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Subtractive Schooling: U.S.-Mexican Youth and the Politics of Caring

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 29, 2004

    The Powerful Voice of Marginalized Youth in Texas

    Compelling for me is the perspective through which Valenzuela has chosen to study the perspective of individual students through the poignant stories which are used to enlighten our understanding of multiple identities or discourse communities. As a perceived insider, capable of understanding Spanish as well as looking the part, (often referred to as `the student from Rice¿) the author has a unique opportunity to lend voice to an ever growing population in the United States, the language minority student. In this participant observational study, high school students who range from newly immigrant to second generation U.S. citizens were followed as they experienced the poor or indifferent treatment received from school personnel, which eventually lead to a major walk out or Huelga instigated by students. After this student strike there was only a marginal change in the attitudes between students, teachers and administrators. More over there was increased tension between the two with an increased lack of respect as people were asked to renegotiate their power positions. Teachers seemed afraid and unable to connect with many students. One troubling account talks about an English teacher¿s reaction to a Hispanic student who is considered smart by his classmates and an avid reader of mystery novels outside of school. He is failing his 9th grade English class because he refuses to do homework he thinks is boring. His English teacher states that although the student attends class regularly, ¿He just sits there in the corner, and I figure I¿ll leave him alone if he leaves me alone.¿ (p 107) In this study the posited quandary comes during the perceived ¿othering¿ occurring between teachers and students. When teachers discuss their Hispanic students they use deficit terminology which further entrenches a very real separation between teachers and students at this school. Even those students who graduate and get into college, some with scholarships, have difficulty in college primarily because they lack the preparation or agency, as well as social capital required to negotiate higher education. Throughout the book are discussions of the renegotiation self-identity youth experience as they walk two worlds with the distinction between being identified Chicano/a, Mexican and Latino/a. With each word, the discourse community defines how they identify themselves. Within the family many students identify with their Mexican heritage through a very positive discourse associated with being Mexican. When these same students attend school they demand to be called Chicano/a and when in Mexico are determined not to be labeled Americano/a where they are positioned as outsiders because they do not have a strong control of the Spanish language. Some students live in a very schitsophrenic world of never really becoming part of the Mexican or American discourse but living somewhere in between. Weary of this position many second generation immigrants simply opt out of the discourse, never attaining the American dream that originated their immigration to the states in the first place. Successful are those students who bond and become their own social capitol, defining their own rolls outside of membership in the school community. With the help of adults, many students retain their strong Mexican/Spanish identity while at the same time learning to negotiate American Discourses.

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