Discrimination Based on Class

We may observe evidence of classism in subtle attitudes held by parents, caregivers and school staff toward certain people, based on where they live, how they dress and how they speak. We may also observe it in comments we hear from our students, such as:

  • “Where did you get that outfit? Goodwill?”
  • “What – your parents can’t afford to get you an iPod?”

Classism overlaps other forms of discrimination to determine who has “social capital”. Social capital refers to the ability to navigate the school as an institution. Who has the language to be heard and recognized? Who knows the dress code, and the social code? Whose body and skin colour will be acceptable in school at a physical level?

Of course the rules around social capital relate to power and powerlessness. Those who are excluded from the dominant group may develop a number of defences to survive and protect themselves. Such defences have an internal logic and are often both a strength and a challenge. Many of the attitudes and beliefs discussed in this section may operate as a defence for people who are operating in survival mode.