Social Class – a measure of the person?

I found this after a discussion with a Friend, where we realised his dis-ease about something that had happened at Summer Gathering reflected his working class origins compared with the more middle class origins of the vast majority of Friends.

Anyhow, I went blog surfing and found this blog that really impressed me, Social Class and Quakers.

This quiz came from there, and I thought it would be good to measure this and comment from my POV.

  • Father went to college
  • Father finished college
  • Mother went to college
  • Mother finished college
  • Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor.

Yes to all of these. I come from an enormously privileged background with 8+ generations of education which counts as “tertiary”. 4+ generations of female family who had tertiary qualifications. The family is littered with doctors.

  • Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers

Kind of goes with the territory with our family, but particularly in my family of origin care was taken to never highlight class differences in our social dealings.

  • Had more than 50 books in your childhood home
  • Had more than 500 books in your childhood home
  • Were read children’s books by a parent

Loads and loads of books, and loads and loads of reading to the children in the family. We all take turns at reading to the younger children in our family. Books accumulate in our family. However, we are also keen users of public library services, so the books that accumulate are often of the “rarer breed”.

  • Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18
    Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18

Ballet at 5, but was too short, plump and dyspraxic to continue. Art from 6 – 9. Piano between ages of 8 and 10.  Teacher wanted me to do grades, Mum felt that I had the right to chose to play for fun. Learned trombone at secondary school, and I have recently started playing again after 25 years in retirement. Amazing how much I remember, and how much more joy there is now in playing the harmony, rather than melody.

  • The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively

This is a tricky one, I am fortunate that through the accidents of my parent’s both being born in UK territories to NZ parents I have a UK passport. However, I identify as an economic migrant and the government here wants people to believe as a non-EU migrant I am a wastrel. Also, I am a clinical dietitian, and most people who do nutrition on TV scare the begebers out of me!

  • Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18

No, and would prefer to be without one now, if that was possible in this modern time.

  • Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs*
  • Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs*

No and no. I was lucky to come through University at a point where fees were increasing but not extortionate.  I was also fortunate that I had highly useful skills for obtaining summer jobs, so I worked every summer from the age of 13. I also worked a “gap year” between each of my three qualifications, and saved money to allow me to study each time.

At the moment, I am making a hard choice about giving up my part-time PhD studies to go up to full-time employment again. If anyone knows someone who will fund a fairly radical departure from usual clinical thinking on obesity for a PhD topic, please send them this way (will blog more on this later)

  • Went to a private high school

Hell no. Local state school. And proud of it.

  • Went to summer camp

No. Family holidays at family holiday home (yes, a sign of privilege), in the country.

  • Had a private tutor before you turned 18

If tutoring for dyslexia counts, then yes. It was done out of frustration by my mother because the teachers assumed that because I came from an “educated” household, I should get As, whereas I was a B or C student. Mum knew there was a problem. Argued 7 years with the schools then paid to have me assessed privately.  Blessings to the man who did the 10 lessons after the assessment with me – it is nice to know its OK to use my fingers to keep place in mental math, and that there are rules for spelling, and ways of estimating your calculations so you know if you are out by a factor of 10.

At University I was once asked why with my A+ brain I got B+ results, and my response was “I have more things on my mind than just my studies”…

  • Family vacations involved staying at hotels

See above re holidays. Yes, there was the odd night in a motel, but mostly it was with family every time.

  • Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18

Most definitely not. Lots of hand-me-downs and hand-made stuff. I was glad at 13 to get to be taller and have bigger feet than my Mum and sisters, so I had to have new stuff.  Even today we recycle kids clothes – my nephew recently was heard to exclaim “That’s my dinosaur jersey”, when his son came out wearing the tyrannosaurus rex with blood dripping off his fangs, which his gran had lovingly knitted for him age 3.

  • Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them

Absolutely not, and we had 1 car and had to pre-book it if we wanted to use it, and there had to be a purpose for the journey, not just hanging around with friends. I was an expert at bus time tables in my home city!

  • There was original art in your house when you were a child

Yes, families like mine acquire these things

  • Had a phone in your room before you turned 18

No. Also, we had a 5 minute call limit when my father was on-call and a 15 minute time limit when he wasn’t. There was an egg-timer.

  • You and your family lived in a single family house

Almost all houses in NZ are detached. The sign of privilege for us was we had a second family home. Admittedly it had no sewerage (long drops or dunnies till I was 12), and was on tank water, plus it had no phone (funny episode when I was 10, when the police arrived to speak to Dad because he had been asked to head up a government enquiry and this was the only way to get hold of him).

  • Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home

Yes, and I struggle with the inner demon I am not a proper grown-up because at 40 I still rent.

  • You had your own room as a child

Yes, but that was as a youngest child after my sisters had left home

  • Participated in an SAT/ACT prep course

Hehehe…not likely. By the time it came to exams in secondary school, I relied on my memory and didn’t study if I could help it.

  • Had your own TV in your room in High School

No, and I still object to this as an idea on principle.

  • Owned a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College

Had investments? No. Was shocked to realise a private pension I had when I worked in the private sector was worth as much as it said on the last statement.  Yes, and it is an ethical one.

  • Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16

Flying was one of the few options for seeing Dad’s family

  • Went on a cruise with your family
  • Went on more than one cruise with your family


  • Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up

Yes. I guess this is a sign of privilege isn’t it? Also, our family has given items and artefacts to said museums….

  • You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family

I think this is one of the big differences in my family of origin. Us kids were very much a part of the family economy from an early age and were expected to do things around the house, without receiving pocket-money for doing so – because it was our expected contribution. So we knew early, the value of things. The downside is I suspect I am much more anxious about money than I should be.  The upside, I find the testimony of simplicity relatively easy, because mostly, if I can’t afford it, I don’t buy it.

I’ve spent the majority of my working life working within relatively poor communities. It is a buzz when I am owned as “one of us” by these communities, which has happened on a number of occasions, despite being of different race or ethnicity in the majority of my work settings.

It says to me that despite my privilege I am managing to see people for who they are, rather than what they are.


About kiwihelen

A Quaker woman with something to say. I am 40 years old, a Pakeha (white New Zealander) who is an economic migrant living in the UK. I am a registered dietitian, a feminist (although I am very aware of the mysandry of some feminist authors and also support the work of some Mens Rights Activists), a crafter and I play the trombone. I am in a long-distance relationship with a Quaker man who has two beautiful daughters. I have 12 nieces and nephews and a great nephew and niece. I share a house with my best friend J, and we are the staff for two cats Archie & Asbo.
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