This coming Friday is #ProofPointDay, a celebration dedicated to first generation college students. In anticipation of the fun, I shared some personal reflections on diversity, which is the basic theme of today's "Reading List":
Unfortunately, during times of rapid change and political instability, it can seem appealing to fall back on the perceived safety of homogeneity ... turbulence and uncertainty can make paeans to nativist disunity appealing, as unsubtle pleas to return to the false safety of the past ignore the fact that plurality and diversity are the greatest gifts this country has ever offered the world. As bell hooks said in Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope, our culture “has tried to … make us choose safety instead of risk, sameness instead of diversity. Moving through that fear, finding out what connects us, reveling in our differences; this is the process that brings us closer, that gives us a world of shared values, of meaningful community.”
Bear with me, if ‘making America great again’ sounds like a clarion call to revisit a time where my energetic 19-month old son would not be seen, heard or valued. Over the next couple of months, thousands of poor, working-class, black and brown young people will be graduating from high school and college in search of their American dream ... As a first-generation college graduate, I do want to return to a time when our country ‘behaved magnificently’ and thought of education as an investment and not just an expense — the GI Bill, Stafford Loans and Pell Grants — this commitment put hundreds of thousands of people with non-traditional narratives through college.
New York state residents, regardless of citizenship, have a right to attend a public high school and earn a diploma until they turn 21. Two federal lawsuits filed last year contend that some refugee students have been denied that right in Utica ... For almost a decade, the district allegedly discriminated against refugees over 16, who are not required to attend school under state law. Instead of allowing them to enroll at Proctor High School, the lawsuits claim the district diverted the refugee students to alternative programs mainly to learn English or attend GED classes, and they missed out on the opportunity to earn high school diplomas.
Most of the United States seems satisfied to do the absolute minimum in helping the world to deal with its largest refugee crisis in decades, as Syrian families and children continue to flee in enormous numbers. Educating the children of refugees is one of the biggest challenges in the midst of conflict and displacement. Countries like Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Kurdistan have made radical shifts to their education systems to accommodate Syrian families, which Brookings studied:
This year, 160 of Lebanon’s 1,350 public schools are operating both a morning shift—primarily, but not exclusively for Lebanese children—and an afternoon shift for Syrian refugee children. Second shifts—also called double shift or multiple shift and even “hot seating,” depending on the context—have been widely used as a strategy to expand access to education when infrastructure is limited ... For Syrian refugees, the second shift system will play a central role in educating the next generation. Much of that responsibility falls directly on the shoulders of public school teachers who face salient challenges on a daily basis.
Teaching students across cultural differences is not just an international phenomenon. Clint Smith wrote a twitter essay last week about the necessity of teaching black students in a way that respects their culture:
For more on the linguistics of African-American vernacular English, see here. If you want a dead white dude's perspective, David Foster Wallace made the case that what we call "standard" or "academic" English really should be called "Standard White English." And lest you think it's possible to talk about DFW in late May without making the obligatory reference to his graduation speech, "This is Water," ...