Working-class vs. Middle-class: revisited

After my last post concerning various newspaper articles on the subject of how working-class people should be more like the middle-class in order to fit in. Peter Brandt, the gentleman who was quoted in these articles, has since commented on my post to set the record straight. He sent me a link to both his original post, and the blog post which it was inspired by; both make for interesting reading. And goes to show how the media pick and choose what they print.

Reading Brandt’s post, I suppose I can see where the media got the idea from that all the uneducated heathens in the country should shape up and be like the fucking toffs. However, it’s also blindingly bloody clear that what they wrote in the papers was completely taken out of context. Brandt does talk about the barriers of being working-class – how they are more likely to fail at school, how they have less life choices, how they have less opportunities to fulfil their potential; he does talk about how many working-class people feel uncomfortable in certain social situations; he does talk about how we need to challenge this and make them feel more comfortable. Does he say that working-class people should learn how to be middle-class? No, he doesn’t. Which is where the media (and myself) got it wrong.

I also read the blog post which inspired Brandt’s, and it makes for interesting reading. The post is basically the experiences of a woman from an extremely poor working-class background, who had to steal money from her dad’s alcohol fund to buy food from herself and her sisters; who had to clean sick off her comatose dad; who had to hide behind the sofa to avoid being beaten up by her mum; who had to start work at the age of thirteen to buy her own food; who was living on her own at the age of sixteen; and who felt completely like a fish out of water when she went to Cambridge University. Understandably so. It’s a terrible thing she went through, and more should’ve been done to help. But it does raise a few points.

For starters, the people the blogger grew up around consisted of the unemployed, long-term sick and working in menial jobs. As I said before, someone has to do the menial jobs, or else society collapses all around us. And if you’re unemployed and actively looking for work, or are genuinely sick and can’t work, fair enough. Unfortunately, we do live in a society where a minority of the population take the fucking piss and take advantage of a benefits system which we’re lucky to have. Not only that, but they are bloody proud of the fact that they don’t work and get to live on handouts. These people don’t have the fucking right to call themselves working-class. Hey, the clue is in the cocking name.

This minority is now how the majority of the country view the entirety of the working-class: lazy cunts who can’t be bothered to do a day’s work. Which is bullshit, obviously. I’m working-class, and both my parents worked. Brandt grew up working-class, and both his parents worked. A lot of my friends growing up were working-class, and their parents worked. Yes, the blogger had a horrific childhood, but it’s not the only example of working-class life. She grew up with a lack of confidence in ‘middle-class’ scenarios; something probably more likely to have been caused by shitty parenting than being working-class. And shitty parenting crosses class boundaries: there are many middle-class people who have issues dealing with everyday situations because of this.

Of course, numbers don’t lie. Statistically working-class people are less likely to apply to top-class universities and for the top jobs due to lack of confidence. Not hard to see why: I myself was asked in an interview for a place at a conservatoire, ‘Don’t you think coming from a state school is a disadvantage?’. But the solution doesn’t just lie in making (certain) working-class people feel more confident. Attitudes need to change as to the whole idea of working-class and middle-class. People need to stop thinking that being middle-class makes you better. The education system needs to be changed in order to be more inclusive. Employers and universities need to stop being so discriminatory and to judge people on their talents, their grades and their personalities rather than their backgrounds.

So, Mr Brandt, I apologise for any offence caused. Although I did read various articles on the subject, I now know to also check the original source before putting things down in print.   

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2 thoughts on “Working-class vs. Middle-class: revisited

  1. No offence taken – it’s completely reasonable for you to take what you read in the papers at face value! Thanks for revising your post to reflect the new information (a rare and honourable thing to do!).

    I agree with you that the lady who wrote the blog that inspired mine didn’t come from a typical working-class background (and Cambridge isn’t a typical university) but there is a lot that rings true in it for me from my experience too and that is borne out in the academic research on Widening Participation in HE and work by e.g. Bourdieu on cultural capital.

    Agree entirely with your penultimate paragraph

    • Thank you for your comment, and no problem with the revising – these things should be done if there is misinformation. If you know of any links regarding the research you mentioned, I’d be interested in reading some of it.

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