Living in a bubble

Diversity is a big deal at the college where I work, and my boss often emails us links to articles about diversity. Friday morning, it was a link to a quiz, “Do You Live in a Bubble?”

My score was a 52. That puts me somewhere between “a first-generation middle-class person with working-class parents and average television and movie going habits” (typical score 66) and “a first-generation upper-middle-class person with middle-class parents” (typical score 33). My parents were middle-class, and we are middle-class.

One of my co-workers emailed the rest of us with her score, a 57. She seemed to think that meant she had led a relatively sheltered life. My response was that having a score in the middle seemed pretty good to me. Someone with either a really high score or a really low score would likely be out of touch with people at the other end of the spectrum.

A few other co-workers emailed with their scores, ranging from 55 to 77. We all work in Student Services; I am curious what kind of scores staff from other departments, or the faculty, would get. Since it is a community college, where many students are the first of their families to go to college, I’m guessing their scores would likely be fairly high.

I spent my drive home Friday thinking about the quiz, and whether it tells anything significant. Does the fact that I have walked in parades with my son’s Cub Scout pack really mean all that much? It’s strange to think there are towns that don’t have parades where the children walk or march or ride bikes or floats while their parents and neighbors wave and take pictures.

I haven’t bought any cases of domestic beer to stock my fridge. But that has nothing to do with a preference for imported vs domestic beer – I think they all taste nasty.

I have gone fishing, but only because my son wanted to. Does that count?

I was surprised by the question about having a friend who is an evangelical Christian, or even being an evangelical Christian, especially since another question asked about hanging out with people smoking cigarettes. In my experience (I understand that there are regional differences in this regard), evangelical Christians do not smoke, or if they do, only in private. It feels a bit odd to score higher, in terms of contact with “mainstream America,” because I am an evangelical Christian, but lower because I haven’t hung out with smokers lately.

Some of us have been exposed to a wider variety of life experiences than others, but to some extent we all live in some kind of bubble. I could think of all sorts of things I have never done:

  • attended a college or professional football game, or a tailgate party
  • ridden a motorcycle
  • seen The Godfather or Jurassic Park
  • watched an episode of Survivor
  • gotten a tattoo
  • smoked
  • visited Disney World or Disneyland

As a follow-up to the quiz, Charles Murray responds to some of the many comments, questions, and criticisms it generated. He does agree that we all live in some kind of bubble. The problem, as he sees it, is the extent to which we affect the lives of others whom we don’t understand.

As I put it in the book, it isn’t a problem if a truck driver doesn’t understand the priorities of a Yale law professor, or news anchor, or cabinet secretary. It’s a problem if the ignorance is the other way around, because the elites are busily affecting the lives of everyone else. When they haven’t the slightest idea what the rhythms and feel of life are like in mainstream America, they tend to make mistakes.

Well, I don’t think I affect the lives of many people that I don’t have contact with. Unless perhaps it’s through this blog (and that still would be far from “many people”), and then it’s only by giving them something to think about – which I think is always a good thing.

Of course, if you really want to put the whole “bubble” thing in perspective, there’s a huge gap between most if not all of us reading this blog, and living in a third world country.

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3 Responses to Living in a bubble

  1. Margaret says:

    I got a 28, and I grew up in the same family you did. Of course we have different families now, but my family is no better off financially than yours, we’re just less engaged with popular culture, I guess. I wonder if really poor people would also get a low score, since they can’t afford to visit IHOP or go to the movies. But of course the purpose of the quiz was for affluent people to see how well they relate to considerably less affluent people, whom they often have influence over without understanding them. Anyway, it was interesting to take the quiz and to think about it.

    • Pauline says:

      I wondered how my score would compare with yours. I’m sure Jon’s preference in movies and TV shows contributes to my score, as I would not have watched those shows otherwise. And he is the one who pushed for getting a pickup truck, so we wouldn’t have to borrow someone else’s each time we needed one. Plus his being a small-church pastor has had us living in some pretty small communities.
      Some of my part-time jobs required wearing a uniform – I don’t think you ever delivered pizza or worked at K-Mart. Because my IT jobs were in manufacturing companies, I was out on the factory floor pretty often.
      We went to Applebee’s once last fall, though that was only because some co-workers had given me gift certificates as a good-bye gift when I left my job. (Other than that, we normally go to family-owned restaurants the rare times we eat out.)

  2. Peter L says:

    Some questions would mislead without explanation, such as the question on mass-market beers. It’s not that I am a snob and only buy expensive imported beers, I just don’t buy any beer period. And the restaurant list- I rarely go out to eat, and when I go to a sit-down restaurant, it is usually a locally owned ethnic restaurant.

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