Pierre Bourdieu makes the statement that “…art and cultural consumption are predisposed, consciously and deliberately or not, to fulfil a social function of legitimating social differences.” According to Bourdieu education and taste serves as an indication of your class in the social realm. He states that the point of his work is to “show that culture and education aren’t simply hobbies or minor influences.” Your “educated” decisions serve as proof of your social class, schooling and taste.
Saturday, at “Onassis Festival NY 2016: Antigone Now” I attended a Q&A by Jacob Lief, founder of the Ubuntu Education Fund in South Africa and Ian Rowe, CEO of Public Prep Network. It was a discussion about funded schooling for less fortunate children in New York State and funded schooling for children from Townships in Port Elisabeth South Africa.
Both parties talked about the backgrounds of the children they were helping. They talked about funds needed to help the children, to take them further and ensure a future for them. From the start, the difference between being underprivileged in a 1st world country versus in a 3rd world country was apparent.
Rowe was very quick to tell the audience about the “higher form” of education they are giving in addition to the basics to the students in New York. Many of the “highly educated” people in the crowd were nodding in agreement. Their nodding heads were saying, “yes, well done, what would American culture be without Shakespeare, without the canon, without the stories of the Greek gods, opera and ballet…”
In contrast, Lief talked about the appalling backgrounds the children they helped came from. He talked about the support and funding needed for the average middle class child to grow up happy and healthy and get a job in a supporting household with enough money. Considering that, what chance would a little girl who has been raped, who is growing up in an informal settlement without schooling or finances have? He talked about the impact an image of a baby in a pregnant mother’s first trimester could have. She starts caring about her child about 5 months earlier than she would have – even though she knows she’ll probably never have enough to give the child what he/she truly needs.
I guess when looking at this Shakespeare, Opera or Classical music would not serve to be as relevant when you are trying to survive under the $2 breadline.