Term of Award

Fall 2011

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Curriculum Studies (Ed.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Department

Department of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading

Committee Chair

Ming Fang He

Committee Member 1

John Weaver

Committee Member 2

Daniel Chapman

Committee Member 3

William Schubert

Committee Member 4

Sonia Carlyle

Abstract

This study explores Black parental involvement by re-collecting my lived experiences as parent and social worker through memoir. Although the main characters in my stories are based on my family members and the parents and children I have assisted in various schools, I have fictionalized events, periods, and identities to protect myself and the people in my stories from the voyeuristic spectator. Fictionalizing also provides access within the intricacies of a lived experience and allows me to highlight ways of knowing that may expand epistemological standpoints regarding Black parental involvement. Re-collecting allowed me to reflect upon my two selves as parent and social worker and reminded me of a generational othermothering that traversed Afrocentric traditions and found a new home among the decedents of African slaves in the United States (James, 1993; Collins, 1994; Walker & Snarey, 2004). Steeped within a rich tradition of parenting, othermothering counters conventional narrative that suppresses Black parents' involvement in their child's life. Exploring parent involvement through my personal and professional narratives provided an opportunity to for me to unearth those suppressed and silent hegemonic ideals to understand who I am in Black children's lives and how I affect their success in school. There is a plethora of research that explores Black parental involvement as a means for increasing their children's achievement; however, few texts unpack the intersectionality of Black parents' multiple social identities to examine the ways they are already involved in their children's schooling. By exploring the gaps in research, this study problematizes Black parental involvement as a means for interrogating the process of teaching and learning in American schools. Drawing upon the work of Critical Race Theory (e.g. Bell, 1995; Delgado & Stefancic, 2001; Ladson-Billings, 1999; Watkins, 2001; Parker & Lynn, 2002), I explore parenting from a Black Feminist Thought standpoint (e.g. Collins, 1994; Collins, 2000; hooks, 2000; Lorde, 1984/2007) to provide a revisionist interpretation of a communal mothering that nurtures the growth and development of a child's physical, emotional and mental interconnected selves (e.g. Case, 1997; Glenn, 1993; Henry, 2006; James, 1993; Lightfoot, 1978; Walker & Snarey, 2004). I draw upon the works of memoir and fiction as my methodology to complicate narratives in the home, school, and community (e.g. Harris, 2005; Braxton, 1989). The benefit of using this approach is that it creates a space for imaginative activity in capturing a truth, a reality, a lived experience (Morrison, 2008). The use of memoir also freed me to write about experience thematically as opposed to chronologically. I was therefore able to present Black parents' lived experiences with their children's schooling as a school social worker or as a parent throughout this study to expose a truth silent within research. It is my hope that this study sparks an imaginative activity that reveals to policy makers, educational researchers and practitioners that there is a need for Black orientations to parental involvement in schools to redress universalization, hegemonization, and silencing of Black parents' engagement in their children's schooling; to recognize all that is suppressed and silent to gain insight of who they are and how they became who they are in the lives of Black children; to dismantle those individual, structural, and political agendas and practices that are pervasive and negatively affect Black children's success in schools and life; and to recognize how Black parents' varying identities inference their perceptions and interactions with their children's schools. This imaginative activity helps to construct a dialogical relationship between the home, school and community that honors multiple ways of knowing about Black communal parental involvement that inspires all Black children to reach their highest potential (Walker, 1996). A dialogical relationship would minimize barriers to Black parental involvement created by school personnel's hegemonic status and bureaucratic social structures. It would also foster knowledge about school functions, curricular and educational standards that Black parents seek in accessing expertise that will further their children's success in schools.

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