The Effects of Social Class on High School Students

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The most critical stage of growth when it comes to the human mind is the midway transition from child to adulthood. During this transition, many teens experience unstable emotions, social insecurity, and various other things depending on the structure of society that they grew up in. The environment that they are placed into learn and grow plays a significant role in their development. Social class is also responsible for many feelings that are manifested and created during this process. Prep written by Curtis Sittenfeld, is an example of the involvement of social class in a high school setting. This story examines the effect of social class on teenagers in high school along with the psychological issues that are manifested.

In Prep, Lee Fiora, a fourteen-year-old first-year student, struggles with psychological issues such as being self-conscious at her new school Ault. Ault is a private school near Massachusetts. Students that attend Ault come from wealthy families, but some attend via scholarship. Lee demonstrates possession of being self-conscious which causes her to feel as if she does not fit in. At Ault, social class has a significant effect on how students are critiqued by one another. This puts Lee at a disadvantage when it comes to interacting with others since her mind is clouded by her own judgement that she grew up with. As the story progresses on, soon enough Lee begins to discover the feelings of insecurity, desire for acceptance, and even jealousy due to the surrounding circumstances around her. With all these challenges and series of unfortunate events that Lee is forced to face and overcome, it becomes a milestone for her establishing growth, allowing her to mature and becoming a better version of herself. It even helps reveal the unspoken side effects of social class in society.

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The Absolutely True Diary of the Part Time Indian Kid, by Sherman Alexie, tells the story of Junior (Arnold Spirit), an Indian kid born with cerebrospinal, struggling to find himself. On a daily basis he finds himself dealing with bullying, racism, and poverty. Arnold wanted something different from the reservation that he grew up in which was in WellPoint, Washington. When he got in trouble for hitting a teacher with a book in the head due to the frustration of having to use the same books for the past 30 years because of the poverty around them, he took the opportunity and utilized it. It was not difficult since many people, especially the people from WellPoint were very against him leaving the land. When Arnold went to Reardon, it was quite different from where he grew up; it was like he was dealing with an entirely different group of social class in which he had to learn to adapt. Not everything at Reardon is all dandy, Arnold finds himself almost having to deal with the same bullying and racist slurs that he dealt with at the reservation, until he learned to stand up for himself and earn the respect of the school bullying. This helped boost Arnold’s confidence and made him feel like everything was turning around for the better.

Arnold eventually got the hang of things, but for some reason he still felt like a social outcast no matter where he went. Once he left Reardon, he went from being a nobody to becoming once again Junior the Indian kid. With all these conflicts due to the displacement of social class and status, Arnold begins to feel as though he is having an identity crisis. With the help of Penelope, (a girl who he met at Reardon) and Rowdy an old friend from the reservation, Arnold begins to finally come to an understanding of what exactly he wanted for himself. With this newfound ambition and determination, Arnold made it his goal to break the curse passed down by his tribe and do things that others from his tribe have never done before.

When it comes to education, social class is a crucial factor. Public high schools overall are quite expensive. However, private schools require heftier expenses such as tuition, room, and board. Being that the expenses are typically expensive, private school student bodies are mostly made up of students who come from wealthy families and backgrounds. Social class also offers better and more opportunities to students who are of higher social class. According to Hobbs, “a former county of England compares the effectiveness of the schools attended by children from different social classes” (Hobbs 1). It finds that ‘higher’ social class children attend more effective schools. Social class plays a significant role in Prep. It plays a role since the highest authority that a student may have belongs to the “Prefects.” The Prefects are the wealthier students that attend Ault. Although all the students who attend Ault should have equal opportunities, social class affects their interactions with one another. For instance, Since Lee is only able to attend Ault because she received a scholarship, she is slightly looked down upon which makes her feel out of place and further adds to her consciousness.

The psychological effect on teenagers in high school such as being self-conscious, and insecurity issues is common. It is imperative and almost impossible for teenagers to not experience some form of emotional insecurity due to the fact that they are vulnerable. In Prep, Lee already experienced being insecure and self-conscious, but the more she progressed during her first year of high school, the more self-conscious and insecure she became. Being that she noticed that students who attended Ault on scholarship, were mostly looked down upon and sometimes were not held to the same standards, Lee became extremely self-conscious. In chapter one of Prep, Lee was supposed to give a speech in front of her peers, but since a student who went before her spoke on her topic, Lee began to panic and eventually walked out of class. She walked out of class due to her inner thoughts thinking her classmates were judging her. Being envious is also a psychological issue that may occur. Envy could be a result of the effects of social class on high school students. Envy could also possibly be a result of constantly being surrounded by others who are not of the same social status as lower-class students.

Lee and Arnold both share similar experiences as they are placed into new environments with students on a higher social scale. According to Whitty, “studies have shown that the government has been overlooking sociological work on social class and how it impacts them in educational environments” (Whitty 1). Feeling inferior to the other students, they both end up seeking for anybody that they can relate to and when they find none, they both decide to take different routes. Lee began to long for social acceptance, meaning that she began to switch up her earlier behaviors of being not silent to a person with a voice, drawing attention to herself, making her noticed in good and bad ways. Arnold began to speak up for himself seeing as though that was born with certain disabilities, he looked passed them and began to earn respect, making him feel more at home. While Lee and Arnold were going through these changes, they began to show the audience things like, bullying, stereotypes, and expectations that they were expected to be able to keep up with as they went through journeyed through high school. Not only that they also revealed the difficulties that they faced, showing us a more vulnerable side to them as they had multiple breakdowns.

All the layers of the hidden rules that many teens are expected to endure and take in as lessons throughout high school, despite the many obstacles and circumstances that may hinder their growth. The effect of social class is something that all high school students must endure. For some more than others, the effect of social class creates inequalities within the education system. Psychological issues are manifested due to the effect of social class on teenagers in high school.

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The Effects of Social Class on High School Students. (2022, Jun 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 23, 2024, from
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