Making Class: Children’s Perceptions of Social Class Through Illustrations
by Adam Howard, Katy Swalwell & Karlyn Adler - 2018
Background/Context: Though there has been attention to how class differences impact children’s experiences in schools and how young people perceive racial and gender differences, very little research to date has examined how young people make sense of social class differences.
Purpose: In this article, the authors examine young children’s conceptualizations of differences between the rich and the poor to better understand children’s process of classmaking.
Research Design: To access young children’s ideas about social class, the authors examined kindergartners’, third graders’, and sixth graders’ (nN = 133) drawings depicting differences between rich and poor people and their corresponding explanations of their drawings. These children attended two schools, one public serving a majority working- class population, and one private serving a majority affluent population.
Findings/Results: Children understand social class to be inclusive emotions, social distinctions, and social status. Children’s drawings and explanations show that perpetuated ideology-justifying status quo of poverty and economic inequality. Children have complex sociocultural insights into how social class operates that manifest themselves through four domains: material, intersectional, emotional, and spatial.
Conclusions/Recommendations: Educators should provide more opportunities for teaching about social class, and can do so in ways that engages students in processes of classmaking that do not reinforce stereotypes and that interrupts inequality.
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