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Plexiglass: how power, policy and politics create a mirage of equitable family engagement

Lisa Porter (James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia, USA)
Katherine Barko-Alva (College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia, USA)
Socorro Guadalupe Herrera (Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, USA)

Journal for Multicultural Education

ISSN: 2053-535X

Article publication date: 23 September 2021

Issue publication date: 11 October 2021




Power, policy and politics set the landscape for technocratic approaches in the educational system. Efficiency and money-saving initiatives that adhere to a one-size-fits-all approach drive the response to complex and multifaceted challenges within education. This has been made apparent through the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. This paper aims to explore one of the most pronounced and gaping realities that became evident during this crisis in how the system dehumanizes those in the margins. By not centralizing the biographies of families served in the schools, particularly culturally and linguistically diverse families, the system has failed to capitalize on the assets and affirm their wisdom.


This conceptual paper juxtaposes the technocratic and humanistic approaches of family engagement and provides alternative narratives rooted in authentic cariño (Bartolomé, 2008; Herrera et al., 2020; Valenzuela, 1999) and radical kinship (Boyle, 2017).


Currently, the educational system has sought to address complex issues by attending to the structures (i.e. plexiglass) and instructions (i.e. technology) as a way of responding to life-altering events that are in need of humanistic approaches.


The authors ask educators to reflect on the ways that power, policy and politics often stifle opportunities to move outside what is known to transform educational contexts. The authors conclude with critical questions to create new pathways guided by empathy and hope.



Porter, L., Barko-Alva, K. and Herrera, S.G. (2021), "Plexiglass: how power, policy and politics create a mirage of equitable family engagement", Journal for Multicultural Education, Vol. 15 No. 3, pp. 330-342.



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