Effect of Complex Social Histories on Academic Performance
It is not surprising that in a diverse population of students who enter a college like City College issues of race, gender and sexual orientation, class, and ideology should affect their approaches to undertaking academic tasks. In this chapter, I discuss how these aspects of their lives influenced their responses to the demands being made upon them. It is crucial to recognize that inclusion of background knowledge does not diminish the analytical perspective the students present in their critiques of existing conditions and viewpoints. Rather, their lived-through experiences enhance their ability to assess the frequently unquestioned assumptions of the larger society. In an article, “Diversity Opens Doors to All,” Beckham (1997) argued that even the so-called literary canon is still “unsettled and contested,” and thus, it “continue[s] to animate students and entice them into critical thinking about current concerns” (p. 58).