The Male Adult Working-Class Student In Formal Higher Education: An Identity Crisis?

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The purpose of this study was to explore how working-class adult students maintain their aspects of their identity in a formal higher education environment. While the literature has highlighted social class issues in adult education little is known about why and how some working-class students maintain aspects of their identity while some students choose to abandon their working-class roots and attempt to assimilate into the dominant, middle-and upper-class culture of formal education. This study explored the following questions: What does being working-class mean to working-class students? What are the experiences of working-class students attending formal higher education? How do working-class students maintain aspects of their identity? This study used a qualitative methodology and heuristic inquiry. This was accomplished by conducting a series of in-depth interviews with current and former adult working-class students. The purpose of these interviews was to elicit open-ended responses that enabled understanding and captured the points of view of these students. The participants’ perceptions and experiences resulted in an understanding of their worldview and exploration of their social class awareness. The research findings centered on three areas – working-class identity and meaning, experiences in higher education, and responsibilities of higher education and the working-class student. The participants identified characteristics of working-class identity; how they have maintained this identity; the roles, responsibilities and meaning of work; and dynamics of the intersection of social class. Findings regarding experiences in higher education included influencers and motivators to attend higher education; challenges of the working-class student; and attitudes, attributes, and motivations while engaged in higher education. The thesis provided an analysis related to social class identity and findings on how working-class students maintain aspects of their identity while adopting aspects of middle-class identity as well as how critical consciousness is developed. Other areas expanded upon were the challenges of the working-class student, specifically feelings of impostership, lack of cultural capital, and cultural suicide. Finally, the study explored how students of working-class origin coexist in the working- and middle-classes with a focus on opportunities versus threats and the role of the working-class student as an intellectual laborer and organic intellectual.