Experiences of Marginalization

Experiences of marginalization are specific and unique to each marginalized group as well as to individuals within that group. Negative messages about a marginalized group or an absence of messages due to social invisibility can create feelings of shame or self-hatred and lead to a denial or rejection of one’s identity. By painting a broad stroke, we are attempting to name, acknowledge and portray general categories of difficulties that our students may carry to school with them and that we see in our classrooms every day.

For many students and their families who are struggling with inequity and social exclusion, poverty is a common marker of their marginalized social status. Poverty engenders a wide range of daily struggles, and can include the denial of a young person’s primary needs, such as homelessness or insecure housing, or facing the day without adequate clothing or nutrition.

Poverty isn't a learning disability, but when we ignore the needs of poor children, poverty can become disabling.

– Pedro Noguera

Parents and caregivers may be preoccupied by financial worries, with very little energy remaining to become involved in supporting their children’s schooling.

For a more complete discussion of the barriers to engagement faced by marginalized parents and caregivers, see our Professional Learning Module Parents and Caregivers: Partners in Prevention.

More complex forms of exclusion can also result from poverty, such as a lack of access to technology that has become essential to functioning as a student and as a social being in today’s youth culture. Poverty can restrict the scope of young people’s lives, limiting their exposure and access to the larger world and to their own possibilities. This in turn can undermine their self-confidence and belief in a positive future.

Nevertheless, poverty is not the only practical barrier faced by marginalized students. Those with special needs often feel excluded from a whole host of educational activities in schools and classrooms. For example, inaccessibility may be a result of physical barriers, of the inaccessible design of learning activities or of a lack of specialized services.