Resources for the Inclusion of Social Class in Psychology Curricula

It is well known, but rarely recognized as a problem, that issues of social class and socioeconomic status are largely absent from textbooks in psychology and from topic areas routinely covered in syllabi.

History of Report

In addition, the variable of social class has been mostly invisible in discussion, teaching and research within substantive areas in our field such as clinical, developmental, experimental, personality, physiological or social psychology (to name a few). Whereas gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability have begun to gain some recognition as independent variables that can potentially have enormous significance for behavior, this is not yet the case for social class. One example of this can be seen in the contents of a booklet published in April 1994 by APA, titled Toward an Inclusive Psychology: Infusing the Introductory Psychology Textbook with Diversity Content. Included are the subjects of aging: culture, ethnicity and race; disability; gender; and sexual disability. Absent is the subject of social class. Still another example is from the 2005 Final Report of the APA Presidential Task Force on Enhancing Diversity. Among the recommendations in this report there was mention of age, sexual orientation, gender, religion, disability, ethnicity but — once again — not social class. There is no recognition that "marginalized groups," as discussed in the report, include the poor or socioeconomically distressed. Nor is there recognition that diversity includes differences in socioeconomic status.

Calls to action to address these gaps have been voiced. For example, APA's 2000 Resolution on Poverty and Socioeconomic Status encouraged educators at all levels to enhance curricula by examining the causes and impact of poverty and the psychological needs of the poor. In 2006, an APA Task Force on Socioeconomic Status called for increased education related to SES and social class stating a need for classism to be taught as a major form of discrimination. Psychology will remain a non-inclusive field until teaching is related to far-ranging issues involving sociopolitical realities.

Responding to the needs of our discipline, the 2006 presidents of divisions 9 and 35 (Irene Frieze and Joan Chrisler) initiated the formation of a Task Force (TF) to gather and present social class related curricular materials. They enlisted the assistance of the co-chairs who put out a public (listserve) call for TF members. In ensuing face-to-face meetings and extensive followup email correspondence, decisions were made about the kinds of material to include and which members would be responsible for each section. The resources compiled are multidisciplinary, but are focused on enriching teaching within the field of psychology by identifying materials on SES, social class and classism.

Why Is This Important?

Issues of social class are relevant to the teaching of every course in psychology from the most introductory surveys to the most advanced and specialized graduate seminars. Whether the focus is on abnormal behavior, human development, personality, psychotherapy or social behavior, human beings must be seen as functioning within social environments that are heavily influenced by access to resources (power) as determined by position within the social class hierarchy. In studying social class and its consequences, highly significant intersections with other social statuses are readily and clearly apparent. Thus, connections with gender, race/ethnicity and other social categories are evident throughout the material that follows.