Posts Tagged ‘Annette Lareau’

Earlier this semester I attended a panel in which three first year students were asked questions about their impressions of the first year reading and speaker series on campus for an audience of faculty and staff, many of whom had planned the series and will be involved in planning next year’s series. The panelists included a white American, a white Western-European, and an Asian. All three students handled themselves well but, in comparison to the American student, the two international students spoke less, and less readily. For example, it was common for the international students to speak only when asked a direct question, while the American often interjected after one of the international students had spoken. I got the sense that this student was raised with the middle/upper-middle class “concerted cultivation” style that Annette Lareau discusses in Unequal Childhoods, leading to comfort in interacting with the adults in the room.

After the panel, a staff member approached the staff member I was seated next to and, noting that a committee they were on needed a new student representative, commented on how well the American student would do in this role. I have no idea whether this student was offered the position, but it struck me that the doors of opportunity were already opening for this brash, white American mere weeks after arriving on campus. It also struck me that if student representatives on various campus committees are chosen for their cultural capital, the voices of first-generation and working-class students are likely not being heard in these spaces. If it had been up to me to choose a student committee member, I would have chosen one of the quieter students whose voices need to be amplified on campus. The voices of privileged white Americans are already heard loud and clear.

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Any college professor who has received a call from a parent concerned about his or her child’s grade has experienced the wonder of helicopter parenting. While Lareau has demonstrated the involvement that many middle-class parents have in their children’s daily lives, this involvement can also extend past the teenage years (as documented by Arnett in Emerging Adulthood). As Nelson argues in Parenting Out of Control, technological advances are one of the primary factors driving this change. This recent commercial from Google shows us how:

I don’t mean to imply that the increased connections made possible by cell phones, texting, Facebook, and video chatting are necessarily bad (especially when a child’s mother has passed away!), but we are in a period of rapid change when it comes to relationships between parents and their college-age children. It wasn’t that long ago that I started college in a dorm room with one landline phone (and no answering machine) that was shared between five roommates who had to use calling cards to make long-distance calls home!

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