Participative inquiry and equality of educational opportunity in the New Latino Diaspora
This instrumental case study utilized participatory and action oriented qualitative research methodology to examine the ways some Hispanic immigrant parents in a nascent community understand worthwhile educational opportunities. It also presents the participants' articulations of reasonable means for affecting change. Sequenced in iterative action meetings (four to seven times with each participant), and set in Tuscaloosa, Alabama over a period of three months, the primary purpose of this case study is to inform Kenneth Howe's (1997) participatory interpretation of equality of educational opportunity (EEO), which builds into the principle of EEO "the needs, interests, and perspectives of all groups - especially groups that have been historically excluded - in determining what educational opportunities are indeed worth having" (p.4). The secondary purpose is to present the collaborative photobook Vale la Pena (It's Worthwhile) - an articulation of the participants' proposed actions for making available educational opportunities worthwhile. Emergent themes from the data indicate access to available educational opportunities is more robust if they enable inclusion and participation; foster a sense of belonging; include guidance and support; and students wear uniforms. According to the participants, a person cannot ascertain the value of available educational opportunities until they first understand the American educational system. Only with this this broad understanding in hand, combined with opportunity awareness, opportunity knowledge, an ability to take advantage of it, and participation experience, are they well-positioned to deliberate over the nature of a given opportunity or to ascertain its value relative to their own lives. Further research is needed to examine EEO in the New Latino Diaspora (NLD), which refers to a phenomenon beginning in the early 1990s of significantly shifting Hispanic immigration patterns to host communities inexperienced with mass immigration and without established Hispanic communities. Teachers are encouraged to be more culturally sensitive. Schools are encouraged to devote more attention and resources to developing bidirectional communication with their participants, guidance programs, vocational and technical curricula, and reducing the economic burdens associated with meaningfully taking advantage of a free education.