Source: Integrating Indiana’s Latino Newcomers: A Study of State and Community Responses to the New Immigration

Bradley A.U. Levinson*
Judson Everitt+
Linda C. Johnson*

Our first efforts to identify the relevant state figures and policies for educating Latino newcomers were quite telling. We contacted numerous offices within the state Department of Education, as well as legislators and educators who had been involved in some way with efforts to respond to the increased cultural diversity in the state. Almost without exception, their initial response was: “Have you talked to the folks in the Division of Language Minority and Migrant
Programs (LMMP)?” Indeed, we discovered dynamics at the state level which we would soon find replicated in schools and school corporations across the state. In school after school, we received
similar responses when asking about Latino students: “Oh, those are Ms. So-and So’s kids,” with Ms. So-and-So being the local ESL teacher, almost always a woman. Latino newcomers are thus defined almost entirely by their speaking of Spanish and their need to learn English, and the people who are therefore charged with the greatest responsibility for their education, to whom they symbolically “belong,” are the language acquisition specialists. Because of this, state education officers, school administrators, and school teachers may collude in denying ownership and responsibility: newcomer Latino students are “their” (ESL teachers, LMMP employees) kids, not “ours.” The lack of coherence and coordination at the state level thus mirrors, perhaps even fosters, similar dynamics at the local level. Meanwhile, the many problems faced by immigrant students are reduced to the linguistic dimension. (12)

This approach to integration and citizenship is similar to, and reflective of, Charles Taylor’s notion of the virtue of recognition. In Barrytown and Morningside, the conceptualization of citizenship is largely viewed as participation at the local level, not the possession of legal documents that legitimate one’s presence in the community. Participation is conceived as being much more than a member of the workforce; it also includes social, educational, and religious involvement. This desire to integrate the newcomers is one expression of the virtue of recognition. Moreover, this desire to integrate and allow for mutual adaptation appears to be rooted in a valuation of, and recognition of, the Spanish speakers – first of all as human beings, and then as culturally specific people who may have a salutary effect upon the life of the host community. Local civic leaders understand that this process of mutual adaptation will change not only the immigrants, but also Hoosiers in the receiving communities. (33)

We began this report by noting the importance of schools as a place for educating immigrants. Schools are key institutions, to be sure, but as we’ve shown here, a broad range of community organizations, including churches, hospitals, social service agencies, youth clubs, and law enforcement agencies, also take on the task of shaping behavior and exchanging knowledge about how immigrants become members of a community. We refer to the complex interplay of agencies as the “educational ecology” of a region, and we see the development of educational ecologies as crucially shaping not only the conditions for current integration, but also for effective long-term integration of second-generation immigrants in communities and schools. (35)

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