Miscellaneous / Beyond Bilingual Education

Beyond Bilingual Education

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Autor:  anton  27 November 2010
Tags:  Beyond,  Bilingual,  Education
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Anthropology and education is the subfield of sociocultural anthropology concerned with the study of education. Today anthropologists are seeking an answer to what affects school performance and adjustment of minority children. The Hispanic population has exhibited tremendous growth in the United States over the past 30 years, comprising about 11% of the U.S. population. The difficulty of transmitting knowledge across social boundaries causes learning difficulties to be experienced by some school populations. Such is the case with education and educacion; with there being major differences in the way these two cultures perceive schools and learning. With students and teachers both blaming each other, it took a three year ethnographic investigation of a Texas high school to be able to see the entire picture. The idea of "caring" was found to be one issue that leads to academic success or failure and the current methodology of "subtractive schooling" was proof of it. Teachers need to be made aware of the cultural differences of the students that are in their classrooms. They should hold high the cultural identity of their students and build on it, not subtract from it .

Anthropology and Education

Anthropology is the scientific study of humanity and human culture. It is unique among the social sciences in that it focuses on all societies and all aspects of human physical, social, and cultural life (AOL 2005). Anthropology and Education is the subfield of Sociocultural Anthropology concerned with the study of education, both formal and informal.

Ethnography, fieldwork, is the principle methodology used because it allows educational anthropologists to establish good rapport with the participants, obtain otherwise difficult data, as well as collect data on actual behavior or educational events in their natural setting. The end result of this type of research is a better understanding of the specific problems in relatively all dimensions of schooling. (Levinson 1996)

During the first half of the Twentieth Century, anthropologists refuted "false theories" about the learning disabilities of immigrant, minority, and lower class children in the U.S. One theory claimed learning difficulties arose from biological inferiority. Another was that coming from lower cultures; they had difficulty learning things taught to them in higher Anglo-American culture. (Levinson 1996)

Cultural heritage is acquired at home and in the community by children of the lower classes, immigrants, minorities, and native people and then upon entering school, they encounter a different culture. Those children have difficulty acquiring the context and style of learning presupposed by the curriculum materials and teaching methods. These obstacles that arise in the interface between instruction generated in one culture and learners who come from another, which causes a lack of contextual match between the conditions of learning and a learner's sociocultural experiences are referred to as "cultural discontinuities". (Ibid)

The most active controversial issue in educational anthropology today is whether school performance and adjustment of minority children are due to "cultural discontinuities". One problem is that the proponents of this hypothesis do not explain why cultural discontinuities do not adversely affect all groups, but only some. Studies have shown that schools socialize children from different social strata to fit into the kinds of occupational roles that they are expected to assume in adult life. (Ibid)

Applied anthropology in education takes many forms. Some work with educators to counsel them on cultural differences. Some anthropologists collaborate with teachers in research to provide cultural data for designing culturally meaningful curricula, to teaching style, and to improve interpersonal and inter group relations in and out of the classroom. The later is the focus on this study of Mexican and Mexican-American high school students. (Levinson 1996)

Mexican vs. U. S. Culture

The Hispanic population has exhibited tremendous growth in the United States over the past 30 years, comprising about 11% of the U.S. population. It is projected to become the largest minority group by the year 2006. California, Texas, New York, and Florida are where seventy percent of the Hispanic population is concentrated, with Mexican being the largest ethnic subdivision. (Clutter 2005)

Children from Mexico are strongly driven to succeed and they adhere to traditional enabling values like respect for teachers. Loyalty to one's homeland culture provides important social, cultural, and emotional resources that help youths navigate through the educational system. A bilingual/bicultural network of friends and family, help youths to successfully cross sociocultural and linguistic boundaries. (Valenzuela 1999)

Education in the United States does not build on that knowledge. Bilingual education was common throughout the United States into the Twentieth Century and in spite of generally positive findings for its effects, it has been legislatively erased in key states, such as California. Becoming American meant developing an identity distinct from that of one's ethnic group of birth, adopting the American lifestyle, and learning English, so English immersion became the standard approach to the teaching of English. (Tellez 2005)

Educacion is a conceptually broader term that it's English language equivalent. It refers to the role of the family of inculcating in children a sense of moral, social, and personal responsibilities, and serves as the foundation for other learning. Not only does it apply to formal academic training, educacion also refers to competence in the social world, where one respects the dignity and individuality of others. (Valenzuela 1999)

Another important aspect of the Hispanic culture is for the teacher to exhibit respect for the students. This can be done by paying individual attention to each student, such as greeting each one upon entering into the class or if they pass in the hall, and handing each student his or her paper rather than passing them down the row. Being sensitive to different cultures among Hispanics is also of importance. Differences in educational levels, language skills, income levels, and cultural values among Hispanics need to be considered by Extension educators when planning educational programs. Even though Hispanics share the same language, their cultures may vary considerably. (Clutter 2005)

"Parent involvement" does not always mean the same thing to educators as it does to Mexican American parents. Mexican Americans tend to value parental involvement in schools when they see their activities enhancing the school environment for their children. They are more likely to become involved when the school's staff shows concern for their child. The staff, on the other hand, generally understands parent involvement to be efforts aimed at increasing student achievement. (Ibid)

The primary concern of schools in the United States today, seems to be, not all academics, but mainly those academics that are state tested. Their other concern is to assimilate immigrants into main stream education as soon as possible, which is done once they are able to speak English. The priority with the teachers in mainstream education is to concentrate on those things necessary, in order for the students to do well on the achievement tests.

How the Students Saw the Problem (Emic A)

Juan Seguin High School had been criticized for poor academic achievement, culturally insensitive administration and its tolerance of high dropout rates. Students felt the teachers held low expectations for them, and that they didn't care whether the students stayed in school or left. There was no Spanish translator for communication between school and family, and not enough bilingual counselors. Continuous scheduling problems left as many as forty percent of the student body with an incorrect schedule. There is a general lack of respect of students' dignity and cultural differences. (Valenzuela 1999)

What the Teachers Thought About the Problem (Emic B)

Personnel changes in administration have made it difficult for principals and assistant principals to make any sustainable progress in improving the efficiency with which the school is run. The teachers and counselors do not think that the students take school seriously, putting all the blame on the youths. The school personnel associate certain types of clothing with gang apparel and treat the students accordingly. (Ibid)

Anthropological Etic Viewpoint

Schools are supposed to be structured around an aesthetic caring, with an attention to things and ideas. Instead of centering a student's learning around a moral ethic of caring that nurtures and values relationships, schools pursue a narrow, instrumentalist logic. Teachers tend to be concerned with form and non-personal content first, and then maybe they will address their students' subjective reality. (Ibid)

Teachers tend to get the wrong impression from urban youths' off-putting behavior and attire, with the boys wearing long T-shirts and baggy pants with crotches that hang anywhere between mid-thigh to the knees. Although Mexicans look at attire as a status symbol, teachers see it as evidence of a rebelliousness that signifies that these students "don't care" about school. Once they have come to that conclusion, no further effort will be put forth in order to forge effective reciprocal relationships with this group. On the other hand, immigrant students are more likely to gain the teachers' approval. Their attire is more conservative, and their deference and pro-school ethos are taken as signs that they do "care about" school. Immigrant students' seeming willingness to just accept their teachers' aesthetic meaning for caring and forego their own view of education as based on reciprocal relationships, elicits supportive overtures from teachers that are withheld from Mexican American students. Withholding social ties confirms the Mexican-Americans' belief that schooling is impersonal, irrelevant, and lifeless. (Valenzuela 1999)

Subtractive Schooling: Project Description

The comparison of grades, test scores, dropout rates, and such, has shown a progressive academic underachievement among U.S.-born Mexican students; although, this is not the case with Mexican immigrant youth. In order to take an in-depth look at this problem, Angela Valenzuela conducted a three-year (1992-1995), modified ethnographic investigation. It combined collecting and analyzing both quantitative and qualitative data on generational differences in academic achievement and schooling orientations among Mexican and Mexican American students, in a Texas high school. (Ibid)

Subtractive Schooling: Methods

She needed to gather data from as many sources and through as many means as possible. Key mode of data came from participant observation, augmented by data gathered from extensive field notes and informal interviews with students, parents, teachers, administration, and community member and leaders. (Ibid)

The quantitative data was extracted from school and district documents. The qualitative component started in 1992 and involved informal, open-ended interviews with both individual students and groups of students, as well as with teachers and observations at the school site. It began with a survey of the entire student body. (Ibid)

Subtractive Schooling: Goals

This project was designed to show that schools like Juan Sequin are organized in ways that fracture students' cultural and ethnic identities, creating social, linguistic, and cultural divisions between the staff and the students. One question that Angela Valenzuela hoped to have answered is why immigrant Mexican children score, on an average, higher than their U. S. born counterparts, in achievement. Maybe the answer to this would facilitate higher achievement for all Mexican students, regardless of where they were born. (Valenzuela 1999)

Analysis and Conclusion

Angela Valenzuela found the problem of achievement was due to school-based relationships and organizational structures and policies designed to erase student's cultures. The Mexican and Mexican-American students oppose a schooling process that disrespects them; they oppose not education, but schooling. (Ibid)

Seguin's immigrant students have a significantly higher record of achievement than that of their U.S.-born counterparts. This is explained in part since academic competence in one's own language is a precondition to mastery in a second language. Students who already possess these skills from learning them in their home country, or those who acquire them through a bilingual program, will perform significantly higher in achievement. (Ibid)

There is also the dual frame of reference that that allows immigrant youth to compare their present status to their typically less favorable situation back home. In addition, this dual frame discourages immigrant youth from correlating being Mexican with underachievement or other social pathologies often ascribed to U.S. minorities. Immigrants have had the experience of knowing high-status professionals who are Mexican. (Ibid)

The motivation of Mexican immigrants to achieve in U.S. schools appears to win them favor in their teacher's. They dress more conservatively than their peers and their deference and pro-school ethos are taken as signs that they do care about school. These things bring forth supportive overtures from teachers that are withheld from Mexican American students. (Valenzuela 1999)

This study revealed that the relations with school personnel, especially with teachers, play a decisive role in determining the extent to which youth find the school to be a welcoming or an alienating place, with the word caring playing an intrical part. Teachers expect students to demonstrate caring about schooling with an abstract, or aesthetic commitment. Mexican culture demands an authentic form of caring that emphasizes relations of reciprocity between students and teachers, making apparent a fundamental source of students' alienation and resistance. (Ibid)

It was made clear to Valenzuela, that how youth group themselves, along with the types of activities they undertake in those groups, bear directly on academic achievement.

When students' experiences help illuminate the everyday ways in which friendship groups generate social capital, and how that capital, in turn, positively shapes individual and group perceptions of, and experiences with, schooling. Social ties connect students to each other, as well as to the level of resources that characterizes their friendship groups. This social capital would be increased if not for the alienation of Mexican immigrants, who have a dual frame of reference. Students were invested in schooling if their friends were invested in it, or if their teachers were invested in them. (Ibid)

Rather than build on students' cultural and linguistic knowledge and heritage to create biculturally and bilingually competent youth, schools subtract these identifications from them to their social and academic detriment. (Valenzuela 1999)

The subtractive nature of schooling virtually assures that students who begin the year with only small reserves of skills, as do most regular-track, U.S.-born youth, will not succeed; and conversely, and those who come with more positive orientations or greater skills, as do Mexican-born students, are better equipped to offset the debilitating aspects of schooling. (Ibid: 5)

Taken together, these three bodies of literature В– caring and education, subtractive assimilation, and social capital theory В– enable the construction of a more nuanced explanation of achievement and underachievement among immigrant and

U.S.-born youth than currently exists. (Ibid: 6)

Points for Future Research

There are high performing schools, with the majority of enrollment Mexican or Mexican American, along the Texas-Mexico border. They differ from other successful schools in at least four areas:

1) They way they address community and family involvement,

2) How they build a collaborative school governance system,

3) Their commitment to connecting curricula and instructional techniques to students' funds of knowledge and cultural backgrounds, and

4) How they use advocacy-oriented assessment practices that held educators accountable for their instructional strategies and for the impact they had on Mexican American learners.

A closer look at these schools could prove beneficial. (Scribner 2001)

Points for Future Application

Additive schooling is about equalizing opportunity and assimilating Mexicans into the larger society, albeit through a bicultural process. Students do not have to choose to between Mexican or American; they can be both. This would build on students' bicultural experience В– which all minority youth bring with them to school В– to make them conversant, respectful, and fluent in as many dialects as they can master. (Valenzuela 1999)

The perfect starting point is with those languages they already possess, or are at the verge of possessing. Putting dual immersion bilingual programs at the forefront in the educational system would have a tremendous impact on the achievement levels of immigrants, and those who have a home language other than English. (Ibid)

The question of culture is often compromised in bilingual education, as if simply teaching in the students' tongue is sufficient for the curriculum to be culturally relevant. Education still has to be meaningfully tied to children's lives lest they proceed through life aimlessly with little sense of direction. Children need to know who they are and where they are going in order to follow the correct path. (Ibid)

Additive schooling is especially about the maintenance of the community, which includes improving the home-school relationship, even if this means that the discourse gets politicized. When parents and community call for culturally relevant and sensitive curricula, the status quo is sure to be threatened and possibly upset. (Ibid)

Works Cited

Anthropology. 2005 World Book Encyclopedia. Retrieved October 2, 2005 from AOL Homework Help on the World Wide Web: http://homeworkhelp.aol.com

Clutter, Ann W. and Ruben D. Nieto. NO DATE "Understanding the Hispanic Culture" Retrieved September 8, 2005 from Ohio State University Fact Sheet on the World Wide Web: http://ohioline.osu.edu

Levinson, David and Melvin Ember, eds.

1996 Encyclopedia of Cultural Anthropology. New York, New York: Henry Holt and


Scribner, Alice Paredes and Jay D. Scribner

2001 "High-Performing Schools Serving Mexican American Students: What They Can

Teach Us" Retrieved September 25, 2005 from ERIC on the World Wide Web:


Tellez, Kip and Susan L. Flinspach

2005 "After Data: Program Evaluations and Their Role in the Elimination of Language

Education Programs" Retrieved September 8, 2005 from University of California Santa

Cruz on the World Wide Web: http://education.ucsc.edu

Valenzuela, Angela

1999 Subtractive Schooling: U.S. - Mexican Youth and the Politics of Caring. Albany, New

York: State University of New York Press.

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