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Privilege: The Making of an Adolescent Elite at St. Paul's School

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  247 ratings  ·  24 reviews
As one of the most prestigious high schools in the nation, St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire, has long been the exclusive domain of America's wealthiest sons. But times have changed. Today, a new elite of boys and girls is being molded at St. Paul's, one that reflects the hope of openness but also the persistence of inequality.

In "Privilege," Shamus Khan returns
ebook, 248 pages
Published December 28th 2010 by Princeton University Press (first published January 1st 2010)
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I was tempted into this book by a youtube clip from an interview with the author. That clip hit the highlights of this book: namely, that elite secondary schools continue to reproduce the privilege of wealthy elites but they do so while also perpetuating a narrative in which rich kids succeed because they are talented, gifted, hard workers, ect. and not because they are rich.

Some of Khan's narrative passages early on have a captain of the obvious feel- yes, schools (like other institutions) soc
A rough start, but the second half made some interesting points, mostly that the 21st century new elite are omnivorous cultural consumers that are trained not particularly to know more but to know differently, taught to synthesize and connect rather than absorb and remember.Rather than learning 'secret' or exclusive knowledge about how to be, they embody their privilege through an extended period of practice.
Todd baron
Working at an elite school, this is fascinating. Especially in light of the class structure any elite schools pretend doesn't exist.
This book explained so much of what I have observed but not understood. Highly recommend.
Marlene Rosa
Shamus Rahman Khan is the author of Privilege: The Making of An Adolescent Elite at St. Paul’s School. Khan is an alumni of St. Paul’s school, one of the most privileged schools in the nation. It is considered to be a school where many elites attend and instead of researching inequality, Khan examines privilege. St. Paul’s school may be the perfect setting and school to examine privilege, this allows for readers to view the social advantages of those who are privileged. By examining the privileg ...more
Privilege explores how modern American elites pass on their advantages to their progeny. The book explores notions of ease, omnivorous intellectualism, and how continued social inequality is obscured by the opening of information and knowledge to other social classes.

Privilege provided some insight into the lives of modern elite. Khan's ethnographic study offers a nuanced account of how these students interact with eachother, their parents, their faculty, and the school staff. The problem for me
"The new elites' suggestion that they 'accept all' and that they do so within an increasingly open world makes the collectivism required for social transformations of any kind more challenging. And this leads to an odd, perhaps even ironic outcome: by becoming more democratic the elite have undercut the power of the weak within our nation.

The elite story about the triumph of the individual is just that; or better, it is a myth. Even though they are outperforming them in educational institutions
Recommended by Dan for at least the second time at dinner tonight.
This was an extremely thoughtful and entertaining ethnography. It was really interesting to see Khan study an institution that was so formative in his own education. His insights made me reconsider a lot of the similar dynamics that I experienced in my high school years at Andover and will make me think more critically of the social dynamics around me in college.

One of the most interesting observations that Khan makes is that the pedagogical method of choice at St. Paul's (as is the case with Co
The American Conservative
'Despite its narrow focus, Privilege is essential reading for understanding today’s elites. Not since Christopher Lasch’s Revolt of the Elites has the meritocracy been so effectively skewered. To be sure, Khan’s thesis—that the system is rigged in favor of the children of the rich—can be overstated.

Privilege never mentions that the most obvious reason that St. Paul’s graduates are still getting into Harvard, namely, that St. Paul’s, which accepts less than 20 percent of applicants, only admits
Bowman Dickson
Overall pretty interesting and made me rethink a lot of things about my high school. Other things I thought were downright silly over-generalizations. I buy the general thesis though, that the concept of a meritocracy can obscure forces that underly society and systematically advantage or disadvantage certain people.
An interesting look at the world of privilege (and it's performance) in elite independent school. How do we educate privilege into the bodies of students? This book explores that question and examines the lived experiences of a high school.
Read for fun. (I read the last section called "Methodological and Theoretical Reflections" in my Sociological Classics course this past fall and thought it sounded intriguing. Luckily, my roommate had bought the book for a different sociology class she was taking, so I borrowed her copy.)

The book takes a very insightful look into the American elite and elite institutions. A lot of his ideas and sentiments I agreed with or intuited, particularly his thesis about systematic inequality. His argumen
Rethink about the "new elite" and the privilege we have right now.
Rebekah Morgan
A struggle to get through. The author was such an asshat it made his observations almost pointless. The time I spent reading this book was wasted.
I was looking forward to reading this because I attended this school, albeit a lifetime ago, and continue to be involved as a volunteer. However, I found it somewhat repetitive without being earth shattering. Most of the author's observations, particularly about how students overvalue the abilities of other students, rang true, but the overall conclusions just didn't seem that interesting.
It was interesting diving back into this world now that I’m on the West Coast, where most people have never heard of even the most elite prep schools and many don’t get the boarding school concept at all. This was lightweight "study of the obvious" sociology. I did like Khan’s concept of the new myth of meritocracy, but I’m not sure he convincingly connects it to rising inequality.
I enjoyed reading this book! The data is interesting, it's easy to read, and Kahn engages complex theoretical ideas with ease. That being said, his major conclusion--that cultural capital and the reproduction of inequality is wrapped up in an interactional style--isn't a new one. So, although I liked the book and the message and the use of Bourdieu--I was hoping for more.
James Trent
Khan has written an interesting ethnographic study of the school that he attended as a teenager. His claim that privilege is a matter of "being as ease" with one's place in the social fabric is unique. His suggestion that the borned-elites can no longer depend of their place of privilege is less convincing. Nevertheless, this is book well worth reading.
Kristen Sera
I really enjoyed the way this ethnography was written. As a student of the social science, some of our material can be difficult to get through, but his prose was excellent. This is an excellent read for anyone who is interested in meritocratic topics.
Claire Cox
Fascinating, and probably should be read by parents, teachers and alum of independent boarding schools. I wish he had talked more about his experience at SPS.
Jared Tester
Highly accessible, sometimes rambling, always informative.
Meg Petersen
Definitely worth reading. Explains a lot about the elite.
One of the best books I've read this year.
Kate marked it as to-read
Aug 29, 2015
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I teach in the sociology department at Columbia University. My work is on inequality. But instead of looking at the poor -- as most scholars do -- I study the rich. This is because over the last 40 years the rich have largely driven the increases in inequality.

My first book, Privilege, is a study of St. Paul's School, one of the most elite boarding schools in United States. I studied St. Paul's t
More about Shamus Rahman Khan...
The Practice of Research: How Social Scientists Answer Their Questions Educating Elites: Class Privilege and Educational Advantage

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