"Why Do They Give the Good Classes to Some and Not to Others?" Latino Parent Narratives of Struggle in a College Access Program
by Susan Auerbach — 2002
This paper examines personal narratives of struggle with schooling from working-class Latino parents whose children were in an experimental college access program at a diverse, metropolitan high school. The voices of parents of color have traditionally been silenced in schools and muted in educational research, despite their potential to shape student careers and aspirations. Drawing on narrative analysis, critical race theory, and sociocultural theory to inform data from an ethnographic case study, I discuss the role of agency and oppositional voice in parents’ stories. I delineate three narrative types that emerged in interviews and a series of parent meetings around college access issues: life stories of parents’ own struggles as students; stories of bureaucratic rebuff in parents’ encounters with staff in their children’s schools; and counterstories that challenge official narratives of schooling. I argue that the sharing of such stories in free spaces is instrumental in the building of parents’ social networks, the negotiation of conflict with the school, and the formation of empowering family identities. If educators join the dialogue, such story exchange can offer insight into students’ multiple worlds and pave the way for improved family-school relations.
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