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Immigration, Motherhood and Parental Involvement

Narratives of Communal Agency in the Face of Power Asymmetry


Lilian Cibils

Immigration, Motherhood and Parental Involvement is based on the vivid accounts of seven Latina immigrant women of how they learned to navigate the school system in the rural southwest of the United States. Their stories are presented within several contexts, the socio-political conditions of immigration overarching them all. The process of acquiring a new socio-cultural script offers a common frame to the narratives, which illustrate the central role of the community in finding spaces for agency in circumstances of vulnerability. As a contribution to educational theory, this book explores the official discourse of parental involvement within the broader context of social policy by pointing to a common underlying ideal parent norm across areas of policy related to family and women. It also revisits the concept of parental involvement through contrasting ideologies of motherhood, as it applies the concept of participation parity in everyday institutional interactions as a fundamental measure of social justice. Immigration, Motherhood and Parental Involvement offers deep insight into the institutionalized patterns of formal inclusion/informal exclusion in the relationship of schools with Latina immigrant mothers, even within the best intended programs. Its focus on the persistent need for the implementation of culturally and linguistically sensitive approaches to home-school relations makes this a must-read for undergraduate and graduate courses in teacher education, education leadership and sociology of education. Teachers, administrators and policymakers committed to moving away from the prevalent view of mothers as people who mainly need to be educated also need to read this book.


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Part IV From Vulnerability to Communal Agency: Finding, Developing and Becoming Resources


· P A R T I V · FROM VULNERABILITY TO COMMUNAL AGENCY: FINDING, DEVELOPING AND BECOMING RESOURCES · 9 · CRITICAL LINGUISTIC AGENCY Schools controlled by the dominant group comprise one important location where this di- mension of the struggle for maternal empowerment occurs. In contrast to middle- class children, whose educational experiences affirm their mothers’ middle- class values, culture, and authority, African- American, Latino, Asian- American and Native American children typically receive an education that derogates their mothers’ perspective. For example, the struggles over bilingual education in Latino communities are about much more than retaining Spanish as a second language. Speaking the language of one’s childhood is a way of retaining the entire culture and honoring the mother teaching that culture. (Collins, 1994, p. 66) Critical linguistic agency (Cibils, 2011) is defined here within the context of critical theory as the proactive approach adopted by social actors— such as the immigrant women in this study— in the negotiation of social spaces with respect to access, development and maintenance of linguistic resources. Why is it “critical” linguistic agency? As is the case for critical theory, in part “critical” alludes to its contextualization, to intersectionality and attention to social locations. “Critical” here implies a focus on social actors who would often be marginalized or left out from so- called universal theoretical consider- ations, and their perspectives (Young, 1990, pp. 3–4). The qualifier also serves to distinguish this concept from the traditional use of the term “agency” in grammar and semantics. Linguistic agency, in...

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