Social mobility: does it exist? (case study)

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IzzyOfThePeak
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What social class is someone with working class grandparents and academics for parents, in your opinion? Do you have a story of social mobility in your family?
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IzzyOfThePeak
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Hello,

This is a question I have sometimes casually asked myself when discussions about class, society and social mobility are taking place. I'm a student of history, so I love these kind of topics. Usually, face to face it can be a bit too sensitive to have these conversations - so here is a perfect place to ask the question...

What you think my class background is? If you like you can make a stab at what class you would call me!

Both parents went to university on generous grants, one attended grammar school, and both ended up working as academics (one with a PhD, the other is a professor). One grandfather was a coal miner, the other a tailor/ watch repairer (when he wasn't unemployed) and my grandmothers worked in library, nursery, factory and for the postal service. My step grandfather worked in a steel factory.

AMA if you like about my background!

NB. For purely academic purposes, I do not consider the labels of 'middle', 'upper' and 'working' class to have very much descriptive power in the present day - but I realise some people would disagree with this. I like Joyce's book (Class, 1995) about social possitionality, which suggests that if class has an economic origin then as the structure of the economy has changed modern and contemporary labels are now redundant. Nevertheless, there is clearly a cultural element to class that Joyce plays down (expressed very well in EP Thompson's classic book, The Making of the English Working Class).
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CheeseIsVeg
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(Original post by IzzyOfThePeak)
Hello,

This is a question I have sometimes casually asked myself when discussions about class, society and social mobility are taking place. I'm a student of history, so I love these kind of topics. Usually, face to face it can be a bit too sensitive to have these conversations - so here is a perfect place to ask the question...

What you think my class background is? If you like you can make a stab at what class you would call me!

Both parents went to university on generous grants, one attended grammar school, and both ended up working as academics (one with a PhD, the other is a professor). One grandfather was a coal miner, the other a tailor/ watch repairer (when he wasn't unemployed) and my grandmothers worked in library, nursery, factory and for the postal service. My step grandfather worked in a steel factory.

AMA if you like about my background!

NB. For purely academic purposes, I do not consider the labels of 'middle', 'upper' and 'working' class to have very much descriptive power in the present day - but I realise some people would disagree with this. I like Joyce's book (Class, 1995) about social possitionality, which suggests that if class has an economic origin then as the structure of the economy has changed modern and contemporary labels are now redundant. Nevertheless, there is clearly a cultural element to class that Joyce plays down (expressed very well in EP Thompson's classic book, The Making of the English Working Class).
Hi there
Interesting topic.
I've merged your two similar posts and popped it into society where I think you'll get a discussion going :yy:
Have a great day,
Cheese :bump:
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NonIndigenous
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Social mobility definitely exists, but it is more often inter-generational. That leaves a good number of people too impatient to acknowledge that it exists in the first place, because it often requires you setting some of your own ambitions aside in favor of giving your offspring a different future. A lot of people don't think in those terms, so prefer to pretend that social mobility just doesn't exist instead. Simply because, they will not personally be the beneficiary of it. That thought pattern triggers a whole host of other political beliefs, almost always left wing, sometimes very radical.

It's only 'normally' inter-generational though. There are people who break the norm often enough as well, though a minority all the same.

Another issue people overlook is that often your peers from your own 'social class' will not be supportive if they see you trying to 'leave'. You see it in school bullying, at work when co-workers gang up on someone whose outperforming them, you see it racially when some individuals move up/out of their communities. I've seen black people do it to one another disguise under accusations like "you're acting too white". I've seen working class white say to others things like "you act like a poofter".
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RichardOCB
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(Original post by IzzyOfThePeak)
What social class is someone with working class grandparents and academics for parents, in your opinion? Do you have a story of social mobility in your family?
Social Mobility does exist. The greatest evidence of this is shown in our education system. Even though not every school is good, it's quite hard to find a school as bad as the likes of Bexleyheath Academy for example, where the quality of teaching might actually severely hinder your progress, but even in some of the "bad" schools, its quite shocking to see how easy it is to still perform well in quite an early stage of your life. Most of the issues we see hindering "social mobility" are actually as a result of family culture, where we don't see enough emphasis on education.

An example of this is the typical Caribbean house hold. Now before I begin I have a disclaimer, I'm not Caribbean myself (i'm african) but most of what i'm about to say stems from what I have seen being raised in South London as well as some some general knowledge that I've had passed down to me, and some of the examples given will obviously have some exceptions. In Caribbean families, there is a strong emphasis on discipline yes, but this tends to focus more on having respect for elders etc. and that's good and all but there's something missing when it comes to education in general. An example in comparison to African families, is the way that mediocre grades are for the most part accepted, or in the very extremes even grades that are barely above a fail are accepted, which contrasts with other BME groups where this isn't nearly as tolerated. As previously said education is something that drives social mobility and having such a large section of the populous (especially in large cities) having this kind of attitude towards education, can make certain statistics on the subject more untrustworthy than we might realise.

In addition to this, the overly relaxed approach to education that I've explained is often aided by 2nd generation immigrants as well. This can manipulate statistics further as typically this particular group of people don't tend to find themselves in the most comfortable parts of society (so essentially they tend to be working class already) which can lead to making this lack of progress inter-generational, and when widespread across a country or particular area, can give the illusion of there being a lack of social mobility.

On top of this we also see that particularly in poorer areas there isn't an attempt to lure the disadvantaged into better lives. An example of this is the fact that even those that are academically successful from poorer areas are not given the correct advice to help them study subjects that are actually employable, or to help them make the most of it. An example of this are subjects like psychology (which upon analysis is a subject that should be studied at a masters or higher level as the field is very saturated) or vocational subjects that have little to no employment opportunities like Health and Social care. Now don't get me wrong, you can still get a job or sometimes a very well paying job with these qualifications, but it is definitely unfair to throw children into these pathways without letting them know how potentially difficult it could be for them to progress in life. Placing all of these drawbacks on lower class children (which just aren't shown in schools for the wealthy, even if they perform badly in school) can also make it appear like social mobility isn't a thing.

I believe the issue isn't whether it is there or not, but about whether or not a culture that is set in stone is preventing progression in society for certain socioeconomic groups.
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