Saturday, February 23, 2008

Teaching -- or reinforcing? -- cultural capital

Last month the President of Johns Hopkins University, William R. Brody, opted to take time out from his administrative duties to teach two courses during intersession. One of his courses, Uncommon Sense: A Practical Approach to Problem Solving for Your Personal and Professional Life, strikes me as an overt attempt to build the cultural capital of JHU students. In his course President Brody aims to give undergraduates specific approaches to everyday problems that are rooted in “intuition and judgment” that aren’t taught in a traditional academic setting. In essence, President Brody is drawing on his vast experiences to supplement the cultural capital of JHU undergraduates so that in the future they can appear savvy in the workforce. I commend President Brody for stepping out of his office and attempting to teach students the untaught but I have to wonder is he preaching to the choir? As a prestigious university, I imagine that Hopkins admits the upper echelon, students that may already be “in the know” or have immediate access to individuals who are “in the know”. So, are President Brody’s efforts wasted on the undergraduate population of Hopkins? My brief look at the student demographics yielded only a description of the racial distribution of Hopkins (it’s mostly white and Asian) and omitted any data on socioeconomic status. Unfortunately, this data gives little insight as to whether Hopkins undergraduates are likely to possess the cultural capital valued by the dominant white-middle class.


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