Do Public Schools Deculturize Immigrants?

Discussion in 'General Education Archives' started by TeacherShelly, Apr 1, 2007.

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  1. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    So we're having this big debate in my teacher prep program about deculturization (defined in my text as, "the educational process of destroying a people's culture and replacing it with another.")

    This text also says that in the United States it is believed that our Anglo-American culture is the superior culture and the only culture that supports democratic institutions.

    Therefore, the text says, our public education system systematically destroys the cultures of ethnic minorities while "Americanizing" them, purportedly for their own good, so they can blend in and be successful in their new country.

    What do you guys think? Do you think schooling in America does, or does not, act as an agent of deculturalization?

    (and this assignment comes between "Arts Resources in Your Community" and "Designing a Family Newsletter." Is it just me, or is this a heavy topic to find between two relative light-weights?)
     
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  3. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I have no hard evidence, only impressions. And I live on Long Island, NY, in a predominantly upper-middle class suburb.

    Just about every notice that comes from the district is in both English and Spanish. (Not true of the stuff that comes from the teachers, but they have a sense of the ethnic breakdown of the class.)

    Our elementary school had International Night on Friday night to celebrate the success of the PARP reading program. A huge variety of cultures were represented in terms of food. The rest was fairly generic: kids dancing and running amok.

    The HS social studies curriculum covers a broad range of topics, with most schools offering only one HS year of American History. The other nations are covered in the remaining years.

    In the course of that American History year, our history is not glorified. I subbed for a Senior class the other day (and,in fact, for another the week before.) As it turns out, both teacher left tests on the Nixon Administration. The kids learned about Watergate, the Saturday Night Massacre and so on. It wasn't glorified; it was there in black and white.

    So, while I'm sure there are arguments and examples to counter my anectdotes, I think we do a fairly decent job of permitting other cultures to florish.

    I think if we were more successful at this aim, there would be no Chinatown or Little Italy or ESL or things of that nature.
     
  4. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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  5. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    I think the US education society serves as a vehicle for socializing students. Of course 'US' values and traditions (the flag salute, songs, celebrations, calendar, curriculum content) have an 'American flavor'. The goal is not to strip children of their own culture; we can and should honor students' individuality- in my school we are highly diverse, have multi-cultural celebrations, teach tolerance and respect...and at the same time teach about, celebrate, honor what it is to be an 'American'.
     
  6. lemonhead

    lemonhead Aficionado

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    I think I am going to be sick.

     
  7. BigJim

    BigJim Rookie

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    Although I can't really offer much insight on deculturization....In North Carolina (live in GA, teach in NC) we are having a boom of immigrants (mostly "illegal" or "undocumented") in the classroom. The state is falling down on the job for ESL kids.

    There are just more and more of them every year, all types, ability levels, etc....and they aren't getting any help with English. How are things going in other states? This may help answer the question.
     
  8. tchecse

    tchecse Companion

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    Same at my school! We have International night where families create displays, cook foods, wear clothing from their native countries, etc. Our school is respectful of cultural holidays/religious observances by not assigning homework or giving major tests when students may be out due to these occasions.
    We have over 40 languages spoken at my school of under 500 students k-5 and the students talk with each other in english and in their primary language. ESL students are given tons of encouragment and recognition for their efforts to learn english, and our school offers assistance to parents (translation services, english language classes, etc., so that the can participate in their child's education even if they speak another language). Students are allowed to wear cultural clothing items-hair wraps, etc. and several teachers speak 2nd languages so they can bond with students who are from other countries. Also, our school does not serve pork and always has veggie options for children of Jewish or Muslim cultures.
    I really feel like we teach our students to embrace their cultures and those of others as well as teaching them about the community, state, and country in which they live.
     
  9. Joyride

    Joyride Comrade

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    My grammar school and high school did a great job of supporting diversity and celebrating children's ethnic backgrounds.
     
  10. La Profesora

    La Profesora Cohort

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    I teach school on the Mexican border, and these students "refuse" to assimilate into American schools. Our school completely allows students to refuse to speak English, refuse to take responsibility for themselves, and refuse to learn. It is a very frustrating experience for me to see that these students need to learn so much more to "fit in" if they were to go up North or to college. The students from my school that do go to college are shocked to learn that the entire world does not revolve around them being Mexican.

    To answer the original question... culture is many things. Learning about other cultures in schools is of great value, because we don;t always meet everyone who is raised exactly like us! We should support the rights and cultures and individuality of all, so that we can understand and be good to others. But, in American schools, we teach in ENGLISH and prepare students to live anywhere, do anything, and be accepting of everyone... in theory. I love to talk to my students and find out about their home lives and traditions (I teach both Mexicans and Kickapoo Tribal Indians) but it is NOT MY PLACE to affect their culture. I believe one's family culture comes from THEIR FAMILY, and that we teach tolerance of all the others.

    Just a side note.... I live in Puebla, Mexico for a while to learn Spanish, and I never demanded that anyone speak to me in English, send me letters in English, or make concessions for me. I sucked it up even when it was so hard that I cried, and learned a great life lesson. I learned autonomy.
     
  11. MissFrizzle

    MissFrizzle Virtuoso

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    Shelly,

    I can't beleive this text book is saying things like that! Sounds a little one sided I think.

    I sub and volunteer in very diverse public schools. I can't speak for all schools, but in the ones I am in, I can honestly say that learning about other cultures is a top priority. If you walk into any classroom you will see a library of diverse literature for the students, and multicultural celebrations throughout the year.

    I see no evidence of schools trying to deculturize anyone.
     
  12. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    I think it can be somewhat true but only because we have to teach so much in such a short period of time and there are so many demands on the education sector to perform in spite of the fact that we need to slow down and teach our children more than just academics. I think teachers as a whole try to be sensitive in spite of the fact that many don't know anything about the other cultures until the child is placed into their room and they take it upon themselves to learn something. I don't think there is enough time to do justice to a lot of things and this area is one of them. I do believe what another poster said though about us having a culture for everything including school.

    Also we try to be a melting pot for society but at the same time as a nation, we have a culture also.
     
  13. tchecse

    tchecse Companion

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    Our school has 2 ESL teachers and 2 assistants who work with the children in their classrooms, as well as for blocks of time each day (this is above the state regulated ESL service amounts). In all fairness, this is due to the large amount of ESL students in our zone. Depending on the numbers of ESL students in each school, sometimes the teachers travel between schools to provide services, so they do not have the luxury of a daily ESL visit.
     
  14. January_Violet

    January_Violet Comrade

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    I think it's true (somewhat). If one is generally outside of the White-Anglo way, it is not mainstream. Culture can be upheld and supported in the home.
     
  15. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Oh please. Being NOT anglo-saxon white is cool. Think hip hop, rap, asian sushi fusion food, the asian influence on the cartoon art world, feng shui, ..... we honor diversity. It may not be mainstream but it's definitely 'it'.....
     
  16. January_Violet

    January_Violet Comrade

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    :rolleyes: But does it address the question?

     
  17. souptunuts

    souptunuts Rookie

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    YES schools are an agent of deculturization...because we strip the "only the rich or males get an education" culture from some immigrant students and cram our "free public education for everyone" culture right down their throats.

    We even insist that they all have books and supplies provided by the school. We make them ride busses instead of walk. Sometimes we make them eat free hamburgers at lunches.

    Then to top it off, we have the audacity to go to other countries and build schools for them as well.

    Give me a break!
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2007
  18. eduk8r

    eduk8r Enthusiast

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    I really think this is going too far. Why would you go to another country if you didn't want to change? If I went to any other country I guess it would be because I'd want what that other country has to offer. And I'd want to become part of that country, otherwise I'd always be an outsider. I would feel so helpless if I went to another country and I couldn't speak the language. Would I expect that country to become like mine? Why did I go there anyway? Would I dare do that anywhere except in America (or other democratized countries), where you have FREEDOM of speech, religion, expression? I don't want America to turn into another culture. This is our culture and it's just as valid and right (or wrong) as any other culture. If you don't learn English here, you can grow up to wash someone's car or cut their grass but if you want education or business, what are you going to do? I read a few years ago (in one of my college textbooks) about a carpet company in Georgia where the English-speaking employees had all but left because of the low pay and the work conditions. So, they imported workers from Mexico and they provided housing and a school where the students learned entirely in Spanish. Are they raising a population of employees? That's what it looked like to me. I also don't understand why at this time, after civil rights and Martin Luther King, Jr., we as a society seem to be becoming more and more divisive and we try to put cultures above or below others. When I was growing up (a decade or so after the civil rights laws were enacted) everybody was so different, you could hang around with anybody of any culture or color. It was really nice. Now it's so mean and hateful sometimes. One of the things I am so proud of in my class is that every kid in their believes they are Americans, no matter what. Thank God. I absolutely hate racism--no matter who is perpetuating it! and I think we've lost touch of part of what it is to be American when we are so separatist. I once had an employer, a black man, who was invited to go to President Reagan's inauguration. He had framed the letter, but refused the invitation. Why? Because the leader (can't remember title) of Japan was also to be there, and he had recently made a speech that America was losing its greatness because there were too many different races here! My boss was certain that the reason we were great was because of our many cultures and that we worked together anyway. Why is it that we've gone so far in reverse? And, as someone else here said, you can keep your culture while assimilating into other cultures. You're not living in the home country that you came from and you aren't going to be exactly like others from where you came, but you can still remember and keep your traditions and your language. I'm of English descent and I have that, but I've been to visit England and I'm not English, I'm American. I live here. If I didn't want to be American, I'd move there!
     
  19. January_Violet

    January_Violet Comrade

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    There are plenty of documented and undocumented worked here in America who make out just fine without learning fluenty English. They don't need to really these days. They open stores in their communities and are very affluent because of it. Learning english is not really necessary anymore when one can start their own businesses.
     
  20. souptunuts

    souptunuts Rookie

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    totally agree...not much deculturization going on there.
     
  21. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Oh I think so. Think of how many of today's stars are NOT WASPs. Beyonce, JLo, Will Smith, rap stars, hip hop stars...sure there still are more roles for whites in movies, more tv shows with white characters but I wouldn't say those from non-WASP cultures are outside the mainstream- they are re-defining the mainstream. Our country is becoming more and more diverse...many school curricula are now recognizing this...
     
  22. tinafirstgrade

    tinafirstgrade Rookie

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    I think if you are an immigrant or even a minority, your perspective on this question will be much different than if you are white Anglo- Saxon. I personally do not think that American is trying to harmfully deculturalize immigrants but does it happen? Of course! That is why I feel like it is really the parent's responsibilty to keep the culture alive within their family and pass on the importance of it.
     
  23. eduk8r

    eduk8r Enthusiast

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    Yes, there are exceptions.
     
  24. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    Wow, this is getting almost as heated as the debate on my class forum!

    There is a clear-cut case that our founding fathers purposely and unapologetically deculturized the native americans. They believed native americans were uncivilized savages, less than human, and that they were saving them from their own immoral ways by stripping away their culture and educating them into the puritan ways. Many believed the native americans would thank them!

    So, that was then. The question about whether schools strip away other cultures and replace them with American culture confounds me. Because. Immigrants come to our schools to learn. If Americans were going into other countries and trying to save them by replacing their culture with ours, that would be one thing. But that isn't what we're talking about.

    On the other hand, if Americans are looking down on immigrant cultures, treating the students as if they need to get with us so they can better themselves, well, that sounds racist to me. If I moved to a foreign land and everyone treated me as if I needed to shed my pitiful American-ness and get with their superior culture, that would be hurtful.

    As it is written, I don't think the question makes sense. People coming here to be educated don't have their cultures obliterated like the native americans did by the first settlers. Not by any stretch of the imagination.
     
  25. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    There is more than one way to look at that. Telling everyone who comes here to assimilate themselves into our culture as we are (thus shedding their own) would be racist. At the same time, should we have to cater to other cultures just because they chose to come here? That's a two sided coin. I personally think in schools even if we did expect everyone to adopt only the American culture, our society still allows them to have their own cultures at home with no penalty (though there may be some prejudice out in the open in general). Having said that, I'm not against bicultural approach programs because kids don't have a choice and they need help when they come here to learn our language.
     
  26. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    Yes. If we told them to take on our culture because theirs was inferior to ours, that would really hurt. And it would also imply that they should obliterate their old culture. Assimilation isn't the same thing as deculturization (this text and assignment is the first I've heard of that word, anyway). I also appreciate what you said about helping the kids because they didn't have a choice. I feel they deserve respect and admiration for the tough job they've been tossed into.

    Today I started to notice all the Chinese writing on businesses in town. Those businesses (banks, restaurants) are meant to serve Chinese people. The fact that there were no English subtitles means they don't want non-Chinese speakers there. I guess those immigrants (or foreign nationals, or foreign businesses) don't mind planting their culture (or at least, their businesses) in the middle of our American cities.
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2007
  27. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    One college lesson of mine was to pay attention to all the different signs, banners, etc in town that are written in different languages. The purpose of our assignment was very different from the one posted here. The purpose for us was to try to use context clues (such as location, what they might sell, what we know about the word in general, etc), and logo clues to figure out what the business was, words meant, ads were targeting etc without knowing that language.
     
  28. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    That would be a great exercise for any teacher with ESL kids in the class. Love it.
     
  29. bonneb

    bonneb Fanatic

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    I think the text book sure does sound biased. When you move to a different country, you are in a different culture. You have to adopt certain things to be able to function in that culture. part of your own culture goes away. My grandparents and father celebrated Santa Lucia day, and I don't even know what it is about! My mother's parents were big into potatoes and St. Pat's day, but none of that means anything to me and it is not because of a school system. The schools taught me how to become educated and love my country for the good it offers.

    The schools I know schools bend over backwards to acknowledge and respect other cultures. I have an ESL student who speaks English, but can't pronounce words properly. Am I destroying his culture if I work with him and teach him the proper way to phrase English and pronounce words?

    I hope I don't sound cranky. This topic actually makes me kinda cranky because it seems like we are so pressured to hold up every other culture while our own culture is disrespected and going down the drain.
     
  30. MissFrizzle

    MissFrizzle Virtuoso

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    I Hear Ya!!!!!!!
     
  31. January_Violet

    January_Violet Comrade

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    Being that the American culture is a combination of several races/cultures, how is learning about or supporting another culture disrespectful?
     
  32. Grammy Teacher

    Grammy Teacher Virtuoso

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    Why are Americans expected to cater to so many different cultures? This is the United States.
     
  33. bonneb

    bonneb Fanatic

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    Who me? I didn't say supporting another culture is disrespectful to our culture. I feel that political correctness is so wild and crazy these days that tremendous emphasis is put on respecting other cultures in our country, while it seems we are actually discouraged from upholding and respecting the American culture. I feel our American culture is constantly slammed, but it is a cardinal sin, not to slam another culture, but to not make a big issue about every other culture that is represented in U.S.A. It just seems imbalanced to stress respect for other cultures while not stressing respect for our good old U.S. A. culture.
     
  34. January_Violet

    January_Violet Comrade

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    The United States is made of several cultures. If were are to hold to a particular standard it should be that of the original people- Native Americans. The close kinship of Native Americans would be the Mayan people of which many Mexicann people are.

    Americans are expected to cater because that's the basis of the stolen foundation.


     
  35. January_Violet

    January_Violet Comrade

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    What exactly is American culture?

     
  36. 4monthcountdown

    4monthcountdown Comrade

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    I'm with you 100%. It's kind of ridiculous that people come to this country for its benefits, but some refuse to assimilate. It tends to make me feel less inclined to want to "embrace" the "diversity." I have a class of 22 1st graders and 17 speak a language besides English at home. While I take time to recognize their ethnic backgrounds and appreciate differences, I make sure I teach PATRIOTISM. I probably sound cranky too.
     
  37. January_Violet

    January_Violet Comrade

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    With so many races and cultures here, with whom should "they" assimilate?

     
  38. Grammy Teacher

    Grammy Teacher Virtuoso

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    I am agreeing with you. Like I said, why is the United States expected to teach and support so many cultures?
     
  39. 4monthcountdown

    4monthcountdown Comrade

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    With Americans who are proud to be Americans. And "they" should learn ENGLISH. And "their" parents should sign papers that go home written in ENGLISH. And they shouldn't complain about it. There are so many opportunities here and so few immigrants/refugees/ illegals take them.
     
  40. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    Everyone might be interested to see the actual text (you can search inside).

    Many people boil the discussion down to two things:
    - Isn't it our job to teach them English so they can thrive here?
    - We have multi-cultural fairs, celebrations, and other activities - doesn't that prove we are (maybe overly) accepting?

    Like I mentioned, I personally don't follow the author's reasoning about deculturizing people who come to America on their own. I do understand what he's saying about people American's brought here against their will (slaves) and about the people who were already here (Native Americans).

    Some people who come here voluntarily are surprised at the superior attitude they receive by Anglo-Americans. Maybe these days, American bravado is well known, but in the past many immigrants heard about the land of opportunity, came here, and were treated like cockroaches. I think this text is discussing how much of that superiority complex still exists and whether schools promote it. Interestingly, some people will say, "Well! We ARE superior, and the immigrants KNOW it or they would not have come here!" I find that kind of thinking almost proof of a superiority complex, because the decision to move country isn't made on one criteria: is that country's whole culture better in every way to mine? It also seems to imply that if anyone moves here, they'd better willing to accept any kind of treatment they get, because it is better than they would have had back "home."
     
  41. Grammy Teacher

    Grammy Teacher Virtuoso

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    Does anyone have a good answer for this?
     
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