"The whole movement of life is learning" (Krishnamurti). "To be an act of knowing, then, the adult literacy process must engage the learners in the constant problematizing of their existential situations" (Freire). "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free" (Douglass). "I can learn anything I have the desire to learn" (White, S.G.).

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

International Migrants Day, Civics, & Current Events

December 18th is International Migrants Day (IMD), declared so by the UN in 2000 when it adopted the  International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.  Wow, I have never heard of this day or its purpose.  But, my post is not about the (lack of) influence and relevancy of the UN, rather, it is about our US migrants, our newest citizens--legal or otherwise-- and how we adult educators integrate civics instruction in adult ESOL programs.  I include a link to an opinion article, written by Andy Nash in 2010, that came to my inbox with information about IMD.

Andy discusses how ESOL programs do a good job of educating migrants to be responsible citizens, to pay taxes and find employment.  Programs do a good job of preparing  migrants to be participatory citizens, to obtain citizenship, vote, participate in their children's school activities, and the like.  Programs fall short when it comes to preparing migrants to be action-oriented citizens.  An action-oriented citizen seeks to change the status quo, find justice, and analyze and criticize government.  Andy goes on to say how we need to report on measure of success that reflect civic engagement.  She provides a model for civics instruction that her organization has used successfully in MA.

One of Andy's points on how to motivate migrants to become action-oriented citizens is to use a current event.  She cited the example of 9/11 as an event that started dialogue and action.  It is a sad reality that we often need a horrific event to rekindle an action-orientation in ourselves.  In the wake of last week's tragedy in CT, perhaps another dialogue can begin.    Civics instruction needs to be raw, and it needs to be honest.  I feel we could all use some civics instruction right now.   In closing, I appreciate the information on IMD, and the reminder from Andy that our newest citizens are here to help change the status quo.




  1. Wonderful post, Susan! Speaking for myself, I feel fairly well trained to deconstruct the so-called hidden agendas in curricula and policies that hinder groups from full participation in the economic, political and social mainstream. But until a recent conversation with Tami Sober from the Virginia Education Association (and a prospective doc student in our new "Curriculum, Culture and Change" Track), I had not given much thought to all that organizing entails. Here is a link to an organization in Chicago, whose primary prupose is to help all kinds of groups organize, precisely in "raw" ways you suggest above. I hope to take a course from them soon; if others are interested, please let me know!

  2. Susan, Bill and Kristin,

    I've had great experiences using 9/11 as a jumping off point for reflective writing and discussion in the ESL classroom.

    We looked at a famous photo of the Statue of Liberty with the Twin Towers burning in the background.

    Another time the students produced "raw" and "honest" work in response to photos of protestors and counter-protestors with placards getting in each others' faces in Arizona. I asked them to create speech bubbles for the arguments in pairs and present them to the class after typing them on laptops.


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this post. Diverse opinions are welcomed.