There are numerous stereotypes about the different classes of (white, blue, or even “pink”-collar) workers, typically informed by one’s own status. For example, “For middle-class professionals … blue-collar work is shameful. It is seen as simple, subservient, and alienating. By association, those who perform blue-collar labor are regarded as simple-minded, incompetent, and inferior” (Torlina, 2011). In contrast, many blue-collar workers, such as those working in a trade, see great value and intelligence in their work.
Torlina, J. (2011). Working Class : Challenging Myths About Blue-collar Labor. Boulder, Colo: Lynne Rienner Publishers.
April 27 Freewriting
What are some of the stereotypes about manual labor or white – collar work (which Crawford calls knowledge work ) ? What are the social scripts that teach us to define and evaluate this type of labor? In your view, are these attitudes accurate or fair? Why or why not? How do you apply such concepts to your own experiences with work? How much of conversation or dialogue do you encounter regarding the relationship between work and social class in general? You can talk about the ways cultural norms around work are intimately entwined with cultural norms around school by exploring how there exists (or not?) a bias within our educational system against manual labor. In what ways, do you think, such educational script needs to be rewritten? Then you can explore how the recent developments in technology have changed how we think, behave, communicate, learn, access information, and interact with others about work, social class, and working conditions.
blue-collar work is “dumb” work
white-collar work is (and is the only) “knowledge work”
social scripts suggest that the most intelligent people are the ones that go to college and get white-collar jobs, and that people should aspire to do knowledge work
- these attitudes can lead people down less desirable paths; this would be less likely to happen if society valued all forms of labor equally
parents and high-school counselors push all students to excel in high school so they can graduate and get a college degree
- despite the necessity and value in trade work, cultural norms push the idea that this type of work is inferior
- trade work can provide a secure and fulfilling career to many of those who are being discouraged against it
white-collar high-salaried work, as well as much pink-collar work, is not always as knowledgeable as the stereotypes suggest
concept: white-collar work vs. blue collar work (and in-between)
- white-collar work
- high-salaried work: engineers, accountants
- working in an office: lawyers, bankers
- stereotype of “knowledge work”
- blue-collar work
- working in a trade: electrician, mechanic
- lower paying jobs: assembly lines, maintenance
- stereotype of “dumb work”
- pink-collar work: what is it?
- computer science and programming: white-collar or blue-collar?
The Relationship Between Work, Intelligence, and Social Class
For a period of time while I was in high school, I worked as clerk at a major retail chain. Because it was a large company, everything was organized by many scripts and protocols. It was a disorienting environment; my manager would sometimes stand over my shoulder, and if I did something off-script (no matter how inconsequential it seemed) she would reprimand me. We were sometimes given an excessive amount of work to do within a single shift. It was a much different experience than working at a Mom and Pop store, which I have also done. Even though my coworkers at the major retail chain were all people capable of more intellectually challenging labor, many of them were unable to afford college—and therefore access to better job opportunities. Working-class people are not necessarily less intelligent, but intelligence alone is not enough to get better work.
According to one study, the amount of homeless residents in New Jersey dropped 4.6 percent in 2017 (Kiefer). This is good news, but one statistic shows that Essex County contains 24 percent of the NJ homeless population. This totals to 2,048 people, as compared to the second-highest county (Hudson) which contains 822 homeless residents. Essex is the state’s third-most populous county in New Jersey (essex-countynj.org). As an urban area, comparisons can be drawn between the homelessness problem in Essex County and the evictions faced by residents in the poor, urban neighborhoods that Matthew Desmond describes in “Home and Hope.”
Class, culture, and race have all played a part in my higher education, and have shaped what I believe getting an education should mean. I went to public high school. Since I was part of a generation who grew up around social media, I had become politically-minded through online reading before I ever talked about modern politics in an academic environment. I saw double-standards and class inequality all around me, but didn’t yet have the words to articulate my frustration. The things I learned in history class didn’t leave me feeling adequately prepared for active citizenship.
It wasn’t until college that the idea of social class came up in the classroom. Once I learned the basics about the economics and sociological concepts behind discrimination and social class, education gained a new meaning to me beyond simple job-training. I realized that education has the power to generate great social change. Now, I feel that if an education doesn’t involve class consciousness (and other concepts relevant to social justice), it is an incomplete education.
According to Wikipedia, “The alt-right, or alternative right, is a loosely-connected and somewhat ill-defined grouping of white supremacists, neo-Confederates, neo-Nazis, neo-fascists, and other far-right fringe hate groups.” Many believe this new movement to be a considerable threat to society. The term was coined by white supremacist Richard Spencer—a notorious figure within the alt-right.
One topic I’m interested in is the rise of this new extremist political group known as the “alt-right.” I evaluate the contents of a Wikipedia article differently than a more scholarly source. I usually use Wikipedia as a jumping-off point for more specific research. One thing I find positive about using Wikipedia is that it gives a good, comprehensive background of many topics, without needing much prior knowledge of a topic. A con in using it is that it doesn’t provide scholarly, critical thinking about a topic.
In one Atlantic article “Your Annual Reminder to Ignore the U.S. News & World Report College Ranking,” author John Tierney makes a point that, for a number of reasons, the U.S. News & World Report College Ranking ( a commonly cited college ranking) may not be a reliable way to assess the quality of a college. In fact, a college’s increase in rank may indicate the opposite. In the article, this is explained:
Because the rankings have a popular audience, they encourage colleges and universities to game the system – i.e., to do what they can to raise their place in the rankings by, for example, spending lots of money on things the U.S. News formula deems important or by aggressively increasing the size of their applicant pool so they can turn away a higher percentage of their applicants, thus showing themselves to be “more selective” and thereby raising their rank. (Tierney)
High school seniors may look to the report in determining which colleges they apply to; however, should a student really trust a university that dedicates its time and resources to trying to “game the system,” instead of putting those efforts to improving the lives of its students instead?
Kelly, Sonja, Alexa
Norman Rockwell’s Freedom from Want resembles a typical Thanksgiving for an upper middle class white family. This is the picture that is often depicted as typical and ideal for Americans.
John Holyfield’s Blessing II represents what might look like a typical Thanksgiving for a family of color.
The Thanksgiving that our group least related to was the cafeteria dinner that was being served to the soldiers. None of us have ever been a part of an institution for a holiday like that.
These images further represent the connection between food traditions and identity that we learned about in class this week. Although everyone is celebrating the same holiday, each image is showing a very different thing. Additionally, the image that pop culture calls “ideal” and “normal” isn’t necessarily the case for the diverse people of this country.