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Towards Expansive Learning: Examining Chicana/o and Latina/o Students’ Political-historical Knowledge

Author(s): Mariana Pacheco


This article examines how Chicana/o and Latina/o youth employed their political-historical knowledge to “talk back” to the xenophobia and political contradictions that underlie the (im)migration “debate.” A literacy unit that honed bilingual students’ everyday translating created opportunities for students to utilize this political-historical knowledge to “translate” their critiques to formal and informal audiences in their writing (e.g., the mayor vs. friends). Pacheco briefly overviews the unit and emphasizes the practices related to voice most relevant to her analysis of sixth-grade students’ essays about (im)migration and the plight of (im)migrants. This article demonstrates how students framed (im)migration, positioned themselves within the debate, positioned major political figures, drew on their historical knowledge, and appropriated community discourses of resistance. In many ways, these students already embodied the kinds of critical literacies and position-taking advocated by literacy researchers and educators. This article concludes with a discussion of how educators can draw strategically on students’ sociocultural knowledge, as well as their political-historical knowledge, in the service of expanding their critical literacies.

APA Citation:

Pacheco, M. (2009). Towards expansive learning: Examining Chicana/o and Latina/o students' political-historical knowledge. Language Arts, 87(1), 18-29.

This paper was originally published in Language Arts, 87. The preprint manuscript version is included here with the permission of the authors. The original publication is available at Language Arts website.

030ExpansiveLearningPP021_R1.pdf — PDF document, 761Kb

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