Global Migration, Diversity, and Civic Education: Improving Policy and Practice
reviewed by Jennifer Lee & Jess Lee - February 08, 2017
Title: Global Migration, Diversity, and Civic Education: Improving Policy and Practice
Author(s): James A. Banks, Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco, & Miriam Ben-Peretz (Eds.)
Publisher: Teachers College Press, New York
ISBN: 0807758094, Pages: 256, Year: 2016
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One out of four American children under the age of 18 has at least one immigrant parent, up from just 6% in 1970 (Zong & Batalova, 2015). By 2050, demographers estimate that todays current percentage of immigrant youth will further increase to one-third (Passel, 2011). Immigrant youth, the majority of whom are second-generation (e.g., citizen children born to foreign-born parents), are more numerous and diverse than at any point in our nation's history. Children's immigrant parents vary widely with respect to their national origin, educational attainment, religion, legal status, and English language proficiency. All of these characteristics place second-generation children at different starting points in their quest for social and economic mobility. Given this increasing trend of immigrant diversity, how can public education maintain social cohesion, promote structural inclusion, and foster cultural sustainability? This is the central question for Global Migration, Diversity, and Civic Education: Improving Policy and Practice. James A. Banks, Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco, and Miriam Ben-Peretz edited the book, which started from a two-day workshop convened by the National Academy of Education.
This volume is divided into three parts. It offers theoretical, empirical, and policy-based approaches to help readers understand the relationship between social cohesion and cultural sustainability in an era of mass migration. In Part One, the authors provide a comprehensive analysis of the concept of social cohesion and examine how it relates to cultural sustainability. They address the fundamental question of whether social cohesion and cultural sustainability can coexist productively given increasing diversity.
For example, editor Banks tackles this diversity challenge through the lens of public education. He argues that the current educational system is based on achievement-oriented curricula that prepare students for taking tests, but fail to encourage political literacy. Consequently, schools do not educate students to become effective citizens in a global society. Banks calls for a transformative citizenship education (p. 35) to equip students with democratic ideals to become politically involved in their communities and broader host societies. In the model provided by Banks, teachers play a critical role in structuring equal status relationships between students, especially those from different racial, ethnic, and immigrant backgrounds.
Zvi Bekerman and Guadalupe Valdés adopt a comparative approach to approaching the diversity question. They examine how the relationship between social cohesion and cultural sustainability manifests itself in the United States and Israel. They find that while the national contexts differ, the relationship between the two countries is similar. The current orientation of both educational systems is assimilatory. These nations value the hegemony of the dominant host society and undermine the identities of minority and immigrant youth. If the goal is to create a more inclusive, sustainable, and engaged society, schools must shift their pedagogical orientation away from assimilation.
Part Two of the volume adds empirical evidence to the conceptual outline introduced in the first part of the volume. It achieves this by offering case studies of immigrant and minority students' adaptation (or lack thereof) in their host society's educational systems. Carola Suárez-Orozco and Amy K. Marks lay out the structural inequalities and social biases that immigrant students face in America. Drawing on analyses of the Longitudinal Immigrant Adaptation Study (LISA), they find that allotting additional resources can counteract disadvantage caused by immigrant diversity. Specifically, students who tap into scholastic, familial, and individual resources perform better academically over time. As such, the authors recommend investing in after school programs, tutoring, and high-stakes test preparation. They also advocate for providing help with college admissions as a concrete way that schools can level the playing field for at-risk students. Importantly, they add that investing in these services would help all students, not just immigrant and minority learners.
In another illuminating chapter, editor Ben-Peretz and Tali Aderet-German focus on academically successful Ethiopian students in Israel. They find that formal education gives these Ethiopian immigrant children a sense of personal autonomy. It also provides them with the requisite skills and opportunities to overcome racism. Critically, the authors find that these educated Ethiopian children develop dual cultural identities that operate as a personal resource. On a related note, Ayman K. Agbaria investigates the ways Palestinian teachers use and subvert the educational system and curricula in Israel to provide counter-knowledge to Palestinian students. In doing so, they affirm these students Palestinian heritage and sense of belonging while they learn in Israel. This also occurs while these educators teach Zionist ethnonational public education curricula for test-taking purposes in civic education. These researchers illustrate that cultural sustainability can exist with social cohesion to promote educational success among immigrant and minority students.
In Part Three, the authors examine the changing role of civic education and teacher education in the era of globalization and mass migration. Gregory White and John P. Myers call for a new type of civic education in K12 public school curricula informed by a "fundamental rethinking of what it means to be a citizen" (p. 196). They argue that civic education in a global society should promote both civic values (e.g., culturally specific and universal) and civic purposes (e.g., political enlightenment and engagement). This will subsequently help students understand social issues and participate politically in their host societies.
The final chapter by Sonia Nieto serves as a conclusion to the volume and offers a comprehensive analysis of the preceding chapters. In addition, she points to concrete examples of sustainable programs that provide students with a type of civic education that is of a high-quality. These include ethnic studies programs and Youth Participatory Action Research programs. Nieto emphasizes that the key to a good program is designing a curriculum that incorporates diverse histories and languages. In addition, this curriculum should also include the perspectives of minority students.
While this volume provides rich theoretical, conceptual, and empirical insight into the scholarship of immigration and education, the title of the book is misleading. The focus is less about Global Migration as is explicitly stated on its front cover. Instead, the volume focuses on immigration and immigrant youth in two nations, namely the United States and Israel. It would have been useful to signal this comparison in the book's title or subtitle. On a related note, American readers who are unfamiliar with Israel's immigration history, educational system, and sociopolitical context will have a difficult time fully grasping the American-Israeli comparisons. A brief explanation of this background information in the introduction would have helped readers understand the different challenges to civic education in the Israeli context. However, both of these shortcomings can be easily addressed in the next edition.
The strength of this volume is its comparative context. This allows the editors and authors to lay out the conditions where cultural sustainability and social cohesion coexist. Replicating this on a larger scale will require that we reconsider how we educate our youth. Are we willing to invest necessary institutional resources so that immigrant and minority youth are not disadvantaged in school? Will we include their histories and identities within the curricula in a way that also fosters lessons in civic engagement? We cannot expect todays youth to support diversity and successfully function in a diverse society if we have not introduced diversity, cultural sustainability, and civic education to them as children. This pioneering volume by Banks, Suárez-Orozco, and Ben-Peretz make this idea convincing. This makes the book required reading for anyone interested in immigration, second-generation youth, education, and race or ethnic relations.
Zong, J., & Batalova, J. (2015, February 26). Frequently requested statistics on immigrants and immigration in the United States. Migration Information Source. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute. Retrieved from http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/frequently-requested-statistics-immigrants-and-immigration-united-states-4#Children with Immigrant Parents