Formal Education and Bicultural Children

Educators experienced in working with linguistically and ethnically bicultural immigrant parents share a common desire to have their children succeed in school: progressing in the content academic areas, mastering English, and planning to attend college. These beliefs represent an interest in schooling and a legitimization of the American schooling process.Thus, despite the cultural differences, immigrant parents clearly accept the notion that in order to progress in this country, one must have a formal education. The desire to succeed in formal education and in society generally runs across cultures as well as socioeconomic classes and groups. Yet for those who come from lower-socioeconomic groups, there is an obvious disadvantage in achieving their goal.Darder argues that American schools are grounded in the cultural capital (certain types of knowledge, attitudes, or dispositions that families regarded as having a certain status) of the dominant group and in the preparation of middle-class European American children to participate in their own culture. Hence, bicultural parents and their children often find the American schooling process completely alien to them.This frame of reference is transmitted to the parents, who are also expected to follow the parenting strategies of the dominant cultural group. Often, this can be a difficult task for bicultural parents who view schooling from a different cultural perspective. Since many of the diverse parent populations in the United States come from Third World nations that tend to hold education and educators in very high regard, cultural norms prohibit them from questioning the school, the schooling process, and the school personnel.Consequently, they and their children are unable to navigate the industrialized schooling system, in which parent advocacy is not only expected but also demanded for student success. For parents who fail to participate in this expected American behavior of open advocacy for their children, this may be interpreted by school personnel as indifference, lack of interest, and incompetence. Hence, the children’s academic shortcomings are further legitimized by a system that is culturally alien to parents who view teachers and educators as the people who know best for their children.

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