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Morton, Jennifer. Moving Up Without Losing Your Way: The Ethical Costs of Upward Mobility
2019, Princeton University Press
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Added by: Tomasz Zyglewicz, Shannon Brick, Michael Greer
Publisher’s Note: Upward mobility through the path of higher education has been an article of faith for generations of working-class, low-income, and immigrant college students. While we know this path usually entails financial sacrifices and hard work, very little attention has been paid to the deep personal compromises such students have to make as they enter worlds vastly different from their own. Measuring the true cost of higher education for those from disadvantaged backgrounds, Moving Up without Losing Your Way looks at the ethical dilemmas of upward mobility—the broken ties with family and friends, the severed connections with former communities, and the loss of identity—faced by students as they strive to earn a successful place in society. Drawing upon philosophy, social science, personal stories, and interviews, Jennifer Morton reframes the college experience, factoring in not just educational and career opportunities but also essential relationships with family, friends, and community. Finding that student strivers tend to give up the latter for the former, negating their sense of self, Morton seeks to reverse this course. She urges educators to empower students with a new narrative of upward mobility—one that honestly situates ethical costs in historical, social, and economic contexts and that allows students to make informed decisions for themselves. A powerful work with practical implications, Moving Up without Losing Your Way paves a hopeful road so that students might achieve social mobility while retaining their best selves.

Comment (from this Blueprint): In this book Jennifer Morton, a philosopher of education and political philosopher, revisits the question of upward mobility and the difficulties under-privileged college students face in completing college. She argues that they face huge, yet-unacknowledged costs: "ethical costs," that impact not just them but their wider (often-marginalized) communities. Her theses in this book therefore touch not just on the individual experiences of marginalized college kids but also on broader issues of social oppression and social change. To make her claims Morton draws on her own lived experiences as an immigrant and a philosopher teaching in a public institution. One might describe this empirical method as autoethnography, although she does not. She also draws upon interviews conducted with the population of students she's interested in, "strivers." Morton's book addresses the phenomenon of upward mobility, the ethical purposes and drawbacks of going to college, and dignifies the experiences of people from marginalized backgrounds who want to make a better life for them and their communities.

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