Recent changes in higher education have had a profound impact on academics who come from working-class backgrounds. In this week’s Working-Class Perspectives post, Sherry Linkon contemplates the class divides in working-class studies and what two new volumes suggest about the visibility and impact of the field.
While these new volumes raise questions about the impact of Working-Class Studies, they also suggest three important insights for the field. First, sadly, even after decades of discussion, higher education remains divided along class lines, and academics from the working class still feel alienated and frustrated. Indeed, changes in higher education have made the problems worse, as too many working-class academics find themselves caught in part-time or short-term teaching jobs, unable to break through the class barriers that seem to preserve most tenure-line jobs for people from professional class backgrounds. We also see the class hierarchies of higher education in the struggle of state universities to survive continuing budget cuts and attacks on tenure, even as elite private schools compete to see who can raise tuition the most while keeping acceptance rates the lowest. Far from being resolved, class divisions in higher education have gotten worse, despite the more visible presence of academics from the working class and efforts to increase and deepen attention to class in both the curriculum and research.
The Working-Class Perspectives blog is brought to you by our Visiting Scholar for the 2015-16 academic year, John Russo, and Georgetown University professor of English, Sherry Linkon, who authored this piece. It features several other regular and guest contributors.