Education and Origins

“My ongoing assignment was to have my parents read to me every night before going to bed. Instead, they stuck me in front of our tv, where the characters spoke perfect English.”





Staring at the empty check boxes in my school assigned agenda book, I sigh as I begin to scribble my father’s initials into each them. My sister does the same, except she writes in my mother’s initials. My teacher’s words echo in my head: “Don’t forge. It’s illegal.” But is it illegal if my parents specifically tell me to do it?

As a second grader, my ongoing assignment was to have my parents read to me every night before going to bed. However, my parents refused to do so; they were afraid of hindering my English education. Instead of reading to me, they stuck me in front of our tv, where the characters spoke perfect English.

My parents stressed the value of education to me and my sister starting at a very young age. There was an American dream we had to accomplish, and receiving the best education was the first step.

However, my parents believed that for one to be more educated, one had to become westernized. When I was approaching preschool, I still could not form cohesive sentences. My parents blamed it on themselves; two languages was too much for a child to learn. They stopped speaking Vietnamese to me, in hopes that I would be as well spoken in English as my classmates. They didn’t risk teaching my sister any Vietnamese.

At home, I was taught to respect my parents and teachers. However, it was difficult for me to respect them both. In “The Achievement of Desire”, R Rodriguez argues, “Good schooling requires that any student alter early childhood habits. But the working-class child is usually least prepared for the change […] [H]e goes home and sees his parents in a way of life not only differently but starkly opposed to that of the classroom” (600). Growing up, my parents had all of my respect. However, because of their push for education, I began to respect my teachers more than my own family. I was more westernized than my parents, so according to my parent’s beliefs, I was more educated. What I learned in school was right, while my parent’s lessons were wrong. The way my parents found solutions to math problems was outdated. The language which my parents spoke was unnecessary.

But the way my parents tried to teach me math turned out to be the easiest and most efficient way, and Vietnamese was needed to speak with my relatives, both in America and Vietnam. Yet those things didn’t matter to me. In school, I learned math a specific way and Vietnam was never mentioned in history class. To get good grades, one must obey their teacher. So by disobeying my parents, I was obeying them by doing well in school. I only obeyed my parents when I was told to forge their signatures.

Herve Varenne contends in “Culture, Education, and Anthropology” that “education is just another word for the more technical enculturation” (360). To succeed in school, one must assimilate into the school’s culture and standards. It wasn’t necessarily my parent’s fault that I became estranged from my origins. They were immigrants who were told that education was the key to the American dream. Little did they know that there was fine text at the bottom.




Rodriguez, Richard. “The Achievement of Desire.” In The Hunger of Memory

597-605. Bantam, 1982.


Varenne, Hervé. “Culture, Education, Anthropology.” Anthropology & Education Quarterly 39, no. 4 (2008): 356-68.

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