Reviewed by: Jessica Mestre, Graduate Student, Michigan State University
Blog authored by: William Barratt, PhD
“Social Class on Campus” is a versatile, dynamic space where Dr. William Barratt shares a wide range of content, questions, and resources related to social class in higher education. This blog passionately explores multiple ways of thinking about class and calls readers to action by starting conversations and raising awareness on the subject. Specific entries include academic models, facilitated discussion guides, thought-provoking questions, brief musings, a list of class-related movies, and a popular series based on consumer data entitled “What are ____ people like?” exploring upper-middle class behaviors, middle-middle, lower-middle, and poor and lower class behaviors. Whether visiting the most popular posts, the most recent entries, or the archival content dating back to 2008, readers will be challenged to reconsider their own class background and think about the many factors related to this aspect of diversity.
The majority of the blog posts are written by Dr. William Barratt, Lotus Delta Coffman Distinguished Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership at Indiana State University. Dr. Barratt is a social class scholar and author of Social Class on Campus: Theories and Manifestations. In his Google+ profile, Dr. Barratt describes his professional identity as a “teacher and learner…in the classroom, sometimes on TV, sometimes in distance education, sometimes during a chat.” It reasonably follows that that his broad approach to teaching and learning would inspire Dr. Barratt to author a blog. He characterizes the blogosphere as “a new marketplace of ideas where the interesting and emergent things get posted.” Dr. Barratt takes advantage of this format by sharing current, varied content that need not align with the specific markets or messages that other media outlets consciously or unconsciously promote (personal communication, December 9, 2014).
Fundamentally, the purpose of “Social Class on Campus” is to increase knowledge and awareness of about issues of class in higher education, just as the author encourages his readers to do. This blog originated as a means for soliciting feedback on Dr. Barratt’s class-related manuscripts and has since evolved into a platform for “inject[ing] interesting data or perspectives into the narrative about social class” (personal communication, December 9, 2014). With each post, he seeks to provoke readers to think more or think differently about class.
The intended audience of this blog is as wide-ranging as its contents. Any reader would find value in the entries: faculty members across disciplines, student affairs professionals, graduate or undergraduate students, and non-academics alike. Even the header of the blog underscores the open nature of the audience by stating “Comments and submissions are welcome if you have something to say about social class and social class in higher education.”
Beyond the content generated by Dr. Barratt and a few of his colleagues, this blog also guides readers to many additional resources related to social class. Most posts conclude with a long list of works cited within the entry. Furthermore, the right-hand static margin identifies the most popular posts and highlights additional “interesting resources,” including links to other blogs and a related non-profit organization, Class Action.
This blog stands out because of its emphasis on raising awareness of class issues for all students. According to Dr. Barratt, current campus initiatives that focus on first-generation and low-income student support are important but draw from a deficit model of social class. Instead, by highlighting behaviors of a range of class backgrounds and challenging common misconceptions, this blog seeks to spark conversation across difference. Dr. Barratt underscores the need for students in the social class majority to cultivate class consciousness in order to be prepared for success in a diverse workforce (Code Switching). Like all issues of diversity, progress cannot be made if class-related dialogue remains isolated to those in the minority.
“Social Class on Campus” contains several noteworthy strengths. The earliest posts provide an accessible and insightful introduction to thinking about class, then review and debunk common class-related myths. This content provides a useful foundation for individuals who are new to the subject or professionals who seek to educate students, staff, or faculty. Secondly, the entries are clearly written and presented in a scale that is easy to digest and simple to share with others. For example, “5 Things You Need to Know about Social Class” could serve as a “hook” to interest people in thinking about class and then draw them in to gain more awareness and knowledge. Finally, Dr. Barratt incorporates a healthy dose of humor, which is especially commendable when exploring a subject that makes some people uneasy or defensive. These characteristics make this blog a valuable resource.
Blogs raise unique challenges and limitations, distinctive from journal articles or published books. One might argue that the lack of peer review is a limitation. Yet Dr. Barratt asked in his entry about his blog’s traffic, “Does over 21,000 pageviews [now over 65,000] count as peer review of a sort?“. Also in contrast to other media, blogs require regular contributions of new content to keep readers engaged and returning for more. This blog does contain a few chronological gaps, but the archival content remains interesting and worthwhile. The limited number of comments on the posts, acknowledged by Dr. Barratt, highlights the opportunity for increased dialogue on the subject matter. Additionally, this blog would benefit from voices around the globe to contextualize class in other cultures and present a broader landscape.
Guest bloggers enhance any blog by offering a range of perspectives, expanding reach, and stimulating conversation. Dr. Barratt enthusiastically welcomes the involvement of contributing authors on topics of their choice or about ideas that he seeks to develop. Feel free to contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org .