Dr. Francisco Rios Presents at Annual Adelante Ninos Conference
May 15, 2008
TORRINGTON, WY -
"Speaking only one language is like riding a unicycle," said Dr. Francisco Rios, Professor of Educational Studies and Director of the Social Justice Research Center at the University of Wyoming, "You can get around, and do so fairly well. But if you are bilingual, it is like getting on a 10-speed bicycle, with two wheels fully engaged."
Dr. Rios was addressing parents and educators at the annual Adelante Ninos, Onward and Upward to Higher Education conference at Eastern Wyoming College. His topic, "Educacion con Corazon: What Latino Parents Can Do to Help Children Succeed in School," noted the importance of being able to speak two languages.
"If you are smart, you are smart in two languages," he said, adding "This is something that Latino families already understand."
He stated that bilingual students actually out perform English-only speakers on English exams, and that they have an advantage in obtaining jobs. "Major corporations advertise that they want bilingual employees," he said. "Encouraging Latino and all children to use two languages will open doors for them as adults."
Dr. Rios related a story about a teacher who referred to non-English speaking children in her classroom as having "no language." That was a dagger in my heart," he said.
"But it's all part of a history of Latino families and communities being told they have problems of being handicapped not only linguistically, but also culturally. They are considered at risk. They may not have lots of books, and there is a traditional belief that says one becomes literate by reading and writing. That makes us blind to other ways of supporting literacy," he said.
"Parents who don't read to their kids are told they don't care about their childrens' education," he continued. "Groups are compared to the degree they provide texts and read to their children, and schools are structured to only acknowledge one way of being literate, and acknowledging only one way of being a good parent. But, Latino parents do other things to help their children become literate and successful."
There are specific ways culturally to support kids, he said. These include testimonials regarding life experiences, and teaching children to be respectful. The latter was something "my father was always interested in when he visited with my teacher," he said, explaining, "Even if I'd have had all A's, if I wasn't seen as
Dr. Rios pointed to the work of Luis Moll which indicates the need to understand the funds of knowledge that Latinos bring, and build on them. It focuses not on what is lacking, but rather on the assets of a particular group, becoming cultural capital, he explained.
Educator Tara Yosso builds on that premise by listing the forms of cultural capital in support of schooling, including aspirational, familial, linguistic, navigational, social and resistant capital, stated Dr. Rios. Aspirational would be telling our children, "It's going to be difficult, but you have to keep going," he said.
Familial capital was critical in his own steps through higher education. "When I spoke of taking the step toward getting my master's degree, my tia, (aunt), told me, ‘You have no choice,'" he said. "This means that you do something not just for yourself, but for your whole family."
Linguistic capital is the previous mentioned ability to speak two languages, while navigational capital includes the skills to move through social institutions, he said. Social capital is how we use the social network within the community, i.e. an example of this is talking to someone—a relative or a neighbor--who can describe the steps they took to go to school, he explained.
Lastly, resistant capital is motivation and skills that are cultivated through unfair treatment, he said. He said that his mother had been beaten in the third grade because she could not speak English. "She did not return to school, but encouraged all of her children to be bilingual and to get their education," he said. "This is resistant capital."
"Every parent has much to offer to the quality of their children's schooling, even though much of it goes unnoticed," he said, noting that maximizing one or more of the above assets will add to that quality.