Language Advantages and Classism in RuPaul

After the college admissions scandal a few weeks ago I started a Facebook post (similar to this blog post) about ways that are LEGAL that the average middle class family can give their kids advantages that poor families don’t have. Things like trips to museums, vacations to world-expanding places, tutoring, and ACT prep courses…things we do for our kids. So while we didn’t have 500,000 to bribe coaches or pay off SAT test-takers, we still give several legal advantages. I felt patted myself on the back for recognizing ALL of these things and then someone dropped one that comes SO EASILY to me that I never stopped to think about the advantage it gives my kids:

A household with educated white parents yield conversation and language skills that mimic the language used in standardized testing.

This is something we take SOOOOO for granted in our lives. Think of poor kids who grow up in households where maybe their parents don’t even speak English, or maybe there’s a street-dialect that is dominant in a community that is English, but disregards grammar rules and vocabulary used in standardized test reading segments. Or maybe you’re in the South and simply Southern vernacular is dominant in a household without traditionally educated members to correct grammar mistakes.

In my house we have a could undergraduate degrees and two well-read adults who lead conversations and language learning…which reflects not BETTER understanding or vocabulary…but the SPECIFIC language and vocabulary most commonly used in standardized testing.

Let me make sure that part is clear: We are not BETTER, we just MATCH the language used on tests that give our kids their places in academic programs that can shape their future.

And I never even thought about it.

A similar note was brought up in the What The Tuck Podcast which recaps each week’s episode of RuPaul Drag Race. I do watch RPDR, but I don’t normally listen to that podcast until my kid told me that I really needed to for this ONE episode. It was the episode 4 recap from this season and Nicole Byer and Mano Agapion discussed the teleprompter challenge and this was their point of discussion: THE TELEPROMPTER CHALLENGE IS CLASSIST.

Me: Huh? What? OH MY GOD THEY ARE RIGHT.

If you grow up going to a good school in a middle class family your chances are much better that you’ve been a) taught to read confidently and b) read out loud on occasion. Those things seem so natural and benign in my life but they set up advantages unseen unless you lack those experiences.

ANYWAY! This is all simply to point out how much I still have to learn about my own advantages in life and the advantages I give my kids without even realizing it. And if we aren’t aware of it, we aren’t aware of the ways we have things easier than those less fortunate so I’m always trying to keep my eyes open to those things and I know many of you do too.

One Comment

  • Jim Grey

    I go to an inner-city church where some of our members are homeless or live in dilapidated motels. Another thing I’ve learned that middle class and above know how to do that lower classes don’t is show up to things on time. Church begins at 10:45, but members arrive all through the service. Time is just not as much of a ruler of their lives as it is mine. Unfortunately, this hinders them in the workplace because the boss expects you to be there no later than the minute your shift starts.

    On the other hand, there is a fluidity and ease among our church members, a richness of relationship, that is harder to come by among the middle-class and upper-middle-class people I live among.