominantly out of Marx's concept of "class consciousness" and his theories related to structural processes (Acker 2006). Specifically, Marx theorized th at a collective proletariat identity would likely arise out of the production process (Tucker 1999). In order to explain proletarian identity development and social revolution Marx asserted the concept of alienation from work. His analysis of alienation from the product, process, self, and others (Tucker 1999 ) is an example of observing a social system and then attempting to understand not only the outcome but the processes and environment that exist and are created within that system These theories and the social climat e of the period paved the way for other researchers to continue examining the minute details of the production process within the economy and other social institutions. Although both frameworks build on Marx's theories the first is focused primarily on inc ome, occupation, and economic capital in their analyses (Bottero 2004). T he second framework for understanding class focuses on the ways that class identifications, ascriptions, and identities exist and relate to material possessions and economic positio n as well as social capital and cultural traits (Acker 2006; Lareau 2008). This framework is generally referred to as "cultural
9 class analysis" (Bottero 2004). Although scholars do take into account economic factors in analyzing class, they also attempt to explore and account for social and cultural capital, as well as other symbols that impact class status and interaction ( Lareau 2003, Stuber 2011, Bourdieu 1986 ) This framework also places importance on performances that others interpret in class interact ion or status assessment such as bodily comportment interactional discourse, and background experiences. Each of these factors may contribute to the presence of a class identity and the degree to which individuals conceptualize "class" as a salient identi ty in their lives ( Bottero 2004 ). Cultural class analysis theorists hypothesize that social, cultural, and economic capital all interact to affect the acquisition of the same and other types of capital, and thus an individual's ultimate social status (St uber 2011, Bottero 2004 Lareau 2003 Bourdieu 1986 ). In this conceptualization, class is still a structural process because all individuals are affected by the stratification system. However, because of the way social distributions function in the U.S. on e builds an identit y in relation to individuals who are generally in a similar socioeconomic position (Bottero 2004). Therefore, individuals are continually in the "middle' of their sphere of reference; they may not see individuals much poorer or much rich er than themselves, and awareness or attention to larger social and economic inequality is often not present. Due to their lack of awareness individuals are more focused on their relative disadvantage in relation to those in their immediate social group, a nd are less aware of greater
10 differences in equ al ity through out society (Bottero 2004). The main effort of both frameworks is to explain class distributions as social categories that limit mobility and thus relate to both lived experience and economic i nequality. Both of these types of class analysis find support in literature, lending the conclusion that akin to most other societal processes class functions in a multiplicity of ways. One way is as a structural process of differentiation that can be reco gnized by many individuals of a similar position and that sometimes result s in collective identities or group action (Bottero 2004 Tucker 1999 ). Class is also a collection of resources related to cultural and social knowledge (Bourdieu 1977) which affect choices and interactions The phenomenon of class functions as a n identity and a s a larger distribution that relates to power hi e rarchies (Botter 2004) This project will use the framework that focuses on class as identity and a lived experience; it is th us distinct from theoretical work related to larger trends of class as inequality Defining and Explaining the Creation of Identity Identity development is a continuous process of action and reaction, created in opposition and alongside other actors in th e environment (Goffman 1986) In judging ot hers' reactions to the behaviors we perform we develop a concept of our "self" (Mead 1934). Interaction may be thought of as a kind of reciprocal influence that individuals have on each other when associating, whi le performance can be defined as any observable activity or characteristic of a participant in a social setting which will, consciously or unconsciously, serve to
11 influence other individuals in any way (Goffman 1986). During the process of performance and interaction individuals reinterpret and reassess their identities and ideas of the world ; and they influence other actors. For students in college who live on campus, there is an increased exposure to interaction within the college community, and thus an increase in the frequency of instances for identity creation and negotiation Because individuals are creating their identity and concept of self through continuous performance and interaction (West and Fenstermaker 1995) it is important to understand how this process is being experienced and helping to cement identities. These individual identities will interact with the environment to ultimately determine how a person acts at a particular moment. Often students entering college discuss the opportunity to create a new identity as a positive aspect (Karp et all 1998) in doing so they implicitly acknowledge a degree of agency in creating their identity However, students occupy some identities they do not choose, for instance: race, class, and sex categor y. These social categories are extremely salient in the United States and each particular combination of identities leads to a different set of experience s in interaction. Generally, the term intersectionality has been used to describe the interactions and experiences that occur when any given individual negotiates multiple social systems at the same time (McCall 2005) This concept i s a way to understand the relevan ce of all factors in a given individual's life that have lead to identities or outcomes The educational process is another experience that
12 interacts with an individual 's particular positions to affect identity. It is therefore important when exploring class identity to account for other possible intersecting positions in explaining or attempting to understand a particular individual's experiences. Individual Identity and Educational Institutions Th e process of negotiating individual identity and social interaction with in and upon society is understood in relation to the interlocking systems of r ace, class, and gender as performance s that create and recreate social hierarchies (West and Fenstermaker 1995 ) Through their influence on the social world individuals consciously and unconsciously act in ways to produce and reproduce ideas about themsel ves and others Often these cultural tendencies are ingrained from a young age such as the differing gender expressions preschool students have been found to attain from teachers, families, and peers (Martin 1998) Individuals are a product of their expe riences and environments, the differential acquisitio n of cultural capital and by extension the social inequalities related to class status, may be seen in the educational system. For instance, upper middle class students demonstrate their skills in implem enting cultural capital as they speak more, interrupt more, ask for more help, and argue more than working class s tudents (Streib 2011). Higher income students are thus better prepared for school and able to navigate the social environment more easily than their less assertive peers. Bourdieu (1986) explained that home and school play the two greatest
13 roles in the cultivation of children, different contexts lead to class specific mannerisms and learned tastes A s with any other phenomenon, adoption of beha viors is based on re lationship with the individual(s) the actor is corresponding with ( Bourdieu 1986 in Streib). More interactions at school and fewer interactions at home, compared to high school, point to the importance of the college environment as a fa ctor affecting identity formation New College is an interesting case for increased interaction as 80% of the student body reside on campus and are subject to the particular social environment they continuously create Although many students I spoke to ac knowledged or discussed the academic curriculum and social environment, there are other aspects of the school environment that have been found to affect students. In order to discuss this phenomenon the concept of a "hidden curriculum" has been adopted by sociologists as a means to understand sets of cultural elements that are transmitted and reproduced within education al institutions often below the conscious level of students (Jackson 1968). Invisible Effects on Identity Curriculums are constructed in regards to a particular socio economic environment created by the ruling class and impart certain cultural ideas (Jackson 1968); which have been con ceptualized as forms of cultural capital (Bourdieu 1977) and have been found to contribute to individual soc ioeconomic success or failure (Dreeben 1967). One example is the way in which a hidden
14 curriculum is used today as a means to control bodies in creation of the gender binary in preschool (Martin 1998). It has also been found to contribute to student differ ences in regards to political attitudes and work differentiation (Bowles and Gintis 1976) the lat t er being a key component of class differentiation The main assumed function of school, aside from the obvious acquisition of knowledge, is to socialize stud ents and experts agree that school s aid in the psychological changes and necessary understanding of norms, which ultimately make transition to adulthood easier (Dreeben 1967). However, i f school only functioned to socialize and educate equally as some med ia supported researchers purport, then disparities in treatment and educational style along class, race, and gender lines would not be evident (Stuber 2011). One way in which class identities are created within the educational experience is in the process of pedagogical methods themselves. The ideologies behind school curriculums at different income levels were found by Anyon (1989) to develop individual abilities in divergent ways: "Differing curricular, pedagogical, and pupil evaluation practices emphasi ze different cognitive and behavioral skills in each social setting and thus contribute to the development in children of certain potential relationships to physical and symbolic capital, to authority, and to the process of work." (Anyon 1989) The conseque nces of these processes are generational inequality as lower income groups continually have little access to ways of thought that could lead to
15 developing the correct set of cultural capital necessary to achieve entrance into more competitive schools and h igher positions in the occupational field. Essentially the environments individuals encounter in school impart ideologies, which are composed of different ideas controlled by the dominant class. Research into all levels of educational institutions within the United States shows that different schools correlate to different environments and unequal experiences for students often along the lines of categories such as race, class, and gender which privilege white, upper class, male ideologies (Streib 2011 Stuber 2011 Lareau 2003, Martin 1998 ). Different experiences in these schools result in different skill levels along with varying degrees of ability to handle and critically think through personal or social issues. Most often these schools differ by th e average income level or racial category that they work to educate. Essentially, differential school experiences, often structured by social class or race, result in different interpretations of the "self" and varying levels of social, cultural, and econo mic capital, ultimately available for individual students to employ (Anyon 1980; Dreeben 1967). Educational Context and Class Identity The process of class production that occurs between students within a particular environment of higher education is les s well researched (Stuber 2011). It is clear that stratification is affected by initial decision to attend college : students from the highest socioeconomic quartile are twice as likely to enroll in some type of post secondary institution (Roksa et al 2007) and more likely to be
16 able to afford selective institutions upon acceptance than lower income students Inequality is also affected by decisions regarding what types of institutions to enroll in; higher income students are over represented at more highly selective post secondary institutions, which their families can afford, that are ultimately correlated with higher status occupations (Carnevale and Rose 2004). Lower income students are more likely to enroll in less selective institutions, which have lowe r graduation and earnings rates over time ( Roksa et al 2007 ) T his has significant effects for social inequality as lower income students are less likely to benefit from supposed returns to education. Within the college environment participation in extr acurriculars and cultivation of both social and cultural resources are important, as these have been found to factor into employer considerations after college and an individual's ability to successfully employ cultural negotiation strategies while interac ting (Stuber 2011). Cultivation of identity and resources matter in college because economic, social, and cultural capital are unevenly distributed at birth along clas s and racial lines (Collins 2005 ) and thus students are not equally prepared to navigate social and cultural aspects of college (Stuber 2011). Students with higher levels of dominant social and cultural capital are better positioned, from birth, to acquire additional stocks of resources as they navigate social institutions (Lareau 2003). One example is that w orking class students are less likely to be outgoing socially or to see the value in social and cultural capital acquisition (Stuber 2011). Despite their lack of value for forms of
17 capital, working class students are more likely to articul ate the significance of social class in college and use it as an analytical tool for self conception (Stuber 2011). Recent research asserts that working class students have a more conscious process of social class identity construction and they have also e xperienced a wider range of social classes given the income distribution of students in college being generally higher (Stuber 2011). This is in contrast to more privileged students who are more likely to go to elite schools in college and interact with ot hers from similar class backgrounds as those they knew in high school. Students interpret the ir interactions in a variety of ways that then result in different forms of class, class identity, and awar eness of class (Stuber 2011) In college today, working class experiences and subsequent awareness of class identity and class awareness developed with sustained contact from individuals from other class groups (Stuber 2011). As individuals interact with t hose who are of a different class, they begin to reevaluate who they are in relation to others. Although working class students have been found to acknowledge social class differences towards those less privileged, they were unaware of the ways in which th e class structure itself gives rise to social and cultural differences, attributing success instead to a student's individual or familial values (Stuber 2011). Education, Identity, and Class Awareness Education is a process (Stuber 2011) that matters for class identity and
18 status attainment (Sewell & Hauser 1975, Blau & Duncan 1967) as students have differ ing levels of capital (Lareau 2003, Bourdieu 1977), unequal access to schools (Anyon 1989), and are individually prepared to gain based on their ability to negotiate and adopt dominant forms of capital (Lareau 2003). In college, students have different ide as about social class that are created and negotiated in accordance with how their particular post secondary context compares to other social worlds they have encountered (Stuber 2011) College is a small and highly interactional environment in which one constantly negotiate s identity (Goffman 1979), and is therefore a relevant place to study identity negotiation. Class is a reality that matters as social, cultural and economic capital play into eventual occupation and educational attainment (Roksa et al 2007). Despite increasing inequality clearly apparent in fewer jobs and increasing student debt, some working class students fail to acknowledge the structures or forms of capital that limit their social class achievement (Stuber 2011). W hile they constru ct identities related to class status they are unaware of socio cultural phenomena and large r policies that account for the current distribution of class in the United States (Stuber 2011). If students remain blind to the structur al nature of inequality i t will continue to increase and sustain itself through unconscious social reproduction (Bourdieu 1986).
19 METHODS In order to explore how New College students are experiencing and building class identities in relation to the NCF environment I conducted interviews with full time first and fourth year students. I selected this instituti on for two reasons. First as a student I ha d a practical connection in accessing participant s Second, NCF is theoretically interesting because of the small mos tly on camp us student community which makes interactions more personal and relationships mutually observable. The Researcher My interest in the topic of class status and identity arose from my own experiences at New College as a student from, mostly, a working clas s background. Particularly, I developed a keen interest in the possibility of social change and the prominence of class as a form of stratification in our self proclaimed capitalist society. The academic, social, and political beliefs I hold have changed p aradigmatically with my time at school and I wondered what other students were experiencing along these lines; were we all living in the same "bubble"? As I navigated the landscape I came to hypothesize that students were more conscious of social class if they had encountered many different environments with different manifestations of class. I came to wonder how other students felt as they constantly encountered material about social activism, oppression, and diversity; did these issues resonate with them given their class identity as it had with me?
20 New College (NCF) Although the size would typically indicate a private institution, NCF is a public institution with a student population of approximately 850 (Fact b ook 2012). Of those enrolled, 78% of all students live on campus and 98% of all first year students live on campus (Fact b ook 2012, 28) The transfer rate is 11 % and drop out rate is 32% ( those students who drop out or do not graduate in six years ) The matriculation rate in four years fluctuated between 43% and 63% each year between 199 6 2005 ( Factbook 2012). H owever, compared to the national average graduation rate, in four years, for public colleges ( 37.8% in 2010 ), students who attend NCF are more likely to graduate in four years (Selingo) The population has a high percentage of out of state and internationa l students compared to other public post secondary institutions. The academic focus is evident in such statistics as the faculty student ratio of 10:1 Most of those enrolled and graduated are white (81%). Data from the 2011 graduating class shows th e raci al distribution as 11% hispanic, 2% black, 4% asian 1% native american, and 1% mixed or unknown. The gender distribution is 36% male and 63% female. (Factbook 2012) The high percentage of students who live on campus is only one way students are encouraged to interact with one another. Residential rules allow, as of Fall 2012 co ed roommates T here are no building curfews or check in desks for overnight guests students are responsible for obtaining guest passes from a specific location on campus. In additi on to fewer residential mandates, students
21 have a school wide email list known as "the forum" with self determined rules regarding use which establish a moderator who determines when an issue is or is not acceptable. Faculty and staff are not members of th is list, rather it exists as an outlet for students to post any event, topic, or piece of media that they would like to alert others about. Others then have the opportunity to respond to that discussion thread or ignore it. The Participants and the Data Based on Bourdieu's theories of "habitus" (1977), t he particular cultural context of NCF make identity formation more likely than at less residentially focused schools, as interactions within the context of the college environment are extremely prolific. W ith this in mind, I set out to explore the effects of the New College experience on students class identity and general awareness of social class The data for this research project is composed of semi structured interviews with first and fourth year coll ege students in order to explore class identity in relation to their experience s at school. Interviews were collected between December of 2012 and April of 2013 at New College of Florida, a small, public arts college, in Sarasota, Florida. Participants wer e recruited via an online school bulletin board mass email system, which students call the "forum," and self selected as "from a working class background". The only other requirement for participation was that participants be in either their first or fourt h year in college. Overall I collected 12 interviews from students from a variety of nuanced
22 class backgrounds. I n other words each individual had differing forms of economic, social, and cultural capital. First years had fewer interactions with the co llege experience and fourth years had the greatest given their time in school. I have positioned these students in my analysis based on their answers to implicit and explicit questions about their family's income, occupation, time at school, home, and thei r viewpoints on some salient class related political issues. I interviewed four males and eight females 1 ; 5 of the interviews were with first year students, and 7 with fourth year students. My participants mostly identified as entirely or partially white ( 7), some h ispanic students who are Americans by birth (1) or who have gained citizenship status and come from a range of ethnic backgrounds (3) also completed interviews with me. There was only one black student who self selected for an interview. I met w ith most participants outside, on campus. Although the outdoor noise did add some level of fuzziness to my audio recordings, students also seemed to feel more comfortable at a neutral and familiar location. One student asked me over to their dorm common ro om, and one student came to a friend's house off campus for their interview. Over spring break, in order to conduct the last three interviews, I used Skype to video chat with my participants. This was not ideal, but due to a hard drive failure at the end o f the interview process, some recordings were lost and interviews had to be repeated. Interviews ranged I use sex labels to communicate each participant's sex category. For my sample, all students' gender identities reflect their ascribed sex category in the typically assumed female/woman, male/man binary.
23 from 20 minutes to 60 minutes. I attribute the large discrepancy here to the needs of each participant related to self expression; but at the same time I recognize that in the longer interviews I tended to also talk and respond more than in the shorter interviews. I conducted the interviews using a semi structured interview guide focused on questions centered around themes of class status, degree of cl ass identification, previous school experience, family experience, family status, and the NCF experience as topics which matter for understanding class identity and inequality (Weiss 2008). The guide mainly focused on exploring information that might help in understanding how students define and negotiate their class identities. I asked questions about their lives at college, at home, growing up, as well as more overt questions such as "Would you say your class identity is something you are conscious of? I s it a large part of your identity?" Questions were sometimes reworded if participants requested they be. A complete set of all interview questions is provided in Appendix A. I also asked students about the idea of, or possibility of, collective class cons ciousness. Participants' own position within the class structure, their awareness of types of oppression and personal experiences with it were discussed. I also asked students about their future goals to examine how those goals lined up with the beliefs ab out class they articulated. As many students noted, "Well, we can't all be rich," (Veronica 2 21, Female, 4 th 2 All participants' names have been changed and any possibly identifying information has been omitted to protect students' anonymity.
24 year). The main goal of this project is to explore and attempt to understand how students understand inequality and their own class status. The questions I asked tried to explore how students understood and ascribed their own and others class statuses. I wanted to understand if class identity mattered, and if not which identities students felt were most salient to them. I questioned whether the social justice" rhetoric often found on the forum extended beyond race or gender to include class. Working class students have a harder time in school than higher class students as they are less aware of cultural necessities for success imparted by specifi c environments (Lareau 2003) yet I ask ed what if students go to New College? How does the particular set of experiences an individual has affect how they interpret interactions and ideologies they encounter in college? Does NCF affect the working class students who come here in relation to wealth, education, critical awareness, or some combination of those ? If so, how? I also focus ed on the implications of class identity and awareness for individuals both within the context of NCF and in relation to lar ger structural inequalities. I performed my data analysis via a process of open and focused coding, without the use of software ( Emerson et al. 1995 ). I first began by reading and re reading transcriptions and then color coding emerging themes. The themes that I originally began coding for related to each participant's self identified class status, participant's interpretation of others' class status, participant's actual class
25 status, and their interpretation of class distributions at NCF. Oth er themes that emerged related to issues such as race, gender, high school background, parental marriage status/occupation, and social divisions at the NCF. I discuss my findings in the next chapter.
26 FINDINGS Class concepts for students often become more tangible in the context of college if the class distribution at school is more expansive than others they have encountered (Stuber 2011). Identity reformation is more prevalent because of the increase in independence and the higher number of interactions individuals sustain there (Goffman 1986). At a small public liberal arts college, where most students live on campus and interact intensely, I find that class identity construction is frequently unconscious, the class status of others is n ot easy to discern, and the overall class distribution is not visible. The particular experiences of the students I spoke with and the particular environment of New College created in each student a degree of class blindness, where students found it diffic ult to see class distributions, assess the class status of others, and articulate their own position. This state of class blindess obscures the reality that class status matters for post secondary education in that success and self confidence tend to be co nnected to one's ability to adopt and negotiate the dominant habitus (Bourdieu 1977) of the college environment. My findings suggest that factors such as the environment surrounding students, past experiences, and other identities all work in conjunction with a student's class position to form some level of critical class awareness. This awareness refers to the student's recognition that social class is constructed, and therefore meanings of various phenomena change based on a given context. Alongside this realization is the understanding that class matters for
27 achievement, yet individuals have no control over the status they are born into. I hope to demonstrate in this chapter that class identity, to any conscious or unconscious degree, is a result of each student's class status and particular experiences with class which interact with other identities and environments to create a certain way of interpreting the world. Class identity in conjunction with the extent the identity was conscious, resulted in di ffering levels of critical class awareness based on the interviews I conducted resulting in three main types of students: 1) Critical Students: tend to think about class independently of a catalyst interaction; this group also shows awareness of larger class issues in the U.S and how they relate back to that particular student ; they show consideration for structural issues in their responses about future plans. 2) Aware Students: generally think about class when they encounter a catalyzing interaction su ch as their friend or acquaintance mention class indicators and thus that first student, who generally has fewer forms of capital compared to the friend recognizes differences in privilege related to class; most students fail to relate inequality back to their own lives when thinkin g about future plans as there seems to be no consideration of possibly reinforcing class structures. 3) Class Blind Students: d o not mention a time at NCF where they thought about th eir class status; many of these students fe el their class identity is irrelevant for their self concept.
28 In this chapter I explore student responses to interview questions regarding class status, class identity, critical class awareness, and then move on to discuss some interesting patterns that emer ged from the interviews. It is important to note that each individual student occupies a different social position that reflects their personal levels of capital, experiences with agency, structure, and other actors within their environments. In trying to make sense of these complex class identities I am in no way attempting to essentialize the experiences of the individuals interviewed I only discuss issues I believe can be understood from each participant's perspective and the breadth of the interview qu estions, as a result I leave many interestin g emergent themes for later projects. I explore a variety of issues clearly evident in my findings that intersect with and affect the continued reproduction of class status, identit y, and critical class awareness The Presence of Critical Class Awareness Class Blind Students I l abel this group of students "Class Blind as they do not claim a particular affiliation towards a class identity and often feel that this concept is somewhat irrelevant to their daily lif e. Students in this category are also generally less confident in their self identified class status. This represents a lack of awareness regarding not only a student's personal class position, but also their knowledge of larger class categories and cultur es. For example, one student self identifies her class status:
29 "I've always been inclined to say middle middle, but I guess I could be middle upper. I don't know. My mom makes more money." Sierra, Female, 18, 1 st year Sierra knows she is not in pover ty, or even in the lower class, but she i s unaware of the specific class position her family occupies As she responds to the interview question she seems unsure of how to understand her own family in relation to the larger distribution of incomes that com promise the class structure in the context of the United States; her uncertainty is particularly evident in noting "I don't know." Further, Sierra sees class primarily in terms of money as evidenced by the final part of her statement referring to the amoun t of money her mother makes. However, she is unaware of her mother's income when I asked her to be specific. Without an understanding of the position that one occupies, it is nearly impossible to build a conscious identity, much less a critical awarene ss, of social class. When asked if their own class was something they thought about independently one Class Bl ind first year student explains: "Not really, I don't think about it very much." Alice, Female, 18, 1 st year Alice's response demonstrates th at she does not think of her class status. She is also one of the few students who could not give an example wherein she was made to think about her class status. Sierra explains the salience of her class identity:
30 "No not really, I honestly don't feel li ke I think about [class] at all. Sierra, Female, 18, 1 st year Sierra demonstrates that she does not think about her class. Her lack of explanation indicates she may not often consider inequality and interacts with few things in her daily life that cause her to think about her own class identity. This stands in stark contrast to "Critical Students" who often thought of their own class status within and outside of interactions with others. I found that C lass B lind students generally do not consciously t hink about their class status, and fail to mention how their class position has impacted their lived experience. This group generally does not keep, or need, a job to address their financial concerns, as these are not a source of anxiety in their lives. St udents who are class blind do not feel that their class identity is salient because their particular set of experiences, friends, identities, and the environment they occupy fails to foster conscious thoughts about class status or identity. Aware Student s Students who are in this category have a clearer understanding of their class status as a combination of indicators, and they often think about th eir own class position when in an encounter, interaction, or performance of class that makes them aware of their class identity Eight of the students I interviewed mention listening to stories about the lives of others, in relati on to material wealth, that make them thi nk about there own class status ( not all eight fall into
31 this category some fall within the critical category and some hover in between ). I also i nclude individuals who mention class in relation to their high school culture and/or identity, yet fail to see class at NCF 3 Even students who seem critical of class issues at their high sch ool believe that class has less effect at NCF Although Aware students are cognizant of their own class status, generally they failed to critically assess the way class is a structure that affects individuals in different ways to affect future goals. One student discusse s his class status in a way that synthesize s his mother's personal experience with the class category her income indicates: "I would say based off of her income she is upper middle class. But because she raised 3 kids as a single mom she is just not comfortable with her finances. Colt, Male, 22, 4 th year. Colt is clearly thinking about class and the variety of ways that it affected his childhood, via his mother's single status to create a different class position than the family's econo mic capital might indicate Yet, he does not feel comfortable identifying her as occupying a different class position because of her status as a single working mother. This speaks to the continually changing social and economic factors associated with clas s positions. Colt understands his mother's economic situation, yet recognizes her personal situation complicates her actual status Colt goes on to explain the salience of his class identity in college: # $%&'()%*#+,-#.-/012('#345#%-#%,(62#02(76-&*#,68,#*.,--9:#6)#2(91%6-)#%-#.91**:# 8()(2199;#1**(2%('#%,(#%21)*012().;#-<#.91**#82-&0*#6)#,68,#*.,--9#7(2* &*#%,(# 6)76*6=696%;#-<#.91**#*%1%&*#,(2(>##?..-2'6)8#%-#*%&'()%*#@#6)%(276(+(' : #.91**# '6<<(2().(*#1%#345#12(#)-%#(76'()%#+6%,-&%#=1.A82-&)'#A)-+9('8(#-<#%,(#+1;#%,(# *%&'()%#*0()'*#1)'#%,6)A*#1=-&%#/-)(;>## # #
32 "I don't know. I thought about class a lot more in hi gh school. At my extremely wealthy school I was the poor kid. Here it seems everyone is closer to my wealth status since I don't see the differences." Colt, Male, 22, 4 th year Colt articulates his class identity as changed in relation to his changing envi ronment. He assumes that because wealth differences are not visible in the same way that they manifested in his previous environment, class is therefore less of an issue. Although he articulates his identity as "the poor kid" in the context of his high sch ool, Colt does not reference a position for himself in any kind of NCF social class hierarchy. This could be a result of his inability to discern the overall distribution of social classes at NCF. All the students that I interviewed claimed little visibili ty in difference between social classes. Colt is somewhat more critical than other students about the importance of class, but he fails to see how difference matters for success even in the context of a seemingly equal playing field. Another student artic ulated an interesting perspective in explaining the salience of his class identity: I don't like to think it's a big part of my identity. Like it's definitely something I feel comes up, especially when people mention privilege and stuff like that. I gues s I appear to be a white male so I should have this sort of sense of privilege, but I don't have money and I didn't have money growing up. I can kind of see where they are coming from if they think I have privilege immediately, since people generalize othe r people's experiences based on the way they look." Allen, Male, 22, 4 th year
33 Allen mentions class is not a large part of his identity and he prefers not to think of himself in terms of his class position. He attributes others who misconstrue his class position as taking cues from the privilege that is written on his body: white male. By admitting it is not always helpful to generalize experiences based on appearance Allen shows his understanding that different identities lead to different experiences an d that identities written on our bodies are often taken to indicate other identities that may or may not exist for an individual. Allen fails to be critically aware of class when I ask him to explain why he does not want to occupy a classed identity: Beca use the way stereotypes work, having studied them, stereotype threat occurs when you are presented with your stereotype and often you will conform to those stereotypes. If I think of myself as low class I might act more low class, sort of. And I focus more on moving forward than looking at the past." Allen, Male, 21, 4 th year Allen recognizes his class status and the stereotypes associated with his position. Recognizing the stereotypes of "low class" as negative is beneficial for raising awareness of ineq uality, however we must also recognize the lack of value we associate with certain categories is constructed such that dominant ideologies are valued. In refusing the identity of "low class" because one believes one might then act "low class" the idea is r einforced that these behaviors constructed as "low class" are undesirable. Although Allen recognizes stereotypes about "low class" individuals he also aims to ignore those dispositions in order to "move forward." His response implies that in moving past st ereotypes and conscious
34 thoughts about his class status he will be able to avoid the possibility of "acting low class". Although Allen is aware of class and understands class based assumptions are often incorrect, he acknowledges that identity is what ot hers say about the categories that you occupy as much as it is about the ways in which one thinks about oneself He also explained that if we put less stock in social class, gender, or race these categories become less important and they have less power to affect identity formation. This point may be true in some cases, however this is dangerously close to the view that race, class, and gender should not matter and therefore we should stop putting stock in those categories. This ignores the lived experience s of individuals from different race, class, gender, and other, backgrounds. Even within the small occupational range of my participants students have extremely different experiences with levels of oppression and privilege, clearly indicative of larger ide ological and structural issues related to race, class, and gender. Aware students had a realistic interpretation of their own class positions and came close to understanding and denouncing inequality. However, they failed to relate their personal understa ndings of their own class status to a larger critique of increasing inequality. Particularly they failed to point out the importance of paying attention to class as a category that matters for each individual person's social experience, regardless of the d egree to which any person is conscious of those class reproductions. Students also failed to be
35 critical of the class structure i n discussing their future plans, aware students were less likely to claim social class as a component of the life they desired. Instead, students gave descriptions of suburban life and yet said "I wouldn't want to be middle class, but I want to be comfortable."(Allen, Male, 21, 4 th year) Critical Students Students labeled "Critical" have a clear and confident claim to a class pos ition that was corroborated by other information I collected within the interviews. Critical students are different from the other two groups primarily because these students recognize the salience of their class identity and are able to articulate what in teractions made this identity tangible. These students also tend to have more thoughtful and confident responses related to their class status. For example, when asked about her parent's class, Veronica answered: "Working class, they are not middle class They live paycheck to paycheck." Veronica, Female, 21, 4 th year Veronica shows that she not only understands her class status, but also gives a reason that she placed her family in this category. Finally, the confidence in her statement demonstrates s he feels comfortable claiming that identity. Blake demonstrates his heightened awareness of class by using multiple indicators to understand his mother's status. "Well I guess if my mom  had a partner or any other source of income, perhaps she would be seen as like, middle class. But the middle class seems to be fading in society because of debt issues and I think my mom
36 is a part of that considering her spending habits. But she seems to imitate a lot of affluence as well. I would say that she is wor king class based on her job but socially she spends more like the middle class." Blake, 22, Male, 4 th year Blake takes into account his mother's salary, occupation, and consumption/leisure activities in order to ascertain that she held, from his perspect ive, a working class position. Though he does not state this explicitly, his reference to her spending habits, larger debt issues in America, and the fading middle class, indicates that he associates her spending habits with the middle class affluence that he sees disappearing. Blake's discussion of larger class issues was the key indicator of a more analytical approach to thinking about class, which is one criterion for critical class awareness. He also demonstrates his ability to see both cultural and eco nomic manifestations of social class in the seeming divide between his mother's spending habits and her income level. Veronica explains the process she uses in assessing class status via her discussion of social class divisions and also explains how she u nderstands the identifiable class status indicators given her experiences with the culture traveling between the United States and her own country: "There is the concept of cultural class, or like yuppie culture. But because I have lived in different pl aces and seen different things, to me class is based solely on material issues. How much money do you have, is it expensive, how do you afford it." Veronica, Female, 21, 4 th year
37 As one of the students grouped into the critical category, Veronica dem onstrates a basic way of seeing class as the material level that is then complicated by the value placed on specific cultural capital, in other words economic capital is the means through which dominant classes demonstrate their cultural and social capital She also shows that her particular critical awareness developed as a result of her specific experiences traveling as a child and young adult. Students who reside in this category spoke out against class in a variety of ways, as well. A fourth year s tudent explains how her class identity is a part of her experience and conscious sense of self: "I have to say yes, even though I wish I didn't think about my class as much as I do. I really feel like it has shaped who I am as a person and how I think abo ut things. In any academic class I have it informs my perspective because I feel like people don't pay attention to class enough, and that is very weird, because it is such a shaping thing in all our lives." Myra, Female, 22, 4 th year Not only does Myra i ndicate she thinks about her class position in any class she attends, she also explains that this status informs her perspective. Finally, she extends this idea of class shaping lives to all individuals. Overall, Critical Students were more strategic and descriptive in explaining their class location and had a present and future interest in working to address issues of race, class, and gender. At the same time, critical students understood class not just as an economic category; rather, class is made up of social, cultural, and economic status indicators generally associated with particular
38 behaviors and ways of thinking which are valued differently despite the clear association between original class and eventual socioeconomic achievement. Assessing Class Status Students articulated similar ideas when asked how they go about assessing someone else's class status. Participants felt completely uncomfortable, regardless of their background, when given the task to assess my class status. I asked each student to explain to me what information they needed to know in order to judge a person's class status. "I don't know, just like, judging the area I'm in. Like okay we go to New College. Today, I would say you were kinda well off because you look like a hipster i n your 80s baby blue glasses and bright 30s dress from a thrift store. But if you had jeans and a t shirt on then you might be anything. The more hipster you dress the more likely you're rich, at least to me, since we are at New College." Sam, Female, 18, 1 st year For Sam, the first step in assessing class status is to consider where she is located geographically and culturally. She explains that I look like a hipster in the outfit I am wearing, and at NCF she interprets those "hipster" material character istics (clothes, accessories, shoes, etc.) as rich. Sam was the only student that expressed interpreting some class differences at NCF related to physical presentation. All other participants claimed to see no evidence of social class divisions within the physical presentation of other students: "I suppose there are class differences. I don't pay attention to it or focus on it. There are people who have a lot more money. I see those people more clearly."
39 How can you tell? "They have money that their pare nts give them for lots of things so I assume they have money for lots of things. Sierra, Female, 18, 1 st year Sierra admits that differences must exist, but she finds it difficult to specifically identify these students without being aware of their spe nding habits. Once again, for Sierra, class status is determined by how much money you make, as well as how much money you spend. Some students were able to give examples of a time they had seen and judged someone's class status at NCF: In small ways. It's not as prominent as I thought it would be. One thing I can remember is my roommates, all of them are pretty significantly well off. One of roomies and I were going grocery shopping. While we were shopping he said he has an app on his phone that will n otify has mom if he has less than a certain amount of money and I was like: what the fuck?' so in terms of money their parents provide everything and they don't have a need to work. For me, that hasn't been an option. Unless I'm seriously starving I would never ask my mom because I feel like that puts a burden on her." Myra, 21, Female, 4 th year Myra sees differences related to class when she has more intimate relationships with individuals who have more than she does. Yet, like all other students interv iewed, she claims class is not extremely prominent at NCF. Most students also mentioned the incorporation of material and embodied symbols to assess class status: "Obviously one would first judge based on appearance, the way they speak, gestures as in bod y language. That's my first guess. And then I'd look into other things. Mainly how they speak about themselves and others." Allen, Male, 22, 4 th year
40 Allen describes typical indicators of status such as appearance. But he goes on to include other factors such as speech and body language that represent forms of cultural capital. In this way he indicates that class in his interpretation revolves around economic and cultural symbols. In assessing class status, students uniformly felt this was not typically obvious as an identity or embodied experience at New College. Although students admitted they would look for material symbols of wealth in assessing the status of others, some students, like Allen, admitted that they could more definitively ascribe a stat us with more background information on an individual: "I guess if they have a nice house or they aren't worried about money often. What jobs their parents have. Alice, Female, 18, 1 st year In this statement Alice demonstrates an economic view of assess ing class status in her focus on material wealth, yet it still requires more knowledge of an individual than you would gain from looking at them on the street. I have conceptualized class identity as a conscious and unconscious set of social, economic, a nd cultural dispositions. Students who are more conscious of their class identity tend to also demonstrate some evidence of what I deem "critical class awareness." This is the idea that students who begin to consciously recognize class differences, especia lly in the context of an individual who has been exposed to social distributions that encompass a wide range of incomes, will begin to understand that inequality is not the natural state of distribution.
41 Intersectionality and Class Identity The develop ment of critical class awareness is tempered by experience as all identities and ideologies are created and negotiated Students who demonstrate greater levels of class awareness are often students who occupy another marginalized identity in addition to a less privileged status than others in their social groups Intersectionality is key to understanding how identities and nuanced encounters with interaction and structure influence each other. The types of experiences one has as well as the ultimate interp retation of those environmental phenomena are a product of past identities and experiences. I ndividual s are constantly performing and interpre ting such things as politics, the economy, and social issues through the identities we observe This research is f ocused on how class background and the college environment affect class identity, understandings, and attitudes. However, I assert that many other social categories serve as important correlates to understanding how education as a process interacts with ot her identities to affect understandings of socioeconomic class. One example of a student wh o articulated her understanding of class as a partial result of another identity that she held: "Before when I was [overseas] obviously there is a racial differenc e in income. I went to private schools and I noticed a lot that the kids were light skinned and I wasn't. I felt really awkward. I hated school, because it was hard. I failed classes all the time and I wouldn't turn in homework. But even being such a medi ocre student there, when I came to the U.S
42 from a bilingual school I understood and could read English, so I was way ahead of other students. So I just stayed ahead for awhile. I built self confidence and the attitude that I knew teachers would praise me a nd react well to me. When I got to college I didn't feel awkward, I felt like I was prepared. Veronica, Female, 22, 4 th year This quote shows how individuals use multiple perspectives as a way to make sense of their social world. Veronica used the distr ibution of race at her private elementary school overseas as a way to understand class. In addition, she acknowledges that her elite school allowed her to become comfortable communicating in English, which is a form of cultural capital that helped her stay ahead of other less privileged students in her U.S. school who had not studied English before. Veronica's ideas of the world change in relation to her social group and her recognition of different forms of capital in an effort to feel prepared for school. There were many trends that emerged related to intersect i o nali ty and level of critical class awareness. Students who came from single parent or divorced homes were more likely to have a lower self perceived, and actual, socioeconomic status. All critical students attended magnet schools, which differed from social and economic distributions they saw in the neighborhoods they lived in. This allowed those students the benefit of multiple frames of reference in thinking about economic status. Individuals who are exposed to dif ferent social climates, such as Veronica in her travels between public/private schools and different countries, are able to compare and contrast the
43 phenomena they experience and reflect on those issues. Students who were in their fourth year were more lik ely to understand their own class status and have a sense of class identity. Undoubtedly the NCF academic and social environment influence understandings of social class for students in the social sciences, who discussed learning about class in their inter views. However, because I did not focus on academic curriculum related to class in specific fields when asking participants questions about school, I feel further research is warranted in this area as well. Individuals are a product of their experiences and environments. As self conscious and socially involved beings people are able to reflect on their experiences and relate those experiences to one another. Despite the fundamental differences in how race, class, and gender manifest themselves, individual s who experience alienation or inequality in one form are often better positioned to identify that same phenomenon in another context. For this project, I found that the intersection of specific forms of alienation increased awareness of class structures a nd strength of class identity.
44 CONCLUSION This project set out to explore class status and the conscious or unconscious presence of class identity for student s in the context of N ew College The size of the school along with the high pro portion of on campus residents implies lots of interaction and a high likelihood of identity creation. Students differ in their level of identification with their class status in other words they all demonstrate different degrees of a conscious or unc onscious class identity Similar to other findings related to class status and identity, students from lower class backgrounds were more likely than students from middle class backgrounds to articulate a conscious class identity (Stuber 2011, Lareau 2003). In light of the invisibility of class for students on other campuses it made sense that students at NCF admitted that it was difficult to determine another student 's class status This was true even for students who felt their assessment strategy was succ essful, or often judged class status outside NCF. The lack of identified class distribution s and cons equent invisibility of class in the community was the only phenomenon that all students had in common The full sample of students do not confidently claim or def ine their class status, but students in general are aware of the fact that individuals are born in to different sets of economic circumstances. I discovered and labeled three levels of class awareness in relation to the presence of a conscious or unconsciou s class identity : C ritical, A ware, and C lass B lind. P articular
45 intersectional positions specific life experiences, and environmental exposure may all help to explain how each individual develop s or fail s to develop critical class awareness. More specifica lly, in my findings students ha ve a more salient class identity and higher level of critical awareness if they have been exp osed to a variety of different class enviro nments, groups or other individuals. This supports previous research that asserts working class students develop a higher level of class awareness partially as a result of encountering a largely more diverse class environment in college than they might in high school ( Stuber 2011). As this study was exploratory in nature, I believe future re search should continue to examine how college and social class affect students, especially as those coincide with other identities. Future studies might expand by interviewing a broader income group to first understand if the experience of class as invisib le is characteristic of all students Although I found many differences in the way individuals felt and spoke about issues related to their class identity and their understandings of class, all students claimed that class was nearly invisible at NCF. Class blindness in this context and others (Stuber 2011) is problematic because it obscures the real lived experiences of class for lower status students. It also obscures the ways in which educational institutions (Bourdieu 1977) contribute to class difference s (Lareau 2003, Anyon 1989). The lack of attention to class inequality is particular ly interesting as students made a point to mention other oppressive systems like race and gender as key issues in the NCF
46 community. Aside from the overall class distributi on and its lack of visibility students' class identities and awareness were clearly related to other categories or experiences they possessed such as race, religion, gender, and sexuality. Future studies should examine how these different identities inter act to affect class identity and critical class awareness in the context of NCF. I encountered limitations throughout the research process. First, despite access to the population I found it difficult to acquire the sample I originally desired of at leas t 15 students. Researchers should continue assessing how college affects class identity but should focus on controlling for different combinations of school context, class, race, and gender. In retrospect it would have been helpful to ask for the specific income level of their parents as a means to more accurately assess real economic class. There are also limitations to this research as the actual distribution of class at NCF is not easily determined without access to all students' individual financial in formation to create those categories. As such, I cannot speak to the interpretation of overall class at NCF in relation to how similar individuals are. I can however express that class identity matters for NCF in accounting for the experience of students i n my sample Critical class awareness is a form of structural awareness related to the presence and production of inequality. Awareness of inequality is a necessary step to addressing it as a social problem. Although many students at NCF claim awareness of social class and seem to understand the structural nature of social
47 class, they fail to understand how the abstract idea of "class" relates to noticeable differences in the lived experience of NCF students. Students, professors, and the administration c ould all work together as a way to more efficiently implement sound policies that would function to help even the playing field created by class differences. The invisible nature of class at NCF serves to obscure the importance of class in understanding th e overall increasing presence of inequality. At NCF I believe students should organize campus wide discussion s related to intersectionality. Conversations could focus on each student's identities and the experiences or situations that constrain or enable them. In this way students who already understand the importance of one system (race, sexuality) in affecting life outcomes are able to better understand how other systems (gender, class) affect agency. At school in general, faculty and sta ff should focus on creating diverse environments of race, class, and gender, such that students encounter and negotiate other phenomena from a variety of different perspectives (Stuber 2011) as they build their identity and understandings of others (Goffman 1959) The more diversity present the less normal it is to reside in a ny combination of specific categories Although this solution deals primarily with the small scale of community involvement, it would address the invisibility of certain groups by giving those groups a larger voice in the community. Given the invisibility of clas s at NCF it is also necessary to incorporate programs that show recognition to the various sets of life chances individuals are born in. Finally, programs related to
48 voic ing individual issues such as these should then demonstrate how the systems of class, race, and gender matter in all forms of social life. At the societal level, the United States must address both the interactional (Stevens et al. 2008, Stuber 2011, Lare au 2003) and structural (Dreeben 1967, Bowles and Gintis 1976) aspects of reproducing inequality before the phenomenon can be addressed. This research demonstrates individual attitudes, ideas, and identities about class that exist and function in the proce ss interaction but act as a means to support structures. As sociologists examine the process of creating social structures in interaction they begin to understand how social actors co create ideas that support or challenge the fact that class matters (Wrig ht 1997).
APPENDIX A Below is the interview guide I used to structure each interview. Right Now What year are you in school? Describe your ethnic background. How do you identify? What is your gender identity? Why did you choose to come to NCF? Did you almost attend any other schools? Tell me what you like about going to New College? Do you think you fit in here? Why or why not? What do you dislike about New College? Have you faced any obstacles you feel comfortable sharing? What are you studying? Why d id you choose that area? What is the purpose of new college in your life? Has that purpose changed since first year? What would you have said first year? Young Life/Non School Life When you aren't at school, do you live with your parents? How did they come to live in that area? Where did you live when you were growing up? Can you tell me what that area was like? What do your parents do? What income bracket would you say they are in? About how much money do they make? What "class" would you say your parents are in? Four fourth years: What would you have said first year? What was your life like when you were a child?
How did you spend your free time? Were you involved in sports clubs/activities? Did you go to public school K 12, private, or someth ing else? Did you feel that your previous interactions with teachers or other adults prepared you for interactions with professors at new college? Did you have any assistance in applying to new college? Counselors? Family members? Ultimately what effec ts do you feel your k 12 experience has had on your experience at new college? What would you have said first year? School Life When you first came to new college did you notice any differences between yourself and other students? How would you describ e those differences? Can you give me an example of a particular time you really noticed them? Did you notice any differences first year? Do you live on or off campus? What dorm do you live in? On your own or with your parents? How are you paying for new college? How do you spend your free time? What activities do you enjoy doing? How would you describe the other people you spend your time with? How or where did you meet them? Do you have a job, internship, research assistanship or any combinati on of those? Where? Why If no, are you looking? >>>why or why not? Have financial considerations recently or otherwise been a source of anxiety in your life? Would you feel comfortable telling me more about that? Is class a working part of your iden tity? What would you have said first year?
Future Life What level of education do you plan to pursue? What would you have said first year? What are your career ambitions? What lifestyle do you see yourself living? Is there a particular place you wo uld want to live? What would you have said first year? Do you want to have a family? Or children? Does it matter to you if you partner is from a particular socioeconomic background? Do you think you are capable of reaching those goals? Why do you fe el capable? Do you have any anxiety about reaching them? Do you see any obstacles in your way? What would you have said first year? class/race/gender/inequality perceptions Has there ever been a time when somoone was acting strangely towards you, or t reating you differently, because of your percieved class/race/gender or other categorization? Does this happen to you often? Would you be comfortable elaborating? Class In politics we hear candidiates use terms terms like "middle class". What does that term mean to you? Do you see yourself as a member of a "class"? What would you have said first year? Do you think everyone faces the same types of obstacles? Why or why not? What groups would you say face different obstacles than others? What would you have said first year? American Ideals In general can you think of one or two ideas you could point to that are particularly important to Americans? When I say "American Dream" what does that make you think of?
Does it exist? What would you have s aid first year? Do you believe that it is true for everyone? Just for some people? Which ones? What do you think of the concept of class struggle? What would you hae said first year? Do you see yoursefl in opposition to any one or multiple class gro ups? What would you have said first year? What factors do you think might play a role in determining an individual's "class"? What would you have said first year? What factors do you think have influenced this opinion? In other words if you believe i n the american dream why? If you do not believe in it why not? Is there anything you didn't get to tell me that you feel you should mention? Are there any questions you would like to ask me? Age?
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