Apr 18 2010

Purchasing Power

Published by at 2:40 pm under Reflection Blog

… Black Kids and American Consumer Culture.

In this book, Elizabeth Chin examines the ways that black youth contribute to consumer culture in ways that differ from ways that white kids do.  She looked at the ways that the media portrays black youth as kids eager to kill over new Jordans and contrasts this with case studies of 3rd and 4th graders that she conducted.

One of her major findings was that black youth are more conscious of how much they cost and what a burden they are to the family.  She states that when given birthday or Christmas money most of it is expected to pay for necessities like clothes or school supplies.  She ends up illustrating this by taking each of the kids that she studied (and sometimes more) out shopping and gave each $20 that they could spend however they wanted.

This was my favorite part of the book because the kids really came to life and I felt like I could see them agonizing whether to buy the X-Man or the Walkie Talkies.  This specific case study was about a boy (pseudo)named Davy who loved to play with X-Men with the neighborhood kids.  He was the only one who didn’t have his own action figure and always had to borrow an extra.  He didn’t really mind so much, but he knew that if he had his own X-Man he would be a little more independent and he would own it.  However, he eventually chose to buy walkie talkies with batteries to share with his brother.  This was essential to note because instead of buying something that he would only use by himself, he chose to purchase something that his brother would also enjoy.

In class we also talked about what it means for the digital age in conjunction with the poor/rich gap in young kids.  We talked about something that  I had hardly even considered but makes so much sense: computers.

My family was fortunate enough to have a computer when I was growing up.  Mostly I played a lot of Rodent’s Revenge and played with Paint (you have no idea how much time I put into Paint), but I also had the opportunity to learn. I learned how to hack out a theme in HTML in 7th grade which actually helped me in my Computer Science class this year.  It hadn’t even occurred to me that the fact that my family had a computer when I was a kid aided my learning now.  It really is unfair.  I also had no problem with typing class when I was a kid because I spent time playing with Microsoft Office and getting the basics of that down.  I have a completely unfair advantage in digital literacy than kids who grew up with scare food in the house, let alone a computer.

We talked about how in order to try and combat this problem kids are taking typing classes in school to try to get everyone up to speed, but apparently they are dropping learning cursive.  I don’t really understand how you can drop cursive because when I was in 3rd grade we learned how to type on these weird mini-computers but we also learned cursive.  Why not just learn both?  We also had a keyboard class in middle school that was an elective.  That seemed to work out fine for my school. Granted, I had a pretty white school district and we had a lot of money and not all schools can pay for that many computers.  But, I just don’t see why you can’t learn cursive and typing at the same time.

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