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«RC 021 049 ED 407 206 Carter, Carolyn S. AUTHOR The Stuff That Dreams Are Made of: Culture, Ethnicity, TITLE Class, Place, and Adolescent Appalachian ...»

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RC 021 049

ED 407 206

Carter, Carolyn S.


The Stuff That Dreams Are Made of: Culture, Ethnicity,


Class, Place, and Adolescent Appalachian Girls' Sense of


Appalachia Educational Lab., Charleston, W. Va.


National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA.


Mar 97


31p.; Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American NOTE Educational Research Association (Chicago, IL, March 24-28, 1997).



Speeches/Meeting Papers (150) Research (143) Reports


MF01/PCO2 Plus Postage.


Adolescent Development; *Aspiration; Cultural Context;


*Early Adolescents; Educational Attitudes; Family Relationship; *Females; Intermediate Grades; Junior High Schools; Racial Differences; *Rural Urban Differences;

*Science Programs; *Self Concept; Social Class; Social Support Groups; Student Attitudes; Subcultures *Appalachian People; Sense of Place; Social Constructivism;


West Virginia


Based on an ongoing study of rural and urban Appalachian adolescent girls, this paper examines ways in which culture, class, ethnicity, and place influence girls' developing sense of self and beliefs about their lives, schooling, and futures. The 65 girls in the study are participants in "Rural and Urban Images: Voices of Girls in Science, Mathematics, and Technology (SMT)," a 3-year program grounded in a social constructivist view of both knowledge and identity, which seeks to support the development of girls in grades 6-8 with regard to SMT learning, beliefs, and career aspirations. The girls attend schools in McDowell County, West Virginia--an isolated, economically depressed region--and in Charleston, West Virginia. By far the greatest differences among the girls are directly attributable to rural or urban place. Social class also shapes roles and expectations for adolescents in both rural and urban communities. Ethnicity is a less powerful influence but figures strongly in the self-image of some urban African American girls. While many urban and middle-class rural girls can talk about themselves and their futures, lower-class rural girls generally cannot. But, these "have-nots" are rich in family and social support; express the strongest ties to family, community, and environment;

have a strong sense of family and community norms; and have difficulty thinking of themselves outside this context. The urban girls do not express ties to a particular place but have amuch stronger sense of identity and control over their destiny. An appendix describes the "Voices" program.

Contains 23 references. (SV)

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a) 4 O cV O


This material is based on work conducted by the Rural and Urban Images: Voices of Girls in Science, Mathematics, and Technology program supported by the National Science Foundation under grant number HRD-9453110. Any opinions, fin. dings, and conclusions or recommendations in this material are those of the author and do not reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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Introduction This paper, based upon two years of an ongoing study of adolescent girls in two settingsone rural, the other urban--provides an examination of issues related to girls' constructions of their identities and relationships to science, mathematics, and technology (SMT). In particular we examine: 1) ways in which multiple cultures in the two communities influence the girls' self-images, and their beliefs about their lives, schooling, and SMT; and 2) the impacts of place and culture on the girls' dreams for the future and life possibilities. Our collaboration with girls, their parents, communities, and schools in these two Appalachian communitiesone, remote and rural, the other, urbanallows us to explore the complexity of relationships among multiple cultures, ethnicities, and classes. In making sense of these multiple contexts, we call into question models of adolescent development that do not include ethnicity, class, and place as critical factors in girls development and voice.

The National Science Foundation-funded Rural and Urban Images: Voices of Girls in Science, Mathematics, and Technology (Voices) program which forms the backdrop of this paper is grounded in a social constructivist view of both knowledge and identity. This perspective forms the basis for program research and activities. To address issues faced by adolescent girls in SMT we must examine the contexts in which adolescent girls, teachers, parents, and others construct beliefs not only about the nature of SMT, but also about themselves. Who does SMT?

How does one learn SMT? What counts as SMT knowledge? What roles do girls and women play in SMT? Most particularly, who am "I" and what roles can I play in schooling and SMT?

Based on data collected from girls, parents, and others, we have developed profiles of the girls, their hopes, dreams, views of themselves, support networks, and social contexts. Using these profiles, we address what we see as a limitation in current perspectives on the development of adolescent girls.

2 The Stuff that Dreams are Made of Perspectives and frameworks We view culture as dynamic and continually reconstructed. We assume that the girls and parents in our study are part of multiple cultures and that how they interpret experience is shaped by factors including ethnicity, social class, place, and gender. We draw upon studies from sociology, anthropology, and feminist theories to explore these cultures. Our work is also grounded in studies of Appalachian sociology such as Maggard (1990, 1993), DeYoung (1993,

1994) and Duncan & Lamborghini (1994) and in educational studies such as those by Weis (1992, 1993) and Borman, Mueninghoff, & Piazza (1988).

Adolescent development, including cognitive, ethical, physical, and conceptual development, has been an area of intense focus in educational and psychological research.

Traditional stage models of development have been recognized for their androcentric biases.

These models have been challenged by research focusing on the development of women and girls, such as that by Gilligan and colleagues, and work based on the notions of "womens ways of knowing" (Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, and Tarule, 1986). Our perspectives on adolescent psychology are particularly informed by Gilligan's work (1988, 1990, 1995) and that of colleagues such as Brown (1992) and their critics (Stacey, 1990). We have also been influenced by postmodern notions of identity and "saturation" such as that explicated by Gergen (1991).

While these researchers have not proposed to speak for the development of all women, their work is often used by others in such a way as to "essentialize" or to support notions that vital sex-linked differences exist in intellectual and ethical development. While we find much of great value in the work of Gilligan, Brown, Belenky and their colleagues and have been guided by their work, we argue that examining the influences of race, social class, ethnicity, and place on adolescent girls contributes vitally to our understanding of their development. Attention to multiple ways in which individuals construct their identity may help shift the dialog away from notions of essentiality and gender as destiny.

This paper describes how we have used the lenses of culture, class, ethnicity, and place to make sense of Appalachian girls developing sense of self, particularly with respect to participation in science, mathematics, and technology. In exploring the girls' perceptions of themselves, their dreams, their hopes, and their behavior, we offer suggestions toward a broader

5 3The Stuff that Dreams are Made of

conceptualization of adolescent development for both research and practice. This study is unique in several ways. Most research on adolescent girls and their relationships to science, mathematics, and technology has focused on suburban and, to a lesser degree, urban girls. Rural girls have generally been unrepresented. In fact, much of the research on education in Appalachia has 1) assumed a univocal Appalachian culture without examining the ways in which race, class, place, and gender influence identity and development; and 2) used a deficit model, without considering the strengths with which cultures can support girls. We do not assume that girls raised in Appalachian cultures, whether rural or urban, are deficient either developmentally or with respect to SMT learning. Instead, we look to what these girls, their families, and communities can teach us about girls' development and possibilities.

Methods and data sources In this two-year study, we have used a variety of methods to develop and test our understandings of the 65 Voices participants and their development. Our approach is primarily qualitative, drawing upon sources including Guba and Lincoln (1989), Bogdan and Biklen (1992) and Patton (1990). Data sources include: 1) multiple structured and unstructured interviews of parents, girls, and school personnel; 2) field notes on project sessions, parent meetings, meetings of project staff and others; 3) notes, photographs and video of project sessions, advocate meetings, and other interactions, 4) researcher reflections and logs; 5) parent and teacher comments and teacher logs; 6) survey and demographic information; 7) analysis of school and district documents, newspaper reports, and other documents; 8) grades, test scores, and school discipline and attendance reports; 9) project SMART evaluation activities; and 10) girls writings, drawings, poetry, speeches, journals, and other artifacts. We also used photography and video to document the material cultures of the communities and schools that are part of the project in order to aid analysis and to convey the impact of geography and place on development of girls' identities.

Initial interviews, repeated at the beginning of year two, focused on the girls' beliefs about SMT, about themselves and their futures, and about themselves as people who do SMT, both now and in the future. Interviews also addressed the roles that science, mathematics, and

6 4The Stuff that Dreams are Made of

technology play in the girls schooling and daily lives. Further interviews and debriefings have taken place during program activities or other interactions with the girls, teachers, parents, and others. These sessions have dealt with specific issues, events, and concerns both related and unrelated to the Voices program.

From these multiple data sources, we have developed profiles of each of the girls and themes across the profiles. In this paper we will use information from selected profiles to illustrate contextual and cultural influences on identity and development as Voices girls from both rural and urban sites have moved from upper-elementary to middle-school aged adolescents.

Contexts of the study The Voices program Voices, funded by NSF, is both a three-year science, mathematics, and technology program for Appalachian girls, their parents, teachers and community, and a research and development effort. Our rural site, in McDowell County, West Virginia draws from an area served by three elementary schools in an isolated, economically-depressed region whose economy was once based on coal. The urban site draws from three elementary schools in Charleston, West Virginia. These three schools have urban demographic characteristics and also have all the problems endemic to inner-city schools.

Voices began with 6th grade girls in both sites. These girls are now in the 7th grade and will participate in the program through their 8th grade year. The girls take part in monthly Saturday workshops, take field trips, communicate via electronic mail, and use the Internet. A school-based coordinator meets with the girls in her school on a regular (at least once weekly) basis. An advocate network of adults (generally parents or other family members) meets together with the girls regularly to provide support. In the second year of the program, girls have been paired with mentorswomen whose work in some way utilizes science, mathematics, or technology. The girls meet monthly with their mentors and communicate with them via e-mail.

The program contains girls of all interest and ability levels. In the urban site, all 6th grade girls in the three schools were invited to participate in the program. In the rural site, girls were selected by random drawing, stratified by ethnicity in order to insure that the percent of

7 5The Stuff that Dreams are Made of

African-American students whose names were drawn was proportionate to their presence in the school. (Only one girl from the rural site invited to participate did not do so; her grandmother would not allow her participation.) There are a number of girls in special education programs;

other girls would qualify for gifted programs.

Program activities in the first year of Voices were designed to honor the science, mathematics, and technology used in the daily lives of women in Appalachia, while simultaneously building bridges to science, mathematics, and technology as taught in schools.

Activities in Voices were centered on SMT knowledge as situated and embodied in Appalachian womens' lives and reflect the perspective that all women, whether they realize it or not, practice SMT, although their practice has often been devalued by professional SMT communities.' We want the girls to understand that they should develop SMT knowledge and skills, regardless of their occupational goals. In practice, educators often use real-world science, mathematics, and technology as examples of more theoretical concepts. We have worked instead to make explicit the SMT knowledge that is necessary to carry out activities into which girls have already had some apprenticeship and then building bridges between this situated knowledge and school knowledge.

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