Barrier 3: Cultural Beliefs, Values, and Attitudes about Education
By Dr. Kimberly Van Horne, Ed.D.
(Quotes by students: M=Male F= Female)
Families from various cultures have different views about college and the importance of a college education. There is no right or wrong way to view education, but sometimes students and their families have different views for many reasons, and this can cause academic challenges. It does not mean, necessarily, that people from any culture do not value education. It just means that sometimes people place a higher value on other aspects of life, like hard work and families, the strong identification and attachment to family. The majority of the students interviewed for this information were Latino first-generation college students who came from immigrant families with low-socioeconomic backgrounds and had parents with little to no formal education. The concern students shared was that family members, friends, and other people they were close to had never been to college and did not understand the college experience and the school responsibilities a student must address in order to succeed.
- “A lot of our families come with no education” (F).
- “They don’t understand why I need time to look into the books… because I’m the first one to go to college, and they don’t understand why” (F).
- “I couldn’t make them understand how important it was to me” (F).
Several students shared their experiences dealing with some of their families’ cultural beliefs and values of education.
- “I don’t even remember one time in my whole childhood growing up that anybody told me that after you graduate from high school you’re supposed to go to college (F).
- “Most of them they just think a woman should stay home” (F).
- “They don’t want women to succeed. My experience, like all the friends I had and me, we got married. We planned to go to school, but they’d tell you you’re going to go, but then they don’t support you” (F).
- “The women in [my dad’s] family, you get married when you turn, you know, 19. You don’t go to college. You have kids and you stay at home (F).
- “[My brother] is the only male in the household, and there was no question [about] him going to school or why he was going to school” (F).
- “His attitude was, ‘Why don’t you just get a job because you need the money more’ because my dad doesn’t know how to read or write” (F).
- “You need the money now, so go work” (M).
Students said that family members and friends often referred to college as a “waste of time” and that it is more important to start earning money right out of high school.
- “They think that all you have to do is go to work. Don’t waste your time in school” (F).
- “Mine was with my boyfriend because he thinks you should just work. He thinks college is a waste of time” (F).
- “Mostly out of high school [my friends] all went into the oil fields, and they are making lots of money, so they were like, ‘Man, why do you want to go to school and waste your time?’ ” (M).
- “Yeah, my friends, they tried to tell me that I’d be wasting my time” (M).
Overcoming Barrier 3: Coping with Differences in Cultural Beliefs, Values, and Attitudes about Education
(Quotes by students: M=Male F= Female)
There are ways students can help their loved ones understand their desire to earn a college degree. Cultural differences can be worked out through a variety of ways. Communicating individual views and working on compromises are positive approaches to solving differences. Sometimes students simply need to provide their families with information so that they can understand the college processes and learn all of the benefits of completing a college degree.
Students shared several strategies for coping with differences cultural beliefs, values, and attitudes toward education. Four patterns emerged: (a) think about the importance of college education, (b) stand up for educational values and beliefs, (c) find a role model or support person, and (d) self-motivate.
There are many long-term financial benefits for completing a college degree. People who earn a Bachelor’s degree earn 75% more over their lifetime than those who only have a high school diploma. Students stated that understanding the value of education helped them to overcome some cultural barriers to college.
- “Instead of working and getting minimum wage, if I get my degree in something, I will always have a job there” (F).
- “I’m not going to be able to work in construction all my life. I need to get back to school in order to provide my family with the same amount money, and I’m not going to do it without an education (M).
- “Like if I work hard [in school] right now, then later on in life it will be easier” (M).
- “Just seeing your mom struggle, you don’t want to go through that struggling” (F).
- “I put my pride down to do what I got to do as long as at the end I know it’s going to better myself and my kids” (F).
Students stated that important strategies to overcome cultural barriers were to stand up for personal educational values and beliefs and to verbalize values and beliefs about education to others who do not support their desire to attend college.
- “My mom said when I got pregnant, ‘You’re not going to be able to do school.’ I said, ‘Oh, yes I am,’ and I’m still here’ ” (F).
- “Oh, I just told him I’m going to do it anyways. I said, ‘You might not want me to do it, but I’m going to do it’ ” (F).
- “I pushed that off, and I did it for the reason that I’m going to be the first one in my family to go to college…. Now I can show them that I made a career and became a person that can do good for the community” (M).
- “I said, ‘Dad, I don’t want to be like you’ because my dad doesn’t know how to read or write, so I was like ‘I want to go to school, so I can get a better job’ ” (F).
Role Models or Support People
Numerous students discussed the magnitude of finding a role model or valued support person as a vital strategy for college success.
- “[My sister has] kind of been my inspiration through these three years because I don’t think that if she wouldn’t have went to college, I wouldn’t have went” (F).
- “Like my dad, he's always changing jobs, but for the better. He's setting the bar up high for me, and my mom as well; she's going to adult school trying to get her G.E.D. [General Education Diploma]” (M).
- “There was a worker there that was like [in] high school going into college, so I think I started talking to him, and then I started understanding I could go to college (F).
- “My mom had to go back to school to get her CNA [Certified Nursing Assistant] license and that was hard for her because coming from another country, not knowing the language perfectly, she had to teach herself” (F).
- “If you don't have a good friend to motivate you, to be your inspiration, and to be there for you, I don't think that a person could be in college in a way” (F).
The students said it was important to self-motivate and to use a lack of support as a motivational resource.
- “Sometimes your motivation is in yourself” (M).
- “At the end of it, when I graduate and I have that diploma, every person that told me I couldn’t do it, this is for you” (F).
- “I’m the first [to go to college] because I am trying to be the positive older sister (F).
- “I just made up my mind I had to do something” (F).
- “You need to focus on what you want and go after it or just let it go” (M).
- “If you want to get the education, it’s up to you really” (F).
- “It’s going to be a struggle through the process, but it has to be done” (F).
|1. Competing Demands||2. Financial Issues||3. Cultural Beliefs, Values, & Attitudes about Education||4. Transitions to College|
|5. Failing or Repeating a Course||6. Starting College in Developmental Courses||7. Personal Attitudes about College|