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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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Chapter 4. The Discourse of Parental Involvement and the Ideologies of Motherhood



The Discourse of Parental Involvement and the Ideologies of Motherhood

American public policy has shown a strong preference for educating mothers instead of providing resources—­such as publicly funded child care, generous cash assistance and universal health care—­to help all caregivers do the work of looking after those who cannot care for themselves. (Vandenberg-­Daves, 2014, p. 281)

The concept of discourse in its interrelatedness with power and language becomes central to the exploration presented here of the views of a group of immigrant women in a border community on how they have developed stances, resources and strategies to interact with other social agents within the educational system. The relation of power and knowledge underlies those processes by which cultural imperialism operates within our institutions of education through dominant discourses. Thus, Foucault’s theory of power and knowledge becomes relevant to our specific focus on instances of interaction between institutional agents and social actors. In their official discourse, schools generally predicate the importance of the participation of parents and family in the education community. Yet, because of issues of power derived from social roles and social standing, not all parents may make full use of the official channels for their views to be known by the schools. Furthermore, there often is a conflict between home culture and school culture—­i.e. mainstream culture. The values expressed in policies and practices may be “complicit with←53 | 54→ the oppression of some students’ home cultures and...

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