A slight confession: I wholeheartedly admit that when I saw the book “The Price of Privilege” on our reading list, by Madeline Levine, I was in part hoping for a book that would pick apart the devastating effects of power and affluence in white communities and how this privilege not only affects those people who are oppressed, but also the negative affects of those who wield this power and how it affects children academically. I was excited. I was ready. I was looking forward to having my ideas blown wide open.
Sadly, this was not that book.
While I admit that there is a wealth of useful information in this book, and that some parent might stumble on this book and gain insight into some of their child’s issues, as an educator, there was nothing new or revelatory in this book that I didn’t already learn from reading Barbara Coloroso’s 2002 book “Kids Are Worth It”.
Despite this criticism, I found myself highlighting great one liners and bits of wisdom. Madeline Levine definitely knows what she is talking about and could certainly be a great source of inspiration for many weary parents. Her message is pretty clear and undoubtedly useful: Set limits for your children. Be firm and flexible. Cultivate warmth. Practice containment. Understand the difference between being in control and being controlling.
This all makes me wonder though if this is not actually a message for affluent parents and just for parents in general. Are the problems of affluent parents really that different from parents from average SES backgrounds? It seems that the beginning of the book, Levine is almost defending the notion that affluent families have problems too and are worthy of her care and attention (poor little rich girl syndrome). While I know that affluent families have complex, challenging situations of suffering (because affluent families are comprised of humans and humans all suffer), the challenges that Levine describes seem like less to do with affluence and more to do with living in the modern industrialized world.
I did not grow up in an affluent family and many of the plagues Levine described are variations on a story I experienced when I was child.
Short story long: privilege is not just something owned by the wealthy. Levine could have really explored what it means to have “privilege” and other ways of being “affluent”, other than just having a well endowed bank account. Perhaps the “price of privilege” is not something that only wealthy folks have to pay and is something that has more to do with being white, living in a developed country, and being of a certain income bracket (a much lower income bracket than Levine suggests). Which begs me to question if the solution is not merely the prescription offered by Levine on these pages and should also include a consideration oppression, identity, and how these interplay with privilege.
Despite my obvious disappointment with this book, I enjoyed the quick, useful read and will keep it on my shelf, perhaps referring to when “Kids Are Worth It” is slightly out of reach.