Sunday, April 27, 2014

Pardon Moi, No Class Allowed

Nothing represents the class bias in higher education morethan the tendency of academics to avoid the issue of class. I suspect it is, as a friend once told me when I complained about it. "too dangerous." I mean it is not threatening to make amends for racism because it does not necessarily undermine one's own claim to elite status. You cannot, however, make amends for classism without facing the fact that but for class most law professors would not have their jobs.

The latest example of this bias is a study purporting to show that letters to professors are answered or ignored based on gender, race, and ethnicity. The way professors "knew" the category each letter writer fell into was by the name on the latter. For example, it was shown that most people regarded Latoya, Lamar, Terrell and Keisha as African American names. On the other hand, Clare, Meredith, Steven, and Brad were white names. Thus, these were the names used to show a difference in responses based on race.

Given the design of the study it could not show much if it did not use names that are stereotypically regarded as white or African American.  Of course, the fact that they are stereotyically white or African American does not mean the are the most popular names for each group and, as it turns out, they are not. Moreover, suppose you asked someone to rank the 8 names by social class. I suspect the African American names would be regarded as lower and the white names as middle or upper class. So, were the researchers checking a race or a class distinction. According to the them, it is race but, then again, they did not consider that class could be a factor. It is not that they got it wrong but that class, again, is not to be considered. Why is this?

Perhaps this would be a good study: Let's see how professors react to this list:

Please, do not get upset if your name is among the final 4. It means nothing about any specific person. In fact you can make up your own list. What what's the use?  What could be more boring or threatening to today's elitist scholars than a test for class?

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