Beware: Education and Immigration

Will we see “unintended consequences” of “immigration reform” play out in the “education reform” arena?

Things happen for a reason. Sometimes seemingly unrelated things happen.

Once in awhile, you need to put two and two together, and, if you see red flags flying, ask questions especially if bipartisanship on the part of Congress is in the equation.

In the aftermath of 9/11, restrictions on foreign worker visas for temporary (lower-paid) science, technology, engineering, and mathematics-related (STEM) jobs had some large corporations seeing the need to help improve U.S. public education in order to help fill their needs. As part of a grant sponsored by a corporation, I was invited to be part of a team from my district attending a Leadership and Assistance for Science Education Reform (LASER) Institute. It was one of the best learning experiences of my life – very hands-on – so much fun!

So, a decade or so later, I’m riding the Metro in D.C. and strike up a conversation with three young women, engineering interns from Puerto Rico. They all had attended what they described as their top-notch engineering university for their bachelor’s degrees and they talked freely about the costs there versus here. I was thinking it was about a tenth of what it costs our U.S. students.

And then there is the election of Idaho U.S. house representative, Raul Labrador – the winner in my district, twice now. He introduced The American Innovation and Education Act. It is immigration “reform” allowing citizenship to those STEM master’s and doctoral graduates who have a job offer here in the U.S.- to keep their talent here. They say it will be to fill jobs that can’t be filled by Americans. Really? Or is it just one more way to hire for lower wages since these foreign students paid less for their undergraduate work? They can probably afford to take jobs for less pay.

Beware these words:

“Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.” President Obama

The first part of the sentence is true to the principle upon which this country was founded, welcoming immigration. The second part??? I don’t know; they are two different things in my mind. Is this picking winners and losers?

Are these students the more privileged of other countries and already have a head start – in the competition with our own students? Will there then be any reason to genuinely help the public education system, as I believe LASER was trying to? Eyes and ears should be on this one as it passes through Congress.

How Devoted Are You?

Wake up! We sent the same lawmakers back and expect different results. Well, maybe you are right. It can happen; it must happen. The question is: How do we expect it to happen?

Do we expect “the system” to fix itself? Hum. I personally have never seen it but it does happen in other places in the country and the world; so, yes, it could happen. But I don’t think it will unless we push the issues.

Have we had the conversations we need to have had to get the ball rolling? I haven’t heard them but I’m not in the “in” crowd. I can only hope that the influential have a clue and are listening.

Can we see we are at a crossroads and that it means making choices? I’m not sure that others do understand. And that really is a problem because it is the power of ordinary people coming together devoted to a cause that will bring about the systemic change we need.

You say you want solutions? But how devoted are you to looking for them?


The Principles, Policies, and Practices of Reform

Leaving my first meeting with Idaho Authors’ Community, two young women stopped me. They had overheard we were meeting and happened to have a friend hoping to become a published author. It was refreshing to be reminded of my own beginnings as a writer and the excitement of starting down a new path!

But the next day, I awoke recalling how difficult it had been for a “non-educator” to break into the education professionals publishing world and the struggle I faced with finding my first endorsers for my book. I felt it would be a waste of their time and mine to ask people to review something if it wasn’t even close to what they believed. So my effort included looking at a multitude of organizations and individuals and trying to decipher where they really stood on education reform principles, policies, and practices.

After much eye-blasting time at the computer and attempts to talk to live people, my conclusion was that the average Jane and Joe Q. Public can’t possibly sort out who really stands for what when it comes to “education reform.” I many times found myself having to dig really, really hard to find out who was the money behind many of these organizations. And the inter-connectedness of the influential was disturbing.

So how can we possibly expect the public to rise up and have their decisions lead us in the right direction?

And that is when I must remind myself why I wrote my book — in hopes of shedding light on the most important issue this nation must face — quality and equality for school children. If and how we get there will be up to the public.

It will begin with understanding what real education reform means, clearly facing facts, and moving forward focused on the goal.

Understanding Change

When I first heard that President Obama was taking on “health care reform” by passing major legislation, I winced. Not because it isn’t necessary that the nation address that issue, not because of any particular aspect of the law; I winced because this action revealed the failure of Mr. Obama and his advisers to understand the change process in people. In doing so, they set themselves up for major resistance.

Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson probably wasn’t required reading in the Ivy League schools but it should be for anyone serious about changing our public education system for the better. The book opens with “The Story Behind the Story” by Kenneth Blanchard which contains this applicable statement, “…living in constant white water with the changes occurring all the time at work or in life can be stressful, unless people have a way of looking at change that helps them understand it.”

So as we once again approach the changes that will come with “education reform,” and they will come, we can hem and haw or sniff and scurry around, or, we can reflect on mistakes and plan for the future. We can share a vision of what change should look like. And we will only make progress when we come to understand that the people “who felt they had less power [were] more afraid of what the change imposed from above might do to them. So they resisted change.”

It’s human nature to react to change by first questioning — how will this affect me?

The cheese will move; the question is who will take control of the direction?

Understanding the Choices

The last two blogs written here for your consideration were titled “Choice in School Reform” and “Choice in Education Reform.” And no, I’m not fully losing “it” yet. My choice of words (no pun intended) was intentional. School reform and education reform are two different things but intimately importance to each other.

School reform should target the proven elements of effective schools. It’s an improvement process that directly affects students and includes; safe schools with classroom climates that nurture learning, school leadership fostering quality instruction, highly educated teachers expecting a level of mastery from all students and understanding the proper use of pupil assessments in monitoring progress. And last but not least, family and community support for schools and their students.

Education reform should be a focus on systemic reform – providing quality assurance and equal opportunity. And as I’ve stated before, reform starts with identifying the problems. Are all schools the problem? No. So why do the current powers that be continue to target all schools with one-size-fits-all “reform” laws? It isn’t the path we originally started down. This diversionary route we are on never made sense.

Education reform should not interfere with school reform. The only way to stop the ongoing harm and destruction is to understand what has happened and what we need to do to get back on the right path. For…”No law or ordinance is mightier than understanding” Plato — and this is where my book begins.