A student and professor at the University of Arkansas at Monticello will present papers next month on the working class at the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Conference.

Braden Taylor, a senior majoring in English Literature will present a paper titled “The Necessity of the Working Class amid the Viral Pandemic.”

Abstract: COVID-19 has brought our world to its knees. The store workers and labor workers were put into a new category, essential. Before the pandemic gripped our world, labor workers were just those who did the gritty work. Now these people are being told to go work; disregard the advice of doctors and be in public. Putting these workers at risk is calling them a new title, expendable. This is not the truth. Our labor workers are the ones driving our society from behind the curtain. John Ruskin, the Victorian art critic, makes the case for these hard working people being important to the function of everyday life.

UAM English Professor Dr. Kay Walter present a paper titled “A False Divide between Laborers and Academia.”

Abstract: In the 1850s when John Ruskin taught art classes for the Working Men’s College, his students, from the laboring class, had fulltime career jobs. Ruskin’s idea was not to make them into artists but to make their lives richer by promoting the principles he championed in drawing. His goal was to enhance their awareness of natural beauty. Ruskin’s success is evident in both his championing of promising young students and the enduring heritage provided to adult education. Our own country, nearly a century later, has forgotten this lesson. Our culture promotes a false dichotomy between workers and the inhabitants of an academic world. Elitism leaves the uneducated suspicious and disenfranchised in what is our communal best interest—educational opportunities that empower all. There is danger in persistent illogic, and we are better and safer when efforts to know, choose, and rise to our highest potential are empowered by liberal education.

The mission of the Texas Center for Working Class Studies is to raise awareness about issues related to social class, work, and the working class and to provide opportunities for collaboration among faculty, students and community members.

The annual conference will take place virtually on Thursday, February 21.