"I was born here but I'm not an American" understanding the U.S. history curriculum through the eyes of Latino students /

by 1968- Rierson, Stacy Leigh

Abstract (Summary)
The purpose of this investigation was to explore Latino students’ perceptions of the US History curriculum at one high school in the Eastern United States. The ultimate objective was to understand if the US History classes are serving the perceived needs of Latino students. Latinos are 40% of our nation’s minorities, are the youngest population group, and are the fastest growing. The social studies is the ideal curriculum area for challenging the dominant worldview and teaching about the diversity present in the classroom, the nation, and the world; therefore, learning more about socio-culturally inclusive social studies curriculum and pedagogy is an important consideration. This project is significant because it intersects with topics essential to the future of our nation: schools, the social studies curriculum, culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students, and students’ perspectives. Furthermore, the focus of this research overlaps with the reality of today’s educational system: state content standards and high stakes testing. All of these aspects will be addressed. This study was influenced by Latino Critical Theory. LatCrit is an outgrowth of Critical Race Theory (hereafter known as CRT). CRT interrogates how research is traditionally done by forefronting race to demonstrate the depth of inequality that exists across society. LatCrit builds on the five themes of CRT while adding perspectives ii unique to Latino experiences in the United States such as language acquisition, cultural background, gender, ethnicity, immigration status, and colonial experience. Data were collected for six months at Crawford High School (name changed). The data sources included observation notes, interview transcripts from students, teachers, administrators, and a State Board of Education member, the researcher’s journal, and document analysis of the State Social Studies Standards and a practice version of the State Graduation Test. Data were analyzed utilizing the lens of la frontera. La frontera underscores the displacement and transitionality of identities, pertinent to the lives of the studentparticipants. In addition, these theories, which manifest themselves as metaphorical tropes, compliment LatCrit, the lens through which I view my research. The students made public what is already known: that the educational system must become more culturally inclusive of and responsive to CLD students’ needs. However, this study revealed data patterns with student participants that have not been captured within one study. A major finding of this study was that the US History curriculum is or is not meeting student participants’ needs in different ways, based upon pertinent characteristics of the students. Latino students’ responses were informed by the following critical factors: English speaking ability, recency of arrival in the United States, and level of integration into the power structures of the state where the research was completed. The level of integration was further influenced by students’ documentation status (their legal status in the US), parents’ English speaking ability, and the English speaking ability of members in a student’s residence and immediate neighborhood. Students’ responses fell distinctly into three groups based upon these characteristics. iii The students in Group One stressed the basic need to learn English. Maslow described human motivation with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Perhaps this is what students in Group One were telling me—their most basic needs had to be met before they would be ready to “grow” in American schools. Group Two student-participants wanted their culture to be present so that other students—particularly White students—would learn about them. Group Three students conformed to previous studies conducted with White students—they wanted to learn in more interactive ways, working with groups, and being stimulated with flashy videos. Students at Crawford did not have an adequate framework around which to make sense of race, racism, and racial tensions. The presence of how race was talked about, and the absence of how race was not talked about, led to negative stereotypes against Latinos based upon ethnicity, immigration status, and native language. Furthermore, one teacher demonstrated a closed paradigm of ethnicity and skin color that silenced one of his students. The student-participants in all Groups wanted to talk about race. They wanted to talk about their “positive invisibility” at Crawford—that is, the absence of affirmative constructions around their ethnicity, country of origin, and language. The findings suggest that there is a need for more studies with Latino students that focus on the aspects of Latino Critical Theory. iv This dissertation is dedicated to the students, my wonderful family, and my friends all over the world. v
Bibliographical Information:


School:The Ohio State University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:hispanic american high school students multicultural education critical theory discrimination in united states


Date of Publication:

© 2009 All Rights Reserved.