Annual Meetings of the American Anthropological Association
In this paper, I draw on 10 months of fieldwork with English language learners in Northern California to explore the possibilities and limitations of Participatory Action Research (PAR) in schools doubly segregated by race and class. Today much of the progress integrating American public schools that occurred in the decade following Brown vs. Board of Education has been reversed—even as the overall population of public school students has become increasingly diverse (Orfield et. al. 2014). During the 2011-2012 academic year, 55% of Latino students and 45% of Black students in California attended intensely segregated schools (i.e., 91-100% minority students), and half of these children also attended schools with a student population that was more than 90% low-income (Orfield et. al. 2014). Participatory Action Research has been promoted as a pedagogical approach that actively fosters civic and educational engagement by providing young people opportunities to analyze and engage with inequitable distributions of power and resources (Cammarota and Fine 2008; Clements 2005; Dyrness 2012; Abu El-Haj 2007; Ginwright 2008; Torre and Fine 2008). During the 2014-2015 school year, however, I found that intensely segregated 6th grade students from Spanish-speaking immigrant families conducting PAR in their segregated neighborhoods drew heavily from deficit-oriented perspectives as they attempted to analyze and understand the civic apathy of neighborhood residents during the early months of their research. What stands out in this case example is how the Latino students began to consider the ways in which political agency and citizenship are constituted in relationship with others when, halfway through the academic year, the PAR project was embedded in an integrated after-school program in partnership with a private Jewish day school located across the street from their public school. In what follows, I argue that the integrated setting prompted a shift in the Latino students’ understanding of civic participation in California and fostered new ways of imagining their own civic identities.
Copyright Jennifer Lucko 2015. All rights reserved. Please do not cite or circulate without the permission of the author.
Lucko, Jennifer, "Crossing the Street: Civic Engagement and the Politics of Belonging among Latino and Jewish Middle School Students in Northern California" (2015). Education | Faculty Conference Presentations. 7.