Cultural and Academic Possibilities of Educacion to Improve Life for Mexican-American Immigrant Students

Article excerpt

Subtractive Schooling: U.S.-Mexican Youth and the Politics of Caring, Angela Valenzuela, 1999 (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press; telephone 1-800-666-2211; www.sunypress.edu; ISBN 0-79144322-1; pbk, 328 pp.; $18.95)

Insights to the challenge ofbeing more effective in addressing the educational disparity facing most Mexican-American and Mexican immigrant children in our nation's schools can provide information to those who prepare teachers to succeed with one of the largest ethnic groups of color in the United States. Research has the potential to help educators understand how and why ethnic students of color, who generally display competent behavior in their homes and communities, are often perceived and treated as incompetent learners in classrooms. In the book, Subtractive Schooling: U. S.-Mexican Youth and the Politics of Caring, based on a three-year study of students' schooling experiences in a Texas high school, Angela Valenzuela establishes a relationship between schooling and achievement to help explain this phenomena.

As in other research, Valenzuela begins by documenting the achievement status of Mexican-origin students, describing the high school setting in historical, political, and social context, and outlining the theoretical framework guiding her work. The inability of schools to meet the needs of this student population is not surprising, however,Valenzuela does not position the students as victims. She concludes that schooling experiences for Mexican-American and Mexican immigrant students generate subtractive schooling experiences leading to language loss and reducing students' access to social resources. As expected, student resistance and alienation promote low achievement.

Arguing that schooling and education are conceptually distinct, Valenzuela uses student voice to portray the presence and/ or absence of "caring" in daily studentteacher interactions. She makes a significant contribution to the literature by locating caring within educacion, as a foundational cultural construct, guiding "how one should live in the world" (p. …