Socioeconomic status shapes many aspects of a child’s development, including how parents raise a child, how families choose schools, how teachers educate, and how a child learns. Yet “class” is not an identity that educators in the United States consider within their schools and classrooms as routinely as they do race, ethnicity, or gender, says Xin Xiang, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, who taught a new module this January on how class shapes identities and experiences in educational contexts, as part of a pilot of HGSE’s Equity and Opportunity Foundations course.
This may be because, in most modern societies, schools tend to be relatively homogeneous socioeconomically — working-class children and upper-middle-class children rarely go to school together. Schools have different hidden curricula, Xiang says, depending on the class they serve, which cultivate class-related skills and identities and prepares children toward specific educational trajectories. For example, she says, consider how an affluent school may emphasize student creativity, complex answers, and discovery with a focus on rigor and excellence, as compared to a working-class school, where the focus may be on rote memorization more than conceptual understanding or creativity.
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