EDUCATION ON THE BORDER: The myths and realities of teaching on "La nueva frontera"
Alice Quiocho, Maria Luiza Dantas, Dennis Masur, Lorri J. Halcón, y Carlos von Son.
Latino Parents Do not Care
Schools are often critical of Latino parents for not being active participants-as defined by American school standards-in their children's education. "Latino parents do not care about the education of their children" is a myth that has persisted for as many years as Mexicans have enrolled in American schools (Carter, 1970). While there are cultural and linguistic barriers to Latino parents' involvement in schools, many studies corroborate the value that Latinos place on education and their strong desire to be more involved in schools (Lopez, 2001; Trumbull, Rothstein-Fisch, Greenfield & Quiroz, 2001). And, our experiences as teacher educators, validated by Conference participants, supports the position that Latino parents do care deeply about their children's education. Yet, because parents have different ways of exhibiting that interest, they are often viewed with disdain.
Conference participants were very aware of the need to involve parents in the education of their children. As one participant stated:
Los padres son el corazón de la educación.
(Parents are at the heart of education.)
Parents are at the heart of education, for they provide the foundation and motivation for success.
An educational system cannot be effective if the corazón is taken out of that process and the powerful role that parents play is not valued or respected. Unfortunately, schools are not always responsive to parental concerns for their children's education, differences in language, or socio-economic status. They often insist that all parental involvement follow traditional patterns (i.e., back-to-school-night, PTA, school site council, fundraisers), making it almost impossible for these parents to participate actively with schools in meaningful ways. Yet, when traditional patterns do not work for minority parents, they are accused of "not caring" or "not being involved" in their child's education.
Latino parents recognize the importance of their role, as reflected in the following comments:
Como padres de familia se requiere trabajar juntos con los maestros para que estos sean más eficaces.
Los maestros solos no pueden hacerlo, la familia es la base de los niños.
(As parents, we need to work with the teachers to help them be more effective. The teachers alone can't do it, the family is the foundation for the children.)
El docente debe compartir el mismo ideal, las mismas metas que buscan los estudiantes y los padres de los estudiantes. ¿Cómo lograr o cómo favorecer que el docente viva ese entusiasmo y entrega?
(Educators should share the same ideal, the same goals that the students and their parents are looking for.
How do we get teachers to live this enthusiasm and commitment?)
Parents care that their children have access to educational opportunities that foster their ability to succeed both socially and economically. Indeed, many parents understand the importance of education and have fought for educational rights for their children. They want educators to be enthusiastic and committed to their children's schooling. In one study conducted in two large culturally and linguistically diverse districts in southern California, it was determined that there were differences between teacher perceptions of ELL's (English Language Learners) parental involvement and parents' understandings of their personal roles in the support of their children's education (Quiocho, in progress).
The results of this study indicated that some teacher conclusions regarding the lack of parental involvement were in fact based on a few isolated cases. Yet, they tended to generalize this information to all Latino parents. In this study, Latino parents felt excluded from the school community. Their reasons included the lack of consistent communication, fair and equitable treatment for their children, and the absence of translated materials. Quiocho (in progress) concluded that the commonly held myth "Latinos don't care about their children's education" is often widespread, but based on misconceptions, insufficient resources, and lack of basic understanding of cultural differences. According to Quiocho, "teachers need to have the skills, knowledge base, and disposition to appropriately involve Latino parents in the schooling of their children" (p. 3).