The American Sociologist

, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 232–248 | Cite as

Budgets, Board Games, and Make Believe: The Challenge of Teaching Social Class Inequality with Non-Traditional Students

  • Joshua L. CarreiroEmail author
  • Brian P. Kapitulik


According to a 2002 study by the U.S. Department of Education, the percentage of “traditional students” on college campuses is declining. Students increasingly are delaying enrollment, attending college part time, working full time, financially independent, and single parents. In this paper, we explore the extent to which sociologists are adapting their teaching to address these shifting demographics. Based on a content analysis of articles published over a 20 year period in Teaching Sociology that suggest strategies for teaching social class inequality we find that most authors assume that their students are “traditional.” Most often this means that students are assumed to come from a privileged, middle class background, lack direct and substantial experience in the labor market, and enter college shortly after graduating high school. Accordingly, most articles advocate classroom strategies of “looking down,” whereby students pretend to be in the shoes of those less fortunate. Examples include creating household budgets based on poverty wages, playing board games, or assuming the role of the poor for a day. These strategies run the risk of being ineffective, alienating, and potentially ethically suspect when used with non-traditional students, whose real life experiences may resemble these simulations. We conclude with recommendations for pedagogical approaches to teaching social class inequality that are more appropriate for, and inclusive of, students from diverse backgrounds. Our goal in this paper is to start a discussion about pedagogy, social inequality, and the non-traditional student.


Social class inequality Pedagogy Non-traditional students Experiential learning 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MassachusettsAmherstUSA
  2. 2.Quinsigamond Community CollegeWorcesterUSA

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