Professor and former lower general secondary education student Jeroen van der Waal has identified an 'empathy wall' between practically skilled and theoretically educated people. He is no stranger to either world. Before he started his academic career, he left lower general secondary education without a diploma and worked as a sailor for ten years. He told De Volkskrant newspaper more about his research.
The trousers you wear, whether you have tattoos and whether you smoke. There are hundreds of other subtle and less subtle characteristics that people use to assess one another’s socio-economic status. Jeroen van der Waal carries out research into what it is like to live with a 'lower status' and what that means for inequality of opportunity.
Inequality of opportunity due to the dismissal of practically skilled people as 'chavs'
His research shows that practically skilled people often feel that they are thought of differently. Van der Waal says: "You bet. Our research is based on in-depth interviews and shows that people who have undergone practical training find that theoretically educated people dismiss them as 'chavs'. We then test the relevance of what we learn from the interviews by conducting questionnaires among people who are representative of the Dutch population."
Can your research results benefit practically skilled people?
Many campaigns focus on encouraging practically skilled people to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Interestingly enough, these campaigns are often devised by theoretically educated people, which Van der Waal says is clearly apparent.
"A message like 'eat more vegetables, for example roasted courgette' is far removed from the daily experience of many practically skilled people. They immediately sense: this has been thought up by some green leftist who wants to tell me how I should live. One of the ways our research can help is by ensuring that healthy living campaigns are better suited to the target group."
Read the full article in de Volkskrant.