Author, Welfare Brat: A Memoir


Author, Welfare Brat: A Memoir
Mary Childers, Ph.D.
Author, Welfare Brat: A Memoir
Dartmouth College Ombudsperson
Grutter v. Bollinger (2003)
}  Decreased opportunities for upward mobility
}  Class and race differentials in retention
}  U.S. losing worldwide top ranking in college
degree attainment
}  Center for Working-Class Studies at
Youngstown State
}  Enrollment and financial pressures
}  Politicized anti-intellectualism
“Sixty-eight percent of students from families
in the top income quartile with at least one
parent having received a college degree
earned a bachelor’s degree by age 26
compared with just 9 percent of those from
families in the bottom income quartile with
neither parent having received a college
Bowen, Chingos and McPherson (2009) pg.8
Students from low- and moderate-income
backgrounds often fail to meet their goals
}  they don’t have the money
}  don’t know enough about financial aid
}  lack the academic preparation
}  don’t know how to choose appropriate programs
of study
don’t have adults to turn to who have the
knowledge, experience, and confidence to
guide them on successful paths
Mom was always open to reasons why we
should stay home from school: nasty weather,
her need for a baby sitter while she picked up
some cash, or our own desire. All you had to
do was announce the slightest bellyache, and
you could snuggle back under the covers. If
Mom felt good, beds became trampolines.
You never knew when you would be the one
she’d lavish attention on.
Mom periodically grants Joan the opportunity to
bask in the sun of her approval: “Joan is naturally
contented with what she has, which is more than
I can say for some people. She’s a blessing for
me, I’ll tell you that. I couldn’t earn a dime if she
wasn’t so good with Alice, Ralph and Emma.” . . .
I live in a place where, for better and for worse,
tender and tense togetherness matters more than
individual accomplishment and effort. On days
when varicose veins bring her to tears, everyone
takes turns massaging Mom’s legs. To decline to
participate because you have math homework is
an unforgivable act of betrayal. . . .
People who speak well and read widely may
be admirable, but if you stand out, you’ll be
picked out. You’re inviting trouble and
loneliness when you distinguish yourself from
your own by choosing to care about good
grades, books, accents and magazine
clothes. . . . Against my will, I’ve absorbed
resentment and the nagging perception that
my ambitions are disloyal, and worse,
I can’t predict my grades after a test and
studying doesn’t seem to make a difference.
My concentration often weakens and I turn
pages like an automaton. I read like
someone who hasn’t noticed she’s riding in a
car in a deep fog. No matter what the density
of the air or information, I continue at the
same speed until I realize I don’t quite know
where I am. The context has disappeared.
Since Labor Day weekend, I have submitted to the
taboo about mentioning going to college. It
threatens my friendship with Carol and Ann and
makes these guys anxious that I might be
smarter than them. I’m personally better off
avoiding the topic anyway. At the slightest
flicker of interest, I burst into flames of worries
and jealousy. . . . I now sweep the issue into a
soundproof room in my mind until the “college,
college, college” chant that has motivated me for
years has grown fainter. But I’m still nagged by
concerns about finding work.
Discuss institutional data
}  Develop customized approaches
}  Convene meetings of advanced and incoming
first-generation students
}  Encourage faculty and staff to self-identify
}  Course offerings
}  Civic engagement
}  Dare to care
Faculty/staff mentors for first-year students
}  Peer mentoring
}  Career guidance and personal development
}  Social events
}  Summer school
}  Encouraging study abroad
Before college, did you enter the homes of
doctors, lawyers, professors, big business
}  How did you learn to go to professors during
office hours?
}  Did you ever suspect that your high school
had not prepared you as well as your
classmates had been prepared?
}  Were you ever unable to afford special
materials for class?
Did you have to support other people when
you were in college?
}  Did you worry about siblings not attending
school when you were in college?
}  Was the food in college more nutritious,
various and plentiful than at home?
}  Did you feel envious that most other students
had more money for clothing, entertainment
and vacations?
}  Did you feel you had to hide where you came
}  Inherited
◦ Tracking
◦ Discrimination
◦ Stigma
◦ Non-inclusive curriculum
}  Essentialist
rather than incremental
view of intelligence
Decrease in performance
Reduced value placed on domain
Altered professional aspirations
Fear of loss of community
Community anticipation of contempt, pain from
failure, loss of character
Compensatory bravado
See Hidden Injuries of Class, by Richard Sennett and Bridges Out of
Poverty, by Ruby Payne
Valuing entertainment and social life over
Myths of masculinity
Myths produced by segregation
}  Naming
the Problem
}  Respecting
}  Preserving
the Causes
group identification with
individual uniqueness
}  Deemphasizing
}  Encouraging
}  Emphasizing
threatened social
high standards with
assurances about capability for meeting
them (see Can We Talk about Race,
Beverly Tatum)
Providing role models
Providing external attributions for
Emphasizing an incremental view of
Daring to be relevant and engaging
First in the Family: Advice about College from
First-Generation Students
}  Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar
}  This Fine Place So Far From Home: Voices of
Academics from the Working-Class
}  Rewarding Strivers: Helping Low-Income
Students Succeed in College
}  An Angle of Vision: Women Writers on Their
Poor and Working-Class Roots