The way language is used by parents towards their children in both working and poor class homes is just one of the areas where author, Annette Lareau illustrates class inequality. The way children are taught to speak and use their language will further assist them in their future with their professional endeavors and how they act within society.
Through the process of concerted cultivation found in upper middle class homes, parents expose their children to a wider range of vocabulary and promote negotiating and reasoning skills throughout conversation. Children are able to negotiate with their parents due to the use of extended language and the use of directives. Parents tend to explain why an action or reaction needs to take place and promotes conversation with verbal skills and summarization. Children are taught to ask questions, thus obtain the knowledge and confidence to challenge people of authority.
Annette Lareau illustrates this process with Stacey Marshall who is directed by her mother to prepare a statement to why she does not intend to try out for the gymnastics team (pg. 174). Stacey Marshall while touring the YMCA proceeds to describe her gymnastics skills and her opinions on the length of the vaulting runway to the coach without interruption from her mother (pg. 176).
Stacey’s mother encourages her to have opinions and treats her opinions with importance and weighs them into consideration when making choices about her extracurricular activities. Alexander Williams’s parents engage in conversation to promote his verbal skills and his ability to summarize his ideas when asked how his day went (pg. 117). Alexander’s mother also shows interest in to accommodation him and his opinions with certain home decisions such as what food preference will be served for dinner (pg. 117). Alexanders parents also use new language (i.e. medical and scientific terms) and discuss political issues into daily conversation to prepare Alexander for a range of life experiences.
When compared with children who reside in working class, where the process of natural growth is favored, exposure to words and conversation is less. Children tend to not challenge or question adults and they learn more from directives. Wendy and Willie Driver are not observed disagreeing or questioning their mother when given directives.
Unlike Stacey Marshall’s parents, communication is used more as a tool other than an important dimension on their child’s life. In the McAllister home, Ms. McAllister tends to be short with her conversations and does not seek the verbal feedback or opinions of her children. Ms. McAllister use of short directives (i.e. shower and go to bed) designates what needs to be done in the home. Protests are not highly observed in the McAllister household and the children quietly abide without comment. This is illustrated when Harold’s sister is told to sit for over an hour to get her hair braided, and she quietly obeyed even though the task took over an hour to complete (pg. 147). This is also seen when Harold does not want to eat spinach and is loudly ordered by his mother to eat it without any explanation on why he has to (pg. 147).
Throughout the book, Laurea illustrates an understanding of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds within the middle and working class families in an attempt to show the reader that inequality does still exist in our society. When we hear the phrase, American Dream, as a society tends to assume that it is easily accomplished if one works hard to proceed no matter what economic or social background a person is born into. Society at times often overlook that opportunity is not equivalent within society and gaps between racial wealth and social class are still seen today within American households.
The statement, American Dream resting in the hands of individuals, I agree has some truth to it in regards to it due to many individuals have been able to overcome their hardships and succeed (i.e Houston Mayor, Sylvester Turner). But my perception of the American Dream, I feel as a Caucasian female was somewhat influenced on how I saw myself fitting into society. Where up to past current events, whites, mostly males, have been represented most of the political, economic and social class of America.