Friday, June 24, 2011

What Would You Do?

(Full Disclosure: Jose Antonio Vargas interviewed me when he was at the Washington Post, but never wrote that story when he was there. He interviewed me again when he was at The Huffington Post and did write a story.)

I tend not to blog about anything political here unless it's pretty focused on education, but I'm going to make an exception tonight because I found Jose Antonio Vargas's question pretty compelling:
What Would You Do?
  • What would you do if you were a 12-year-old sent to America?
  • What would you do if you were a 16-year-old and found out you were in America illegally?
  • What would you do if you were a teacher/principal/superintendent of that 16-year-old and found out he was here illegally?
  • What would you do if you got into college, graduated, and then had a chance to pursue the profession you fell in love with and make a meaningful contribution, but had to check a box on a form that wasn't true?
I don't intend to get into a discussion of immigration here on this blog for several reasons, not the least of which is it's a very complicated issue, my area of expertise (if I even have one) lies elsewhere, and nobody particularly cares about my political opinions. But I think as educators, and as human beings, it's worth our time to think deeply about this issue. Here are some resources about this particular part of the story:

My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant (New Yorker piece by Jose Antonio Vargas)

Define American  (Website created not necessarily to advocate, but to change the conversation around immigration)

Video currently featured on Define American

NPR Interview with Jose Antonio Vargas

Jack Shafer's Slate piece on the ethics of journalism

ABC Interview with Jose Antonio Vargas (longer version on Nightline but I'm not finding a link as of yet)

Update 6-25-11: Here's the longer Nightline piece:

So, again, I'm not interested in having an immigration debate on this blog, but I am interested in each of you thinking about how you define "American" and what actions you might take as an educator (or a citizen) if you discovered one of your students in this predicament.

What would you do?


  1. Besides weep with shame? I am stunned that a nation founded by immigrants, many of whom left countries of origin illegally, would turn on those same immigrants and snub our noses. What right do we have?

  2. I used to teach in Sarasota, FL and often found out that many of my Latino students were undocumented. So you know what I did...? I taught them.

  3. I love this post, Karl. Thank you for the links and videos.

    Frankly, I think you need to discuss more political ideas on this blog. I'd love to hear you and your readers discuss the Arab Spring, for instance. I keep checking this educational blog to see your perspective on today's exciting issues, but...too often...nothing. Why limit yourself to educational issues such as standardized tests, another conversation with the author of A Whole New Mind, and those rather esoteric Algebra lesson plans? Personally, I want to read more about your global perspective....

    I hope the following emoticon will alleviate the irritation I may have just caused you: :)

    7/3/11 4:54 PM

  4. Cheryl - "esoteric?" Come on, everyone loves Algebra, right?

    While you may want to read about my global perspective, I'm not sure anyone else that reads this blog does. So when I occasionally dip my toes into some other topic, I like to just point folks to the information so that they can explore on their own. I think regular readers of my blog can pretty easily divine where my feelings lie . . .

  5. This issue was something I was dealing with this year after having a 20 year old illegal immigrant in one of my classes. He had been brought over at the age of three with his family, and had since become estranged from them. He was living on his own, illegal, doing his best to support himself. It really hit me that he was in a rough place - here illegally, but knowing no one in his native Guatemala, since he had been taken from there when he was so young. He had very little future here, but no support system there to return to - none of which was any of his doing. It really struck me at that point how unfair this whole immigration issue is to the children who had no choice in the matter to begin with.

  6. Hi, my name is Heather Rigby. I am a student at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama. I came across your blog as an assignment for my EDM310 class. I really enjoyed the links added to better understand the subject of the blog. As a future educator I would do what would be best. I would be a teacher, supporter, friend and advisor. I would do my best to keep the student focused on learning. I would also do some research with the student on ways we could go about the situation. Thanks for sharing this information with us.

  7. it.

    Why stop someone from trying to get a good education, especially when so many actual citizens are letting it go to waste...

  8. This is faced by every ELA teacher and probably most teachers in today's learning environment. It is very difficult to see the passion for learning begin to hit against the realization that "legally" there is no way forward. People often don't realize how much struggle the families faced and face. Last year I had a fifth grader crying as she told me her father was being held in jail waiting for deportation. He and his wife his been detained by police, but she and their daughter were released. Some claim because the state didn't want to deal with the complications of detaining a minor. Mom was frantic. Both Mom and Dad worked two jobs. They were trying to better the lives of their families. The girl was bright, learning English, learning about the US. In that moment, her life was dramatically changed. She lost her friends and her new home, her only home really. She lost her life and her dream. I did what I could. I held her and comforted her. I talked to her about her family and her future. I told her she was beautiful, strong, bright and, in short, loved. Just as I always had. Then she was gone. I still wonder what happened to her.