There is No Controversy?

Told by spokespeople for our representatives, reporters in Idaho are repeating the “fact” that the portion of the immigration bill giving citizenship to highly skilled immigrants in order to fill jobs Americans can’t (?) do is not controversial. I repeat (as they have multiple times in print and on air), there is no controversy. Really? There should be!

At Our Own Risk

At Our Own Risk!

The following was originally published in Idaho as a letter to the editor in 2011:

Easing visa restrictions for high-skill immigrants is necessary according to Representative Labrador [ ID] and his American Innovation and Education Act. The problem he targets is “to help people who have offers of employment but face a [immigration] processing backlog…” He claims it will help domestic students. Those closely associated with efforts to improve our STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education in this country have heard similar verbiage for over a decade.

Congress won’t address problems they created through No Child Left Behind so we need to import talent that we failed to cultivate in our own country. They see a “brain drain”; I think it’s more of a loyalty drain.

This country messed up a perfectly good public education system and took down three generations of students in the process. We feel no obligation to make things right?

It’s not hard to see “How Online Learning Companies Bought America’s Schools” (Lee Fang). What’s harder to see is how we the people allowed Congress to sell us all down the river. We had better open our eyes to the slippery slope of importing high-skilled talent because we have overlooked our own American potential. Is this how we make America strong as a nation?

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.

The Realities of Our Time

“Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words [self-evident truths] with the realities of our time.”  President Obama

Today’s reality is that we cannot see what is coming when we don’t understand where we have been. And it may be self-evident that we are created equal but what is most evident is how unequally we dish out quality education. It isn’t because we cannot; it is because we will not. Face the reality; as a people, we are in chains.

If the president “knows that the path to the middle class goes right through America’s classrooms,” then why does he push to import STEM talent? Does he really not believe in the character of Americans? “Initiative and enterprise,” “hard work and personal responsibility” — give us a break. That’s all we ask, that you give us a break. As one Occupy spokesperson said, “I don’t want a handout, I want a fighting chance.”

The very chain that binds us is inequality — unequal voice in our republican government; unequal educational opportunity; an unequal start in the race of life. The pursuit of happiness is made harder when the man hoping to help bridge our realities and that quest does not understand our educational history.

And education does not top the list of issues that catches the eyes and ears of the public. The man behind the bully pulpit can change that; will he?