A Teachable Moment

Former local teacher union pesident Morty Rosenfeld periodically attempts to make sense of the increasingly senseless world of public education.

Helping Young Immigrants Fit In

The emerging picture of Sayfullo Saipov is of an immigrant who comes to the United States with great expectations but whose dreams rapidly fade as he cannot seem to fit in to a society so fundamentally different from his own. Trained in Uzbekistan for the hotel industry and never being able enter that business here, Saipov bounces around from place to place driving trucks for his living and said to be growing angrier and angrier as his need to feel he belongs leads him to a distorted understanding of Islam.

The human desire to fit in is embedded in our DNA. People who are unable to fit into the mainstream of society will usually find some other niche, the need to belong overpowering their powers of judgment, particularly in the young. My impression is that we do a very poorer job of acculturating immigrant young people to our society. Walk into the cafeteria of any American public high school with immigrant students and you will see kids grouping themselves by their ethnicity. While they do so out of a natural inclination to belong, we ought to be imaginatively structuring their school experience to have them interacting with American kids throughout their school day, giving them positive experiences that bring them a growing sense of being American. We ought to be talking to them from the time they arrive in our schools about aiming to become U.S. citizens, guiding them on the steps to citizenship. To the extent this is happening at all, it is the result of the altruism of some good teachers and administrators. However, we need to make it a core mission of our public schools.

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