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A Critical Ethnographic Approach to Transforming Norms of Whiteness in Marginalized Parents’ Engagement and Activism in Schools

New Directions in Educational Ethnography

ISBN: 978-1-78441-624-9, eISBN: 978-1-78441-623-2

ISSN: 1529-210X

Publication date: 17 December 2016

Abstract

While scholars recognize that parent engagement in children’s education is beneficial, much of the normative parent involvement literature rests on the assumption that marginalized parents of color must be taught white middle-class norms of conduct in order to engage with the school system. In this chapter, we describe the ways our critical ethnographic implementation and analysis of the Parent Mentor Program – a parent engagement project in a small urban school district in Central New York – re-envisions parent engagement in three interrelated ways. First, we argue that the project is race-, class-, gender-, and power-conscious, drawing on the interrelated theoretical frames of Critical Race Theory and Critical Whiteness Studies. Second, we argue that the program and research are unique in utilizing the toolkit of critical ethnography to not merely describe, but also to intervene in educational inequity. Third, we argue that the program has a more holistic goal than much of the parent engagement literature, as it seeks to connect parent engagement and activism with the larger antiracist goal of using restorative justice strategies to disrupt the disproportionate disciplining of Black students. Focusing on critical ethnographic methods in practice, we analyze the shifting positionalities of a multiracial research team as we grappled with methodological dilemmas in the first three years of the program. We document how we balanced the goals of introducing a race-conscious framework and catalyzing critical consciousness with the realities of constantly renegotiating entry in a school district characterized by colorblindness and colormuteness.

Keywords

Citation

Wilson, M.A.F. and Yull, D.G. (2016), "A Critical Ethnographic Approach to Transforming Norms of Whiteness in Marginalized Parents’ Engagement and Activism in Schools", New Directions in Educational Ethnography (Studies in Educational Ethnography, Vol. 13), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 165-192. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1529-210X20150000013006

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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