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Beyond Bilingual Education

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Autor: 24  •  November 27, 2010  •  2,960 Words (12 Pages)  •  862 Views

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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


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