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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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The reproduction of social inequality by schools and their practices in the United States and elsewhere has been widely studied and well documented in the literature for decades starting by some classics in education (Bourdieu & Passeron, 1977; Bowles & Gintis, 1976; Davidson, 1996; Rist, 2000; Willis, 1977). Instead of becoming spaces of equal opportunity and social mobility, schools have long been seen as sociocultural institutions which have tended to strengthen the status quo by mirroring the patterns and hierarchies which contribute to structural racism and social injustice present in broader society. Critical pedagogues have long denounced the connivance of the education system in the values of the utopia of globalization, and have stressed the need for educators and researchers to embrace hope by thinking and acting against the grain in an era of social injustice (Cole, 2005; Fischman & McLaren, 2005; Giroux, 2001). The official discourse and practices of parental involvement, strewn with allusions to home-­school collaboration and partnership, due to a tendency to stem from a cultural deficit model, often leave out the perspectives of those whose exclusion they are precisely intended to address, at least purportedly (Auerbach, 1990; Dantas & Manyak, 2010; De Carvalho, 2001; Delgado-­Gaitán, 1993, 1994; Fine, 1993; Hurtig & Dyrness, 2011; López, 2001; Luttrell, 1997; Olivos, 2006; Olivos et al., 2011; C. Suárez-­Orozco et al.,←267 | 268→ 2008; Valdés, 1996). Latina immigrant women, who have undergone one of the most challenging situations in a person’s...

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