The Immigrant Paradigm in K-12 Education

Out of the three readings from this week, Nation of Migrants, Historians of Migration by Adam Goodman was by far the one I found the most interesting. I’ve been told the U.S. is a ‘melting pot’ and a ‘nation of immigrants’ since I was little, especially by the Schoolhouse Rock song, “The Great American Melting Pot.” I’ve also always considered myself a bit of a ‘mutt’ because of my mixed ancestry, but my ancestry is solely European so more recently I came to the realization that that label is inaccurate. I am most definitely a product of the ‘immigrant paradigm’ but I am interested in learning more about the ‘migrant paradigm,’ a way to also include African American and Native American migration, as described by Donna Gabaccia. 

Every public school history class I ever took put more emphasis on one-way European immigration to American cities on the Eastern Seaboard, and although all three articles were mostly focused on the way immigration and migration are studied within higher education and beyond, I think it’s also important to note that the immigrant paradigm is still more prevalent in k-12 history classes than it should be. Reading the Goodman article brought up a good question – if the field is evolving or has already evolved to become migration history rather than immigration history, then why isn’t this class titled “U.S. Migration History?” 

As for Erica Lee’s article, A Part and Apart, it was surprising to me that ethnic studies have not always been a part of immigration and migration history. It seems to be common sense that immigration scholars should study the culture from which a large group came from, especially since assimilation is unattainable and immigrants simply add aspects of their newly adopted culture to the culture of their origin. One topic I would love to know more about is David Roediger’s critical whiteness studies, since I am of Italian, Eastern European Jewish, and Irish ancestry – the three least desirable ‘white’ groups of immigrants to the U.S. 

I also enjoyed the Ramirez reading, but found it somewhat confusing. Ramirez began by talking about the globalization of migration in the 1980s as being the product of decolonization, the dissolution of the Soviet bloc, various ethnic and religious wars, the liberalization of world trade, and a revolution in communication. Ramirez also talked about how migration movements are usually framed in bi-national terms, but that a bi-national lens is too limiting, because migration has become globalized beyond only a pair of nation-states. Then, Ramirez laid out the two case studies from Italy and Canada. At first, it seemed like he was comparing the global scales of each, with Italian migration extending far beyond Canada’s migration movements, but then he began to talk about the globalization of each movement’s historiography and how Canada Studies isn’t ubiquitous like the study of Italian Studies. My question is, is the article about the globalization of migration or the globalization of migration historiography? Based on the article, it seems that the degree to which a group’s migration historiography is globalized depends on the degree to which the actual migration movement is global. 

2 thoughts on “The Immigrant Paradigm in K-12 Education

  1. You brought up a good point in saying that if the change to migration studies has already begun changing then why hasn’t the teaching method changed, however, I think it is because it is a change that will take a while. The first step would be studying migration, then begin incorporating it in literature (which is occurring now), and gradually it will change from immigration studies to migration studies.

  2. I was also really intrigued by the concept of the migrant paradigm, and I too want to learn more about it. I had never heard of the concept of studying migration rather than immigration before, but it makes a lot of sense to me and definitely seems more inclusive. In high school, I was fortunate to have classes that included some Chinese immigration—such as their work on the railroads and the Chinese Exclusion Act—but on the whole, K-12 history classes do seem to still focus largely on European immigration and the pervasive mythology of the melting pot.

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