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Second Assignment

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Lucy Carreno-Roca

February 19, 2013

Paper 2


An Insider looking Within: Analysis of Lareau’s Theoretical Approach


In Lareau’s Unequal Childhoods, she associates class, race, and gender as the key to a child’s educational experience and what they learn in the course of their life as they grow up to become citizens of the society that defined their learning and educational experiences. Through the information gathered in her research team’s field work, Lareau develops two constructs in which theoretically all middle and lower class fall into: a concerted cultivation experience or an accomplishment of natural growth experience. This either-or approach has many flaws but has helped lay some sort of ground work that can be built upon in future field work research that could potentially benefit the children of the United States in the long run. While reading this text, I felt as though there were many fundamental concepts that needed to be defined before truly diving into the field placement research. For example, the definition of lower class versus working class versus middle class is ambiguously established as this concept that defines a child’s potential and learning experience.

From my personal experience as growing up as a “lower class citizen”, I did spend a lot of my time outside of school playing outdoors with my cousins and neighborhood children, typically outside the watchful eyes of adults. Just as Lareau depicted, as lower class citizens, my parents did not have enough time in their schedule outside of working two to three jobs to take me or my brothers to any extensive organized events that persisted over long periods of time. I do not feel as though Lareau took culture into account and in a way her cultural lenses, as an upper middle class American citizen, disabled her from justly finding all of the benefits from a child whose learning experience is, as Lareau would put it, centered on the accomplishment of natural growth would have. My parents both immigrated to the United States in their late 20’s and coming from Guatemala, my mother and her siblings did not quite understand the emphasis placed on having children be actively involved with school nor did my father originally from Mexico understand either.

From my perspective, my accomplishment of natural growth stemmed from the cultural perspective that my parents brought with them from their country of origin. Growing up, my parents believed it was more important for me to know how to cook, clean, and take care of goats, chickens, horses, and ducks than be involved in organized sports or clubs afterschool. As I got older, my parents began to understand and assimilate to the culture in the United States; their mentality changed and I became very involved in school and I felt as though my learning experience became shifted more towards concerted cultivation rather than accomplishment of natural growth—even though our social class had remained the same.

In my first field placement with GASP (Gotswal Afterschool Program) last Thursday, I had the opportunity to tutor children that come from race and class backgrounds that would put them in the position to receive a learning experience centered on the accomplishment of natural growth. The children in this afterschool program seem to defy Lareau’s straight-forward mentality that lower class children have little to no involvement afterschool because these children clearly spend quite a bit of time afterschool dedicating their efforts to improving. Programs like GASP have been established in order to help lower to working class parents focus more on giving their children a concerted cultivation opposed to an accomplishment of natural growth experience. In this program, the children are typically around the same age and social class and are supposed to finish all of their homework, spend 15 minutes doing LEXA, get a snack, and if the children finish early they are allowed to go to the gym and play. This program does a lot for the children and families of the Gotswal community.

Lareau very bravely stepped into an unexamined area that many researchers were too afraid to grapple with but she laid down some research that others can build upon and can work with. She reveals some critical questions that need to be addressed such as: must society be prescribed with the either-or approach? Is there any way of establishing a middle ground between the concept of concerted cultivation and the accomplishment of natural growth for the individuals that do not fall into the “normal” standards of middle or lower class? What happens when an individual does not quite fall into this simplistic black and white “cookie cutter” perspective. These are the questions that we must ask ourselves in order to come to a better understand of the learning experience for children of different classes, races, and family lives.