At the Gateway to Higher Education: Tracing Latino/a Pathways Toward First-Year Composition
Committee ChairHall, Anne-Marie
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis dissertation is a critical ethnographic study of institutional, ideological, and cultural factors influencing the educational pathways of low-income Latino/a students. The study lasted for nine months, and research was conducted in two field sites: a public high school and a public university in the Southwest. There were eighteen research participants--seventeen students and one teacher. A funds of knowledge approach combined with a Latino/a Critical Theory lens and best practices in college access allow a consideration of these factors in public schooling. I balanced institutional data with interviews, writing samples, and class discussions, and I found that factors hindering students' persistence included material conditions such as overcrowding, ideological constraints such as low expectations, and a cultural disconnect between students' values and the values embedded in school curricula and policies. Although these Latino/a students demonstrate experiential critical literacy, the students are not given an opportunity to connect their lived experiences to theory in school, which can hinder college-going attitudes. To foster critical democracy, practitioners of First-Year Composition have an opportunity to rethink our purpose and goals to make sure that what we advocate in theory--college persistence for all students--matches up with our practice. This study suggests remedies to ensure that in a system in which social, economic, and political inequities are fed by and feed our inequitable educational system, we can take an active role in reshaping the educational pipeline by working in partnership with public schools and communities to bring equity to college access and retention efforts.