Mexican Immigrants in U.S. Schools: Targets of Symbolic Violence

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The largest immigrant group in the United States is from Mexico. Although attitudes toward immigrants have tended to be negative throughout the 20th century, attitudes and beliefs about Mexican immigrants have increasingly become hostile. Those societal views are mirrored in school culture. In this article, we illustrate this hostility by describing critical incidents involving teacher candidates in a teacher preparation program, Mexican immigrant children, and educators. We analyze the incidents as examples of symbolic violence and coded language targeted at Mexican immigrants and their children. We conclude that this problem must be addressed in explicit and direct ways and that schools and universities have a responsibility to provide a just and equal education for all children including Mexican immigrants.