The ‘first generation’ in historical perspective: Canadian students in the 1960s.
J. Paul Grayson
Refereed Article, 2018
Grayson, J. P. (2018a). The ‘first generation’ in historical perspective: Canadian students in the 1960s. Journal of Historical Sociology, 31(4), 512–525.
Over the past few years a number of studies have focused on the disadvantages confronted by students who are the first in their families to attend university. Their liabilities include relatively low levels of preparedness, a lack of involvement in campus activities, and low levels of academic achievement. Rather than accepting the universality of this characterization, in this article, these negative characteristics and experiences were viewed as one ‘ideal type.’ Using this ideal type as a reference point, the current study focused on a period in Canadian history in which first generation students were the norm. In an examination of Glendon College, York University, located in Toronto Canada, in the mid 1960s, it was found that the experiences of the first generation did not fit the ideal type. Those who likely were the first in their families to attend university were prepared for their studies, involved in campus activities, and earned good grades. Possible explanations for this deviation from the ideal type include the buoyancy of the economy in the mid-sixties, an expanding university sector, the size and relative intimacy of the College, the way in which high schools prepared students for university, and stringent admission requirements.