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MIT Reads: The Privileged Poor: Home

"The answer is not to pluck the lucky few out of their distressed communities and place them in an environment of abundant resources; the answer is to bring those incredible resources into distressed communities."


Dr. Anthony Abraham Jack, The Privileged Poor

Discussion Prompts

1. What did you think when you first heard the title of this book? What do the words "poor" and "privileged" mean to you? 

2. Did you find the stories shared by the students familiar? What in the book resonated with your own experiences?

3. Were you surprised by anything in this book? Before reading it, were you aware of the high number of current U.S. undergraduates who struggle financially?

4. Had you heard about the "hidden curriculum" before? How can colleges and universities -- especially selective ones like MIT -- work to eliminate this knowledge gap? 

5. Dr. Jack gives examples of programs at "Renowned University" which exacerbate the gulf between students of different backgrounds, like Community Detail and Scholarship Plus. Are there programs at MIT that we could improve so that they better meet the needs of all students? How can we center inclusion from the beginning when creating a new program?

6. In the book, the author states that the information he gathered through these student interviews can "help generate ideas for what colleges could do to remove obstacles that sideline some students and handicap others" (31). How do you think we at MIT might go about identifying and removing such obstacles?


Dr. Jack uses the following definitions in his book, as he describes the undergraduate students at "Renowned University" with whom he conducts his interviews:

Privileged Poor = College students from poor families who attended well-funded, elite high schools

Doubly Disadvantaged = College students from poor families who attended their local, under-resourced public high schools

Upper Income = College students from affluent families

Other terms to note:

Cultural Capital = Norms valued in a particular context