Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

William F. Pinar


The diversity of students entering today's colleges and universities makes it increasingly important that educators, theorists and other scholars strive toward a fuller understanding of the life conditions of minority groups. This research is designed to provide insight into the processes, pressures and people that shape the lives of one particular minority group, the African American non-traditional, first generation college student. In this research, I examine the school and family experiences of four of these students in an attempt (1) to provide data that contribute to the refutation of the stereotypical images and myths that are so pervasively used to explain the lack of persistence and motivation of African American youth in the American system of public education and (2) to offer recommendations of programs that will enhance the experiences of these students as they return to schooling in post-secondary settings. I begin the research by providing a historical overview of schooling with attention being given to how schools have promoted racial inequality. With the ideologies of the early curriculum theorists as the pivotal point, I move the research from the early 1900s to the contemporary urban educational system. I focus a literature review on the urban school and suggest that its crisis phenomenon is the result of the benign and systematic neglect of schools serving primarily African American youth. Through the voices of the four students, I attempt to provide an insider's perspective into the urban schools. I use their voices to demonstrate that the experiences of African Americans have not always been pleasant and meaningful. I draw conclusions as to the contradictions and conflicts that exist between the school and family culture of African American youth that prompt their leaving the educational system and subsequently motivate their seeking empowerment through the same system years later. Finally, I recommend curriculum-related programs which seem appropriate to facilitating the success of the many non-traditional, first generation students who continue to return to the nation's colleges and universities.