Divergence of Immigrants’ Cultural Values and Their Adopted Country’s Norms: An Open Ground for Educational Disengagement
Culture defines an individual's identity as it is formed by language, beliefs, social values and traditions. This paper examines the effect of Hispanic culture and the underachievement of Hispanic students in the Unites States. Hispanic families and communities transmit mixed messages to their children about the importance of education in achieving life goals. There is often a clear contradiction between what parents express verbally and their customary behaviors, (e.g. allowing children to miss school for inappropriate reasons). Parental behaviors that undermine the child's understanding of the necessity for compliance with classroom requirements collide with expectations for students in the American educational system.
Of the many factors in play, the most salient is the family's socioeconomic level. Families with comparatively high socioeconomic status, where parents may have completed high school or obtained a university degree, have the tools and experience to help their children with school work. However, children who lack these benefits are often also handicapped by inadequate communication between school, parents, and students, largely due to the parents' imperfect command of English.
To improve Hispanic student educational performance it is essential to construct bridges between parents and schools, based on communication with parents by culturally competent personnel in the language in which the parents are fluent: Spanish. Only then can we begin to address the disparities in cultural norms and create a comfortable and safe space where students can grow intellectually and make their educational goals a reality.
Keywords: Communication, Immigrants, Culture, Values, School, Disengagement, Parent Involvement
Lecturer, Foreign Language Department (Edgewood College)