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Title:Moments of social inclusion and exclusion: Race, class, and cultural capital in family-school relationships
Author:Lareau, A., & Horvat, E. M.
Resource Type:Journal Article
Sociology of Education, 72

pp. 37-53
Education Level:Elementary
Literature type:Research and Evaluation

The purpose of this case study is to investigate the influence of race and social class on the ways that parents are involved with the school system. The researchers found that educators thought they welcomed parental involvement and believed that their requests for parental involvement were neutral, efficient, and designed to promote higher levels of achievement. In reality, the educators were looking for a narrow set of behaviors from parentsÐthey wanted parents to be positive and supportive, and to trust their judgment. These expectations were difficult for some black families to meet, because of their previous experiences of racial discrimination in the school. While many black parents approached the schools with distrust, there were important social-class differences in how the black parents managed their concerns. The middle-class black parents were much more likely to maneuver and ÒcustomizeÓ their childrenÕs school experiences, often diffusing the risk of racial discrimination without the teachers ever knowing of their concern. None of the white parents exhibited the same level of suspicion, distrust, and hostility towards schools. The researchers concluded that the white parents were privileged in the sense that they approached their relationships with the school with more comfort and trust than did the black parents. The study was conducted at an elementary school in a midwestern town. In-depth interviews were conducted with the parents of 3rd grade students (40 parents in all) as well as with 9 educators (including teachers, administrators, and school board members). In addition, interviews were conducted with 26 adult community members to gather information about the broader racial context. This case study also provides useful information about the concepts of social and cultural capital, and how it can produce different results, depending how it is used by parents and valued by school personnel.

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