What We Hold in Common: An Introduction to Working-Class Studies

By Watts, Linda | Radical Teacher, Winter 2003 | Go to article overview

What We Hold in Common: An Introduction to Working-Class Studies


Watts, Linda, Radical Teacher


Edited by Janet Zandy (Feminist Press, 2001).

At the same time that schools find themselves chastised for turning out students underprepared for the contemporary workplace, educational institutions come under fire as readily for engaging learners in critical dialogue about the realities of working life. A recent example comes to mind: the outcry surrounding the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's selection of Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2001) as the summer reading selection for their entering undergraduates. This best-selling collection of pieces, originally published in Harper's, chronicles the author's experiences as a journalist working in the tradition of labor's earlier participant-observers, including Margaret Byington's foray into mill life in Homestead, Pennsylvania. Ehrenreich undertakes stints in several low-paying lines of work, such as waitressing and housecleaning, in order to pose a central question of American economic life: how does one make ends meet while working at or around the U.S. minimum wage?

No matter that the UNCH website presenting the summer reading selection explains that the assignment targets critical reading, speaking, and listening skills rather than the book itself; that the program obliges students to only a single, two-hour small group discussion; that the university provides links to a spectrum of reviews of the book (which are by no means all favorable); or that the discussion questions furnished with the assignment specifically direct readers to consider the book's limits and shortcomings ("Are her reports fair? Accurate? Biased? What makes her account credible or questionable in your view? What are the limits of her research or what information did you feel was missing in her account?" (as featured at http://www. unc.edu/srp/questions.html)). It is difficult to say which problem--that such a work gives offense, or that students suppose themselves served educationally only through protection from works that might offend--is the greater impediment to the emerging field of working-class studies. How are we to understand such arch objections to a work itself replete with disclaimers (including Ehrenreich's assertion that "I make no claims for the relevance of my experiences to anyone else's, because there is nothing typical about my story"(9))?

While it has been several years now that educators have spoken to the value --indeed, the urgency--of the pedagogical process Gerald Graft refers to as "teaching the conflicts," teaching/learning about class difference has lagged behind critical approaches to other categories of social analysis, such as gender and race. The 1980s and 1990s marked a time during which teachers in all settings sought to update their curriculum and reconcile classroom practices with the lasting effects of earlier social movements, from civil rights to women's rights. In something of the way, then, that such collections as Dexter Fisher and Robert B. Stepto's Afro-American Literature: The Reconstruction of Instruction (New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1979), Paul Lauter's Reconstructing American Literature: Courses, Syllabi, Issues (Old Westbury, N.Y.: Feminist Press, 1983), Paula Gunn Allen's Studies in American Indian Literature: Critical Essays and Course Designs (New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1983), Ellen G. Friedman's Creating an Inclusive College Curriculum: A Teaching Sourcebook from the New Jersey Project (New York: Teachers College Press, 1996), and Bonnie Zimmerman and Toni A. H. McNaron's The New Lesbian Studies: Into the Twenty-First Century (City University of New York: Feminist Press, 1996) invited educators to reflect upon their pedagogy in terms of inclusiveness, diversity, pluralism, and value spectrum, Janet Zandy's What We Hold in Common offers a sourcebook and primer on critical labor studies.

As with other forms of inclusive instruction, working-class studies calls upon students to challenge some of their most deeply-held assumptions (in this instance, about opportunity, wealth, status, labor, upward mobility, success, and, as the book's title hints, the idea of a common good). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

What We Hold in Common: An Introduction to Working-Class Studies
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.