Political transformations: hearing Latina mothers' voices in the educational policymaking process



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The purpose of this study is to develop a better understanding of the process of transformation of marginalized and disempowered parents into citizens active in the formulation of educational policy. These transformations are located at the intersection of Transformative Learning, an adult learning theory that uses critical reflection of beliefs and assumptions to produce a perceptual shift, and community organizing for urban school reform. This dissertation set out to document the transformation into civically active citizens of one of the most politically vulnerable groups in the United States: the working-class, working-poor, Latina woman. Understanding how some women from this group gain political power and influence educational policy is a counter-hegemonic project. The Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), a national group devoted to organizing for power, provides a learning environment and culture that foster such a transformation. The following questions guided this investigation: What changes in civic identity do parents undergo as they transform into citizens active in the formulation of educational policies at the district, city, and state levels? What strategies do parents use to become politically active in the context of educational policy formation at the district, city, and state levels? How do parents transform innate skills and knowledge into competencies necessary for political action? What experiences and attitudes turn a nonpolitical parent into a politically active citizen? The research methodology and design were qualitative in nature, utilizing an ethnographic approach to query the understandings of transformation for ten Latina mothers, four of which are presented in this study. Interviews with and observations of these women served as primary data collection methods. The emerging account of transformation is documented in four narrative portraits. Findings suggest a model consisting of five general concepts that describe the transformation that these women experienced, including: 1) the historical, sociocultural, and personal contexts; 2) a prior state of depoliticization; 3) two foundational processes which include the constant presence of disequilibria and the ongoing exploration of options for new roles, relationships, and actions; 4) four mediated experiences which include naïve participation, being recognized, understanding relationships, and becoming “un-grand- inquisited”; and 5) a final state of a transformed civic identity.