What is an American made of? Are they hard workers? Do they dream the American dream? Is “American” just a legal definition, or does it have some sort of deeper meaning? Further, how does one become American? Can you just wish it, and then be it? Do you have to work hard at it? Do you have to study our founding fathers and constitution first? Do Americans only speak English, have white parents, and live in the suburbs? Or can an American be a young Puerto Rican woman who learned English as her second language and worked hard to earn her place in college? How can we decide what Americans, non-Americans and quasi-Americans deserve?
Do We Support Equal Education for All?
As educators, and education-advocates, I like to believe that we support equal education for all – American and non-American alike. A child of Ecuador needs a good teacher just as badly as a child from Portland. So why is the Oregon legislature, and the Oregon voters in such a tizzy over both the Tuition Equity bills that Oregon has recently put forth?
Outrage Over Immigration Law
There is a lot of outrage over immigration law, and many citizens are calling for things like mass deportations, harsher penalties, and a continuation of educational inequity for young immigrants. I want to get to the essence of what it is that they are really so mad about. Perhaps some of it is truly misconception. Catherine Poe’s article on the DREAM act illustrates just how many misconceptions exist about immigration policies (http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/ad-lib/2011/jul/13/dream-act-sparks-debate-misinformation-and-fear/). These misconceptions are various and many.
Still, many of the arguments against (and for) immigration reform are essentially emotional in nature. Those against the DREAM act use words and phrases like “illegal pukes,” “riotous,” “angry,” and “belligerent illegals.” DREAMers use words and phrases like “proud,” “unafraid,” “opportunity,” and “future for America.” These people aren’t arguing about laws, they’re having a personal reaction to a perceived threat to the integrity of “American.” Opponents feel that immigrants are tainting America and “American” in some way. Supporters feel that the “American Dream” is the essence of America, and that it should be protected.
I chose the picture of myself and my little sister for this post because it shows how confusing the question of “American” is. My sister and I sit in front of Native American totem poles that are situated in front of a pizza joint that advertises “Budweiser” on the window. Is America the ancient tradition of the totem pole, or the new capitalist image of Budweiser? Do we still represent the values that our founding fathers seemed to put forth, or have our values changed? What is an American, and who deserves an American education?