School, School… and a Midterm

9 03 2011

As a student from a rural background in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences I am not much in the minority. Then, I venture into the rest of the university:

My educational psychology class, “Cultural Diversity.” In these classes I hear things like, “Wait, you are from a farm? For real? What do you even do?” or “Oh, you are an Ag Comm major… I have never even heard of that!”

This has been a hectic, hectic school week. I had a major crop science 261 exam, a paper due that I plan on staying up well past midnight to write, and today I had a midterm in my cultural diversity class. Also, my midterm went fabulously in case you were wondering!

Now, the class teaches us that each person has a unique “worldview” made up of our unique perspectives from the various cultural identities we have. Let me break that down. 

The official worldview defintion is: our psychological and social orientations that influence how we think, behave, make decisions, organize information, and define events. Cultural identities include (but are not limited to!): ethnicity, race, disabilities, gender, age, social class, religion, sexual orientation, appearance, national origin, language, political party, and geographic area where raised (rural, urban, suburban).

I never really considered how much that last one impacts my worldview. I look at the world with the heart of a farmer’s daughter. I consider farming to be one of the best occupations there is. I know the pride of watching a field mature and knowing it is the product of my Dad’s hard work. I know the satisfaction of knowing that in some way or another it will eventually feed the world, even if that is just through juicy steaks!

But how does this part of my identity influence how I make decisions and define events?

I based my major, agricultural communications, off this singular identity. I choose what I read and what I write based on this identity. Sometimes it affects how I dress. My vocabulary is completely different because of this identity (think of words like yield, acre, tractor, lactating). I even vote based on this singular identity. For me, my rural identity has what the class calls centrality-something at the center of the identity that plays a role in all situations many of my other identities lack.

Today on the midterm exam there was an extra credit question (yay!).

It said name one way in which you have privilege and how it relates to the power and oppression. I thought well, does my rural identity have privilege or oppression?

I consider it a privilege. I grew up building bridges across creeks from rocks, seaweed, and mud with field tiles to let the water flow through. I spent more of my childhood in trees than indoors. I don’t fear mice or spiders (even the garden variety!). I have literally stepped on a rat’s tail so it wouldn’t escape before my mom could come and euthanize  it… with a spade (and they say women are oppressed, ha!).

But then, I see how agriculture is oppressed. Oppression occurs when an asymmetry or unequal relationship is used unjustly to grant power and resources to one group at the expense of another group. If you are familiar with production article this one definition hits home.

Farmers make 6 cents to every dollar. With rising fertilizer costs and seed costs, farmers can’t afford to be oppressed.

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