Cultural Access by Jean Frantz Joseph


photo-Will-Hunting-Good-Will-Hunting-1997-4Working-class people have been dealing with a lot issues to access to higher education. According to some educational research, children from lower social backgrounds are less present at the university level than those who are from the elite. Archer, Hutchings, andRoss (2003) mentioned “ … it has been noted that working-class children tend to persistently lower rates of attainment and less likely to follow routes into post-compulsory education” (4). Most working-class people are not able to develop a sense of belonging to the university environment; as a result, they decided not to take part in the higher education. Furthermore, the financial cost to the students of higher education is seen as one of the greatest barriers to working-class participation. Matter how intelligent someone is, if he/she does not have financial aid, he/she will never be able to have access to higher education. In Good Will Hunting (Bender et al., 1997)we have a perfect example of a young man who is very intelligent; however, he does not go to university because probably decided not to go and he cannot afford it as well. His cultural capital in terms of his socioeconomic situation explains very well his attitude toward university system.

The film stars Matt Damon and portrays him as a young man called Will Hunting.  Though Will Hunting  has genius-level intelligence (such as a talent for memorizing facts and an intuitive ability to prove sophisticated mathematical theorems), he works as a janitor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and lives alone in a sparsely furnished apartment in an impoverished South Boston neighborhood. The first week of classes, Will solves a difficult graduate-level math problem that Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård) left on a chalkboard as a challenge to his students, hoping someone might solve it by the semester’s end. Will is discovered in the act of solving it, and Lambeau initially believes that Will is vandalizing the board and chases him away. When Will turns out to have solved it correctly, Lambeau tries to track Will down. The problem that Lambeau puts on the board took him and his colleagues two years to prove; now someone who is working as a janitor at the university solves that problem.

Instead of being a janitor at the MIT, why Will, a brilliant young man, is not one of the students of that university?  One can argue that even if Will is very smart, he cannot go to study at that university because of he is an outsider. He does not belong to the class of people who go to that institute. He probably decided not to go to university because he wants to be loyal to the social group to which he belongs; none of his friends goes to university. In The decision to fail, Bruno Bettelheim pointed out that one the reasons why some people decided to fail is because they are afraid to lose their family, their friends, etc. who are important to them.

In Good Will Hunting, Will, Chuckie, and all his friends are working-class citizens in south Boston who have not had any higher educational opportunities to better themselves because of their socioeconomic status. They have no support financially from their family to pay for their education. Consequently, they have no chance to access to higher education regardless of their intelligence. As Beaudieu said “the fact that the scholastic yield from educational action depends on the cultural capital previously invested by the family. Moreover,  the economic and social yield of the educational qualification depends on the social capital, again inherited, which can be used to back it up.” This idea suggests that people who have money either from your family or heritage will find it much easier to have access to higher education than those that are lacking in financial resources.

Work Cited

Archer, L., Hutchings, M., Ross, A. (2003). Higher Education and Social Class: Issues of

Exclusion and Inclusion: Canada: RoutledgeFalmer. Print.