Master of Arts in Liberal Arts (MALA)


Liberal Arts

Document Type



In this thesis, I will discuss the influence of education on the identity formation of African American students. Based on the scholarly literature in education theory, I will argue in Bourdieuan theory education, formal education, fails to accommodate the specific needs of African American students because education influences African American students to develop constructions of “whiteness" that education reinforces. As education attempts to uphold the “status quo” of American society, education simultaneously forces African American students to question the relevance of education. In questioning the relevance of education through high-achieving African American students’ use of language and pursuit of academic achievement, low-achieving African American students offer a critique of education that characterizes education as a “white-dominated” system where individuals must embody whiteness in order to achieve social acceptance. As a result, African American students choose to “disidentify” with education rather than to assimilate into White culture to avoid being identified as “white”− speaking Standard English, following rules and regulations, and maintaining a high grade point average. This critique of education− though not an anti-intellectual response to education because most African Americans still view education as a means to social mobility− signifies education does not educate African American students but instead produces “white” African American students in order to reproduce societal norms. I will also propose the incorporation of self-knowledge into critical education will facilitate an awareness of personal history and self-worth among African American students not only to disrupt an educational structure of inequality but also to foster a positive self-concept within these students.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Fasching-Varner, Kenneth