Students in Hatch Valley have experienced low graduation rates in the past several years (Graduation Data, 2023). The data from the New Mexico Public Education Department demonstrates the graduation rates in Hatch are below the intended State goal of 85% and even below the baseline of 71% (Thinking Long Term: State Graduation Rate Goals under ESSA - Achieve, n.d.). I argue that students in the Hatch Valley are suffering from adaptive preference: a phenomenon in which “the victims become accustomed to their circumstances and even come to prefer them” (Cudd, 2018). It will also be argued that the institutions in the community have imposed a structural injustice on its citizens. The structural injustice has pitted the cultural values of this community against their own definition of flourishing leading to this adaptive preference. These institutions and cultural values are defined through the deliberation facilitated with community members. If these definitions are shown to create conditions in direct conflict with the definition of flourishing, then it is reasonable to consider that some of Hatch Valley’s citizens are suffering from adaptive preference. This adaptive preference directly affects the value these citizens place on their education.


Iris Marion Young states “Structural injustice occurs as a consequence of many individuals and institutions acting to pursue their particular goals and interests, for the most part within the limits of accepted rules and norms” (Young, 2010). When referring to adaptive preference, I will be taking a similar position to Serene Khader in stating that it is a preference that does not align with human “flourishing.” Her position is that agents become accustomed to their circumstances which does not allow them to realize their full potential. In this case agents tend to make it their preference to pass up opportunities that facilitate their “flourishing” because they do not deem it attainable (Cudd, 2018). It is essential to define the difference between a preference and a choice, as well as what is meant by flourishing.

John Trusler has this to say about choosing and preference:

To choose, is, to determine in favor of a thing, either on account of its merit, or its value. To prefer, is, to determine in its favor, by any motive whatsoever; whether it be merit, affection, good-manners, policy, or, what not (Trusler, n.d.).

From Trusler then, a preference can be thought of as coming from the heart. The issue is that the people suffering from structural injustice may make choices that suit their accustomed circumstances. Their accustomed conditions blind them to preferences that may be more conducive to flourishing.

I also agree with Khader in the sense that it is important to leave a vague definition of flourishing (Cudd, 2018). Flourishing is a term that can be subjective to a culture, and it is important for us to be cognizant of a culture’s values when defining flourishing. If we ignore cultural values, we may develop a plan to intervene that is ineffective. By co-creating the plan to intervene, we can build trust with the community and ensure involvement from the affected. This strengthens the argument for the need to deliberate with the citizens about what they consider to be a flourishing life. We must then define human flourishing in alignment with their cultural values.

In Jon Elster’s example of adaptive preference the fox who cannot reach certain grapes decides that those grapes are sour. The problem in Hatch Valley that can be observed in the conversations with the community members, is that their lack of understanding on the career options that education makes available to them narrows their view on the value of formal education. A simple example of this is the student who prefers to drop out and work in agriculture because he believes the options for his career are not affected by completing his high school education, because careers that require trade school or college degrees (physician, engineer, automotive mechanic, etc.) are not seen as genuine options. Like the fox, this student places a lower value on the goal he deems unattainable.

Our first community member discussion was facilitated with an educator in the community. The Hatch Valley school district according to this educator is made up of 48% English Language Learners (ELL). ELLs are defined as “students who are unable to communicate fluently or learn effectively in English, who often come from non-English- speaking homes and backgrounds, and who typically require specialized or modified instruction in both the English language and in their academic courses” (Sabbott., 2013). The Hatch Valley is also a Title I school district meaning that it receives federal funding to provide resources to students living in or near the poverty line. An example of some of the benefits of this funding includes free lunches for students. Through further discussion with a Principal in the Hatch Valley we learned that Hatch was an important part of Yazzie and Martinez v. State of New Mexico lawsuit. The plaintiffs of this case were asking the State of New Mexico to determine whether the state was providing equitable education to English learners, Native Americans, children with disabilities and socioeconomically disadvantaged children. It was found that the State of New Mexico violated the rights of at-risk students by not providing sufficient resources for their education. The discussion draft of a plan of action for the State calls upon their partners “especially the school districts” (Action Plan Decisions about Martinez/Yazzie v. State of New Mexico, 2022) to implement certain strategies that will result in an allocation of resources to them. What strategies are currently being implemented will be further discussed in the intervention portion of this paper, but it is important to note that despite the efforts, these educators feel enough has not been done.

The next community member we spoke to is a 2017 graduate of Hatch Valley High School. His graduation class had one of the lowest graduation rates in recent years, below the baseline of 71%. Throughout this discussion, we define some of the values important to the culture of Hatch that must be met when creating a definition of flourishing. We also encountered possible institutions imposing structural injustice leading to a deficit in professional outlets causing conflict with cultural values. Some of the effects that can be rooted in the States violation of student rights and ultimately what has led to the adaptive preference.

This member’s discussion began with his definition of flourishing. Flourishing, in his words, is to have a comfortable place to live and to have a job you find challenging, so that the work feels meaningful. He also says that it is important to be safe and healthy at this job. Lastly, to have a flourishing life is to be able to take care of and provide for your family. By which he means contributing to the family expenses of those who live in the same household as you. This can mean parents, grandparents, siblings etc.

We then discussed his reasons for completing high school and continuing to higher education. Initially he felt that working at the local dairy was a career that met his needs. He judged this by comparing his income to his father’s, as his father was able to sufficiently provide for the family. His father and mother had immigrated to the United States when he was very young and spoke little to no English. This qualified him as one of many ELL students in elementary school in this community. He began working in the local dairy at the age of 16. He felt unsatisfied with the work environment. He stated that he felt the people around him were always tired and irritable, which suggests that they did not find meaning in their work and were possibly unhealthy. This job required long hours and strenuous work in a work environment that literally smelt of “cow shit”. This led him to the decision to complete high school and pursue higher education in hopes of finding a career that aligned more with his idea of flourishing, including work that felt meaningful and allowed him to feel safe and healthy.

What he didn’t know was that he would face challenges when he tried to pursue higher education. He described the lack of resources available to ELL’s and their family members. In our previous discussions we uncovered that the curriculum for ELL’s varies throughout the school district and is not vertically aligned. For example, students starting in kindergarten should be receiving instruction at a 90% Spanish to 10% English ratio. This ratio slowly increases the amount of English used by 10% every grade level so that the students are expected to be at 50/50 by the time they reach middle school. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case, students are not testing proficient in either language all the way up to graduation and there are no adjustments being made at that level. For students like this participant who moved to Hatch Valley at an age older than kindergarten, they are placed in an age-appropriate grade but are not qualified to be learning at the grade specific ratio. This demonstrates one of the systemic barriers

faced by ELL students, in that the curriculum is inherently biased against their learning style. For example, New Mexico history is a requirement of all high school graduates, but the educators described that there is not a version of the textbook translated to Spanish. There quite clearly are disparities between those choosing the curriculum and those who are required to learn it.

The amount of income required to attend school was another problem our participant had not considered before wanting to attend college. After all, his original list of flourishing did not require attending school. But now that he had this new goal, he had to make a considerable effort to identify and connect with programs available to students in his position. As Yazzie/Martinez would reveal a year after his graduation, the categorical funding in place would be noted as “insufficient to provide enough money to allow school districts to provide programs and other resources needed by economically disadvantaged students and Els” (Gudgel, 2018). Our participant felt the direct effects of this when attempting to find a path that would connect him with resources and allow him to go to college. Through extensive efforts of his own he was referred to a federally funded program known as the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) which enabled him to attend college without placing a financial burden on his family.

It soon became evident that in order to find this meaningful and safe career he would have to leave his family home and could no longer support them. Such a decision was in direct conflict with taking care of and providing for his family - one of the core values of his definition of flourishing.

Further in our discussion we began to encounter some of the institutions whose profit incentivized goals create conflict with flourishing values in this community. We can first look at the large farm organizations. Like many who grew up in the Hatch Valley, I have worked in agriculture myself. So, I am familiar with some of the dangers and risks to one’s health. I personally sustained an injury on my left hand after it was stuck in a conveyor belt carrying produce to be sorted by employees. It is common for employees to have to work near this type of machinery. But aside from the large machinery used in agriculture the pesticides and fertilizers used can pose chemical risks to the employees as well. Many times, I have seen posters in break rooms describing proper clothing to wear and what to do if you suspect you are having a reaction to the pesticides. Without the proper education it is impossible for some employees to understand all the dangers associated with their work. Recall that there are students graduating who are neither proficient in English nor Spanish. Alongside this while working outside you are exposed to the elements and it is not unheard of for employees to suffer from mild fits of heat stroke. So why do so many people in Hatch choose this work? The simple answer is these jobs are accessible. Many agricultural jobs do not require much education or US citizenship, which allows many children from the age of 12 to begin receiving an income without much resistance from norms such as an application process. Working to support one’s family meets one of the requirements for a flourishing life. Many also find the physical challenges of the work to be intrinsically rewarding. Not because of the health or fitness benefits but because of the strong correlation this culture has with masculine pride.

Finally, being recognized for a job well done within the community might also be considered valuable for flourishing within this culture.

However, there is still one issue, and that is the health and safety of these careers. For the citizens to meet all the requirements outlined in a flourishing life, it seems they must change careers to work in a safe and healthy work environment. Because of the lack of career options in Hatch, they are forced to move to a neighboring community to pursue higher education or other careers. This option is often met with resistance from the family because now there is minimal support that the moving family member can provide. Aside from the financial constraints, the citizens are met with yet another institutional obstacle. The public- school districts are ill equipped to answer the questions from ELL’s and provide their families with appropriate information regarding further education. Our second community member stated he often felt that the educators in his community did not believe in his ability to succeed at school. That he was even discouraged from taking AP tests to count for college credit as it would be “a waste of his time.” This may stem from the fact that in high-poverty schools there are “disproportionately high number of low-paid, entry level teachers” (Gudgel, 2018) which may be unqualified to teach AP courses. Regardless of the educator’s intentions, this mindset from the citizens seems to discourage any pursuit of further education. These conditions make a career change seem unattainable. Leading to the adaptive preference to remain working in agriculture despite the health and safety risks it poses and negating the importance of pursuing higher education.


It is important to outline a strategy of intervention. In this strategy, we must ensure that we are not denying agency to the affected citizens. Too often interventions deny agency since those affected by adaptive preference act in ways that do not align with their own expressed accounts of flourishing. It seems inhumane to take from them what they prefer. We must also understand that these agents are making choices based on their conditions and should avoid blaming their cultural views as a hindrance. We must also ensure that we are culturally sensitive and not oblivious to their cultural definitions of flourishing.

One way the school district is intervening is with “community schools.” These community schools provide resources for parents to get involved with their children’s education and allow for deliberations between the school district and its citizens. These community schools hold events such as Hispanic cultural fairs and provide outlets for parents to get information on completing documentation such as applying for citizenship. These courses received anywhere from 20-40 participants. The school district hopes to continue offering these services and expand to options allowing parents to receive their GED’s and de- stigmatize mental health awareness in the Mexican American community, as recently four students had been hospitalized because of suicidal attempts, which is known to disproportionately affect low-income communities (Bantjes et al., 2016). Hatch has also started a coalition inviting different organizations from Dona Ana County to express what they can offer to the community. Among those who intend to begin work in the Hatch Valley are Jardin de los Ninos and Casa de Peligrinos.

Our goal now is to expand on the intervention and apply an inclusive solution to the Hatch Valley by creating a new set of conditions for the affected that facilitates flourishing as defined by the deliberation. Through our interviews with members of the community we have uncovered the values held by a largely Hispanic populous (Hatch, NM, n.d.). It is suggested that the farm organizations begin to promote safer practices in their facilities. By creating a safer environment for these citizens, we can begin to meet some of the important values necessary to accomplish human flourishing. These farms may also begin to promote higher education in their organizations. By creating a business model that allows these agents to be paid more with an increased education the agents would be better suited to provide and support their family.

The next step would be to inform the agents of unrecognized choices. The school district should allocate resources to ELLs and their families informing them of attainable career goals and options for their life by completing higher education. This still grants them the agency to choose a career but makes them aware of the potential options where they can flourish. Alongside this, training for bilingual teachers to better accommodate the needs of different students’ proficiency in either language. It will become essential for the school district to adopt a more flexible curriculum that can accommodate new students at different levels of proficiency as well. Lastly the State and the Department of Education must consider the English biases present in the resources available to students. Curriculums must be developed that can reduce the proficiency gap and not exasperate it further.

Another consideration would be the re-implementation of a community college or trade school in the Hatch Valley allowing them to remain near their families meeting that additional goal to flourishing, previously challenged by moving away. Essentially, through these techniques we are removing the conditions from which the adaptive preference was born. By understanding how their values directly affect the path to flourishing in education we can come to a plan consistent with their cultural values. Simply put, by encouraging the completion of education citizens of the Hatch Valley can make decisions that align with their goals of fulfillment and safety.