The Privilege Test

This is pretty interesting. I found it here. 

I’m not sure I agree that this test says that much. Some of these questions are really hard to answer – like the home one – my family and I lived under the poverty level my entire childhood – my mother cleaned rich ladies’ homes, my dad worked odd jobs to keep us afloat – I wore the cast-offs of other children – but my parents are were white and intellectuals who read books at the dinner table, and they got my grandparents to pay for me to have ballet and piano lessons, and we went to museums and listened to classical music and did theatre – I now make double if not triple the income my parents made put together – but will my child enjoy a truly different kind of privilege?

I’m posting my responses here to an exercise about looking at privilege. Here’s the relevant information for you to know:

  • This exercise is based on one developed by Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka at Indiana State University (see the “looking at privilege” post in the above paragraph, for additional links).
  • The exercise’s developers hold the copyright and have given permission for it to be posted, with links, on the Quakers and Social Class blog. They ask that those of us who participate in this blog exercise acknowledge their copyright, which I’m doing here.
  • If you cut-and-paste this exercise on your own blog, please leave a comment on the relevant post, pointing readers to your own post.
  • Copy and paste the list below into your blog (or as a comment in the relevant post), remove my own personal comments, and bold the items that are true for you.

Father went to college
Father finished college

Mother went to college
Mother finished college
Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor (cousin is a lawyer in Lubbock, TX)
Were the same or higher [social?] class than your high school teachers
Had more than 50 books in your childhood home
Had more than 500 books in your childhood home
Were read children’s books by a parent
Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18
Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18
The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively (not sure about this one)
Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18
Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs* (ha ha ha ha ha ha)
Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs*
Went to a private high school
Went to summer camp
Had a private tutor before you turned 18
Family vacations involved staying at hotels
Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18
Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
There was original art in your house when you were a child
Had a phone in your room before you turned 18
You and your family lived in a single family house (yes and no – this is a tough one – we moved every two years, if not more – one year we housesat for other people, one year we lived in an office lounge… so, yes and no)
Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home (for two years they did own their own home)
You had your own room as a child
Participated in an SAT/ACT prep course
Had your own TV in your room in High School
Owned a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College
Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16 (yes, b/c either we were being missionaries, so fundraising paid for it, or my grandfather paid for us to visit)
Went on a cruise with your family
Went on more than one cruise with your family
Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up
You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family

*These two are edited because it was pointed out that the previous wording didn’t clearly delineate between people who had their tuition paid for them and people who worked for their college expenses.

In the group exercise which was originally designed for college students, staff and faculty, everyone stands in a line and steps forward if any of these things are true for them.

If we were all in a big room, I would have taken 15 steps forward. How about you? How many would you have taken? How many steps will your kids have taken by the time they’re 18 (or how many did they take before they turned 18)?

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6 Responses to The Privilege Test

  1. ChrEliz says:

    Very interesting. Um, how do you make text in the comments section show up in bold type? Thanks!

  2. E says:

    Since we can’t bold items, I’m just including what’s true for me – this was very interesting to do…

    Father went to college
    Father finished college
    Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor
    Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers
    Had more than 50 books in your childhood home
    Were read children’s books by a parent
    Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18
    Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18
    The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively (not
    sure about this one)
    Went to summer camp (on scholarship)
    Family vacations involved staying at hotels
    Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18
    Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
    Had a phone in your room before you turned 18
    You and your family lived in a single family house (mom still lives there)
    Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home
    You had your own room as a child
    Had your own TV in your room in High School
    Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16
    Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up
    You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family

  3. E says:

    The funny thing is, as I look at my list, it appears as though I was “privileged” – in reality, there was a lot of unwise spending (and a lot of credit card debt), and help from a wealthy aunt (for vacations, etc.). I’m still trying to unlearn all the money “lessons” I learned growing up so as to break that cycle & avoid massive credit debt.

  4. Craig says:

    I came up with 16 steps. We didn’t have much money either, but I checked a lot of things like access to books, got taken to museums, mom paid for me to get art lessons …. Stuff like that can count for a lot.

    Somebody on Jeanne’s blog mentioned generational differences. The test should probably include “parents owned a computer” and “had your own computer before turning 18.” This is irrelevant to people from my age – PC’s were still experimental when I was a kid – but a lot of younger people would answer yes to both of these. It was unusual for kids to have their own telephones when I was a kid, Now it’s really common for them to have cell phones. To include things that made a lot of difference for people from my mom’s generation you’d have to add things like had access to electricity, parents owned a telephone, attended high school. (My mom was relatively privileged for a farm kid growing up in VA in the 30’s because her dad had rigged up a wind generator so they had electricity; she never finished college, but her parents paid for her to rent a room in the county seat so she could go to high school. They also owned an automobile and a tractor.)

    Some kinds of privilege have gotten more common over the years, and new kinds have emerged that didn’t exist before.

    Love your blog by the way.

  5. Maiaoming says:

    Well, isn’t it interesting about what we construe as privilege – why aren’t there more questions about cars, for instance? I had rich friends whose parents drove brand-new Mercedes and BMWs, for instance… I was definitely on the low end with them… And yes, what about technology? And race? And race depending on where you lived? In California, I was at the low end, despite being white… while in Virginia, it was totally different situation… CONTEXT is everything, as per usual…

  6. Jennifer says:

    Father went to college BRIEFLY
    Mother went to college YES
    Mother finished college YES
    Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor? NO
    Were the same or higher [social?] class than your high school teachers (probably about the same since my father was a teacher and then principal and my mother taught part-time off and on)? NO
    Had more than 50 books in your childhood home NO
    Had more than 500 books in your childhood home NO
    Were read children’s books by a parent NO
    Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18 NO
    Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18 NO
    The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively NO
    Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18 NO
    Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs* NO
    Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs* (except for some spending money) NO
    Went to a private high school NO
    Went to summer camp NO
    Had a private tutor before you turned 18 NO
    Family vacations involved staying at hotels NO
    Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18 NO
    Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them NO
    There was original art in your house when you were a child NO
    Had a phone in your room before you turned 18 NO
    You and your family lived in a single family house YES (later in childhood)
    Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home YES
    You had your own room as a child NOT until I was a teenager
    Participated in an SAT/ACT prep course NO (I wish I had known about these things)
    Had your own TV in your room in High School NO
    Owned a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College NO
    Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16 YES/ dad in military lived in germany and TO FUNERALS
    Went on a cruise with your family NO
    Went on more than one cruise with your family NO
    Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up YES
    You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family YES

    In the group exercise which was originally designed for college students, staff and faculty, everyone stands in a line and steps forward if any of these things are true for them.

    If we were all in a big room, I would have taken 7 steps forward. How about you? How many would you have taken? How many steps will your kids have taken by the time they’re 18 (or how many did they take before they turned 18)? The BOYS D&A will likely take 22 steps forward (hopefully).

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