As the preceding quotation reveals, each social class is a subculture with a system of behavior, a set of values, and a way of life. This subculture serves to adapt people to the life they lead and to prepare children to. assume the doss status of their parents. While some overlapping and some exceptions occur, it remains true that the average middle-class child has a socialization very different from .that of the average lower-class child. Let us take just one aspect of socialization-those experiences which shape ambition, education, and work habits-s-and see how they differ between two social-class worlds. Typical upper-middle-class children live in a class subculture where they are surrounded. by educated' persons who speak the English language c~rrect1y most of the time, enjoy classical music, buy and read books, travel, and entertain graciously. They are surrounded b~ people who are ambitious, who go to work even when they don't feel like it, and who struggle to attain success. They are acquainted with the achievements of relatives, and friends, and it is normal for them simply to-assume that they too are going to accomplish something in the world. When they go to school, scrubbed' and expectant, they· find a teacher whose dress, speech, manner, and conduct norms are much like those they already know. They are met by a series of familiar objects-picture books, chalkboard,' alphabet blocks-and introduced into activities with which tile are already familiar. The -teacher- finds them appealing and responsive children, while they find school a comfortable and' exciting place. When the teacher says: , "Study hard so you can do well and become a success some day," this makes sense. Their parents echo these words; meanwhile, they see people like themselves-solder brothers and sisters, relatives, family acquaintances who' actually ,are' completing educations and' moving on into promising careers. For most of them, to gory up means to complete an advanced education and launch a career. Lower-lower-class children live in a class subculture where scarcely anyone has a steady job for very long. To be laid off and go on welfare is a normal experience, carrying no sense of shame or failure. In their world meals 'are haphazard and irregular, many people sleep three or four to and a well-modulated' speaking voice would be lost the neighborhood clamor. children go to school often unwashed and meet a person unlike anyone in their social world. The teacher's speech and manner are unfamiliar, and when they act in ways that are acceptable and useful in their social world, they are punished. The classroom materials and activities are unfamiliar.

The teacher, who often ,comes from a sheltered middle-class world, is likely to decide that they' are sullen and unresponsive .  children, while they soon that school is an unhappy prison. They learn little. The school soon abandons any serious effort to teach, brands them as "discipline pr-emblems," and concentrates upon keeping them quiet so..that the other children can learn. When ' the teacher says, "Study hard so you can do. well and become a success some day," the words make no. sense. They receive little reinforcement from parents, who. may' give lip service to. educational goals but seldom persuade the children that school and learning are very important.  More important, the children see almost no. one like them no. one in their own world, who. actually is using school as a stepping-stone to. a career. In their world, the flashy cars and expensive these are possessed by those who. picked a lucky number, or got into the rackets, or found an "angle."Thus, the school fails to. motivate. For the lower-lower-class children, "growing up" too often means to. drop out of school, get a car, and escape from the supervision of teachers. and parents. The horizon of ambition seldom extends beyond the next weekend. Work habits are casual and irregular. Soon they marry (or cohabit) and provide for-their children a life which duplicates the experiences of their own socialization, Thus, the class system operates to. prepare most children for a class status similar to. that of their parents. In child socialization, the upper-Io.wer. or working class ~ay resemble the middle "class closely than they resemble the lower class. The upper-lower class usually attempts to. provide children with a stable home and expects them to.' attend school regularly, study, and behave. Sometimes there are middle-class acquaintances. or relatives to. serve as models. The working-class parents may have little realization-of what is involved in successful school achievement, and may not provide the Horne setting which makes reading or abstract. Conversation a natural part of growing up. Thus, their 'children have limited preparation for school and often fail to fulfill their parents' hopes.

Differences in the socialization of lower-class and middle-class children are lessened by two factors: (1) acquaintance across class lines and (2) the pervasive influence of television, The yo.ung of all classes spend much of their free ¥lzing at the television set and thus have a 'more homogeneous expense than was true of the children of generations, Television watching is universal a pastime that it does indeed tend to. produce a greater' similarity between all social groups. Some differences do. remain, though, and these are probably the greatest between the very poor (the lower-lowers) and the more fortunate social classes. In fact, the lower-lowers are often considered to be living “culture of poverty."

Posted on September 4, 2014 in Social Class

Share the Story

About the Author

Back to Top
Share This