A Social Justice Safe Haven: Addressing Under-Privilege in the Higher Ed Classroom
From CETL Admin
Presenters: Elaine Alden & Justin Harrison
TLC Track: Understanding Our Students
Synopsis: This proposal presents a collaboration of several streams of complementary research which acknowledge the issues of under-privilege in the higher education environment. While there is an ever growing body of academic research on the issues of access and engagement for the under-privileged in childhood education, less is understood about the long term effects as manifest in the pursuit of higher education. The research is inspired by the work of Freire, Giddens, Hooks, and others, and seeks to understand the systems that challenge educational access and social mobility in the United States and Western Europe, where the creation of a permanent underclass among the underprivileged and minorities in cities and urban centers is increasingly accepted as the norm. Calling upon secondary data resources, the research sought to understand the issues of access and support systems for success for the under-privileged in the higher education setting. Dr. Alden and Dr. Harrison, using their own experiences of teaching urban under-privileged undergraduates in the UK and the US, both on-ground and online, present their perspectives to success with this unique demographic. From this comes a theoretical and practical understanding that teaching the under-privileged in the higher education setting is a unique challenge. Often learners bring with them decades of oppression and a system which consistently reinforces that quality educational access is not available which creates a sense of unworthiness. Under-resourced systems create gaps in knowledge scaffolds, where the advanced methods and thinking required in higher education are challenged due to lack of foundational support within the learner. Educators engaging with the under-privileged find themselves filling long term gaps in education in basic and necessary academic and social skills. Uniquely, educators can find themselves supporting students in ways not imagined, such as providing pastoral care during significant life events. For those educators who seek to reach this unique demographic, there can be the challenges of building trust and a feeling of working at cross purposes. Oppression creates barriers in this way in that the oppressed question this reversal of fortune and do not initially trust it. There can also be challenges from familial networks which oppose (both actively and passively) this attainment of education. With perseverance and flexibility on the part of the educator, barriers can be toppled, and education can be shared and appreciated. It is in this space that engagement occurs and is the crossroads of reaching the under-privileged.