Social Class in Relation to the Study of Composition

1. Social Class DefinedEdit

Social or socio-economic class, more commonly referred to simply as "class", is a concept created by and upheld within the social sciences (sociology, anthropology, psychology, etc) that essentially divides the population into categories based on financial resources, social status, eduacation, etc.  This hierarchy of social stratifiaction is the basis and ultimate foundation of how a society is run, and how it's people are "ranked". See

2.   Social Class as it pertains to Composition StudiesEdit

       In the field of composition, there are several factors that play a role in the way that a student, regardless of age, approaches the task of writing.  Composition is based not only on the knowledge of subject matter and the ability to research;  but also, most importantly, it is based on opinion and voice.  A writer's voice, whether it be a student writer, or a seasoned professional, is a reflection of the personal thoughts, feelings, and drive that essentially shape and control the style of writing being produced.  A writer's voice is also the direct result of how they percieve reality, and a person's reality is dependent on their lifestyle, the method and setting in which they were socialized, and their social class. The core of social class is the level of financial resources made avaiblable to an individual; and finances are conducive to the quality and amount of education that can be acquired.  Students from working-class, upper-lower class, or poverty-level families, especially in urban settings with little to no funds for schooling, are likely to achieve education of poor quality, if at all. On the oppostite end of the spectrum, students of  upper-middle, or upper-class families in  suburban areas (and urban alike), will likely have no financial strain or restrictions whatsoever, especially in the realm of funding their education, and therefore, the education  made available to them will be of high quality, and administered by highly trained educators. (Sacks)

Composition scholars across the board have researched and written about the significance of inter-class relations, and how both social affairs and academic life are to be inevitably affected by the social class with which a person identifies.  English scholar, assistant professor and writing director at the University of Southern Mississipi, Julie Lindquist writes "I was not, of course, surprised to see my data confirm what I'd already suspected: that this small blue-collar society at the bar differed significantly from the cultures of middle-class academics in orientations to word, work, and world.", in her journal Class Ethos and The Politics of Inquiry: What the Barroom Can Teach Us About the Classroom.  This blurb, just one of many quotes from Lindquist and fellow rhetoric scholars alike, depict the the class-gap that exists within every society, in every small town and city across this country, and how education is just one (of several) aspects of life that is shaped by social class. The difference in the educational experiences (and subsequently, capabilities), of each type of student means significant variations in writing styles.  Students in basic composition courses, especially undergraduate-level and under, tend to write with a strong influence of personal identity, and with direct ties to life experience; and research in the field tells us that socio-economic class is a fundamental contributor to the most developmentally and socially significant years of a person's life.(Sacks) Therefore, social/socio-economic class has everything to do with the composition styles and prose produced by any given student.  Class plays a large role within the classroom, and the same principles applied within the school system often resurface later in the life, in the form of theses, business proposals, any form of formal career-related composition, and rhetoric within daily life. The effects of social class are without a doubt strongest during youth, but the ways in which they shape a person's mind are permanent, and ever-apparent in a student's compostion.

3.   Other Class-Related Factors wIthin Composition StudiesEdit

       As large of a component as social class is in relation to student composition, every situation is not the same.  Academic performance per each student is invariably dependent on individual skill level and learning capacity, as well as the ability to reach both structural and stylistic goals within the classroom at one's own speed.

Moreover, in such a culturally-evolving nation as the United States, there are many students who are entering the school systems as ESL (English as Second Language) students, who simply have drastically different learning processes, especially in English and Language Arts courses, than students who enter the school system as native speakers of English. According to the US department of Education, there were approximately 5,400,000 ESL students in the USA alone in 2006, with the number increasing rapidly each year. (EnglishLab)  Although ESL students are not the "norm" at this point in time, they are growing with increasing speed to be a large percentage of American students, and the accomodations being made for non-English speaking students are a legititmate and nationwide force.  ESL students may recieve the same education as the rest of the student population, but without a fluent command of the English language, the study of composition is an entirely different process, and therefore warrants entirely different results among these students.  A student's social/socio-economic class is often closely related to issues of culture, lifestyle, and language, and it is important to take these matters into consideration within each classroom, with each student. Scholars recognize and often mention the importance of learning goals, and how the implementation of goals is directly correlated to the success ahcieved by students, especially in urban environments, and among cultural "minorities". (Zwaans & Volman)  Also, similar to setting specific educational goals, the concept of using different methods of instruction and class structure for different class-based groups of students, is a significant movement in the field of public education.  Altering lesson plans and teaching "formats" for each individual student is not realistic, and nearly impossible; however customizing the style of teaching to different sects of students, is not only possible, but successful. (Castner)


Sacks, Peter (2007), Tearing down the gates: confronting the class divide in american education. University of California Press. pp 112-114.

McDonough, Patricia M. (1997) Choosing colleges: how social class and schools structure opportunity. SUNY Press. pp 1-2.

Zwaans, Annemiek., Volman, Monique.  Social Competence as an Educational Goal: The Role of the Ethnic Composition and the Urban Environment of the School.  Teaching and Teacher Education, 2008. Vol. 24 Issue 8, p2118-2131

Castner, Joanna A.  The Clash of Social Categories: What Egalitarianism In Networked Writing Classrooms.  Computers and Composition; 1997.  Vol 14 Issue 2, p257-268

Lindquist, Julie.  Class Ethos and the Politics of Inquiry: What the Barroom Can Teach Us About the Classroom.  College Composition and Communication, 1999. Vol. 51 No. 2