One day at work, I saw a worksheet titled, “Knowledge of the Hidden Rules of Social Class: A Questionnaire”, adapted from Ruby K. Payne’s book, A Framework for Understanding Poverty, 4th rev. ed. (20065) for an exercise developed by Patrick J. Ashton.
At the top of the page, right under the heading, was written: “Purpose: To help you gain insight into the taken-for-granted knowledge needed to survive in various social classes”. The three sections were labeled, “Surviving in Poverty”, “Functioning in the Middle Class”, and “Functioning in the Upper Class”. I hadn’t really thought about it before then, and I found it interesting. It made sense to me, but I’m sure very few people spend much of their time thinking about how people need to know certain things to get by, depending on their economic circumstances. I figure most people realize you need to know certain things to survive poverty, but wonder I how many don’t realize there are things to know when you have a little money; or a lot of it. People probably figure it’s no big deal if you don’t know how to be rich, or that it comes naturally. It doesn’t, though. There are many examples of people who got money and then lost it because they didn’t know how to be rich (actors, singers, lottery winners). I’m sure there are many ‘hidden’ examples – people who we don’t hear about.
I’ve think I’ve been in most parts of the spectrum of “middle class”, and dipped somewhat into the poverty range. I checked off most of the middle class section, only 6 in the poverty section, but none of the upper class. I think there’s a big difference between being born into one of the classes, and finding yourself in a class later in life. For example, I think it’s much easier in one way (more pre-existing resources) to move down the ladder, but in other ways it’s more difficult (emotionally, for instance). I think moving up the ladder is more difficult in reality than most people would have expected. I’m sure it’s something most people feel they wouldn’t mind finding out, though!
Of course, the list is not complete – there are many other things that are important to know in each class, and some of the ones on the list probably aren’t quite as important. The list is just meant to open people’s eyes to how things are “on the other side”. I think that’s one reason certain shows are popular – it’s interesting to see how life would be for us in different circumstances. I think you’ll find the worksheet intriguing, and maybe a little surprising. It made me a little curious about how to do some of the things I don’t already know how to do. I wasn’t surprised about my results, but some people might be surprised about theirs. If you’d like to see it, you can access it here.