Children of a New World: Society, Culture, and Globalization

By Paula S. Fassdear | Go to book overview

Introduction Part I

The three essays in this section address a fundamental question of American social life: How does a nation of immigrants become a cohesive but still democratic community? In the first of these essays (Chapter 1), an introduction to education and immigration written for Blackwell's A Companion to American Immigration, I suggest that the school has from the beginning been organized to address this task. But, unlike those historians who describe the school as simply an instrument of control and order, I believe that it has functioned as a more flexible institution that has demonstrated the capacity to respond to the populations it serves. While American education has been committed to the task of nation building, schools have also been forced to respond to the diverse aspirations of their constituents. In this way, the schools have been part of the pluralistic reality of American social life. Almost from the beginning of publicly supported, common schooling, Catholic schools have competed among the immigrant population. With available alternatives, American schooling has never been monolithic. And schools both rewarded certain kinds of conformity in behavior and were forced to accept a fair amount of continuing diversity.

What it means to build a national community has also changed over time in the United States, with economic rewards steadily gaining ground and eventually overriding civic concerns as the primary responsibility of schooling with regard to immigrants. Similarly, from the point of view of national policy, the locus of political debate has shifted. In the nineteenth century, it was primary education that was most urgent, in the first half of the twentieth century, secondary schooling, and then after that higher education at colleges and universities. While the rewards of schooling have always been more individual centered rather than community oriented, this tendency became steadily more apparent throughout the twentieth century.

The essay on IQ (Chapter 2), published in 1980 in the American Journal of Education, is the oldest in the book. It represents my first effort to

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