Micro-Barriers Loom Large for First-Generation Students

Eric Johnson, Tidsskriftet for Universiteternes Efter- og Videreuddannelse, Nov 01, 2016
Commentary by Stephen Downes
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I can attest from personal experience that the microbarriers described in this article existed in my university days and exist in my life to this day. It's true, in my experience, that "a relatively tiny difference in culture can make a huge difference in access." There are numerous opaque systems and unwritten rule sets. In searching for opportunities, employment and even internships, for example, "successful people are playing an entirely different game. They don’t flood the job market with résumés, hoping that some employer will grace them with an interview. They network." And even the little things. "Your shoes and belt should match."

But our approach differs. Where J.D. Vance, the author of Hillbilly Elegy, wants to open up this culture of privilege and teach its nuances to those lucky enough to get into the system, I want to make it irrelevant. Widening access to privilege does not eliminate privilege, it entrenches it. We need to eliminate it. That's why I want to see learning and networking available to everyone, not the merely wealthy and their acolytes.

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