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12th-Nov-2008 10:40 am(no subject)


How to Behave Like a Student: The Knowledge Is Power Program’s Hexis Slant

The first day of each class at any and every level always promises ground-rules for classroom behavior and forewarnings of disciplinary measures. Before learning begins, before prodding at brains and harnessing student minds to reading, writing, arithmetic and the like, the “non-cognitive” training begins. 

I use non-cognitive here in the manner literacy scholar Harvey J. Graff uses it in The Labyrinths of Literacy. Graff makes a distinction between cognitive learning, a question of curriculum or educational content (like Hirsch’s Cultural Literacy project), and non-cognitive learning which involves the form of behavior training implicitly connected to the structure of enacted pedagogical theory and institutional organization. Graff focuses his study on the hegemonic effects of schools as institutional loci of power and coordinators of social hierarchy formation, creation, and maintenance—mass-educated literacy tuned to produce trainable and trained folks. The cognitive learning literacy involves, he proposes, has historically enabled the hegemony of “moral” schooling; Graff argues that through literacy moral schooling has operated as an ideological device mobilized with the intention of indoctrinating and constructing a reality the dominated masses consent to, and—taking the cue from Gramsci—thereby living the self-fulfilling prophecy predicted (read that “structured”) by the dominant group. Non-cognitively, however, Graff describes literacy in schooling as part of the process of instilling a productive behavioral work ethic in the workforce. He affectionately labels this process “training in being trained”.[1]

For the workforce, the literacy and schooling processes, he contends, pose a “lesser influence” in terms of what an individual “gains” from school. The acquisition of cultural capital, especially in the form of education, endows authority on the middle classes to confirm and strengthen their power base within the social hierarchy. Cultural capital in this regard translates into a set of behaviors, which Graff claims are “noncognitive”. He writes:

Literacy [. . .] has a lesser influence than the experience of ‘training in being trained’ and the social message which underlies and permeates skill-learning. In other words, the noncognitive [sic] aspects of the educational experience are more influential than the cognitive ones (62).


Graff makes a tremendous claim for the influence of the non-cognitive, or “not thinking” aspects of education. Are schools really mostly non-cognitive? Isn’t there always thinking occurring, isn’t thinking the point of going to school? How much thought takes place in “making” students, of socializing the student? For Graff a school is an apparatus with the intention of socializing citizens—that can hardly be denied. But arguing behavior training as the primary influence in schooling seems rather, well, militant.      

As a material manifestation of juridical political organization, complete with discipline, control, and reward, the school as institution does create determining behavioral effects for the student; these may pass unwarranted or as “natural”. Schools disempower students from oppressed groups into a passive, obedient education based on consumption of behavioral rules established by middle-class power without noticing how their own bodies are affected. In school, especially early schooling, our bodies are constantly instructed in acceptable behaviors and these behaviors become mythologized, become natural, especially as we grow into adulthood. But perhaps this is my own generalization: it feels natural for me to sit silently when the teacher/boss speaks. I can’t necessarily speak for other students/workers who aren’t from my school, my class, and all those other cultural institutions that shaped Mr. Steven P. Alvarez, B.A. Plenty of folks like me, though, were rewarded for playing by those rules given the first day (don’t hit one another, listen, do your work, don’t go to sleep, ask for permission before going to the bathroom and don’t make on the floor); what Graff claims is that schools teach certain types of etiquette with these rules by not teaching the rules but enforcing them: student-etiquettes, etiquettes not distant from worker-etiquettes are enforced, and for the most part these are not consciously nor critically considered by students (or as Freire would have it a “critical consciousness” of the reality of one’s experience is not elevated) but simply internalized without thought. Ideologically this is the most important element of education and literacy for Graff.

I should point out that etiquettes are class marked. Different classes of education mark students, and different cultural capital incomes result. Behavior of students from different cultural capital granting educational institutions insures that some students are better equipped with “proper” etiquettes, the etiquettes of the dominant classes, while others are excluded and marked with restricted amounts of capital.[2] Disadvantaged students with less opportunity for accumulating cultural capital from their elementary and secondary schools are, as one primary charter school puts it, beset with a mountain to climb in order to get to college.

The school in question here is the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), a “network of free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public schools in under-resourced communities throughout the United States,” founded by former Teach for America altruists David Levin and Michael Feinberg. KIPP schools are  

free open enrollment college-preparatory public schools where educationally underserved students develop the knowledge, skills, and character needed to succeed in top quality high schools, colleges, and the competitive world beyond. Ninety percent of KIPP students are African American or Latino/Hispanic. Over 80% of KIPP students are eligible for the federally subsidized meal program. Students are accepted regardless of prior academic record, conduct, or socioeconomic background (kippschools.org).


The November 26, 2006 issue of The New York Times Magazine features as its headlining article aspects of KIPP pedagogy. Paul Tough, the author of the article, argues for KIPP’s success, describing KIPP as a hybrid of “touchy-feely idealism and intense discipline”. Tough recounts his visit to the school and is clearly impressed with the KIPP approach to behavior training, what the organization terms Slant. 

Slant is an acronym created by Levin and Feinberg that spells out the necessary “methods for taking in information”. Students at KIPP drilled in Slant are instructed “to sit up, listen, ask questions, nod and track the speaker with their eyes”. Quoting Levin, Tough writes that “KIPP students need to be taught the methods explicitly”.     

KIPP schools train, if we follow one of Graff’s theses, socio-economic underprivileged students in the “necessary” behavior deemed normal by and for the “privileged” dominant classes for college success; KIPP students agree to the behaviors as they are aware of the school’s dedication to their own upward mobility—perhaps the greatest incentive for inner-city youth. The American folkloric ideology of success resulting from hard work connected with education here sounds inspiring for teachers. That most of the hard work is non-cognitive (according to Graff’s analysis), however, begs me to ask how much thinking goes on with Slant? Slant provides its students with a middle-class cultural capital behavioral base to ease their trip up the “mountain to college”. I wonder how posed this is:




If this image is any indication of what a KIPP class looks like, sign me up. Look at those postures, smiles, hands crossed on their desks. Did they have this behavior that first day of class? How much discipline was enforced in the staging of this image?

In this brief essay I will be examining the Slant behavioral method implemented by KIPP in its classrooms and how it intersects with the work of Graff, but also the theory of bodily hexis as set forth by French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu in Language and Symbolic Power. Hexes [pl?], for Bourdieu are physiological markers of class status, or put another way, one’s exteriorized class manners, one’s semiotic etiquettes. The hexis, Bourdieu argues, can be disguised, modified, and reconfigured. One could, in theory, take a speech class to improve one’s symbolic hexis capital in public speaking or undergo management training to gain symbolic hexis capital in leading or directing organized groups of people. Hexes are mutable performances, are corporeal, and may be the results of disciplines by institutions or conversely may be enacted via individual agency. Like Graff’s notion that the ideologies of dominant classes pervade all life, the most desirable hexes typically are those of the wealthier, more powerful groups.

In a post-structural, Bahktinian analogy we can call hexes codes of behavior that exist in constant contact with a plurality of others, parody one another, and construct subjects as much as subjects construct them. For the socio-economically disadvantaged students of KIPP (potentially surrounded in their neighborhoods by that youth group labeled “at-risk” by social service agencies) Slant works something like the simple machine of the incline plane in terms of easing the upward mountain hike toward college by training the body for the promise to upward socio-economic standing and security.[3] And with the increase in embodied cultural capital, students are more likely to succeed in college because their lower-class behavioral “adaptation” to middle class behaviors (an early phase suffered by most underprivileged undergraduates in college) will be straightforward: they’ll have the necessary middle-class self-discipline already instilled, and their behavior will translate into success because they have sufficient embodied cultural capital in order to compete in the market. Such is the hope of KIPP at any rate, but also its claim to fame.


Training the Body, Training in Training

As I indicated earlier, Graff carefully distinguishes between the cognitive and non-cognitive “aspects of the educational experience” in The Labyrinths of Literacy. The cognitive aspects, according to his argument, are those which, through literacy, indoctrinate the dominant ideology within the mind of the student (consider the practice as “colonizing the mind” so to speak). The non-cognitive learning a student gains, conversely, indoctrinates the body. One could think of Graff’s non-cognitive argument here in terms of the “unconscious” effects of one’s education. The cliché “out of sight, out of mind” rings especially true: the unconscious of one’s education manifests itself in one’s “natural” work habits, one’s work ethic—how well one was trained at being passively trained. A well-trained-passively-trained subject (post-student) is one who works hard, asks few questions, requires minimal supervision, and has decent problem-solving skills. More than that: the well-trained subject is the subject who has mentally and passively resigned asking the question “why am I not the boss?”, and this subject is perfectly fine not being the boss, in fact, consents to not being the boss. Profitable training indoctrinates docility, or, rather, tames the wild out of the student’s behavioral conduct. 

            A reliable and skilled workforce, Graff claims, has always been the concern of those in power: how to keep the workers working (keep those bodies working efficiently) and preoccupied with work so as to not think—to keep the body busy so the mind wouldn’t have time to be critical about one’s own material existence. Beginning as young children, Graff argues, future-laborers are conditioned (or de-conditioned?) into passively accepting a mechanical lifestyle in order to accustom them to discipline. He avers that   

[a] person who in childhood has submitted to some processes of disciplined and conscious learning is more likely to respond to further training, whether in an army, a factory, or in participatory activities. This training is the critical job preparation and the problem for industrial development; simultaneously it has been the first task of the school and one critical use of literacy (66-67).


Schools instruct the student body, the child’s body in particular, in the regulated behaviors necessary for the world of work with training in “critical job preparation”. Again, however, this can often be a non-cognitive effect of schooling.  The content of school, what we typically think of as the “cognitive” effects of learning when thinking happens (literacy, numeracy), prepares for specialized work skills. But basic behavioral etiquette is an education of the body, of the embodied performance of the dominant codes of hexes, and can require thinking as well—a certain form of critically reading semiotically.[4] This is not always emphasized for students though. Students are never directly taught about how school is responsible for—and has affected their—behaviors, etiquettes, let alone how to read their behavior. Nevertheless hexes training has been the “first task of the school” and (non-cognitively speaking) one of the most important in the uses of education in terms of indoctrinating subjects.

Graff’s use of the verb “submit” is also telling but slightly more complicated with KIPP students. The students of KIPP are the self-selected “elite” from poor black and Hispanic urban areas. The students are the small percentage from these areas willing to adapt their behaviors for the promise of upward mobility. Potential KIPP students vie for entrance into the school and are motivated to “submit” to the increased work and dedication required of the institution’s students. These students stand to gain economic rewards from the self-discipline training KIPP enforces, or what Graff describes as the “training in being trained”. The bodies of underprivileged KIPP students (and their guardians who serve their bodies’ best economic interests) are eager to train in and perform middle-class behaviors if these bodily acts promise middle-class spoils later in life. Teaching underprivileged students how to Slant like middle-class students makes for successful, upwardly-mobile habits, hopefully a middle-class lifestyle (kippschools.org). 

            I would like to point out that applying Graff’s non-cognitive approach to behavior simplifies the matter of programming student performance. His argument throws more determinism onto the heap of such other like-theoretical interpretations of literacy and educational histories (Ong’s technological determinism for example). Bourdieu’s notion of the hexis allows us to consider the implications of Slant in a more complicated and insightful manner because his hexis framework translate into perceivable, performative bodies expressing power: capital currency atomized to the body as the single-measured material unit.

For Bourdieu, as I already noted, the hexis is corporeal. The body performs codes of behavior and etiquette. The body is sometimes disciplined into performing certain hexes, and some of these hexes have more social “value” than others. The hexis is body capital and symbolic cultural capital. Slant is a method for training student bodies about the worth of symbolic capital. Also, though, students are self-aware of their axiomatic training in being trained, that is, they are taught how to read their hexes and what the resulting axiom: acting this way will lead to college studenthood and ease the transition into a new class and its promise of a rewarding and comfortable adult life.

            If it were only so easy!

            One of the “five pillars” of KIPP’s pedagogical beliefs is “more time”:  

KIPP Schools know that there are no shortcuts when it comes to success in academics and life. With an extended school day, week, and year, students have more time in the classroom to acquire the academic knowledge and skills that will prepare them for competitive high schools and colleges, as well as more opportunities to engage in diverse extracurricular experiences” (kippschools.org).


KIPP students and instructors begin each day at 7:30 AM and end it at 5:30 PM five days a week and for four hours on Saturdays. They also spend an extra month at school during the summer. “In spite of the long hours, average daily attendance at KIPP Schools is 96%” the KIPP website informs us. The yearly average of hours KIPP students are in school is 1,878. The yearly average for students in their same neighborhoods is 1,170. KIPP students spend 62% more time at school each year. This all suggests that symbolic capital accrual takes time. All this time at school surely has Graffian non-cognitive effects on the student body (consider that earlier image of KIPP students again for a visible reminder). The axiomatic reminder: “Percentage of KIPP alumni in college: 79%; Percentage of public high school seniors in New York and Houston matriculating to college: 48%”. And another: David Brooks writes in a New York Times editorial entitled “Pillars of Cultural Capital” that   

a child growing up in a family earning over $90,000 has a 1 in 2 chance of getting a college degree by age 24; a child in a family earning $35,000 to $61,000 has a 1 in 10 chance; a child in a family earning under $35,000 has a 1 in 17 chance (6 October 2005).


The numbers are, of course, staggering but also of knowledge already commonly known: economically disadvantaged folks have a harder time attending and succeeding in college. Why? Well, it’s complicated and I don’t really know, but it just is: I see it, have seen it, and as an academic will continue to; I’m not ready to answer just yet, but I think cultural capital, as I argue here, might assist us in thinking about the problem. 

KIPP seems to be effective in narrowing the class divisions between the demographics of college students, and in a manner more effective than, say, Affirmative Action. Rather than establishing quotas and “structuring failure” for disadvantaged students with low cultural capital, charter schools such as KIPP educate their students for success handling of middle-class behavioral etiquette. With KIPP’s Slant, in particular, a behavioral training tool is explicitly inculcated to students. Slant is consciously coordinated by the students (the device is laid bare so to speak). KIPP’s goal is for Slant to become internalized, to become habitual responses so that the students do it spontaneously after a period (regiment) of explicit coaching, training, and exercise. 

            Bourdieu does more justice to the embodied notion than I can offer. In his own (translated) words he argues that

[t]he close correspondence between the uses of the body, of language and no doubt also of time is due to the fact that it is essentially through bodily and linguistic disciplines and censorships [. . .] that groups inculcate the virtues which are the transfigured form of their necessity , and to the fact that the ‘choices’ constitutive of a relationship with the economic and social world are incorporated in the form of durable frames that are partly beyond the grasp of consciousness and will (89).


Disciplines and censorships inculcate “virtues”—we know how Graff would interpret “whose” virtues. With regards to linguistic distinction/competence and connected with Graff’s cognitive educational time and also KIPP’s dedication to its students, Bourdieu argues that every time an individual with minimal cultural capital or command of “legitimate” competence enters into an exchange with the holders of the “legitimate” competence, dominated individuals are condemned to a practical, corporeal recognition of the laws of price formation which are the least favorable to their linguistic productions and which condemns them to a more or less desperate hyper-active attempt to be correct, or to passive silence (Bourdieu 97). Giving the inner-city student the tools to build confidence and to feel natural and at ease in a situation of exchange, to get them to not remain silent or intimidated during their higher-education career, seems to be KIPP’s agenda. Training underprivileged students to shape their behavior to a middle-class student code contributes to KIPP’s success record in “penetrate[ing] poorly educated brains very quickly” and shaping hexes thereby (Tough).

The students at KIPP, however, respond well to Slant. The hexis training they receive becomes natural. According to Levin and Feinberg, unlike students from privileged socio-economic backgrounds, students who attend KIPP often don’t possess the etiquette skills required for studenthood upon embarking on their educational sojourn:

Levin’s contention is that Americans of a certain background learn these methods for taking in information early on and employ them instinctively. KIPP students, he says, need to be taught the methods explicitly. And so it is a little unnerving to stand at the front of a KIPP class; every eye is on you. When a student speaks, every head swivels to watch her. To anyone raised in the principles of progressive education, the uniformity and discipline in KIPP classrooms can be off-putting. But the kids I spoke to said they use the Slant method not because they fear they will be punished otherwise but because it works: it helps them to learn. [. . .] When Levin asked the music class to demonstrate the opposite of Slanting—“Give us the normal school look,” he said—the students, in unison, all started goofing off, staring into space and slouching. Middle-class Americans know intuitively that “good behavior” is mostly a game with established rules; the KIPP students seemed to be experiencing the pleasure of being let in on a joke (Tough).


KIPP students appear to be aware of the hexes they perform—that they perform the hexes of “normal schools” suggests they have a semiotic, critical awareness of cultural capital difference (the “slouching” is especially telling). I should point out that Bourdieu also characterizes cultural capital and social distinction in terms of a game of positions and movement within the social hierarchy. Because performance codes can be learned and imitated (mimed), the “good behavior” etiquette and “instinct building” KIPP emphasizes with Slant the students feel let in on the rules—“let in on a joke” —about what their behavior means. And they’re convinced: KIPP students are convinced that Slant “works” and that it “helps them to learn”, and they adopt the codes because they don’t “fear they will be punished”. They perform their hexes like kids in classes above them. Furthermore they have an advantage over “normal” students who have not discovered the secret. Graff’s non-cognitive behavior learning becomes cognitive, as do the structuring rules of performing a middle-class hexis and gaps of cultural capital are narrowed. Even though it seems      

[. . .] unusual for fifth graders to focus on college, especially those from neighborhoods where high school graduation is not guaranteed. KIPP students not only think about college, they exude confidence in knowing they will get there—and graduate. The results are remarkable: students excel academically, develop confidence and leadership skills, and experience the world through local and out-of-state field lessons. After four years at KIPP, students earn acceptance to competitive college-preparatory high schools and become first generation college students (kipschools.org).


The argument is inspiring, but the counter-argument “if it’s so effective, why don’t all schools follow a KIPP model” has not been addressed yet is constantly being waged; I hear it a great deal currently in my neighborhood, East Harlem. I leave the reader on this note because, again, I don’t have an answer. But consider the rules of behavior you are introduced with each time you enter a classroom. Before prodding your brain with reading, writing, arithmetic and the like, think about the arguments your body makes before you ever graphically, verbally, or numerically communicate.






[1] Marshall McLuhan makes similar claims with regards to the cultural/technological/de-humanizing determinism of alphabetic literacy in most all of his works, in particular The Gutenberg Galaxy, Understanding Media, and his literacy criticism. In The Medium is the Massage, probably McLuhan’s most well-known work, he argues that the necessary linear, measured behavior undertaken to decode the phonetic alphabet, that is following lines from left to right and down the page in sequence, fragmented the human sensorium by transforming aural/oral “tribal” cultures into visual, silent “civilized” cultures valuing individualism, linearity and privileging the eye over the ear. The lines of the printed alphabet “strung together in a line, bead-like, and in a prescribed order [. . .] fostered and encouraged the habit of perceiving all environment in visual and spatial terms—particularly in terms of a space and of a time that are uniform,



                c-o-n-n-e-c-t-e-d” (McLuhan 44).


[2] Factors affecting the cultural capital levels schools grant their students include: geographic locations of institutions, pedagogical methodologies applied, institutional funding levels, quality of instructors and their educations (a significant category of cultural capital in and of itself), amounts of students attending and instructors employed, lengths of the school day, the genders, economic classes and ethnic, cultural groups of instructors and students, and a multitude of others not listed. My intention is not to reduce everything, and I offer the list here only as a self-reflective, protective measure, and I footnote it so as to pleadingly demonstrate to the reader how convoluted, complicated, and tricky symbolic capital accumulation—like monetary capital accumulation—is.


[3] Note: how much of this “standing and security” is mythologized in American “popular” imagination?


[4] Semiotic literacy?





Hello--I've read your final paper and think there are a good many issues to keep looking into down the road. The behavioral training of working-class and poor students is an inherent part of their habitus, one way to understand how hegemony invades everyday life to achieve dominance. The questions I'd pose to you from this paper are: In what ways is hexis a form of capital? How is the hexis used as symbolic cap., econ. cap, cultural cap., or social cap.? Think through the relation of hexis to the practical relations of daily life which B. theorized as metaphorical market exchanges. Hexis is the adapted physical shaping encouraged by a specific social location--class, race, gender, age, region, etc. In considering the role of mass educ in forming the hexis, I'd also use the word "normal" or "normative" rather than "natural" in describing the outcomes of the process(see your p.2). Finally, I wonder to what degree SLANT is the normative behavior of affluent students in school--SLANT may be professional reformers idealizing what they see as authority-friendly beaviors which are coded middle-class but which middle-class and rich students are not actually obliged to perform because of their habitus, that is, they are solidly embedded in class power so they don't have to kiss ass overtly to win favors. Thinking through the middle-class idealization of SLANT invites a connection to Lynn Bloom's own middle-class idealization in her essay on FYC. The reality of behavior among the elite may be quite different...Well, I'll put your final paper in MY mailbox at the grad school as of Fri Dec 29 pm, so if you can come by after then you can pick it up and see my comments...have a good new year....yours, ira


13th-Apr-2008 03:54 pm - A PIE Paragraph Made in Heaven
Dear friends, in order to complete a sense of duty to myself I include the following specimen of a perfect PIE paragraph composed by Paul Willis in The Ethnographic Imagination, a book I'm reading right now . . . for fun.  What he writes about is poignant to the film Mardis Gras Made in China especially when we consider the knowledge we have as to where our products (*commodities*) come from, but the denial we also experience.  See if you understand what I mean after you finish reading it.  PLEASE have questions about it, either here or in next class.  Cheers.

     But, of course, commodities are in fact produeced in a highly specific and determinate set of histories, relations, and skills.  They have not fallen from heaven.  Follow any commodity back to the factory and there is a world of surprise in store - labour expended in complex labour processes; human hierarchies; discipline; sometimes bizarre management regimes of control and motivation; conflict; weariness; often suffering too.  These things we know very familiarly in what we produce or provide, but forget in what all others produce.  This forgetting produces a fascination and mysterious self-absorption.  We struggle with our own cargo cultists mentality.  Where have these perfectly formed objects come from?  There is a mystery about the way in which commodities both contain - because they are produced by - and simultaneously deny - they are objects - wider social relations and embedded labour.  This phenomenon of commodity fetishism is the starting point and lynch pin of Marx's analysis:

          A commodity is . . . a mysterious thing, simply because it in the social character of men's labour appears to them as an objective  
          character stamped upon the product of the labour . . . a definite social relation between men . . . assumes, in their eyes, the fantastic 
          form of a relation between things.  Fetishism . . . attaches itself to the products of labour . . . value (i.e. capitalist production) converts 
          every product into a social hieroglyphic.

The use of hieroglyph here is fascinating and illuminating.  A hieroglyph is a 'picture sign' as in the picture script of the ancient Egyptian priesthood - a system now taken to be difficult or impossible to decode.  Marx is saying that the commodity is already a sign as well as a material thing, but one which seems to mystify and obfuscate rather than to communicate, obscuring what made it a sign.  The fetishism of the commodity is about and can be summed up as failed communication concerning the commodity's own origin and history and the social relations and embedded labour that produces it.  WE are encouraged to understand ourselves, our histories and our relations with one another through things which absorp information about them into them.  I shall return to these issues later in relation to a discussion of the cultural commodity.

Notice how he uses "hieroglyph" in his explanation of the quote.  AND he does explain the quote. 
7th-Apr-2008 10:52 am(no subject)
Keep working on your essays friends.  My internet connection has been very slow this weekend, I apologize for a lack of comments.  

I've pasted here below (as promised) another essay written by a former student.  In-class tomorrow we'll discuss Brave New World as well as any questions you have for your essays.  We'll also go over an essay I wrote.  Cheers.

Internet Ghetto: Social Divisions in the Twenty-First Century


     There is a huge amount of media coverage and hype surrounding MySpace and Facebook despite the fact that this is not the first time a social network system has taken the Internet by storm. Yet Danah Boyd's "Viewing American Class Divisions through Facebook and MySpace" is not only insightful but raises issues that have and will continue to shape the Internet and American culture. In particular, the debate regarding diverging age groups, social classes, and possible lasting consequences of the two social networks is heavily discussed, as this is a fairly new and unpredictable phenomenon.

     Boyd sees a trend in the MySpace and Facebook community, one that mimics the social divide in every day life. As in any society, there will always be those that blend in and those who do not – the minorities and the majority.  As Boyd writes,

class divisions in the United States have more to do with lifestyle and social stratification than with income. In other words... Class divisions in the United States have more to do with social networks (the real ones, not FB/MS), social capital, cultural capital, and attitudes than income. Not surprisingly, other demographics typically discussed in class terms are also a part of this lifestyle division. Social networks are strongly connected to geography, race, and religion; these are also huge factors in lifestyle divisions and thus "class." (Boyd)

People are not divided so much by physical wealth but more importantly by the social connections they have. In turn, the social connections one forms greatly correlates to how the individual spends his/her time.  The social divide found in high school is apparently very similar to that which is found in adults.  Boyd defines "subaltern" teens as those that do not "play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm" and "hegemonic" teens as those that are able to – namely the “goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes” (Boyd).  This is just another form of the struggle between minorities vs the majority. Just from the activities one partakes in, a lot can be revealed about the individual – from the type of friends s/he is most likely to have, to where s/he is most likely to hang out, and ultimately, which class s/he would most closely belong to. Furthermore, Boyd argues that as people of similar interest and class gather in person, they also convene on the Internet, driven to the same websites that cater to how they identify themselves (so not only can class be determined by who you know, what you know, and where you go but also by what sites you visit on the Internet). MySpace is mostly composed of those belonging to the subaltern population, Boyd has observed, while Facebook targets the hegemonic population.

     Whenever something involves society or deals with large groups of people, it is only reasonable that similar social rules will carry over, since logically, "birds of feather flock together". However I think these rules are slightly blurred and altered in a virtual world because of the increased level of anonymity. Therefore those that may be in essence minorities but better at hiding it, may exercise their freedom on the Internet. Closeted controversial thinkers, homosexuals and other believers/practicers of frowned upon behaviors, are free to express themselves online with very few boundaries or consequences. Therefore, in reality they may play the part of an ideal American, have similar friends and therefore have the class - only to be categorized as a minority on the Internet. Having the connections they do, such individuals are still hegemonic. On the other hand, there are those who portray themselves on the Internet in a fashion that makes them appear to be more hegemonic. Regardless, all virtual connections and bonds are as meaningful as their ability to carry over to reality. (Unless a businessman mostly hangs out with the punks, he is still an everyday man). For this reason, websites and profiles can be misleading and exaggerated. Taking this into consideration, I still believe most profiles are fairly accurate, since like most forms of amusement, social network systems are a form of stress relief and it takes some effort to lie convincingly, even on the Internet (in fact, with the access of greater amounts of people, it can be easier to get caught in a lie).

     Ironically, taking Boyd's idea of a "virtual social divide" one step further, those "socially ostracized at school" are outcasts on the Internet as well, gifted with the ability to carry their unpopularity over onto the Web by scaring the hegemonic teens away to flee to Facebook. In other words, those who do not want to be associated with the liberal, open, and unregulated wild territory of MySpace, are choosing the structured, civilized, "guarded, gated community" of the social network powerhouses – Facebook. After all, when things are selective, they are just that much more recognized and respected. (Much in the same way that neighborhood demographics change all the time, social network demographics change as people catch on or when people notice others catching on).

     Though, is there really a class divide between Facebook and MySpace? According to the Internet marketing research company, comScore, in June, MySpace had "4.7 million U.S. users under 18, compared with 4.3 million for Facebook," which incorporated 10 percent of the 12-17 age group, as opposed to 7 percent. Both the Wall Street Journal Online and RedOrbit have also noted this difference in ages. The lower age group of MySpace users closely ties into the relative overall social status of users from both websites. Unlike MySpace, "anyone who is under 18 and not in high school or college, is unauthorized, unlicensed" to use Facebook ("Terms of Use"). Obviously, this targets a more educated population, and though it's not terribly difficult to get a Facebook account, it is without a doubt more trouble than getting one from MySpace, as it is pain to forge an ".edu" email address. In general, minors are not considered classy, as usually they are not independent from their parents and have not had the chance to gain the social status/connections that denote someone of the upper class. Therefore it would only be logical that the MySpace website (which is easily accessible to children) would be lower on the social ladder.

     Because of this class gap, Boyd believes that eventually people may begin to believe and fall into the stereotype that "Facebook participation is good" (Boyd). This can further lead people to view MySpace users negatively and associate them with various lower class stereotypes. If these stereotypes are taken at face value, many users may make dangerous assumptions regarding Facebook users (in particular, that they are more trustworthy) as well as look down at MySpace users as "sketchy" (Boyd). This would only worsen the social gap between the two groups and create uncalled for animosity, as there is little proof that one site is "cleaner" or "safer" than the other.

     Facebook may have once been home to the hegemonic teens/college group when it was inclusive to Harvard students (and then to select colleges) but as each day passes, it is being infiltrated and losing it's prestige. "The number of Facebook visitors ages 12 to 17 jumped 149% over the past year" and Facebook has had nearly a 4 percent increase in 12-17 year old viewers, as opposed to MySpace's 2 percent decrease (Miller; Jesdanun). MySpace may have once been the hot-spot for teens, but many seem to be converting to Facebook. The change is not going unnoticed by Facebook users as there is even a group called the "Official Petition to Keep Facebook Limited to Students" that addresses the resentment of how "Facebook just opened its doors to everyone on the Internet" (Vara). Just from lowering the standards to allowing those "13 or older and in high school or college", Facebook has lost that much of it's hegemonic population and following ("Terms of Use"). College students, young adults and older adults do not want to deal with Junior High and High School kids (from what I understand, many try to forget that period in their lives), so they are abandoning their sites. The glory days of Facebook are coming to an end with its decline in class. If, anything, it will only become another MySpace as more and more of the subaltern population gains access to it. It's only a matter of time before the two become nearly indistinguishable.

     Partly for this reason, I do not think Facebook will ever become powerful enough to convince the overall population that it is "good"/safer than any other website community - all it could possibly ever amount to is another passing fad (like the Xanga social network system). Vauhini Vara argues that both websites – not just MySpace - are on their way out, since many "Internet users [are] now renouncing MySpace and other social-networking sites – not in spite of their popularity, but because of it ". Already the growth rate of the two network systems are decreasing, as "MySpace inched up 3.1% in the most recent three-month period [that] ended in September, compared with a 45% jump in the same three-month period a year ago...[and] Facebook's traffic fell 1.7% in that period, compared with 11% growth a year ago" (Vara). Such social networking sites have served as yet another medium for spam and stalkers, leading users to become very distrustful of the services provided to them.  MySpace blogs are practically open to everyone, which turns some people away because it does not give them that sense of entitlement or safety that Facebook, with its selective membership and multiple privacy options, is able to cash in on. However, because of the close network feel and design of Facebook, it can actually make it easier for stalkers to choose their victims. Julie Miller, a college student, found herself being followed by a "student [that] had already found her on Facebook" and was able to locate her in the first place because of the college she was publicly associated with (Vara). The bottom line is that neither of the social network systems can protect their users from each other, which forces many to realize that the people who visit their profiles are not always completely harmless, and just as it is not wise to leave your doors unlocked, it may not be such a good idea to publish journals, thoughts and other private information so publicly. More than anything, the novelty of both social network sites is quickly wearing off. Even Jennifer Gambino comments on how MySpace has "caused me so much pain" in terms of "relationship problems, time management problems, and general self-esteem issues" when she speaks of the deterioration of her friendship when it went from encompassing mainly "real life" interactions to a virtual-based relationship. Though the Internet has definitely improved communication, there is still no complete substitute for a "real", physical relationship. Basically, as the growth rate of the two sites decreases, it is only a matter before they stop growing altogether and start shrinking.

     Language was once described by Dennis Baron as being able to express "solidarity or group identity" as well as able to "separate insiders from outsiders". The Internet, being yet another form of communication (like language) is no exception. Though how exclusive and where these social divisions are is another issue but without a doubt, things like age and social status carry over from reality onto the Internet. After all, how many adults caught onto the Neopets craze? While Facebook and Myspace are probably minor examples of this, it really raises the issue of how "unregulated" the Internet actually is. Maybe more than anything, that is Danah Boyds' real message – to keep our eyes open.


boyd, danah. 2007. "Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace ." Apophenia Blog Essay. June 24 . http://www.danah.org/papers/essays/ClassDivisions.html


Jesdanun, Anick. "ComSpace: MySpace Teen Visitors Drops." RedOrbit. 11 July 2007. 17 Sep 2007 <http://www.redorbit.com/news/technology/997289/comscore_myspace_teen_visitors_drops/index.html>


Miller, Claire Cain. "Class War: MySpace Vs. Facebook." Networking. 23 July 2007. Forbes. 17 Sep 2007 <http://www.forbes.com/technology/2007/07/20/facebook-myspace-internet-tech-cz_ccm_0723class.html?boxes=relstories>.


Baron, Dennis. "Sez Who? Language and Society." Do you Speak American?. Thirteen/WNET. 24 Oct 2007 <http://www.facebook.com/terms.php>.


"Terms of Use." Facebook. 24 May 2007. Facebook. 24 Oct 2007 <http://www.facebook.com/terms.php>.


Vauhini, Vara. "MySpace, ByeSpace?." 26 Oct 2006. The Wall Street Journal Online. 17 Sep 2007 <http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB116182858175204222-rsuEZvu7OIyZ_x8jW_mVavMsZ8g_20061124.html?mod=tff_main_tff_top>.

29th-Mar-2008 01:55 pm - A Beautiful PIE Paragraph

Good example of PIE pagragraph: notice how long the Explanation of the quote is.  Also notice how the Explanation uses terms from the quote mixed with the student's words.   Maybe one more Introduction or Point sentence could have made this better: 

     Boyd sees a trend in the MySpace and Facebook community, one that mimics the social divide in every day life. As in any society, there will always be those that blend in and those who do not – the minorities and the majority.  As Boyd writes,

class divisions in the United States have more to do with lifestyle and social stratification than with income. In other words... Class divisions in the United States have more to do with social networks (the real ones, not FB/MS), social capital, cultural capital, and attitudes than income. Not surprisingly, other demographics typically discussed in class terms are also a part of this lifestyle division. Social networks are strongly connected to geography, race, and religion; these are also huge factors in lifestyle divisions and thus "class." (Boyd)

People are not divided so much by physical wealth but more importantly by the social connections they have. In turn, the social connections one forms greatly correlates to how the individual spends his/her time.  The social divide found in high school is apparently very similar to that which is found in adults.  Boyd defines "subaltern" teens as those that do not "play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm" and "hegemonic" teens as those that are able to – namely the “goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes” (Boyd).  This is just another form of the struggle between minorities vs the majority. Just from the activities one partakes in, a lot can be revealed about the individual – from the type of friends s/he is most likely to have, to where s/he is most likely to hang out, and ultimately, which class s/he would most closely belong to. Furthermore, Boyd argues that as people of similar interest and class gather in person, they also convene on the Internet, driven to the same websites that cater to how they identify themselves (so not only can class be determined by who you know, what you know, and where you go but also by what sites you visit on the Internet). MySpace is mostly composed of those belonging to the subaltern population, Boyd has observed, while Facebook targets the hegemonic population.


25th-Mar-2008 11:41 pm - Sample of Student Blog Essay
As promised, a sample student essay.  Notice the use of source citations and also the PIE paragraphs.  Also be sure you note how sources were cited under "Works Cited" at the end.  Please feel to respond to the post, and also to use it as an example.  Some of it might read familiar.  Cheers.

p.s. this was a "C+/B-" essay.

MySpace vs. Facebook: Whats The Difference?


            If you walk into a room and see a group of African American teens huddled in a corner, do you automatically think that they are up to no good? What about a group of Caucasian teens? Most people would succumb to the stereotypes and say yes they are up to no good for African-American teens and no for the Caucasians. But what if those same African-American teens were huddled in a corner of a tutoring center, or a church? And what if the previously mentioned group of Caucasian teens were in an alley way or outside a club?  In most cases the same people that answered yes, would more than likely make the same mistake twice.  Showing that it doesn’t matter where you see the group or what they are doing, assumptions are made regardless. Those same answers can be applied to the debate between Facebook and MySpace; though stereotypes can dictate what is meant when a teen joins a particular social networking site, they cannot however show that teens’ personalities, backgrounds or social classes.  Social networking sites are a major part of the American youth scene.  87% of American teen’s ranging from ages 12 to 17 use the internet, 44% go online every day (Hempel).  Whether that time is spent on Facebook or MySpace is irrelevant to their social class, these sites are used to bring these teens together, not profile them. 

            Much like the aforementioned thought experiment, seeing a group of teens in one place as opposed to another does not change your impression of them. Being that most would agree it is not morally right to make that assumption, a valid generalization based on race or class cannot be made regarding a teens preference between Facebook and MySpace. No matter how many pages you view, or how many people you ask, it is still morally wrong to assume that because a teen chooses to join a certain social networking site, that her or she is automatically in a particular social class. That assumption in itself seems to be a whole new form of stereotyping.  

        Danah Boyd argues in her blog “Viewing American Class Divisions through Facebook and MySpace” her belief that MySpace is primarily for the poor, working-class, and Facebook for the more wealthy upper class. Boyd generalizes that poorer teens are usually less educated, and more attracted to the sparkles and “bling” that can be used in MySpace, as opposed to Facebook which possesses a more “clean or modern” look which attracts upper class teens. This is a generalization that I cannot agree with. 

        Boyd also makes assumptions based on the look of each individual MySpace profile, that emo teens usually opt for the black, grey and white themed layouts while Latino teens usually opt for more aesthetic backgrounds. Boyd states

                 MySpace is still home for Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens, "burnouts," 
                 "alternative kids," "art fags," punks,
emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids, and other 
                 kids who didn't play into the dominant high school popularity
paradigm. These are 
                 kids whose parents didn't go to college, who are expected to get a job when they 
                 finish high
school. These are the teens who plan to go into the military immediately 
                 after schools. Teens who are really into
music or in a band are also on MySpace. 
                 MySpace has most of the kids who are socially ostracized at school
because they 
                 are geeks, freaks, or queers....The look and feel that is acceptable amongst average 
                 Latino users is
quite different from what you see the subculturally-identified outcasts 
                 using. Amongst the emo teens, there's a push
for simple black/white/grey 
                 backgrounds and simplistic layouts (Boyd).


Personal preference is associated with stereotypes in this quote.  A person preferring a colorful lively MySpace profile is associated with a lower class, as is black/white/grey choices of design.  If a page is not black and white, or colorful, then it is plain and non existent.  What color would be acceptable to Boyd to show that you are a “upper class” MySpace user?  Seems they are none.  So that means that the upper class would not be found on MySpace at all according to her.  Why even bother to have an income setting of $100,000 or over, Tom?  The absurdity of this statement is extremely evident.  Much like the “subaltern” teens, “hegemonic” teens enjoy color, or lack there of as well.  In college teens are exposed to people of all socio-economic backgrounds, whether their education is paid for by their parents, they earn a scholarship, or use their life as a collateral on a loan, all economic backgrounds can be found on any college campus.  Extrapolating on the ideas of Boyd, those teens would be separated by whether they enjoy a colorful profile or the “clean or modern look of Facebook.”  No, I think not, teens go where their friends go or to a site that caters to their needs, a need for color or lack of color can be catered to by MySpace, regardless of class.

             A generalization regarding division of classes should not be based on favorite color, or choice of design. MySpace is a virtual place where teens express individuality and have the option to make it whatever they choose. To say that because someone’s page is black they must be emo, or if a certain teen as every color of the rainbow they must be lower class, is absurd.   Again, much like saying that if someone prefers MySpace they are poor as opposed to Facebook, which would mean they are of a wealthy and educated background.

            Many teens use both MySpace and Facebook.  Where does Boyd’s analysis place them?  According to an article in Business Week entitled “The MySpace Generation: They live online.  They buy online.  Their power is growing” dated December 12, 2005 a girl named Amanda Adams was a member of both Buzz-Oven.com (a social networking site for Dallas teens), and MySpace.  Taking it a bit farther I decided to look her name up on Facebook which revealed she also had a profile there as well.  Each site in Adam’s case, served a different purpose. Buzz-oven for concert information and served as her link to the music scene; MySpace to find parties and social events with friends.  Facebook I imagine, would connect her to other students who attend the same University or live in her community. Jesse Hemple and Paula Lehman the authors of this article, describe social networking sites in an equivalency to a place resembling a community center,  stating that social networking sites are places for teens to “go and sit for a while.”  The article also states how social networking sites impact the economy in the form of consumer spending.  This large increase in the size of teen wallets is a result of ads and media on social networking sites, and the internet as a whole. 

            Boyd neglects to show the similarities between Facebook and MySpace.  The same dangers Boyd addressed as being a problem with MySpace, such as the predator panic, are also a problem with Facebook as well.  She paints MySpace red by associating it with sexual predators and a “ghetto” image, and highlights Facebook by constantly reinforcing that it is primarily for college students.  A newswire entitled “Cyberbullying Common, More So At Facebook And MySpace” levels the playing field for the two social networking sites.  Stating that

                        Participation in social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace appears to 
                        increase the likelihood of
being targeted by cyber bullies.  Some 39% of social 
                        network users reported having been harassed online,
compared with 22% of 
                        teens who don’t participate in such sites (Techweb).


The blame for predators in cyberspace goes to both MySpace and Facebook and every other social networking site.  The article depicts that much like MySpace, Facebook is also responsible for the boost of online sexual predators.  Boyd argues that parents are reluctant to allow their children to register for MySpace because of the fear of online predators, if that is the case, then parents should be the same regarding Facebook.  Social networking sites as a whole (which includes Facebook, MySpace, Buzz-Oven, etc) are all contributors to the outbursts of the cyber bullying taking place over the internet.  To zone in and blame one site is under-generalizing the growing danger of online harassment.

        To make various assumptions based on a teens choice of Social Networking Sites is somehow becoming a form of profiling. These sites are made to bring teens and people as a whole together, to make friends, or reconnect with former acquaintances, and to make money by advertising.  To judge people based on which SNS they choose to join is the same as judging them based on race, gender or sexual preference.  In an essay written by student named Kusum Ganesh, she states

                        Every day we dress ourselves in a set of clothes that conveys something about 
                        our identity - what we do for a
living, how we fit into our socio-economic class  
                        hierarchy, what our interest are, etc.  The great thing about
having an account 
                        is that you can be whoever you desire! (Ganesh) 


Being whatever you desire in cyberspace should not dictate how people perceive you to be in real life.  If you are a rich Caucasian professional male, having a black background on your MySpace page should not be a reason for people to think you are uneducated, emo, or poor.  Its cyberspace, not real life.  You are what you want to be, and it is unreasonable to judge someone on their personality in an essentially “fake” cyber world.

            Since both MySpace and Facebook sites serve the same function of reconnecting and keeping a social medium between people from all over the nation and even world, it is senseless for someone to judge based on which site an individual chooses.  I wonder, which site would Boyd expect a rich, African American, homosexual male to have?




Works Cited

Boyd, Danah. “Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace”[Weblog Entry.]          Apophenia Blog 
June 24,2007<http://www.danah.org/papers/essays/ClassDivisions.html>  August 19, 2007.


Hempen, Jessie; Lehman, Paula. “The MySpace Generation; They live online.  They buy online.  They play online.  Their power is growing”  Business Week Vol. 3963 (December 12, 2005) Pg. 86

     <http://www.lexisnexis.com.central.ezproxy.cuny.edu:2048/us/lnacademic/results/docview/docvi            ew.do?risb=21_T2129530396&format=GNBFI&sort=RELEVANCE&startDocNo=1&resultsUrl            Key=29_T2129531601&cisb=22_T2129531600&treeMax=true&treeWidth=0&selRCNodeID=2            4&nodeStateId=411en_US,1,21&docsInCategory=4&csi=7923&docNo=1>


“Cyber bullying Common, More So At Facebook And MySpace” TECHWEB June 27, 2007             <http://www.lexisnexis.com.central.ezproxy.cuny.edu:2048/us/lnacademic/results/docview/docvi            ew.do?risb=21_T2129506019&treeMax=true&sort=RELEVANCE&docNo=1&format=GNBFU            LL&startDocNo=1&treeWidth=0&nodeDisplayName=&cisb=22_T2129506021&reloadPage=fa  lose>


Gnash, Kokum.  “Internet- Blessing or a Curse?!”  Unpublished Essay: Queens College, CUNY; fall 2006. <http://qc.bbprod.cuny.edu/@@3c8ede609c0c17828ae34e9c9e8712c2/courses/1/QCENGL1108W4F A_20 0709/content/2757021/Kusum.doc>


18th-Mar-2008 10:09 am(no subject)

I like this video because it overlays music that doesn't necessarily fit the content.  . . . . 
Dear friends, please make sure to respond to the two posts I made on Feb 26 and Feb 29 on the GROUP page--one asks for your opinions of starting a novel (probably toward the middle of April) and the other asks you specific questions about your major and intentions in college.  I'm trying to build a body of essays across the disciplines, and I want to be able to give you samples of essays written in the major you select, or in majors interest you.

Some REAL orange fireworks.  The gentleman who handled the flaming peel--as far I as know--went to college.

And here's your instructions--see how well the scholar above does things your way:

Ariel, Lamonte, Nerissa

1.  Grab a partner.
2.  Dig through skin of orange (deep enough to break the skin).
3.  Ignite a match and have partner hold it a few inches from the slit (opening) of the orange.
4.  Take index or thumb nail and peel back the skin of the orange by the slit.
5.  Prepare for surprise.

Reena, Sara, Maria T., Sameed

*Put on safety goggles and gloves*
1.  Get an orange, knife, and a source of fire (match, candle, stove, etc.).
2.  Start the fire.
3.  Have the orange in one hand and the knife in the other.
4.  Hold the two objects near the fire (not too close).
5.  Carefully make an incision, making sure not to go too deep, allowing the mist to fall over the flame. 
6.  Repeat steps 1-5 if desired.

Bernadine, Maria P., Fotis

Hold an orange in one hand and hold a knife firmly in the other and start by peeling it gently with the knife with the lit candle and watch as the moisture and midst coming out hit the flame to create little fireworks.  To increase the fun after the peel is off you can take it and squeeze the remaining "gaseous spray" on top of the flame to produce more fireworks.

Terrell, Edith, Marcelo

1.  Grab the orange and firmly press the orange against the table (preferably with your weak hand) where it's safe to cut through the orange without cutting through your hand.
2.  With the roots of the orange facing upwards, simply use that as a guide to slowly rip through the middle of the orange's peel with a knife.
3.  There will be acidic juices soaring through the air which can be flamable to the light of the match.
4.  After having two slices side by side, grab one slice with one hand (preferably your strong hand) squeeze all the juice you can out of that slice into a bowl.
5.  Follow step 4 again with the other slice.
6.  Grab a match and ignite the squeezed juice inside the bowl.

22nd-Feb-2008 01:02 pm - O One Steven Alvarez Wonders . . .
. . . if his kind students would forgive him for putting bad links in the syllabus for MySpace "homework" pages.  Then Steven Alvarez wonders if his students will check the syllabus on Blackboard because it is there where they shall find the NEW links, of course making sure they copy and paste the entire link into another browser window . . . he wonders all of this.  

Then he walked out in the snow to go get some tacos. 
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