Macaulay Honors College Seminar 2, IDC 3001H

Education and Immigration

On Monday, we discussed Foner’s chapter on education and immigration as well as the NY Times article on the same topic.  This was understandably, a very difficult issue to broach.  There are so many things to consider and so many different viewpoints depending on what one’s role is in the education system.  The first question brought up was how should kids who first arrive to the U.S. speaking no English be taught?  I thought that this seemingly simple question is actually very hard to answer in a way that would benefit everyone.  It seems like in each answer, there’s always someone who will be giving up something or losing out on something.  Personally at first, I thought that it should’ve been that these foreign students should be placed into ESL classes, but still be taught the other subjects in their native language so they don’t fall behind in the curriculum.  This is important because we want these students to graduate on time and get a diploma.  For many immigrants, the main reason why they come to the U.S. is for a better education and job opportunities.  If these students aren’t able to graduate on time with their diplomas, it seems like their efforts in coming to a new country is wasted.  But, as the NY Times article pointed out, is it really better for the students in the long run to be isolated from the actual class just to push them towards graduation?  In reality and from stories that I’ve heard, many foreign students are just put into the regular class with everyone else and through that they’re forced to learn the language.  Even though they fall behind a little bit in the beginning because they don’t know the language, in the long run, it’s better for their English speaking abilities.  It’s similar to the idea when parents throw their children into the water to force them to learn how to swim.  This is a similar concept and these foreign students can only improve from that point onwards.  However, another problem arises.  The parents of the other students in the class might complain that that these immigrant children are pushing the class behind and that the teacher is devoting more time to those students and neglecting the others.  All of these are very plausible reasons and this just shows how there’s no single way of teaching foreign students that would make everyone satisfied.  It’s also important to determine if forcing these immigrant students to get a diploma on time is more beneficial in the long run or throwing them into a class and forcing them to adapt and learn the language in that way would be better for them.  It’s all very subjective and it just proves how difficult it is to agree on single way of implementing a teaching system for immigrant students.


  1. Belinda Wong

    Hi Amanda,

    Regarding the question of full immersion of English speaking class versus bilingual teaching, the question is delivered to pick one or the other. However, after class and upon reading your post, I have come to the conclusion why was both never an option? Could it be possible to have regular full immersion in an English class during the regular school hours along with some additional after school ESL classes and/or review of the day’s lesson be noticeably more effective and efficient?

    Logically (and of course hypothetically) speaking this seems way more effective and most definitely less complicated to choose. Yet, the reality is why this is not given is an option is because there are no realistic resources or chances of this being an option in our nation’s current situation and mindset. With the additional requests of teachers, money, and time as you mentioned in regards of graduation seems to be the biggest hurdles that are simply too big to overcome. Personally I believe we should reevaluate this question to recognize how can we change the system to make decisions like these less drastic and dilemma inducing. If we want our future leaders to receive the education they need, whether you are native born or an immigrant, the playing field must be leveled for everyone. This does not mean give everyone the same treatment by reducing or increasing efforts towards a child’s education but recognizing where we value education in comparison to other budgets and what plan should we come up with to fix that issue so that we cater to the best of our abilities for these kids. Budgets from education has been cut more and more every year, producing less funding for students that are exponentially entering schools as we speak and who rely on these fundings. It’s almost as if we are asking for more difficulties in regards of education with each cut we make and we act surprised when we see the fallen statistics in regards to academic success for our students.

    Of course this is not the only possible solution to settle this dilemma as it might arise some of the same issues people will always have with any decision, but I believe the reason why this is so difficult is because we are simply limiting ourselves to these two options. We should focus our efforts to continue searching for other solutions that will minimize these issues in regards to both answer choices. Simply, these two choices are two extremes on opposite sides of the spectrum. Instead of picking 1 or 2 and simply going with the consequences, let’s revise our point of views and goals to find the sweet spot on that solution spectrum to relieve the consequences to the best of our current ability and constantly revise if we are given the privilege to do so.

  2. Alexandra Badescu

    Hey Amanda,

    I like that you used the metaphor “throw their children into the water,” because this is exactly what my mom used to tell me when I started at my new elementary school in the U.S. While I still firmly believe that this is the most effective way to have new child immigrants learn English, I also see why other students (and/or their parents) would perceive this to be taking away their own resources. It is true that sometimes the teacher might focus on the child who needs a little bit more help, but in my experience, my teacher partnered me up with a student who she knew understood the material, so that they could explain it to me in a way I would understand more easily. However, in elementary school, there really isn’t much material to cover, and neither is the work demanding. I think the key to this argument lies in when the new immigrant is entering the U.S. school system. As opposed to elementary school, if the immigrant’s first American class is in college and the student is struggling with English, a professor’s sole devotion to that student would obviously displease the rest of the class who is paying for its education. On the other hand, public school is for the public’s use, no matter national origin or language skills. I think it’s more beneficial to the immigrant to think on his or her feet while navigating a new environment, but I also believe it’s beneficial for natives to be exposed to different cultures first-hand, so that they can better understand them.

  3. Dilpreet Singh

    Hi Amanda,

    I think that if a certain recently immigrated student needs the extra attention, then he/she should deserve this extra attention without any rebuke from parents. After all, the student is most likely using the extra attention outside of class time when it’s much easier to get an one on one moment with the teacher. A teacher should be more than willing to help one of his/her students outside of the designated time. I guess it becomes a deeper issue if the student needs extra help during the actual class session. If that is the case, then the teacher should simply alert the student that the whole time cannot be allocated for them at that moment, but they would gladly help when the class finishes – a proposition that has benefits for every one in my opinion.

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