Aspirations and Limitations of Mexican Families

March 8, 2022
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Aspirations and Limitations of Mexican Families

Aspirations and Limitations of Mexican Families

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Educational Ideologies and Aspirations of Mexican Families
The misguided educational beliefs about Latino parents discount their
views and diminish their value (Lott, 2001). Valencia and Black (2002) deconstruct
these deficit thoughts and present evidence of the value of education
through the historical and contemporary struggle for equal educational opportunity
and the involvement of parents, as illustrated in scholarly literature.
Commitment to education is also illustrated in nonmainstream forms of teaching,
from consejos (advice-giving narratives; Delgado-Gaitan, 1994; Lopez,
2001) and counternarratives used to contest family practices viewed as being
problematic (Villenas, 2001) to the use of funds of knowledge (Ve´lez-Iba´n˜ez,
1996). Involvement is demonstrated by highlighting parents’ active engagement
and agency; in some cases, parents have begun demanding that they
be more involved, holding schools accountable (Delgado-Gaitan, 1993;
Lopez, 2001).
Developing educational ideologies and aspirations in the home extends
beyond conventional ideas of encouraging students to further their education,
filling out college applications, and facilitating college visitations. While these
behaviors are exhibited in some Mexican families, one must acknowledgehow
educational ideologies manifest in alternative ways. Lopez (2001) notes that
oftentimes families are already involved in educational processes; however,
they may not be involved in traditionally recognized ways. Additional research
indicates that aspirations are based on the belief that education is not only
‘‘conducive to social and economic mobility’’ but also a ‘‘means of personal fulfillment’’
(Goldenberg et al., 2001, p. 565). Thus, highlighted next are examples
illustrating the educational strengths inherent in families. In a case study of five
Mexican families, Trevin˜o (2004) found that all the families set high academic
standards for their children, recognized the need to provide academic support
when possible, expected that their children graduate from high school and college,
and made education the top priority. While these beliefs may fall in line
with mainstream educational ideologies, parents taught their children to tap
into their survival strategies of outthinking and outworking to achieve success,
and they instilled a foundation of respeto (respect), pride, and faith (Trevin˜o,
2004). In the case of one immigrant Mexican family, Lopez (2001) found that
the family passed on ideologies established in resilience, perseverance, and
hard work—lessons learned from working hard in the fields and translated
into working hard in the classroom. In a final example, Delgado-Gaitan
(1992) highlights Mexican American families where parents and children are
both active agents of their educational environments; that is, parents transmitted
positive educational values to their children, and children transmitted
knowledge in return to parents.
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It is evident that while Mexicans continue to be underrepresented in
institutions of higher education, their families do value education. As demonstrated,
the transmission of sociocultural values is an important form of
educational involvement (Lopez, 2001). Through the findings that follow,
I demonstrate that the transmission of sociocultural values acts as an important
means of establishing positive educational ideologies, specifically about
college-going processes.
Theoretical Framework
This study draws from three theoretical frameworks. The primary theoretical
framework is funds of knowledge (N. Gonzalez et al., 2005), with
social capital (Bourdieu, 1977; Stanton-Salazar, 2001) and cultural capital
(Bourdieu & Passeron, 1977) serving as supplemental frameworks. I draw
from the constructs found within each framework, rather than operate
within the strict parameters of one particular theory. I provide a brief overview
of each, as followed by an explanation of how the frameworks complement
each other.
Funds of Knowledge
The funds of knowledge framework refers to the bodies of knowledge
and skills in a household that have accumulated over time (Moll et al.,
1992). It is based on the foundation that people are competent and have
experiential knowledge that is valuable (N. Gonzalez et al., 2005).
The term originally referred to the nonmarket forms of exchange among
households and evolved to include the general knowledge and cultural
exchange among households (Ve´lez-Iba´n˜ez & Greenberg, 1992). Economic
and political forces shaped the nature of binational households and families
across the U.S.-Mexico border. These forces contributed to the transformations
of cultural and behavioral practices termed funds of knowledge
(Ve´lez-Iba´n˜ez & Greenberg, 2005). Defining funds of knowledge within
families requires an understanding of strategic bodies of information that
households utilize in their daily activities and need for their survival and
well-being. Because of changing economic and political circumstances, it
was necessary for household members to become generalists and obtain
a range of knowledge. Examples of such knowledge include water management,
animal husbandry, and construction (Ve´lez-Iba´n˜ez & Greenberg,

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The transmission of funds of knowledge is a dynamic process. Children
control the method by which they learn, which allows for them to make mistakes
and experiment with their learning. Funds of knowledge are found
within households and within the cluster networks of the community where
children play and associate (Ve´lez-Iba´n˜ez & Greenberg, 2005). When funds
of knowledge are fully understood and properly utilized, they facilitate
College Aspirations and Limitations
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a powerful way to represent communities in terms of their inherent resources,
and they create opportunities to use those resources for classroom
teaching (N. Gonzalez et al., 2005). This view of families is different from
the accepted perceptions of cultural and intellectual deficiencies. The value
of funds of knowledge not only acknowledges diverse types of knowledge
and skills within households but challenges functionalist notions of ‘‘cultural
arbitraries’’ (Bourdieu & Passeron, 1977, p. 9) that express and perpetuate
the status of dominant groups.
Cultural and Social Capital
Originally presented as a theoretical hypothesis to explain the unequal
academic achievement of children in different social classes (Bourdieu,
1986), cultural capital is summarized as ‘‘high status cultural signals used
in cultural and social selection,’’ and it is used to analyze ‘‘how culture
and education contribute to social reproduction’’ (Lamont & Lareau, 1988,
p. 153). The term is used broadly in an attempt to understand societal
inequalities and, specifically, inequities in educational outcomes. Cultural
capital is used to address (a) various cultural forms, competencies, and
knowledge that certain individuals possess and (b) the systemic perpetuation
of power and privilege (McDonough, 1997; Tierney, 2002).
Social capital is described as the aggregate of resources that are linked
to the possession of a network or membership within a group that provides
its members with collectively owned capital (Bourdieu, 1986). In other
words, social capital is the result of people intentionally building their
relationships for benefits provided at a later time (Portes, 2000). I draw
from Stanton-Salazar’s definition of social capital (2001), which highlights
these relationships among people and the properties within them that
‘‘when activated, enable them to accomplish their goals or to empower
themselves in some meaningful way’’ (p. 265). The dimensions of social
capital—norms, networks, and obligations—highlight aspects of the relational
investments, standards, and information transfer created when social
capital is activated. This is similar to the ideas of exchange relations
(Ve´lez-Iba´n˜ez, 1996) developed in the transmission of funds of knowledge.
Although the primary framework used in this study is funds of knowledge,
it does share commonalities with cultural and social capital. One
key commonality is that all three forms—funds of knowledge, social capital,
and cultural capital—can be transmitted. Despite differences in the method
of transmission and the context of the transmission process, each form can
be passed on to others. A second commonality is that all three forms can
be converted. For example, cultural capital can be converted into economic
capital and academic gains; social capital can be converted into economic
capital and institutionalized gains (Bourdieu, 1986); and funds of knowledge
can be converted (if valued and recognized) into social and cultural capital.
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The three forms also share commonalities in how each measures and defines
its properties.
Regarding funds of knowledge and social capital, both can be accumulated,
and membership in a network can translate into future positive benefits
for the members. However, social capital and funds of knowledge
require that a certain level of investment be made in the relationships of
the network to access the future gains (Rios-Aguilar, Kiyama, Moll, &
Bryan, 2009). Funds of knowledge and cultural capital share a common perspective
in how educational knowledge and culture are valued. Both frameworks
assert that certain individuals and their knowledge are not valued,
because they do not belong to the dominant culture (Rios-Aguilar et al.,
2009). It is beyond the scope of this article to go into further detail on the
similarities and differences of these frameworks. However, I acknowledge
one key difference—namely, social capital and cultural capital have been
constructed from a sociological perspective, while the funds of knowledge
framework has been constructed from an anthropological perspective.
This difference highlights the ways in which the concepts have been documented
and studied. I also acknowledge a warning that Lubienski (2003)
provides. She shares that funds of knowledge and, specifically, cultural capital
are being used synonymously and that doing so overlooks the inequities
in our educational system and continues to ‘‘avoid the problems that many
underserved students and their teachers face’’ (p. 30). Lubienski’s warning
addresses the differentials in power and resources held by various groups.
She aptly points out that although funds of knowledge and cultural capital
both have value, the former is not the latter, because under the original definitions
of Bourdieu, the worth of funds of knowledge is not such that it
would lead to a place in privileged social groups.
There is certainly overlap between funds of knowledge and forms of
capital. I include social and cultural capital as supplemental frameworks
because they provided a way to understand concepts such as social networks,
reciprocity, cultural signals, perpetuation of social class placement,
and conversion. I also include these frameworks to better understand why
funds of knowledge ‘‘have or have not translated into better educational
opportunities and outcomes for under-represented students’’ (Rios-Aguilar
et al., 2009, p. 11). Finally, utilizing these complementing frameworks provides
an opportunity to look beyond a functionalist perspective that privileges
the dominant class and addresses power structures within the system
by challenging those inequities (Rios-Aguilar et al., 2009).

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