The Invisibility of social class inadult education Lauren Kodiak and Susan Klees
“Capitalist societies are stratified into classes, hierarchies of power and privilege related to the ownership and control of various forms of capital” (Nesbit, 2005, p. 6). The United States is often thought of as a classless society (an assumption that everyone is middle-class), but we do in fact have three main classes: lower, middle, and upper (Putten, 2001). What is social class?
When looking at research and programs focused on diversity in higher education, social class is largely ignored. Race and gender are often used to guide increased diversity efforts, while social class is absent from the mix. The concept of social class and its effects on adult learners has been underexplored by scholars, especially in comparison to the rigorous studies on race and gender in higher education. (Nesbit, 2005) The invisibility of social class
Aronson (2008) theorizes that class differences are shaped by “a funnel that disadvantages and filters out deprived young adults at each stage of the postsecondary education process” (p. 42). Nesbit (2005) postulates that education perpetuates dominant values instead of confronting them. Ostrove and Long (2007) theorize that higher-social class background is related to a feeling of “belonging” on campus, which is related to better adjustment and performance in college. Theoretical framework
Many working-class students feel like “imposters” that don’t belong in a college setting.
These students often feel guilt or pressure to be working to help support their families instead of attending school.
Many low-income students work full-time to finance their education. There is a constant struggle to balance attention to schoolwork with their jobs, and oftentimes social outings are not an option. Some students cannot afford books, let alone go shopping or dining out with friends.
Because these students are mostly first-generation, they lack the social capital needed to successfully navigate a college campus.
In terms of persisting to graduation, “the gap in educational attainment between high- and low-income students has widened” (Aronson, 2008, p. 48).
(Aronson, 2008) How does Low SES effect adult learners?
Adults from working-class backgrounds are less likely than upper- or middle-class adults to engage in some sort of adult education program(Nesbit, 2005).
Adult educators need to find ways to make students aware of the presence of social class in education and how it effects students (Nesbit, 2005).
Institutions must create an inclusive, welcoming environment for low-income students. Some suggestions are as follows: offer night classes, childcare, financial support (more need-based grants rather than merit-based), and support through workshops or advising (Aronson, 2008).
Implications for adult education
“It is important for them to understand that some students choose courses based on the prices of the required textbooks, that some choose academic majors based on the prospects for employment after graduation, and that not all students fly to far-off destinations for spring break” (Putten, 2001, p. 19). Concluding thought
Aronson, P. (2008). Breaking barriers or locked out? Class-based perceptions and experiences of postsecondary education. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, (119), 41-54.
Nesbit, T. (2005). Social class and adult education. New Directions for Adult and ContinuingEducation, (106), 5-14.
Ostrove, J. M., & Long, S. M. (2007). Social class and belonging: Implications for college adjustment. The Review of Higher Education, 30(4), 363-389.
Putten, J. M. (2001). Bringing social class to the diversity challenge. About Campus, 6(5), 14-19. References