In Search of Identity: A Puerto Rican Dropout Tells Tales Out of School
thesisposted on 01.07.2016, 00:00 by Gini Blaut-Sorrentini
This dissertation is the study of how the educational identity of a Puerto Rican woman school dropout was shaped by key life experiences. The research consists of stories of formative life experiences that are both autobiographical and fictionalized. Therefore, it draws upon the life experiences of the author; however, to mask the involvement of others names and places have been rearranged to protect participants by piecing together composite experiences and adding fictional variations in ways that remain true to the medium studied. Nonetheless, times, places, events, and characters remain unidentifiable. Thus, the study draws upon an eclectic array of research methods prominent in the field of curriculum studies, including narrative inquiry, autobiography, teacher lore, arts-based research, ethnography, and fictionalized inquiry portrayals. Theoretically, the study draws substantially upon William H. Schubert’s conceptualization of out-of-school curriculum, the notion of curriculum as currere advanced by William Pinar and Madeleine Grumet, pragmatic educational theory of John Dewey, perspectives on teaching by William Ayers, dimensions of critical theory drawn principally from Michael Apple and Henry Giroux, and memoir writing as healing by Louise DeSalvio. When integrated, these theoretical perspectives shaped the inquiry for this study by framing the fictionalized stories of my experience (both in and out of school settings) into forms of education, thus of curriculum, that address the basic curriculum question (What is worthwhile?) to illustrate ways in which curriculum is derived from lived experience. The stories that portray such illustration focus on the following: life and background as a Puerto Rican and Spanish-speaking dropout; the saving grace of a school in the United States patterned after Summerhill School in England; a relationship with a gifted Puerto Rican artist; seeing the prejudicial treatment of Puerto Rican art, work with youths from gang and prison experience; contrasts among education in lives of impoverished urban youth, an elite private university, and a major urban state university. In four concluding essays I amplify lessons from graduate studies, summary reflections, conclusions, and hopes that flow from the dissertation.