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Kiara Nevarez 

Dr.Tarnoff 

CTW 1 

December 11, 2019 

Synthesis Essay 

I have grown up going to public schools where more than half of the student population is 

Hispanic, like me. It was common for me to make friends with students who lived similar lives 

and experienced similar cultures. I never felt out of place. The years between kindergarten 

through 6th grade seem to have all blended together. Regardless, I do remember that through all 

those years I never once questioned who I was. Nor did I know for certain exactly who I was. It 

just wasn’t important to think about my identity seeing as everyone around me was the same. 

There was no question about what category you’d fit into because there was only one. I didn’t 

know it then, but all the fellow children surrounding me as a child were of Latin American 

families, most being born in Mexico or born from Mexican born parents. At the same time, we 

were living in America, so we were also American. The combination of Mexican and American 

culture was the only identity that I connected to. We all had that connection to each other. 

However, as I grew older, I realized that school wasn’t always going to be like this. And once I 

became knowledgeable of all the different categories of race and culture that people could fit 

into, I felt so much more pressured to perfectly fit into one and only one. Education shapes 

students' identities and their perceptions of the world in terms of race, culture and the privilege or 

inequalities they face.  

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Language plays an important role in student’s perception of their culture. Anzaldua, a 

Chicana author, argues in her text “How to Tame a Wild Tongue”, the issues with the battle she 

had while trying to figure out where she was meant to be in terms of her identity. As a Chicana 

living in the United States, her English was not satisfactory for those in America but her Spanish 

wasn’t good enough for those of Spanish speaking countries either. Those of Spanish speaking 

countries would call her a “cultural traitor [for] speaking the oppressor’s language [and that by] 

speaking English, [she was] ruining the Spanish language.” (Anzaldua). Anzaldua connects to 

her own issues with explicit words that were used to oppress her. In complete irony, her own 

people become the oppressors as they attempt to hold off the American oppressors. To a people, 

language is connected to their pride as a culture and people. So any impurities, any bits that 

aren’t exactly Spanish, for example, may be viewed as bad. Throughout her life, it was 

impossible for Anzaldua to be accepted by a single side of her identities because of this. While in 

an American school, her Spanish was rejected. Her teachers said she had to “speak ‘American’” 

if she wished to remain in America. Even her English was not good enough since she “spoke 

English like a Mexican” as her mother would say. (Anzaldua) Language is so important in the 

construction of culture, even in the micro-levels related to a single person’s identity. Anzaldua 

faced two cultures that both wanted her to abandon one and choose one, and at some point the 

more educated language was accepted even by her mother to be English.   

Similar to Anzaldua, I also felt trapped between two cultures because of the barriers 

between languages. Anzaldua as a child faced teachers who told her she was meant to speak 

English all the time and that reprimanded her whenever she spoke Chicana Spanish. I never 

faced this sort of discrimination. Although Spanish was my first language, I developed strength 

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in English through school. In fact, English became so much of the norm for me that speaking 

Spanish became awkward. I was used to hearing others speak it, but I rarely spoke it myself. I 

began to lose the language and felt outcasted by my own people and family. Anzaldua felt 

outcasted by America as I began to embrace it, but in the end, we both felt a distance between 

our ancestral cultures in Mexico. Her culture in the US and education led her to use quite a bit of 

English words in her Spanish language, creating Chicano Spanish. Native Spanish speakers 

rejected this. My education led to a loss of Spanish altogether. The linguistic connection to my 

Mexican heritage was replaced by the educative, American English. At that time, I never 

considered this consequence to be what the state wanted. California Proposition 227 was 

implemented during my time in elementary to limit ad marginalize Spanish in public schools. I 

never realized the full complexities of what oppression was occurring but these types of laws led 

to a replacement of my native tongue and feelings of alienation in my own family and at times 

even ridicule. I began to perceive my culture as a mix that would never truly be able to fit into a 

single mold, but at the same time, this made me feel out of place.  

The differences between the middle class and lower class students are created at a young 

age, leading to different perceptions in the students as to their roles in society. In “Invisible 

Inequality”, Lareau details the differences in the middle class and lower class families in relation 

to how they raised their children. He referred to the different styles of raising their children as 

concerted cultivation and the accomplishment of natural growth. He defines ‘concerted 

cultivation’ as parents enrolling “their children into numerous age-specific organized activities 

that dominate family life.” (Lareau) Lareau emphasizes how important it is to middle-class 

families to raise their children in this way, to preoccupy the children’s time and develop skills for 

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the future. With the ‘accomplishment of natural growth’ the “parents believe that as long as they 

provide love, food and safety, their children will thrive.'' (Lareau) Lareau connects this style of 

raising a child to those of lower-class families. Lareau, in simply giving us the definitions, has 

also allowed us to fully understand the great inequalities that plague those of lower classes. Even 

at a young age, the beginnings of the race for success begins, but those children in middle-class 

families gain a head start. All the children go to school, but not all have a good school or have 

piano practice and dance and art programs to go to after school. Lareau highlights the 

inequalities that begin in the early stages of education and how those of higher classes begin to 

feel entitled while those of lower classes feel incompetent.  

The inequalities in education take root at a young age, shaping a student into their future 

selves, and the identities they take hold of. Looking back, as a child I had a lot of free time. My 

mother was raised as such in her hometown in Mexico, and her transition into the US didn’t 

mean she immediately gained the middle-class ideal of “filled schedules”. She believed that a 

life in the US would immediately guarantee success. The differences reflect on my life of 

constant free time and little to no adult regulation in school activities. As I grew older, I realized 

many of my white peers in high school had been doing certain programs and activities since they 

were young. Some had played violin since they were five and were now, at the same age as me, 

musical prodigies. This success of my peers made me feel unworthy of being around them. I 

never thought about the unfairness of the ways we were raised because I always just thought I 

was less than them. It became a part of my identity. I firmly believed that I would always be less 

successful and less competent than my rich, white peers. These inequalities were connected to 

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class but I instinctively connected these inequalities in school to my race. Because I am not white 

I believed I would not succeed. I began to identify myself as a reject even before I tried anything.  

Education shapes identities and perceptions of cultures for students. Anzaldua, through 

her languages, learned that her cultures were mixed and that fitting into one was nearly 

impossible. I began to feel trapped between cultures as well as I learned more about different 

categories through my years in education. As Lareau explained, the way I was raised in terms of 

my education shaped me into who I am today. Many students start in lesser positions later in life 

because they never grew up with opportunities. As I went through education, I noticed the 

differences in me and my peers quickly and felt lesser than them. Through my years in 

education, language and class shaped my culture, identity, and place in a society I believed I 

belonged to. Even if many of my perceptions were wrong, I still believed that I was meant to not 

be Mexican or not be successful. Education plays a vital role in how a student views the world 

and themselves.  

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Works Cited 

Anzaldúa, Gloria E. “How to Tame a Wild Tongue”. ​Ways of Reading: An Anthology for 

Readers.​ Compiled by David Bartholomae & Anthony Petrosky. 10th Edition. Boston & 

New York. 1996 

Lareau, Annette. “Invisible Inequality: Social Class and Childrearing in Black Families and 

​ ctober 2002 
White Families”. ​American Sociological Review. O

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