The Impact of Life Histories on Local
Policy: New Immigrant Education in
the Rural Midwest
Sandra L. Cade
By focusing on various stories impacting the life of a particular immigrant boy in a particular midwest USAmerican1 town, this chapter reveals the importance of situational context in policy implementation. Gathered in connection with a larger ethnographic study of a rural town undergoing demographic change, the narratives illustrate the ways that the boy, who I call Luís, his family, and educators in Redbud School Corporation (pseudonym) appropriate federal and state educational policy to fit cultural and institutional stories.
I begin with a brief summary of U.S. federal policy for the education of children whose home language is other than English, as well as a sketch of statelevel language policy for Indiana, where this study takes place. A portrait of the community in which these policies are implemented and appropriated, and a description of methodology, follow this introduction. A compilation of metanarratives from both the long-term residents and new immigrants whose lives come together in the town I call Beneville, informs the situational context discovered through ethnographic research. With this background, the reader then enters into a narrative illustration of the intersection of life histories and local policy implementation. The chapter concludes with a call for policymakers to consider the importance of the knowledge gained from such studies, particularly in light of changing demographics and regional notions of best practices for immigrant education.