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Crossing the border for school: an ethnographic observation of a daily practice on the border of Mexico and the United States

Tue, April 16, 1:30 to 3:00pm, Hyatt Regency, Floor: Bay (Level 1), Bayview A


Crossing the Border for School: An Ethnographic Observation of a Daily Practice on the border of Mexico and the United States

Kristin Kew, Ph.D.
New Mexico State University
Phone: (575) 646-4081 Cell: (617) 970-3149
(a) Summary of overall roundtable proposal
1. Objectives and main questions.
In this roundtable presentation, ethnographic observations on transnational students on the NM/Mexico border will be discussed. In this area of the country, around 850 students make the one-hour trip across the border, passports in hand. They are U.S. born but their parents are not citizens so they send their children to get a public education in the states. Crossing is a pretty normal phenomenon for those living near the southwest border as families have been visiting one another for generations. Four questions will be considered:
• What is the process of students going across the border from Mexico to the U.S. each day?
• What are the roles of the teachers, principals and superintendent?
• In light of this cultural analysis, what are the factors that make this process successful or challenging in this borderland region?
• What are the implications of this research in this borderland region and beyond?
2. Conceptual framework and perspectives
The main theory that drives this research and serves as a theoretical underpinning for this presentation is Tara Yosso’s (2005) theory of cultural wealth. Yosso explains that there are six forms of capital: aspirational, familial, social, cultural, linguistic, resistant, and navigational. Each of these interrelated forms of capital create a community of cultural wealth and combat the prevailing notions of meritocracy, unearned privilege and deficit thinking, bringing an understanding of asset based thinking to underrepresented communities and help “to develop schools that serve a larger purpose of struggling toward social and racial justice” (Yosso, 2005, p. 14).
This presentation is predicated on the understanding that most influential educational innovations in the future will come from developing economies, “where the need is greatest, where there is unmet demand, and where resources are restricted” (Leadbeater, 2010; Rincón-Gallardo & Elmore, 2012). The borderland community of this research is an excellent example of how educators can support diversity in language, culture, and community wealth (Ball, 2009).
3. Importance of the roundtable presentation to the Comparative/International Education and the Conference Theme
Research on transnational students – children and youth who live and attend school across two or more countries while keeping active social ties to their multiple homelands – is incredibly important and under-examined in our increasingly global landscape. Little research has been done on this particular population of students living in Mexico with their families but crossing the border to go to school in the United States on a daily basis. The theme of this year’s CIES Conference, “Education for Sustainability” brings to mind the array of cultural capital that transnational students bring with them to the classroom from across nations and the need to sustain, build, and grow ethical and moral educational initiatives that serve all students to achieve the new Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.