Academic journal article School Community Journal

Worldviews of One Mixed Heritage Family in an Urban Middle School: An Ethnographic Study

Academic journal article School Community Journal

Worldviews of One Mixed Heritage Family in an Urban Middle School: An Ethnographic Study

Article excerpt

Abstract

Although the mixed heritage population of the U.S. continues to grow, few (if any) attempts have been made to examine educational needs specific to this group of children, especially from the family's perspective. This article uses ethnographic data to examine the experiences of one mixed heritage family-with an African American father and a Chinese American mother-in an urban middle school. The data revealed that the family experienced several sources of tension from the school, from the child, and from interracial differences concerning the educational needs of their child. Specifically, the data revealed that interracial differences within the family were influenced by situational complexities. The article suggests the importance of understanding and addressing these tensions and complexities in reaching out to mixed heritage students and their families.

Key Words: mixed heritage family, worldviews, middle school, ethnicity and education

Introduction

An increasing amount of scholarship has begun to focus on diversity issues, including race, gender, class, family type, disability, second-language learning, and immigration status (Artiles, 2003; Banks, 2001; Comer, 1993; Delpit, 1995; Garcia, 1991; Gay, 2000; Kohl, 1991; Ladson-Billings, 1994; Orenstein, 1994; Rose, 1989; Taylor & Dorsey-Gaines, 1988). However, far less attention has been paid to one particular group in terms of diversity, namely, mixed heritage families and their children (Benedetto & Olisky, 2001; Herring, 1995; Morrison & Rodgers, 1996; Nishimura, 1995). On the few occasions when efforts were made to study this group, the literature is limited to racial identity development (Benedetto & Olisky; Hall, 2001; Kato, 2000; Morrison & Bordere, 2001; Nishimura; Schwartz, 1998). Few if any attempts have been made to examine educational needs specific to this group of children (Lopez, 2003a; Reid & Henry, 2000; Renn, 2000), especially from the family's perspective.

To address this important gap in literature, this ethnographic study examines the experiences of one mixed heritage family with a student attending an urban middle school. This examination is important as the mixed heritage population of the U.S. continues to grow (Banks, 2001; Constantine, 1999; Kalish, 1995; Kato, 2000; Lopez, 2003a; Morrison & Rodgers, 1996; Nishimura, 1995; Steel, 1995; Wardle, 1992) and as this population continues to face unique challenges rooted in deep-seated American biases of racism, separatism, and ethnocentrism (Gibbs, 1987; Wardle, 1992). Thus, never before in the history of American education has there been so great a need for educators to hear voices from mixed heritage families, to recognize their unique situation, and to examine ways to better serve their children in school settings.

Related Literature

The Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, in general, and the 1967 decision outlawing antimiscegenation laws (Loving v. Virginia), in particular, have resulted in a greater public acceptance of interracial marriages. Yet, racial categorization and racism are still too frequently part of everyday life in the United States (Kato, 2000; Morrison & Bordere, 2001; Schwartz, 1998). Long-standing Western belief systems persist and continue to accept, however implicitly, the mainstream, dominant white race and culture as the "norm," while treating other races and cultures as somewhat deviant (Reid & Henry, 2000). Mixed heritage families and their children continue to face societal myths, prejudices, and barriers (Kato, 2000; Reid & Henry, 2000; Wardle, 1992).

As issues of race have received more and more attention in education, there is a tendency to focus on the history and struggles of single racial-ethnic groups. Despite the intention to celebrate the diverse heritages of this country and to help to raise consciousness about various specific racial-ethnic groups, such a tendency ignores the rich history of mixed heritage people (Wardle, 1996). …

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