Shamus Khan's Privilege: Book Analysis

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Shamus Khan’s Privilege: The Making of an Adolescent Elite at St. Paul’s School is a excellent example of the sociological imagination at work. The book examines the school from all angles, from different perspectives, and compares it to the school’s earlier years. Kahn often includes anecdotal stories of specific students in between his sociological analyses which help bring the situation to life and provide a more in depth look at the student’s lives. C. Wright Mills, the American sociologist who claimed that the sociological imagination was being lost in most research, would have found Kahn’s book to be a rich examination of the culture of St. Paul’s School.

I. Kahn’s analysis goes into great detail about the structure of the society at St. Paul’s. For example, when he attended St.
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In Privilege, Kahn discusses the ‘budding elite’ men and women, and also discusses the difference in expectations placed on the two. While there is more diversity among the student population than there was previously, it is still the upper middle class white students who seem to have the most success both at school, and post-graduation. The modern elites that Kahn describes in his book are still generally wealthy and white, however, unlike their predecessors, they genuinely believe they have worked much harder than all their peers which has allowed them to get ahead. Kahn writes about the concept of “meritocracy,” or the belief that people are chosen entirely on the basis of their talent or abilities. Kahn speaks about the meritocracy culture at St. Paul’s and how the students all believe they are there as a result of their hard earned academic success and ability to thrive under pressure. Kahn also does well to observe the different types of students within the society of St. Paul’s. Within each chapter he’ll usually talk about a student or two, discuss their life and success at the school, and relate it to what it means about the culture of the school as a

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