The Class of 2013

On the BBC website you can currently take a test to determine your social class. All you do is click here and answer a few questions.

And yes, I admit, I did have a go but I see no reason why you should know what the Beeb thinks of my social status. I will however admit that I think they are wrong. In the city in which I grew up I was in the first ever intake to what was called a Sixth Form College. You left school at 16 and spent the next two years studying for your A’ levels and, all being well, going on to university. It had a more liberal approach to life – no uniform, less discipline around attendance, co-ed as well! It was the bridge between school and university, helping the teenagers on the way to adulthood.

One of the new subjects was something called Liberal Studies. I have no idea what the syllabus was. I simply recall the group being asked one day “how many of you consider yourself as middle class?”. Only one person put his hand up. A tall, well-dressed young man, whose father was a bank manager. And that was enough. You only need to watch the old comedy show Dad’s Army to see that the pillar of the local community was the bank manager and perhaps his deputy. Which of the two had better breeding was clear – the deputy – but in the eyes of the manager he alone was the backbone of the town. Others poked gentle fun at him, some showed him exaggerated respect and others were downright rebellious.

Little did I imagine then that 12 years later I would be able to call myself a manager and, as I worked in a bank, I guess I was a bank manager, even if not in the traditional sense. My parents were well educated by the state and had thoroughly decent jobs. My father did an engineering apprenticeship and ended up teaching engineering. My mother worked for an accounting firm and did all the VAT and wages. Neither earned much and I remember the agony my father went through in 1968 trying to calculate whether we could afford to buy a new home as it cost the grand sum of £5,750. More than he had planned to pay and it put up the mortgage payments by an extra £11 per month. Yes, you read that correctly. Eleven pounds. I think I can safely say we were working class.

My father died relatively young. My mother lived another 14 years but I don’t think I ever saw her smile after he died. A broken heart slowly disintegrating until the last glimmer of  resistance left her and she joined him.  It was like watching a glaze crack spreading until ultimately the pieces were held together by nothing and the shards fell with her last breath. I stayed with her most of the last 18 days.

After that I changed jobs and started to climb the corporate ladder reasonably quickly. My starting salary in the 1970s was £4,063 per annum. By the time I finished it had grown somewhat. My job gave me access to an extremely broad spectrum of people over the years from clients to colleagues, from advisors to politicians, from the mega-rich to the poor.

My personal interests were wide. I worked hard and played hard. Sometimes to excess in both arenas. And so it seems that according to the Beeb’s survey I have moved on from being working class to……….. well, it does not matter what the Beeb thinks.

I am not sure I believe strongly in social mobility. You are what you are. Increased wealth gives you new opportunities but it certainly does not make you a better person. Widening the circle of your friends is not always a good idea. Just ask Jeremy Thorpe. Increased privilege is not to be taken lightly. It brings with it, again in my view, its own obligation to give back. The whole concept of an Elite Class seems anachronistic to me. I think my social outlook has changed significantly living in Hong Kong. The issue here is not class but a simple wealth chasm. To tag it as a gap seems to trivialise it. The increasing volume of assurances from the government that “something will be done” seems to me to be inversely proportional to the actual amount of change wrought. I don’t suppose the rich give a fig whether they are regarded as elite or not. They want power and influence. They have personal wealth. The poor want food, healthcare and a job. They know they are not the elite. Whatever lies in between is irrelevant when you are hungry.

But go on, have a go and see where you fall. Just don’t take it too seriously. Me, I think I am still working class, just retired working class.

17 thoughts on “The Class of 2013

  1. Yes the test is a little skewed; I’m sure there are other factors that could better decide what class you belong to other than whether you have savings and whether you like opera.
    I do like this whole social mobility thing though. I like the idea that you can be judged on people you choose to associate with and interests you chose to have, rather than on what school you went to and what job you do. Worse for women because we get judged not on our own job even but on the job of the ‘head of household’.

  2. I was going to say was that yes please, or yes thank you. But clearly yes indecently. In which case I don’t need to do my poll after all, and I was just starting it 😦

      • I hate WP. I have now written this poll three times and it won’t post all my extremely sensible questions. Clearly WP is indecent. You may be asleep by the time – if – it ever gets posted.

  3. Being a Lazyseas, I’ll copy a comment I left on another blog about the test. See, we are all interested in it, however much we deride it.

    But one question can make all the difference. I did my previous UK life, my Gib life based on my income (zilch) and based on my partner’s income three year or four year’s ago. Three very different answers.

    That was funny.

    I did it twice. Once for my previous life in the UK, and now for my current life in Gib/Spain. [ETA I did it a third time to see if a change in one answer would alter the results]

    Quite honestly I thought the questions were banal and simplistic.

    Oh, and my results? Elite in the UK, and trad working class here in Gib/Spain. I am neither. In my obviously totally incorrect opinion.

    As rkgalvez says, it’s stereotyping in the extreme. Why on earth does going to the opera (for example) make you ‘elite’? because I’m sure ticking that box for my UK life would have bumped me up a few categories.

    There was nothing about education in there, but the elite category did fit me. Private education, although not an elite university. The age range was near too. But change one answer on the test and I shot from old working class (ie age 66 which I am not) and I went to established middle class, leap-frogging a few groups to do so. One answer shouldn’t make that much difference.

    Why should who I mix with make me one class or another? I don’t mix with my neighbours because they are teachers or cleaners. I mix with them because they are my neighbours and nice people. Half those questions were still based on money, eg opera, the type of people you mix with (often down to where you live or where you work), obviously income, savings and property value. And it still included boring old prejudice against, for example, cleaners, electricians, lorry drivers, demoting them to the ranks of ancient trad working class.

    If that’s all sociologists and the BBC have to do with their time, I suggest they find a new job.

    • Well I guess it was more fun than I thought. As I only have one life at a time I did the test for what I am today. I ticked yes for go to the opera. Chinese Uproar – every bit as good as Madame Butterfly. I think Roughly you should devise a test of whether we are decent people or not. I am sure I would fail, being neither a veggie Burgher nor a feminist. But I’ll have a go. And don’t forget, its all to be done in the best possible taste.

      • I thought it would be interesting to compare my different lives though. Elite roughseas slumps down to trad work class. Or jumps up to est mid class using partner’s income. Which is why it was crass.

        But hell, everyone is writing about. OK, I’ve read about it on three blogs that I follow so I sure as hell won’t be writing about it.

        Decency. Mmm, sounds more interesting than finishing the cleaning, cooking the (veg) cauliflower curry, or finishing mopping the bedroom floor. Or even the post I was writing that must have been so scintillating I can’t even remember what it was.

        Your wish is my command. I will get right on with it. Except it will be a poll, as I don’t know how to do quizzes. On the lines of, if you answer yes to any of these, you are indecent.

  4. Yes, Andrew, your last sentence is the entire matter in a nutshell. Your are quick on your feet -your way of thinking how to respond is so spot on. I have worried all day about my comment and felt that I had gone off the rail way too much.

    Over on “Arty OLd BIrd”, Val did a post about weirdness and I had commented. She then replied that she did not understand the American class thing or something to that effect. She and I are emailing friends, so now I need to write her to explain the US class system. I think that we are achieving a greater divide slowly but surely. I feel as if I live in Mexico or some such place that has such an unequal distribution of money and success.

  5. Yvonne, thanks for your thoughtful response. I agree that it is the way that we live that categorises us rather than any box we may be put in by others. Sadly many people do tend to judge by appearances even though we know that is wrong. I started the post with the intention of simply posting the link and no thought of expecting people to take it seriously. However as I wrote I reflected on my own background and the nonsense that the test churns out. I don’t think Hong Kong has what it would call a class system despite its colonial oversight from and by Britain for 150 years. Yet it discriminates in other ways that are just as iniquitous. I suspect you have contributed more than most to the well-being of society, in which I include our animal friends. Affluence is not wrong. it is the unequal distribution of wealth and abuse of affluence that is the problem.

  6. I awoke early and decided to stay up. Actually my son’s Border collie barked to be let out for her morning bathroom foray in the fenced back yard. I am always happy when I see that you have posted and I look forward to whatever you have done or not. In this case, today, this is a topic of great interest to me. Social status is one of the most interesting topics to discuss and to see what an impact it has on the poor and the wealthy. I could write a lot of what I think and of what I have observed. l’ll touch on it a bit here. This is well written and so interesting.

    Snobbery has no place for me and I hate how many individuals view themselves. I grew up poor but I was never without. My parents bought and paid for a small farm and were able to send my sister to a small college but she worked for her board. I went to nursing school and have about 1 1/2 years of college credits gained through the nursing program re: we took some classes at the local university. I never wanted to go back to college to get a “degree in nursing. I simply hated school if the studies involved anything that was not in the realm of my interest.

    Given that, I helped one nurse with her papers as she worked toward her master’s degree. I never understood why she singled me out. I critiqued her papers and helped her redo paragraphs, sentences, flow of thought, grammar, wording, etc. I think I wrote better at that time than I write now. She always made an “A” on her papers.

    Anyhow I view myself as lower middle class because I don’t have a degree (I was a registered nurse when I was working but if one does not keep up registration after retirement then one is no longer a registered nurse). I live simply and have put a great deal of money into the animals that I rescued. I could be living in a finer home and drive a new SUV had I saved more money, etc But those things do not mean a wit to me. I am surrounded by affluence and it is disgusting. Everybody is out to please themselves with the best and be damned with the poor or our local animal shelter. (I’ll write about that someday) But I digress here.

    I’ll take your test and I’ll be at the bottom, rung. Does it matter? No. Actually I may be a snob as far the the wealthy are concerned for I do feel that I am a better person than the rich, 🙂 At least in many ways. That is an awful way to think but I agree along the lines of Steve. Little acts or large acts of kindness and compassion toward humans and animals means more to me than any status or wealth. Many factors add up to what sort of person one is in life. One can be poor, middle, class, are wealthy. Living as a kind and gentle person is what counts in my book.

  7. You are in the elite I would guess. I came the level below you primarily because I earn less than 25k a year. I think the whole thing is a load of bull

  8. Well, I took the test. Damned right it is wrong! Life has too many opportunities to be able to base one’s “class” on the questions asked. Too many variables. Without a doubt I am working class. We are not of great means but still have a taste for culture. We don’t live an extravagant lifestyle although we probably could treat ourselves a bit more than we do.

    I believe we think alike and I admire your ability to express these thoughts. One of the best ways to be human is to care about others and do what you are able to spread a little more good in the world. It may be through funds or actions. What matters is that we help others to see their lives expand in a positive way. For some it is more or better food, others need more art in their lives or a vision of possibilities, encouragement and direction.

    Unfortunately, more and more the population in developed countries see validation as wealth and this “test” feeds that sense of need for a climb up the ladder rather than satisfaction with ourselves and the fulfillment that helping others brings. Giving a label offers nothing. Class is meaningless to a healthy mind.

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