"It’s Already Happening": Learning From Civically Engaged Transnational Immigrant Youth
by Michelle Knight - 2011
Background/Context: This essay is part of a special issue that emerges from a year-long faculty seminar at Teachers College, Columbia University. The seminar's purpose has been to examine in fresh terms the nexus of globalization, education, and citizenship. Participants come from diverse fields of research and practice, among them art education, comparative education, curriculum and teaching, language studies, philosophy of education, social studies, and technology. They bring to the table different scholarly frameworks drawn from the social sciences and humanities. They accepted invitations to participate because of their respective research interests, all of which touch on education in a globalized world. They were also intrigued by an all-too-rare opportunity to study in seminar conditions with colleagues from different fields, with whom they might otherwise never interact given the harried conditions of university life today. Participants found the seminar generative in terms of ideas about globalization, education, and citizenship. Participants also appreciated what, for them, became a novel and rich occasion for professional and personal growth.
Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: The goal of this paper is to open up a dialogic space where educators can learn from and with transnational immigrant youth who are already participating in civic learning opportunities as local and global citizens in and beyond the sphere of schools. Drawing on data from two qualitative research studies, I discuss the global lifestyle and civic engagement of Kwame, one transnational immigrant youth, who lives in New York and maintains close ties to Africa. The relationship between his transnational immigrant identity and civic engagement provide insights into how he is constructing, negotiating, and contesting citizenship norms, K–16 civic learning opportunities, and new technologies of civic engagement for the betterment of diverse democratic societies.
Conclusion/Recommendations: The author argues that, in the midst of contentious debates on immigration and (mis)representations of immigrants in the media, dialogic spaces between and among educators and transnational immigrant youth can be created to grapple with notions of globalization, education, and citizenship. Moreover, as schools also serve as public civic space, educators can focus on engaging transnational immigrant youth’s daily experiences and knowledge in the curriculum. In so doing, the curriculum opens up opportunities for teachers and students to dialogue and learn about what is already happening with youth to further encourage, motivate, and sustain youth’s civic engagement at local, national, and global levels. Such learning carries the potential of a diverse action-oriented educated citizenry committed to human rights in a globalized world.
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