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Negotiating Cross-Class Identities While Living a Curriculum of Moral Education


by Ramona M. Cutri, Jill Manning & Cecilia Santiago Weight - 2012

Background/Context: A personís socioeconomic class is not a stagnant category based on her income level, but is rather an ongoing lived identity that includes a dynamic process of political struggle. In our self-study, we unpack both our poverty and upper-middle-class experiences and in so doing examine our intergenerational cross-class identity as a site of personal and political struggle.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of the Study: This self-study of practice explores how we three mothers who are also educators negotiate our cross-class identities while living a curriculum of moral education with our children who are growing up upper middle class.

Research Design: The qualitative methodology of self-study of practice was employed, and narrative methods were used to gather and analyze data.

Findings/Results: The qualities of intimacy and altruism emerge from our stories as ways to foster cross-class identities that encourage awareness of inequities and promote learning oriented toward social justice.

Conclusions/Recommendations: The approaches and strategies of living a moral education curriculum chronicled in our stories offer a developmentally sensitive model of moral education that could, with modification, inform approaches to educating critical class-conscious educators. The narratives highlight opportunities for researchers and educators to move across cultures and illustrate how tensions between cultures can be held open for meaning making rather than assuming that people only have one class identity. Future research is called for to further explore the impact of race on practices of moral education and how the types of relationships necessary for moral authority can be fostered within the confines of academia.

We are three mothers from poverty-class backgrounds who are raising our children in upper-middle-class socioeconomic conditions. We strive to educate our children to live a curriculum of moral education. Indeed, our commitments and practices as social justice educators influence our mothering, and in turn, our mothering experiences inform our social justice teaching efforts. Opportunities to learn exist within and across both formal (schools) and informal (home) settings that constitute the complex ecologies of people’s lives (American Educational Research Association, 2010).


We three mothers, in order to study and better understand our own practice as social justice educators, have collected and written stories of our mothering experiences in which our past of having grown up poor collides with our present realities of raising upper-middle-class children. Through our stories, we chronicle our experiences of having lived in two different economic classes in one lifetime. In this sense, our inquiry uncovers what O’Brien and Swadener (2006) called the “politicized personal” (p. xi). As the focal points of our self-study of practice, our stories portray everyday experiences of how class identity influences our mothering, especially our efforts to raise children with social justice awareness, and how we inquire about the influence of our mothering on our teaching practices. Analyzing stories of our mothering allowed us to wonder about how cross-class identity can be fostered in home and school settings to encourage awareness of inequalities and promote learning oriented toward social justice.


The meeting of intergenerational class identities in our lives as moments of dynamic interaction that shape the curriculum of moral education in our families is best introduced through a vignette:


A while ago, I was talking to my mom on the phone. I jokingly said something about the way we grew up. I was sharing my thoughts on being poor. “Huh . . . poor???” Like she had never had that word or idea in her vocabulary. Well, she totally disagreed with me. She said we partook of so much and were given so much that we never were poor. As a mother raising children in entirely different circumstances from my own upbringing, this conversation made me wonder about how my children will look back on their own childhood and how their experiences will shape their view of the world, specifically, their social awareness and willingness to help others. (Cecilia)


This vignette represents what Huber and Clandinin (2005) described as “bumping places between stories,” or places marked by tension between identities (p. 320). The vignette also opens up the exploration of our mothering as a site of political struggle. Borrego (2008) stated that we need to help students from poverty backgrounds “tap their unique class positions as a source of power and prepare them to become class-conscious leaders in the world at large.” However, it can be painful to help children and parents conceptualize their poverty experiences as a source of power. Additionally, it is difficult to move away from a deficit orientation toward people from poverty backgrounds. By sharing our stories, we three mothers want to demonstrate for others that a poverty-class position (past or present) can be a source of power to draw on as critical class-conscious educators and students.


In this article, we first establish a working definition of poverty and upper middle class. Second, we review the roles of mothers as moral educators. Third, we discuss the development of the concept of a curriculum of lives (Huber & Clandinin, 2005). Fourth, we present our assertions for understanding, and fifth, we present our conclusions and implications for future research.


DEFINITIONS OF POVERTY AND UPPER MIDDLE CLASS


Poverty in the United States is not monolithic. Gilbert (2003) identified two levels of poverty not included in the general government definitions: working poor class and underclass (p. 269). Working poor are defined as the “lowest-paid manual, retail, and service workers” who make up about 13% of the American class structure (Gilbert, 2008, p. 11). Underclass are at the bottom of the American class structure and are described as


low-income families with a tenuous relationship to the job market, whose incomes often depend on government programs. The term is sometimes used in a negative sense to refer to a class of people who are impoverished and mired in habits and circumstances that prevent them from ever joining the mainstream. (Gilbert, 2008, p. 251)


It is important to note that these two class categories are distinct from “working class.” Working poor and underclass fall below the income and status level of working class, residing at the bottom of the American class structure (Gilbert & Kahl, 1982).


Our histories of poverty vary. Jill, a White woman, is from a working poor background. Ramona, a woman of mixed ethnicities, is from an underclass background. Cecilia, a first-generation Filipino American whose parents immigrated to the United States, is from a working poor background.


Our experiences of poverty in our youth encompass both its material and metaphoric dimensions. We assert that the dispositions and characteristics cultivated through poverty persist beyond material poverty conditions in powerful and productive ways as we seek to instill a critical class-consciousness in our children who are living in upper-middle-class conditions.


Researchers identify the upper middle class as distinct from the lower-middle-class and middle-class socioeconomic status (Gilbert, 1998). Gilbert (1998) clarified that upper-middle-class status consists of more than just an income bracket: “The key to the success of the upper middle class is the growing importance of educational certification . . . its lifestyles and opinions are becoming increasingly normative for the whole society. It is in fact a porous class, open to people . . . who earn the right credentials” (p. 223). The Gilbert-Kahl model of the class structure places the total annual household income of the upper middle class at about $150,000 (Gilbert, 2008). The upper middle class is at the top of the American class structure in the “privileged class” category, with the only class above it being that of the “capitalist” class that represents only 1% of the American population (Gilbert, 2008).  


Lawler (2005) clarified that class can be “conceptualised as a dynamic process which is the site of political struggle, rather than as a set of static and empty positions waiting to be filled by indicators such as employment and housing” (p. 430). Each of us has currently achieved upper-middle-class status through acquiring graduate degrees and commensurate employment and having married men, or having been married to men, of similar educational and employment achievements. In our self-study, we unpack both our poverty and upper-middle-class experiences and, in so doing, examine our intergenerational cross-class identity as a site of personal and political struggle. Stories of mothers living a curriculum of moral education with their children are not traditionally envisioned as political struggles. To better understand why this is, we now turn our attention to the literature on mothers as moral educators.


MOTHERS AS MORAL EDUCATORS


Generally in Western cultures, mothers are acknowledged anecdotally as moral influences on their children in the home, yet they have not traditionally been considered as intentional moral educators. Noddings (2003) stated, “One might say that ethics has been discussed largely in the language of the father: in principles and propositions, in terms such as justification, fairness, and justice. The mother’s voice has been silent” (p. 1).


Noddings (2003) differentiated between the actions of caring for and caring about. She defined caring for as the face-to-face interactions that attempt to respond to the needs of the person or people who are cared for. Noddings asserted that caring about applies more to, or is more associated with, the motivation for wider social movements such as social justice or a critical class-consciousness. Critical class-consciousness can be described as maintaining attention to the inequitable conditions in our society based on class and a desire to rectify those inequitable conditions. Our self-study provides expression to our voices as mothers from poverty backgrounds trying to morally educate our upper-middle-class children in the ethics of class consciousness and social justice. In this sense, we are mothers who view our jobs of caring for our children as a means of facilitating our larger project of morally educating critical class-conscious citizens committed to social justice.


Orr (2000) wrote specifically about mothers as moral educators in her chapter by the same name. She drew heavily on Wittgenstein’s (1968) concept of moral lessons being taught through language games. Orr stated,


I am drawing on the work of Wittgenstein, who argued that language can profitably be understood as “language-games”—that is, speech woven into lived experience. This culture-lived experience is socially constructed not only along the axes of gender, race, and class but also along those of sexual orientation, ability, ethnicity, age, and others, and thus there exists a large family of moral language-games inflected by these variables. (p. 162)


Orr (2000) sought to make a similar distinction as Noddings (2003) between the traditional public sphere of moral discourse and education, and what she described as the range of the moral being “isomorphic with one’s life in all of its aspects” (p. 163). Orr asserted that mothers in natural interactions with their children in their homes reside in the realm of intentional moral discourse and education. The data from our self-study document the moral language games that we, as mothers from poverty backgrounds, engage in with our upper-middle-class children as we seek to foster their moral education.


Berkowitz and Grych (1998), in their article, “Fostering Goodness: Teaching Parents to Facilitate Children's Moral Development,” highlighted four components of psychological morality: empathy, conscience, moral reasoning, and altruism. They concluded that parents of altruistic children tend to highlight the effects of actions on others, use induction, create opportunities for their children to manifest responsibility for others, and moralize (e.g., lecture) about right and wrong, using strong affect.


Berkowitz and Grych (1998) provided an extensive review of literature that documents parents’ influence on children in early to middle childhood in these four components of psychological morality. However, they clearly noted, “The majority of research on links between parenting and moral development has been conducted with White, middle class samples and may not apply to other ethnic or socioeconomic groups” (p. 387). The data from our self-study offer perspectives that push beyond White middle-class samples as we offer the perspective of ethnically diverse women raised in poverty facilitating the moral development of their children being raised in upper-middle-class conditions. Huber and Clandinin (2005) stated that “a curriculum of lives is, of necessity, a curriculum of diversity” (p. 319), and we now turn our attention to further exploring the construct of a curriculum of lives as a way to better understand our stories of intergenerational cross-class identity development and living a curriculum of moral education.


A CURRICULUM OF LIVES


Connelly and Clandinin (1988) acknowledged that curriculum means different things to different people and asserted a construct of curriculum as experience. They highlighted the interconnectedness of experiences with their statement, “Every classroom situation grows out of some preceding classroom situation . . . [and] situations have a future” (pp. 7– 8). The notion of curriculum as experience, with a recognition of the past influences on, and future implications of, that situation applies well to our intergenerational cross-class negotiation of a moral education curriculum with our children. Later, Clandinin and Connelly (1992) went on to establish a construct of curriculum as an account of teachers’ and children’s lives together in schools and classrooms. This construct transfers in helpful ways to our interest in curriculum as an account of our lives as mothers and our children’s lives together in the complex ecology of our home settings living a moral education curriculum.


Continuing to investigate constructs of curriculum, Connelly and Clandinin (1999) explored life identities in terms of being stories to live by. Huber and Clandinin (2005) explained that this focus on the storied nature of identities “draws our attention to the centrality of lives in the negotiation of curriculum making” (p. 318). Our self-study seeks to maintain this focus on the centrality of lives—our lives and our children’s lives—in the negotiation of our moral education curriculum making.


Crites (1971) asserted that all narratives, including sacred and cover stories, transpire in culturally specific contexts and are “culturally particular” (p. 291). Our cross-class identities and the stories through which we live out our identities are certainly better understood through Crites’s attention to the culturally particular. Crites described sacred stories as “fundamental narratives” that are embedded in a people’s unconscious (p. 295). Crites proposed that such stories have “powerfully formed a civilization’s sense of itself and its world” (p. 295). The tensions inherent in such sacred stories manifest in our mothering stories. Olson and Craig (2001) explained that the everyday stories told by teachers can evidence both “sacred stories” and “cover stories” that individual teachers may feel compelled to tell and try to live (p. 669). We extend Olson and Craig’s statement by asserting that as mothers, we experience tension because we feel compelled to tell and try to live certain stories with our children as part of our identities and efforts to negotiate a moral curriculum with them.


Huber and Clandinin (2005) built on the previous work reviewed in the preceding paragraphs and presented the construct of “tensions around negotiating a curriculum of lives” (p. 317). They stated, “By shifting focus to include children even as we continue to focus on teachers, we looked at the meeting of teachers’ and children’s stories to live by” (p. 318). We extend Huber and Clandinin’s statement by shifting focus to include mothers even as we continue to focus on ourselves as teachers. In our self-study of practice, we look at the meeting of mothers’, teachers’, and children’s stories to live by. Huber and Clandinin sought to “study the meeting of teachers’ and children’s life identities within curriculum making” (p. 318). We build on their work, asserting that one way of seeing each curricular situation from multiple vantage points (Huber & Clandinin, 2005) is by examining how we negotiate intergenerational cross-class identities within the curriculum making of morally educating our children. More details regarding how we analyze our identities and curriculum making through our stories is provided in the next section.


METHOD


This self-study of teacher education practice research emerges from an analysis of the narrative knowledge of three mothers who are also educators, negotiating their cross-class identities while living a curriculum of moral education with their children who are growing up upper middle class. A focus on practice gives what Clandinin and Connelly (2007) described as “a complex historical and social/relational account of the teacher knowledge under study” (p. 589). For the present study, we, as teacher educators, took up an in-depth look at our personal stories of our knowledge as mothers and educators in our historical and social/relational contexts. Through our analysis of our stories as mothers, we were able to document and examine the tensions between our knowledge as teacher educators and our practices as mothers (Pinnegar, Dulude Lay, Bigham, & Dulude, 2005). 


The pitfalls of self-study of practice as a qualitative research methodology predictably include (1) being self-indulgent; (2) having personal significance only; and (3) trying to describe individuals’ states of mind. These limitations, however, can be combated by specific conceptualizations of and approaches to using the methodology. First, it must be established that self-study is the study of individuals’ experience and practice rather than the study of individuals’ language as representative of their thoughts (Clandinin & Connelly, 2007; Pinnegar & Hamilton, 2009). Second, the course of a self-study must include a turn from the self out toward the public/professional literature. Such a turn allows the reader to view the practices examined in the self-study alongside the related academic literature. In so doing, the personal knowledge brought to light through the self-study is positioned to resonate with the professional knowledge that exists in the larger community of researchers. Clandinin’s and Connelly (2007) asserted that “self-study is important not for what it shows about self but because of its potential to reveal knowledge of the educational landscape” (p. 575).  


CHARACTERISTICS OF SELF-STUDY


LaBoskey (2004) identified five characteristics of self-study that motivated us to employ self-study methods in this work. The first of LaBoskey’s (2004) characteristics is that self-study is “self-initiated and focused” (p. 842). The “living contradiction” (Whitehead, 1989, p. 41) motivating this self-study is that we mothers from poverty backgrounds are now raising our children in upper-middle-class conditions. To interrogate our living contradiction, we wrote stories of our cross-class experiences, trying to morally educate our upper-middle-class children to be critically class conscious.


Our self-study is “improvement-aimed,” LaBoskey’s (2004) second characteristic of self-study, in two ways (p. 844). First, teacher educators who engage with this self-study are positioned to better move across cultures and illustrate how tensions between cultures can be held open for meaning making rather than assuming that people only have one class identity. Second, the approaches and strategies of living a moral education curriculum chronicled in our self-study of practice offer a developmentally sensitive model of moral education that could, with modification, inform approaches to educating critical class-conscious educators, particularly from privileged backgrounds (Howard, 2008).


The third characteristic of self-study, “interactive” (LaBoskey, 2004, p. 847), is represented by our collaboration in the study and in our method of meaning making that focused on keeping our stories tension with each other and with our knowledge of research in this area. A fourth characteristic of self-study is that it includes “multiple, primarily qualitative, methods” (p. 849). Written narratives served as our data for this self-study, in addition to commentaries on our individual stories by the other authors. The fifth characteristic of self-study is that “it defines validity as a validation process based in trustworthiness” (p. 817). As in any self-study, developing trustworthiness requires attention to both being trustworthy and developing findings that are trustworthy (Pinnegar & Hamilton, 2009). The data analysis section will elaborate more on how our self-study fulfills LaBoskey’s third, fourth, and fifth characteristics of self-study methodology.


PARTICIPANTS


Our self-study of practice must be introduced through a brief description of each mother and her family portrayed. To gather and organize this information, we completed a document describing the participants in our “parade” of life (Clandinin & Connelly, 1998). The order in which the family descriptions are presented in Table 1 corresponds with the order in which the stories appear in this research text. The plots of our stories involve intergenerational cross-class identities, so we focus on the class backgrounds of our families, though we also touch on other contributing factors to identity, such as race, marital status, and professions.

 

Table 1. Participants’ Profile

Name

Childhood Class Background

Current Class Background

Marital Status

Family Members

Profession of Self and Spouse

Ethnicity of Self, Spouse, and Children

Cecilia

working poor daughter of immigrant parents

upper middle class

married

spouse and 4 children

social worker, adjunct professor, high school basketball coach (self)

computer programmer (spouse)

Filipino American (self)

White (spouse)

Mixed (children)

Ramona

underclass

upper middle class

married

spouse and 2 children

professor (self)

professor (spouse)

mixed ethnicities (self)

Latino (spouse)

mixed (children)

Jill

working poor

upper middle class

single

child

elementary school administrator and adjunct teacher educator (self)

White (self)

White (child)



DATA COLLECTION


Pinnegar and Hamilton (2009) explicated practical steps for initiating a self-study and emphasized that these steps, though not naturally linear, must be thoroughly completed to meet the standards for rigor and trustworthiness demanded in social science research. Their “framework-for-inquiry planner” (p. 38) helped forward Mishler’s (1990) assertions that researchers engaged in inquiry-guided and interpretive studies must give sufficient information to allow readers to make a “judgment of their trustworthiness” and accept their research findings (p. 438). In preparation for our self-study of practice, we completed a framework-for-inquiry planner. Our completed planner can be found in Appendix A.


The qualitative methodology of self-study of practice allows for the use of various methods (Pinnegar & Hamilton 2009), including narrative methods. Our narrative data collection was accomplished in two steps. First, we wrote stories of our mothering experiences and practices in which our past of having grown up poor collided with our present realities of raising upper-middle-class children. These stories averaged one page in length and are listed in Table 2.


Table 2. Index of Stories


Author

Story Title

Cecilia

Speed Racer Mornings

Cecilia

Tatay and Kai

Cecilia

I Want to Marry an American

Cecilia

Grocery Shopping: Then and Now

Cecilia

A Work Ethic

Cecilia

Rice Glue

Cecilia

Staying Home From School When Sick: A Privilege

Cecilia

Hair, Headbands, Flowers, Clips and Ribbons

Cecilia

Poor. Ha… Poor?

Jill

Mom, I think I’m famous or something…

Jill

Hey Wait, This is All About ME!

Jill

Spoiled Little Piggy or Compassionate Activist?

Ramona

Budgeting at the Bronx Zoo—WHY?

Ramona

I Lost My Paul Frank Slippers in a Hotel in Paris

Ramona

Praying for “Babies in Need”

Ramona

Well, If You Don’t Like it, You Can Just Throw It Away

Ramona

Lunchroom Lady and the Ice Cream Man

Ramona

Privileges Mom, Yeah I Know, Privileges

Ramona’s Son

A Hardworking Kid


The highest number of stories written by one author was nine, and the lowest number of stories written was three, for a total of 19 stories. The disparity in the number of stories written by each author represents our differing levels of comfort in writing up potentially painful memories of our mothering.


The second step in our data collection process consisted of sharing our stories with each other and providing written commentary on them. The comments generated in the process were considered a second data source.


Early in the data collection process, Jill called Ramona and said that she was not sure that she could write her stories. Ramona asked her why, and Jill explained that she was realizing that in sitting down to write the stories about our children who are being raised upper middle class, we were constructing a study that had far more to do with us as mothers than with our children. Cecilia expressed her discomfort with confronting her current status as upper middle class because for her, that socioeconomic bracket connoted images of White people who do not care about the plight of people of color. Our self-study of practice has indeed been a process wherein we reveal our practical knowledge and then interrogate it.


DATA ANALYSIS


Our self-study of practice uses narrative methods. Smith (2009), speaking specifically about narrative research, asked “how narrative researchers can better reveal the constructedness of their stories” (p. 606). This call for transparency in inquiry and analytic procedures echoes Mishler’s (1990) assertion that “validity claims are tested through the ongoing discourse among researchers and, in this sense, scientific knowledge is socially constructed” (p. 415). Such discourse cannot occur if sufficient information is not given to the reader, and so we provide details of our analytic procedures.


First, each author’s stories and accompanying comments by other authors were cut and pasted alongside those of the other authors. Second, using this chart, we highlighted prominent themes in each story and respective comments. Third, we extracted the highlighted portions of the text representing the various themes identified and developed codes representing the themes. In an effort to share and open for dialogue our data analysis procedures, we present a full list of the codes used for analyzing our data and provide a sample of raw data in the form of coded stories in Appendix B. Fourth, we looked across selected portions of the data for commonalities among, as well as tensions between, the themes identified (see Appendix B).


The lead author continued to interrogate the themes and tensions identified in the exemplars. Any additional themes and/or tensions identified were forwarded to the other authors, who critiqued both the themes and the quotes linked to them. Through the data analysis process, the three authors collectively negotiated the themes and exemplars. The process led to a refinement of themes and agreement on the themes and the data that supported them. In the next step of data analysis, all three authors used the refined themes to return to the data, seeking discomfirming and confirming evidence for them. In this process, we sought to validate the themes as well as make certain that the identified themes captured all the ideas and tensions from the data. If disagreement had emerged, we would have once more refined and adjusted the themes and returned again to the critical analysis of the data to seek both disconfirming and confirming evidence. However, at this stage, the three authors reached consensus and were able to individually identify stronger support for the exemplars of the themes.


These data analysis steps reflect the theoretical frame of our analysis, which follows what Pinnegar and Hamilton (2009) identified as a sociological tradition that “sees text as a window to human experience” (p. 148), and Mishler’s (1990) work on “exemplars” as the “normal practice—the ordinary, taken-for-granted and trustworthy concepts and methods for solving puzzles and problems within a particular area of work” (p. 423).


Smith (2009), speaking of narrative researchers, asserted that these researchers have deep understanding of the many analytic decisions that they have made but usually do not share with the readers. He went on to suggest that in order to address this point of contention in narrative work being accepted by social scientists, “sample analytic memos detailing one or more of the critical choices an author has made . . . could be included (p. 606). In Appendix C, we share an analytic memo in which the lead author, in dialogue with our data, the literature, and the other authors, identifies a code with which to analyze our stories.


The phases of data analysis described in this section lay the foundation for the process of writing the research text presented in this article.


WRITING THE RESEARCH TEXT


Pinnegar and Hamilton (2009) and LaBoskey (2004) emphasized that a self-study of practice must make a turn from the self out toward the public dimension. We accomplish this turn through dialogue with the literature. While writing the research text, we laid the literature on mothers as moral educators along with other literature alongside our stories to identify theoretical constructs applicable to helping us make meaning from our stories. The first author of this article took primary responsibility for producing the research text because of time constraints in the lives of the other authors. However, all three authors were intricately involved in the data analysis phases of the self-study as previously explained.


The constant recognition that these stories are about real mothers and real children raises many of the ethical issues involved in narrative research (Huber & Clandinin, 2002, 2005). The relational responsibilities between participants and narrative researchers, especially in our case, must be understood as long term. As mothers, we are in positions of authority and power in our children’s lives, and it is very common for recognition of a mother’s accomplishments to be based on judgments of her children’s behaviors. We had to constantly manage our own desires to look like “good mothers” with the need to tell the stories as our children and we have experienced them.


One author shared her research with her children and asked them to confirm the portrayals of the stories she told. A process of negotiation ensued as one child expressed concern best summarized by her statement, “Mom, I don’t want to be in your stupid study because you are going to say we are spoiled.” Instances like this one forced us as researchers to clarify the intention of our self-study of practice and to repair trustworthiness with our participants. In some types of qualitative research, the validity can be defined as “a validation process based in trustworthiness” (LaBoskey, 2004, p. 817). Another of our children was disappointed that none of the stories involving him ended up in the final research text and decided to write a comic strip about his experiences as a means of documenting his concern for the topic. Other child participants were too young to take an interest in the self-study that their mothers were conducting. Negotiating trustworthiness with one’s own children and repairing it when it is damaged was a difficult process for us personally and professionally, but one that promoted growth both personally and professionally.


As mothers, women tend to express guilt when their children do not behave as we wish or when they criticize our mothering. Our socioeconomic backgrounds of poverty childhoods differ from our children’s upper-middle-class status. We had to be aware that our children’s behaviors toward a person in poverty, whether that behavior be positive or negative, might prompt a reaction from us that would reopen our own past and make our relationship with our children in the future uncertain because of our past. These moments of reopening, or in Bakhtin’s (1981) terms, the zone of maximal contact, allow us to explore the many tensions in our efforts to morally educate our children.


ASSERTIONS FOR UNDERSTANDING


AN UNDERSTANDING OF OUR PRESENT THROUGH OUR PAST


Temporality is one of the dimensions of a narrative space (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000; Connelly & Clandinin, 2006). Close attention to the ways in which narratives are of or related to time can help expose the nature of a lived curriculum. Our data analysis found patterns of our past poverty experiences colliding in painful and productive ways with our present mothering practices.


When I was younger and in the store with my mother, I would feel a sudden streak of fear when at the checkout. I was nervous that we didn’t have enough money and nervous that my mother would have to speak. I rarely, rarely asked for a treat, in fear that it would affect the total bill and then we would not have enough to pay. I hated having to go to the store and having to watch without justice the way others treated my mother. She was firm, and would speak politely, “Yes, I have that amount. Thank you.” It made me want to protect her even more. As a parent, I have noticed saying yes to things we don’t need. The other day, Jaemin wanted to buy a treat and a little dollar toy from the grocery store. Of course I said yes because I had the money to do so. The next day came and again, I bought him another toy. He then asked if I could buy him another one. This time I said no, and then started into my little speech of not being able to get whatever we want. I have found myself in a number of situations like this where I am explaining the value of the dollar and hard work. (Cecilia)


All our stories can be interpreted along different axes, including, but not limited to, the axes of race, class, gender, and familiar roles. Cecilia’s story of protecting her mother on the surface reads like it centers on the axis of race because she references discrimination based on accent and skin color, but Cecilia’s interpretation and response to the situation is based on the axis of class. This is evident in the strategy she uses to protect her mother—never asking for a treat so that there is enough money to pay the bill. Interestingly, Cecilia does not choose to speak in an American accent on her mother’s behalf, which she could have done if she chose the role of being a cultural broker for her mother. Rather, Cecilia chooses to use an economic remedy of not asking for a treat and, in so doing, demonstrates that for her, the situation is most fully comprehended as an affront to her mother’s and her class. Therefore, though the situation can be interpreted along the axis of race, for Cecilia, the axis of class trumps that of race in her personal interpretation and response to the situation.


Our mothers were teaching us moral lessons in their economic situations, and we are currently teaching our children moral lessons in our economic situations. It appears that Cecilia’s young son Jaemin doesn’t understand the concept of hard work and the value of a dollar, but certainly Cecilia does, having grown up in poverty. Cecilia’s willingness to buy Jaemin the toys does not mean that she has forgotten the value of a dollar, but as she reflects, her willingness to make the purchases for her son signify for her a feeling of self-worth and accomplishment—“because I can.” Lawler (2005), building on Bourdieu’s notion that social identity is rooted in identifying difference between the classes (particularly the class closest at hand), argued that the construction of middle-class identity relies on “the expulsion and exclusion of (what is held to be) white working-classness” (p. 430). Cecilia’s purchases can be seen as an assertion of her child’s upper-middle-class identity, and the poignancy of that identity is made stronger by its difference, even contradiction, to how Cecilia was raised.


Considering Cecilia ’s story from the inquiry space of temporality helps to highlight how the story shows temporalities colliding while living a curriculum of moral education with our children. The dynamics of the story lived and the story retold become apparent. Cecilia’s story of her mothering prompts us to explore the question, To what degree does our past play a role in our present lives? A story from Cecilia’s own childhood illustrates the tensions she faces in raising her own children upper middle class.


As a child, I woke up very early in the morning because my mom would have to leave to go to work about 30 minutes away from our home. It was 6:00 a.m., which seemed very early for a 5-year-old child. She would leave by 6:45. My older brother and I would have our backpack ready from the night before sitting by the door. We would have our clothes set out as well and toothpaste on our toothbrushes just waiting for us in the morning. When my mother left, my brother and I were in charge of getting out the door to the bus stop on our own. We made our own breakfast, which consisted of rice and maybe some eggs or spam. We also made our own lunches, which were usually just a sandwich and an apple. It was funny because we always knew it was time to leave when “Speed Racer,” the cartoon, was over. When I think back at those times, I am always amazed at how well we did. My brother and I just seemed to be able to do it and never thought how sad it was. That was just our lives and responsibility to get done. As a mother today, I never have wanted my children to feel any sort of loneliness or sadness that as parents we have not been there to get them started in the morning. I have mixed emotions about whether it was a good thing or not. I feel very independent and self-reliant because of that routine in my young life. I never felt as though my mother didn’t love me. (Cecilia)


Connelly and Clandinin (1990) posited that all learning situations are “historical . . . . It is also true that what happened yesterday, and the week before, and in fact at any stage during any one participant’s life also is part of the history, for that person, in that situation” (p. 9). The moral education curriculum that we negotiate with our children exemplifies Connelly and Clandinin’s point about life experiences as the substance of curriculum. Cecilia’s independence and self-reliance were nurtured in her childhood poverty. In her current reality, she experiences the tensions of wanting to teach her children to have those traits, but not wanting them to acquire them in the manner that she did.


We do not mean to imply that all mothers from poverty backgrounds employ the same moral education “curriculum” for our upper-middle-class children. Next, Ramona’s story contrasts Cecilia’s approach, but both strive toward the same larger objectives.


We’re at the Bronx Zoo. After the giraffes and laughing African dogs, we head over to the Gorilla House. A $2 extra charge to get in. We’ll go and see the free monkeys. Butterfly house—sounds great, but there’s an extra charge there as well. Frog House, same thing. I explain to my kids that we don’t want to pay extra to see animals when we can see other ones without paying more. As we wander around the zoo, my daughter starts to notice little sun visors in bright colors in the shape of different animals. “Mom, can I get one?” I reply, “Oh, Tiare, do you really want one? If you spend your money today, you won’t have it at the American Girl Doll store.” We eventually have an on-going discussion, which she concludes by saying, “That’s ok Mommy.” I have beaten her willingness to ask for a visor out of her within less than 5 minutes. I realize this and finally convince her that if she really wants it, she should get it. We go in and pay for it. When we get outside of the store and back with the other kids, the little 2 1/2-year-old who is with us says, “I want that hat!” Tiare promptly takes it off of her head and hands it to the little girl to wear. She does so without hesitation and with simple happiness. (Ramona)


Similar to Cecilia, Ramona’s experiences as a child of poverty influence the way she deals with her children’s desires. This is a difficult memory for Ramona, but by retelling it, she makes public her own questions and tensions that arise in her practice of mothering (Connelly & Clandinin, 1990). This tension is not easily resolved and brings us to the bigger question of how our poverty shapes our lives as mothers. A story from Ramona’s childhood further illustrates her lived tensions and helps explicate how she morally educates her upper-middle-class children.


I clearly remember my mom putting a whole pack of Ritz crackers in my lunch. It was a big day at our house if I got to have home lunch instead of eating breakfast and lunch at school—of course I was on free lunch and breakfast. I remember eating every single last Ritz cracker because who knew when Daddy would win big at cards again, and we would get to buy something as amazingly delicious and fancy as Ritz crackers. When my daughter recently wanted a treat, I told her to try a blueberry cereal bar, and if she didn’t like it, she could just throw it away and get something else out of the snack box. As someone who hates to waste anything, especially food, I was shocked to hear those words come out of my mouth. But I instantly knew that I said them because I do not want my daughter to have the desperate relationship with food that I now have as a result of having an “eat it now and eat it all” mentality because of the scarcity of food that was the common at my house growing up—well scarcity of good food. There was always plenty of that cheese that came in a giant loaf in the commodities box each month. (Ramona)


Orr (2000) has written that “mothers are largely responsible for the teaching that shapes morality on a primitive level, in part by shaping concepts of self and others” (p. 163). One’s relationship with food is certainly primitive, and a woman’s or a girl’s concept of self often is intricately interwoven with her relationship with food in our society. Ramona’s conscious attempt to negotiate the tensions between her relationship with food, born of a scarcity model, and the relationship with food that she is trying to engender in her own daughter illustrates her desire (a) for her daughter to recognize the privilege of easy access to food and (b) to avoid transferring her own scarcity orientation toward food on to her daughter.


Exploring the productive collisions of our past and present realities as manifest in our mothering documents how a curriculum of life intricately involves participants’ histories and presents, and implicates the future. In the next section, we examine how our stories not only push on our past and present understandings but also bump up against the literature on moral education.


OUR PRIVATE CURRICULUM OF MORAL EDUCATION AND THE PUBLIC MORAL EDUCATION LITERATURE


Examining the seams of interaction between one’s private stories and the public domain of literature in a field constitutes one dimension of the narrative space (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000; Clandinin, Pushor, & Murray Orr, 2007; Connelly & Clandinin, 2006). In this section, we stitch together the seams along which our private stories of living a moral education curriculum bump up against the public literature on moral education.


We want our children to understand what poverty is like without having to go through it. Because of this, our attempts to provide such experiences often come up short. For example, Ramona, in her earlier story, felt guilty about always giving her daughter homilies about having and having not, so she eventually bought her the visor. Ramona’s actions may have been motivated by her desire to shield her daughter from the actual experience of going without. When her daughter gave the visor away, Ramona was able to believe that her efforts to achieve intimacy and altruism might be profitable, despite the possibility that many of these efforts are inauthentic because it would be problematic to actually subject her children to the same poverty she experienced. If we lay Ramona’s story alongside the literature on mothers as moral educators, the potential emerges for such exchanges to indeed be valuable teaching experiences.


Pinnegar (2005) addressed the difficulty involved in efforts to moral-educate teacher candidates when she considered teacher educators living a curriculum of moral education with teacher candidates:


Teacher educators need to develop the kinds of relationships that potentially make us a central figure in the private and personal considerations of preservice teachers concerning their beliefs about the obligations, duties, and rights of teachers. It also requires a particular kind of personal humility which honors preservice teacher’s agency in determining in their own future as a teacher and an honesty rather than arrogance about the importance of one’s own knowledge and power in the institution. (p. 270)


As mothers, we inherently are positioned in the private and personal considerations of our children.


Our analysis of our stories and the moral education literature illustrates that there are not many educative and, at the same time, humane options for helping young children understand the plight of those in poverty. Additionally, the developmental levels of our children who are preadolescent need to be considered. Pinnegar (2005) stated, “Adolescents must be able to act autonomously emotionally, socially, economically, and intellectually. They must develop an identity which realistically represents their own choice, talent, and action” (p. 271). As mothers living a curriculum of moral education with our children, we are preparing them for these adolescent roles.


The persistence of a poverty mentality can be seen in Ramona’s struggle to stop herself from lecturing her daughter about spending her own money for the visor. This language game, as Orr (2000) referencing Wittgenstein (1968) would call it, was explicitly attempting to teach a moral. Thompson (2006) explained that “emotional skills are intrapersonal skills, such as . . . motivating oneself to attain goals [and] delaying gratification” (p. 42). These skills are necessary for our children to be taught and to develop. As Thompson has stated, without the development of emotion along with cognitive skills, the individual would lack emotional empathy and cognition. These events represent opportunities for our children to be understanding of their own and others’ needs. In giving her newly purchased visor to the younger girl, Tiare seems to demonstrate the type of cognitive and emotional skills that Thompson described. It seems that she understands her own cognitive and emotional skills and those of the little girl. However, this type of autonomous moral act might not have occurred had Ramona not stopped her lecture, literally because she would not have allowed Tiare to spend her own money to buy the visor. This leads our discussion to the construct of moral and narrative authority.  


Moral authority developed through language games.


Olson and Craig (2001) defined narrative authority as “the expression and enactment of a person’s personal practical knowledge that develops as individuals learn to authorize meaning in relationship with others” (p. 669). They further explained that “narrative authority extends the complexity of personal practical knowledge into a social, public, and self reflective realm” (p. 669). Tiare’s narrative authority as a moral agent emerged in her relationship with the little girl to whom she gave the visor. Pinnegar (2005) defined moral authority as being “based on trust, respect and support. It requires individual teachers to be trustworthy, deserving of respect, and provide appropriate support for student learning and development” (p. 270).


Another time, Ramona and her children were in a fancy toy store in New York City, and Ramona started lecturing the children about how they already had so much and so they were not going to buy anything from that store. Tiare stopped her mother midsentence and said, “Privileges mom, yeah, I know, privileges.”


This exchange at the fancy toy store could be characterized as what Orr (2000) called “speech woven into lived experience” (p. 162). Ramona’s lived experiences as a poor girl of mixed ethnicities indeed influence the way she carries herself in the fancy toy store. But, it is not the hint of non-White race that is evident in her and her children’s appearance that contributes to her continuing discomfort. Rather, it is her former class status that she interprets as influencing her feelings more than her race and motivates her moral dialogue with her daughter.


Tiare actually saying, “Yeah, I know privileges” is a testament to her mother’s work as her daughter’s moral educator. Yet through her statement, Tiare also authorizes her own meaning in relationship with her mother in their ongoing moral dialogue. Orr (2000) explained that a mother’s role as a moral educator involves “a person embedded in her particular cultural and historical matrix, and this most especially through her participation in the language-games available to her” (p. 165).


We all worry that what we say to our children goes in one ear and out the other, but by embodying the behaviors that we want our children to exhibit, we are giving them a chance at actually achieving that goal. Orr (2000) also wrote that Wittgenstein has noted that “moral thinking frequently takes place in the context of ‘moral talk’ with others” (p. 163). This idea of moral talk is at the center of our experiences as mothers who seek to raise conscientious children into compassionate adults.


One of Jill’s stories allows another view of a mother engaged with moral talk with her daughter. Jill’s approach to moral talk differs greatly from Ramona’s lecture style, but it is aimed at the same objective.


There is a homeless man named Quinten who lives on La Brea Ave., near to where my daughter, Bea, and I live. We have an ongoing relationship with Quinten because we see him on a regular basis because we live near to where he “lives.” Bea’s birthday was coming up, and Bea and I were taking a walk to Target to check out things for Bea’s birthday party. Bea told me, “Mommy, I think that we should get Quinten a gift card from Target because he could use the money.” I asked Bea, “Ok, how much do you think that we should get the gift card for?” Bea thought a moment, and then said in a small questioning voice, “$30?” I replied, “Well, I think that we could make it for $50 Bea.” Bea replied, “Oh good, I was going to say $50, but I didn’t think you would want to do that Mom.” (Jill)


Quinten is an African American man. When asked how she sees Quinten, Bea states, “Yeah, he’s Black, I see that, but I feel sad for him. He’s homeless.” Though Bea is able to interpret her relationship with Quinten along the axis of race, the axis of class has much more influence on her relationship to him. As with the story of Ramona and her daughter, Jill and Bea experience their story most profoundly along the axis of class rather than race.


Weissbourd (2009) stated,


We are entirely capable of raising children who lead emotionally rich and responsible lives, lives of great integrity and commitment. I am talking about children who as adults experience the necessity—and wonder and aliveness—of asking moral questions and constructing with others a moral understanding of the world, who listen and reach for moral complexity, search for and follow their higher natures, and engage in vibrant, caring relationships with family and friends. I am talking about children who grow to be alert to signs of distress in other people, who feel responsibility for those from other classes or races or backgrounds, who feel propelled to give to the world in some way. (p. 206)


Jill and Ramona, though their approaches to moral talk differ, both seem to have morally educated their children to be upper-middle-class children who feel responsible for “those from other classes or races or backgrounds, who feel propelled to give to the world in some way” (Weissbourd, 2009, p. 206). A story from Jill’s childhood illustrates how her past influences her current curriculum of moral education with her daughter:


When I was a little kid, I used to imagine that I was going to be very rich and able to take care of my mother. I wasn’t too sure about the how or why I was rich, just that my mother would never have to work again and everyone would be happy. I was very dramatic, so I would pretend that I was a singer or an actress. Growing up in the shadow of a major Hollywood studio, I am sure, contributed to these kinds of fantasies. Around fourth grade I became very interested in politics and mapped out a future as a lawyer-legislator-president, but later on abandoned that idea when I realize how much money you needed to be a politician. (Jill)


Jill’s story clearly illustrates Orr’s (2000) emphasis that “language, including moral uses of language, is acquired and used by a human being in the course of living her life and developing into the person she becomes” (p. 164). Our narratives of morally educating our upper-middle-class children extend Orr’s original concept in that our narratives document the intergenerational capacity of such moral uses of language.


Tensions as entryways to restorying.


Another tension that is highlighted by our stories is the tension between innocence and guilt. Connelly and Clandinin (1990) promoted the use of narrative inquiry as a vehicle for making public one’s own tensions and questions that arise in their practice. The points of tension in our mothering practices are entryways to deeper understanding and opportunities to explore the tensions rather than resolve them.


Initially we each felt certain amounts of shame and guilt because we were poor. The cultural narrative about poor people is that they are poor because they are lazy or because they have bad habits (Payne, 2005). Children in poverty are caught in a bind between feeling guilty and feeling innocent because they do not understand that even if the narrative of poor people being solely responsible for their poverty is true (which we know it is not), children would still be innocent. However, if we, as children of poverty, accept this reasoning, it means that we are innocent but our parents are guilty. This cyclical reasoning can result in a large amount of guilt in addition to the shame of poverty in our society. Engaging in our self-study of practice has illuminated the tension we feel resulting from reconfronting our initial cultural narrative about poverty as we negotiate our adult relationships with our own children and parents.


Our self-study has provided us the opportunity to restory our childhood to our children (Connelly & Clandinin, 1990). This process is particularly complicated when our children interact with family members, strangers, and so on, who are still in poverty. Though this work is complicated and often painful, we assert that learning about ourselves as moral educators can promote the work of an increasing number of voices that challenge the discourse of remediation and deficit surrounding people from poverty backgrounds (Bomer, Dworin, May, & Semingson, 2008; Cutri, Manning, & Chun, 2010; Gorski, 2008).  


Lave and Wenger (1991) noted that “the success of a learner changing work contexts, and therefore integrating into new participation frameworks, would depend upon his or her ability to move between modes of coparticipation” (p. 20). This too is our goal, to help our children understand that sometimes they are being taught the moral lessons, and other times they will have opportunities to act on the moral lessons they have been taught. Bea’s and Tiare’s actions can be seen as legitimate peripheral participation in Jill’s and Ramona’s larger life curriculum of striving for critical class-consciousness and equity.


For us as mothers, seeing our children take up moral lessons and apply them in their personal practice is the heart of the lessons we have learned through our self-study. As Noddings (2003) said, “the contributions of the cared-for sustain us in our efforts to care” (p. xiv). And thus, our poverty pasts are restoried into our children’s present moral actions.


CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH


In summary, the three themes that emerged from our self-study of practice negotiating cross-class identities while living a curriculum of moral education center on (1) understanding the temporal dimensions of poverty or the past’s complicated yet productive influence on the present; (2) the potential of moral talk to promote the development of moral and narrative authority; and (3) the painful yet worthwhile process of living in tension so that constructive restorying can occur. The limitations of this study include that there are only 3 participants, so findings may not be generalizable to a larger population. However, this very limitation is also a strength in that an intimate portrait can be constructed through the voices of the 3 participants.


As we analyzed our data, we maintained attention to the axes of race, class, gender, and familiar roles. In the exemplars that made it into our research text, the axes of class and motherhood prevailed. Race did not dominate as an interpreting lens in our stories, though issues of race did emerge. We recognize the potentially normalizing influence of our current upper-middle-class status on our interpretation of our stories.


Our stories of our moral teaching indeed did not appear to differ significantly from the moral education frameworks described in research based mostly on data from White middle-class families. Again, the normalizing influence of our current class must be acknowledged. However, the similarity between our approach to moral education and the approaches in the literature normed on White middle-class families can begin to call into question the existence of a major cultural divide between the parenting styles and intentions of families from poverty and those from nonpoverty backgrounds. If parents from both poverty and nonpoverty backgrounds actually share similar aspirations for their children to be morally educated, perhaps there is not such a great need as is currently perceived by many for workshops to help middle-class people understand families from poverty backgrounds (Payne, 2005). Further large-scale research could be done to explore the moral education aspirations and strategies of parents from poverty and middle-class backgrounds.


Despite similarities with moral frameworks normed on White families, we maintain that it is important to add our diverse cross-class background voices to the literature on mothers as moral educators. We encourage future research to continue to explore the impact of race on people of cross-class identities living a curriculum of moral education.


In addition to being mothers, we are also professional educators. Ramona is a teacher educator at a university preservice teacher education program. Jill is an elementary school curriculum coach and in-service teacher professional development leader. Cecilia is a social worker adjunct professor who teaches courses to social work majors, and she is also a high school basketball coach. Educators in the United States are still predominantly White middle-class English-speaking Christian women who usually have had little experience with the topics of multicultural education (Ladson-Billings, 2005; Slater, 2008). In our professional capacities, we want to teach our students social justice awareness and inculcate in them a moral commitment to equitable education for all children (Goodlad, Soder, & Sirotnik, 1990). In essence, as with our own children, we want our students to gain empathy and altruism for people in poverty when many of our students will have never experienced poverty firsthand.


Pinnegar (2005), speaking of teacher educators, concluded, “Positioning oneself to be accorded moral authority by students actually means positioning oneself in a role of great vulnerability” (p. 270). Orr concurred, stating, “The person who is radically open to others and their experiences and who is fluid, changing, and growing as new language-games are developed and incorporated into one’s life” is a more effective moral educator (p. 165). Our self-study of practice models open, honest relationships and the potential of such relationships to promote vulnerability, moral authority, and the development of autonomy as moral agents. Yet within the confines of our higher education classrooms and professional development settings, how can we apply the lessons that we learned from morally educating our children to our efforts to morally educate our students?


More research needs to be done on the developmental readiness of undergraduate pre- and in-service teachers and social service workers from predominantly White middle-class English-speaking Christian backgrounds to do the difficult work of acknowledging their privileges and morally committing themselves to work for the good of those in less privileged positions (McAllister & Irvine, 2000). Marshall (1998) asserted, “Teacher educators must acknowledge that more complex levels of humaneness and commitment to democratic principles are necessary to identify and deconstruct schooling inequities” (p. 59). Perhaps the approaches and strategies of moral education chronicled in our stories of mothering can offer a developmentally sensitive model of moral education that could, with modification, inform a developmentally sensitive approach to educating critical class-conscious educators.


For effective moral education to occur in teacher education programs, academia needs to begin to encourage and reward professors and students who are willing to exhibit the type of openness and complexity that Orr (2000), Pinnegar (2005), and Marshall (1998) have called for. This type of moral education will most likely resemble the voice of the mother rather than the father (Noddings, 1993). Our self-study of practice of mothers living a curriculum of moral education documents the tensions, ethical considerations, and rewards of openness to complexity and can provide initial guidance into how to forward such efforts in teacher education.


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APPENDIX A


FRAMEWORK-FOR-INQUIRY PLANNER


1.

What are we interested in exploring? What are our living contradictions?

From our experience doing a study called Poverty PhDs with another friend, our consciousness about our cross-class identities has been turned on. We are recognizing just how much our poverty backgrounds influenced our professional lives. It’s seeping into our consciousness that really our poverty backgrounds popped up all over the place in our lives. We are raising our own children in such different conditions than we grew up in. Of course we know this intellectually all along, but we really are beginning to think about the significance of having grown up poor and raising our children upper middle class. We often experienced our mothering practices and experiences as living contradictions. We want our children to enjoy the privileges of our current socioeconomic status. But we are also social justice educators, and so we also want to raise our children to be compassionate citizens who use their privileges to work for equity and justice on behalf of the underprivileged. As teacher educators and a social worker, we know what it is like working with and teaching young adults and adults from privilege and trying to enculturate them into a critical awareness of class in the U.S. It’s hard sometimes! We are interested in exploring how our mothering practices relate to our professional commitment as social justice educators and how our mothering practices can inform our teaching practices.

2.

How could we explore these concerns and issues? What context might be most fitting? Who are the most appropriate participants?

We tell each other countless “mom” stories about times when we just have to either laugh or cry because our kids are growing up so differently than we did. We need to be systematic in recording these stories, documenting them, and sharing them with each other. It seems to us that next to our working settings, the context of our families and home life is where most of these stories occur, so selecting ourselves and our families as the participants makes the most sense because two of us have already conducted and published a self-study about our cross-class identities in the context of academia. So, a self-study of our mothering practices and experiences it is.

3.

What methods might we use? What would count as evidence?

We have got to use our “mom” stories as markers of our experiences of our cross-class identities—these stories illustrate instances of our cross-class identities popping up in our daily lives. We will write up stories that we have told each other in the past and promptly write up any new stories that we experience. We will share these stories with each other electronically, and then comment on each other’s stories as we read them through phone or email conversations.

Evidence: Stories of our mothering, our comments on each other’s stories

4.

What work in teacher education research (or other research fields) will guide our inquiry? What beliefs are embedded in our questions? What do we expect to contribute to the knowledge base?


Connelly & Clandinin’s notion of curriculum as the lived experiences of teachers and students—a curriculum of lives.

Sockett’s notion of the moral purpose of the nurturer-professional model of teaching.

Noddings’s notion of mothers as moral educators.

O’Brien & Swadener’s (2006) notion of the politicized personal.

Embedded in our research question is a belief in class as a major component of cultural identity. Also evident is our belief in and commitment to social justice education both as educators and as mothers.

We hope to contribute to the knowledge base about enculturating children, young adults, and adults of privileged backgrounds into a moral commitment to social justice, particularly regarding working-poor class and underclass people.

Note: Pinnegar and Hamilton (2009) stated the questions in first-person singular. Because there are three of us conducting this narrative self-study, we state the questions in the plural form.


APPENDIX B


SAMPLE STORY CODING


Note: Codes are as follows: Moral Education Efforts Direct = MEE D; Moral Education Efforts Indirect = MEE I; Legitimate Peripheral Participation = LPP; Narrative Authority = NA; Self-Realization = SR; Past Socioeconomic Status Influencing Current Mothering = PST SES.


Grocery Shopping: Then and Now


When I was younger and in the store with my mother, I would feel a sudden streak of fear when at the checkout. I was nervous that we didn’t have enough money and nervous that my mother would have to speak. She spoke well, I always thought, and was a math teacher at a high school, so what was the big deal? Time after time, living in Southern California, there was quite a bit of discrimination. And many times at the checkout line, I could feel that. I always felt like they thought my mother couldn’t speak or didn’t understand English or we didn’t have money at all to pay for the groceries. I rarely, rarely asked for a treat, in fear that it would affect the total bill and then we would not have enough to pay. I remember being in the store and the cashier talking to my mother like she was stupid, in a loud slow voice. Enunciating the price of our groceries very slowly and as though we may not have the money to pay. I was always scared. Probably more embarrassed than anything else. I hated having to go to the store and having to watch without justice the way others treated my mother. (SR) She was firm, and would speak politely, “yes, I have that amount. Thank you.” I never asked her how she must have felt, though I sensed an unease and often times lack of confidence. She is a great woman. And I have to say, very strong. I never thought any less of her. It made me want to protect her even more.


I still feel those feelings sometimes when in a grocery store. (SR) There are many stereotypes that individuals place upon each other and I am conscious of them. My children have not had to deal with lack of food or clothing. They have not had to go to a grocery store and not had enough to buy the simple necessities of life. They have not had to deal with a parent that has a thick accent and misunderstood often. They have us. Recently, while in a store, the young lady looked at me a little bit as though she was unsure if I understood what she had to say. I again felt those tinges of pain that my mother felt of being misunderstood. (PST SES) But I speak the language, I don’t have an accent, and I understand very well. As I replied back to the young lady, I could see on her face the ease. She knew I was an American and that I understood how much my bill was and that I had the necessary means of paying it. Though my feelings went away, my children didn’t even know or were aware of such ideas or feelings. They were able to get their “treats” and were on their way. They were not embarrassed of me, nor were they nervous that there would be no rice or milk for the next day. My children have no idea what having “minimal” is like or want for something. (PST SES)Though at a very young age we were made aware of these things, it helped me to be aware of spending money on wasteful things, and not bothering my mom with unneeded stress of material goods that I didn’t need. (MEE I) BUT!!!! As a parent, I have noticed saying yes to things we don’t need. (SR) The other day, Jaemin wanted to buy a treat and a little dollar toy from the grocery store. Of course I said yes because I had the money to do so. We buy the treat and balloon. We get home and the balloon lasted 2 hours. Jaemin turned to me and asked if we could buy a new one and I said yes tomorrow. The next day came and again, I bought him the balloon toy that was actually $3.00. It lasted half the day. He then asked if I could buy him another one. This time I said no and then led me into my little speech of not being able to get whatever we want. (MEE D). He is my youngest and by far the least to understand this concept of not getting everything we want. I have found myself in a number of situations like this where I am explaining the value of the dollar and hard work. (MEE D)


Spoiled Little Piggy or Compassionate Activist?


Jill reports that sometimes she just thinks that Bea is a “spoiled little piggy,” but then Bea will do something to totally blow apart that conclusion. (PST SES)


There is a homeless man named Quinten who lives on La Brea Ave. near to where Bea and Jill live. They have an ongoing relationship with Quinten because they see him on a regular basis because they live near to where he “lives.” (MEE I) Bea’s birthday was coming up and Bea and Jill were talking a walk to Target to check out things for Bea’s birthday party. Bea told Jill, “Mommy, I think that we should get Quinten a gift card from Target because he could use the money.” (LPP) Jill then asked Bea, “Ok, how much do you think that we should get the gift card for?” Bea thought a moment, and then said in a small questioning voice, “$30?” (NA) Jill replied, “Well, I think that we could make it for $50 Bea.” (MEE D) Bea replied, “Oh good, I was going to say $50, but I didn’t think you would want to do that Mom.” (NA)


So what do our children do with the many, many privileges that they enjoy? (PST SES) Indeed they enjoy them and even revel in them and take them for granted like “little piggys.” But, what else do they do with their privileges? Give them away to homeless men who they consider neighbors, pray for babies in need, heal our hearts through their relationships with our parents. What they do with their privileges is their choice that indeed we cannot force. (LPP and NA) Our jobs rather seem to be to observe what their choices are and come to understand a new generation of social justice, not one born out of poverty, but one born out of choice and privilege. (SR and LPP)


Budgeting at the Bronx Zoo—WHY?


We’re at the Bronx Zoo. It is suggested donation day, and I have paid a dollar each for my two kids and me. We took the subway there and walked past the projects on our way into the zoo. We packed a lunch. (PST SES) My friend Mehrsa has come with me with her two daughters.


After the giraffes and laughing African dogs, we head over to the Gorilla House. A $2 extra charge to get in. No thank you. (PST SES) We’ll go and see the free monkeys. Butterfly house—sounds great, we have never seen the butterfly exhibition at the Natural History Museum because it is an extra charge. Well, guess what, same deal at the Bronx Zoo. No thank you again. (PST SES) We head over to the Frog House. Each time we decline entrance into one of these “add-on” exhibits, I explain to my kids that we don’t want to pay extra to see animals when we can see other ones without paying more. (MEE D)


Eventually, we come upon the carousel. “Mommy, can we do it? Can we do it?” “Oh, it’s $2 Tiare, let’s just watch.” “Oh, Mom.” Atticus: “Mom, I want to go. Can we go?” Tiare: “It’s $2.” As soon as I hear $2, I quick do the math and figure, no it will actually be $6 for everyone. I started out with a $20 in my wallet this morning. I already spent $3 to get in the zoo. Wait, this is stupid. (SR) Ramona: “Oh, ok, whatever, of course we can go on the ride.” They go on the ride—I don’t because I will get dizzy and motion sick. So, I sit on the bench and think about why am I such a cheapskate? (SR)


As we wander around the zoo, my daughter starts to notice little sun visors in bright colors in the shape of different animals—elephants, giraffes, etc. “Mom, where do people get those? Mom, can I get one?” I reply, “Oh, Tiare, do you really want one?” (MEE I) (Of course she does, she just asked for one.) “It’s ok Mommy.” Me: “Well, if you spend your money today, you won’t have it at the American Girl Doll store.” We eventually have an ongoing discussion in which she says “That’s ok Mommy.” (Opposite of NA) I have beaten it out of her within less than 5 minutes. (SR) I am able to get my head back together and finally reconvince her that if she really wants it, she should get it. We go in and pay for it, and then walk back out to the other kids who are waiting for us outside. On the way out, I say to my friend Mehrsa, “Why do I have such problems with buying stuff. It certainly isn’t that I can’t afford $2 or $6. What is my problem?!” (SR) We discuss back and forth that we don’t want our kids to be spoiled. We don’t want our kids to think that activities and adventures (like going to the zoo) are just about the associated purchases. I also think that it is just pure habit—I don’t want to spend the money out of habit of not being able to spend the money. (PST SES) When we get outside of the store and back with the other kids, the little 2 1/2 year old who is with us says, “I want that hat!” Tiare, promptly takes it off of her head and hands it to the little girl to wear. (LPP) She does so without hesitation and with simple happiness. Mehrsa and I turn to each other and smile—what am I worried about? Is this the behavior of a spoiled child? Is this the behavior of someone only interested in possessions and consumption? NO!!!!!! So, what am I so worried about??? Obviously, my willingness to spend money or not is really all about my issues and have little to do with my kids. (SR)


Code

Selections From Cecilia’s Stories

Selections From Jill’s Stories

Selections From Ramona’s Stories

Moral Education Efforts Direct

(MEE D)

I watched a lot of television when my mom was at work or working her second job. I always like “Happy Days” or “The Brady Bunch” because of what I thought family life would be like or should be like as an American . . . I knew I would marry and want to marry because my life would be better being married to an “American.” Hahaha . . . I have been very open with my kids about attributes or characteristics that are important in good healthy relationships.

 

“Mom, why can’t you be the lunch room lady and Daddy can be an ice cream man on Balboa Island?” I explain that if that were the case our lives would look very different, and Tiare says, “I don’t care. It would be fun.” How do I answer that without launching into one of my “lectures”?

Moral Education Efforts Indirect (MEE I)

 

As mothers, we can really do nothing to actually make our children choose to do certain things.

The term “Babies in Need” ended up getting incorporated into our family’s vocabulary. Both kids often pray for the “babies in need”. . . . Did I make my kids do this? I don’t remember doing so. . . . Is it normal? Is it healthy? I really don’t know, but I know that I can’t stand the thought of kids who are hungry, lonely, or scared and I want to try to make the world a better place for them and I want my kids to try too.

Legitimate Peripheral Participation

(LPP)

The other day my 13-year-old son Kai had just finished his basketball game. I had told him to call Tatay (my dad) to share with him the events of the game. . . . Kai was very respectful to Tatay, which I am very grateful for. . . So as I listened to Kai, I felt the peach and love that my father was showing him as they talked about basketball that I never felt when briefly speaking to him as a child.

Mommy, I think that we should get Quinten a gift card from Target because he could use the money.

Atticus wanted to be in a story for my study, so he wrote a story he titled “A Hardworking Kid.” It starts out, “There was a kid who need money no one like him because he was black. They make fun of him.”

Narrative Authority (NA)

 

Oh good, I was going to say $50, but I didn’t think you would want to do that Mom.

I start telling the kids how we have so much in our lives, that we are so lucky to get to live in the city for a while, etc. Tiare stopped me midsentence and said, “Privileges Mom, yeah I know, privileges.”

Self-Realization

(SR)

I hated having to go to the store and having to watch without justice the way others treated my mother.

All I can do is be an example for Bea and teach her certain things, but that is it. This makes me realize that the stories of mothering Bea are really going to be all about me as a mom rather than being about Bea as an upper-middle-class child being raised by a mom who grew up poor.

Why do I have such problems with buying stuff? It certainly isn’t that I can’t afford $2 or $6. What is my problem? Obviously, my willingness to spend money or not is really all about my issues and have little to do with my kids.

Past Socioeconomic Status Influencing Current Mothering (PST SES)

I wanted a glue stick or a glue bottle to just use for my homework. Why did I have to have lumpy rice finished homework? As I have had children, I have always wanted them to feel secure in having these basic school items. . . . Sometimes I have felt they were a bit overindulged with school items…I guess it is a fight to want to make sure my children have their needs met, but also teaching what basic needs are.

My 8-year-old had just returned from a trip to Cincinnati with her father to visit a friend who had moved there a year ago and she said to me, “Mom, I think that I’m famous or something because I go all of these places.” I mentioned that I thought she was lucky because she has all these opportunities to travel and that the first time I flew in an airplane I was 18. . . . It makes me wonder what it means to her and what it does for her.

I remember that we had a little board book when the kids were little. . . . One of the pages depicted a little girl who looked like she was poor and hungry and lonely. Oh I remember getting to that page and feeling so badly for the little girl. I guess that I could relate to the little girl in the picture in some way.


APPENDIX C


SAMPLE ANALYTIC MEMO


Orr, D. (2000). Mothers as moral educators: Teaching language and nurturing souls. In A. O’Reilly & S. Abbey (Eds.), Mothers and daughters: Connection, empowerment, and transformation (pp. 161–173). New York: Rowman and Littlefield. p. 163


“I argue that these considerations encourage the reconceptualization of moral life and the moral domain, an extension of its boundaries beyond the range of choices and actions in the public sphere that is the terrain of the dominant moral discourse. In the conception developed in this chapter, the range of the moral is isomorphic with one’s life in all of its aspects. It is what Wiggenstein calls “form-of-life”—that is a way of life—which involves to some degree is shaped by the use of language, rather than being simply a matter of engaging in solving moral problems.”


I think that this relates right to Ramona’s story of praying for babies in need!!!! The language games of that phrase “Babies in need.” This all makes me also think of Lave and Wenger’s work on legitimate peripheral participation (LPP)—maybe LPP really is the only way that we as mothers raising our children upper middle class can really teach them a morality of social justice. Like Jill says we cannot force them, preaching at them is not the best route as Tiare says, “privileges Mom, yeah I know privileges.” So, LPP or Wiggenstein’s notion of “language-games” becomes really interesting and useful for us I think.




Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 114 Number 10, 2012, p. 1-36
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16675, Date Accessed: 11/29/2021 3:55:42 PM

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About the Author
  • Ramona Cutri
    Brigham Young University
    E-mail Author
    RAMONA CUTRI, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at Brigham Young University in the Teacher Education Department. Her research interests include preparing teacher candidates to take up the moral complexities of working with diverse students. Some of her recent publications include: Cutri, R. M., Manning, J. M., & Chun, M. (in press). Poverty PhDs: Funds of knowledge, poverty, and professional identity in academia. Studying Teacher Education: A Journal of Self-Study of Teacher Education Practices; and Cutri, R. M. (2011). Storied ways of approaching diversity: Reconceptualizing a blended learning environment in a multicultural teacher education course. In J. Kitchen, D. Ciuffetelli Parker, & D. Pushor (Eds.), Narrative Inquiries Into Teacher Education (Emerald, 2011).
  • Jill Manning
    Los Angeles Unified School District
    E-mail Author
    JILL MANNING, Ed.D., is a Title I/bilingual coordinator in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Her research interests include the effects of poverty on students' access to and interest in education and how class issues affect access to education, English learners, and governance of low-performing schools. One of her recent publications is Cutri, R. M., Manning, J. M., & Chun, M. (in press). Poverty PhDs: Funds of knowledge, poverty, and professional identity in academia. Studying Teacher Education: A Journal of Self-Study of Teacher Education Practices.
  • Cecilia Weight

    E-mail Author
    CECILIA SANTIAGO WEIGHT, M.S.W., is a full-time mom, adjunct professor, and high school basketball coach. Her research interests include nondominant culture issues in education.
 
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