The News Herald, Jonelle Bobak

Cultural Capital with a side of Social Mobility Anyone?

One of my first research papers was entitled: “From Drake to Beethoven: Using the Arts to Reach At-Risk Youth”. The title is simple and straight to the point, creating a bridge to connect various genres of music for a certain group of youth. But why? Why should there be a bridge? Why not stick with Drake and allow the non-Millennials to enjoy their Beethoven and tea?

Well, I have the answer in the form of two words: Cultural Capital. Now what in the educated world is Cultural Capital? This is a Sociological thought that simply means assets, education and skills that the elite think are important. Let me break it down further, in our American society what holds more weight with the elite rich, a game of golf or volleyball? Rap or Classical? Suit and tie or baggy pants and Timber lands? I believe you already know the answer to one of these questions, if not all.

Children born into wealth are surrounded by opportunity and education to further their future career explorations and successes. Children born into wealth can afford horseback riding, private music lessons, SAT tutors after-school. So their chances of entering into college, a good college at that and exiting college with a solid career, is pretty high. It is the same for impoverished youth, except the complete and total opposite…

Credit Malaysia Violin Teacher

Impoverished youth are surrounded by schools who have major budget cuts and can’t afford anything above basic xerox copied 10+ year old textbooks and neighborhoods ridden with desolation. Parents who work day and night to afford rent, utilities and food with possibly a few clothing or shoe items to make the despair not as bad. Bottom line, these youth cannot afford horseback lessons, tutors, music lessons, summer camps. So what of their future college dreams and career prospects? Yeah, well hopefully you get the picture.

TW2 Inc. giving guitars to several students at Hallyburton Alternative Academy.

Exposing impoverished youth to the Arts is a start, a huge start to begin adding a skill-set that is esteemed highly by our society’s elite. These youth deserve to be exposed to violin lessons, guitar lessons, cello, classical vocal training. They deserve to have a hobby they can feel proud to list on their college admissions, or attending a symphony concert they never could have afforded before. When youth have these experiences they begin to see the possibility outside of their neighborhoods, the possibility of social mobility. It has been researched and proven that most often times, impoverished persons are hesitant to become involved with prestigious events and activities because they are scared. So in addition to Drake, Lil’ Yachty, Kodak, let’s add some Beethoven and Viotti to the list of musical consumption.

So, my next few posts will discuss this topic further, even telling anecdotal stories of my experiences teaching these Cultural Capital skills through my federal non-profit TW2 Inc. I believe it is crucial to educate and enlighten the people who are seeking an understanding of impoverished millennials, and their pursuit of having dreams in spite of their economic hardships. Maybe then we can collectively bridge the gap between poverty and social mobility for these youth if we understand where to start. Oh and for the people who love research founded on stats, I’ll leave you with a few below.

“Research shows that 16 million youth in the United States or 22% of all children live in income below the federal poverty level, with a lesser chance of graduating from high school or college than middle to upper class students (National Center for Children in Poverty, 2016).”
“Most states experienced major budget cutbacks in the last few years, and have found that cutting programs in arts education is one way to save money (The Center for Arts Education, 2011).”
“One recent study on cutbacks in New York and the impact it has had in public schools reported that arts funding was cut by 36% since 2006–7 (The Center for Arts Education, 2011). Paying for arts supplies, musical instruments, and equipment also dropped by almost 80% since 2006–7 and paying for the arts teachers declined as well (The Center for Arts Education, 2011).”
“According to Bourdieu (1986), cultural capital acts as a social relation or non-monetary asset that can be used as exchange in social situations that may enhance one’s social status. For example, being able to participate in a discussion about golf can lead to an invitation to play a round of the game, which then becomes a form of exchange in a social situation.”

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