Enduring reputations: The durable structure of class, knowledge, and status in higher education
Stich, Amy Elizabeth
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More than a decade ago, art historian Carol Duncan (1993) questioned the legitimacy of the democratization of an “elite” liberal arts education, challenging assumptions held by educators, administrators, and scholars that “the democratization of an elite liberal arts education is possible.” This study is a direct extension of Professor Duncan's inquiry—an empirical reply to her question left longing for response during times of increasing educational stratification and inequality. This research, then, born from Duncan's line of inquiry, seeks to understand the shape and form of elite knowledge, as well as the perceptions of these forms, after it leaves its more private/elite origins and filters through the process of democratization to be transmitted through public institutions for public consumption. Following one year of data collected through 33 interviews, observations, and the gathering and analysis of documents, my analysis reveals the beginning of a rather complicated answer to Carol Duncan's original question concerning the democratization of elite knowledge. As will be discusses herein, McKinley College's democratized position within the larger system of higher education and its working-class reputation translates into a damaging discursive practice, and a corresponding hierarchy of classed knowledge provides insight into the mechanisms through which order is maintained within the hierarchical structure of higher education.