Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Immigration: An Example of Interdisciplinarity as Best Approach to Complex Topics

by Ann Abbott

Sometimes when I am teaching my "Spanish in the Community" course, I feel the weight of the entire Spanish curriculum--even the whole university curriculum--on my shoulders!

  • How can students be successful Spanish CSL students if it is the first time that they are not using "classroom Spanish"?
  • What (erroneous) assumptions do students make about the bilingual classes where many of them serve when they don't have a background in the theory of bilingual education?
  • Do students really understand why people leave their home countries if they don't know about pertinent US foreign policy, world events and history?
  • Might students view community members' interactions with the law as isolated events without realizing how ICE and Secure Communities have created a constant "ghost presence" in immigrants' lives?
  • Just how developed are students' critical thinking skills and media literacy? They need those to disentangle themselves from the barrage of negative messages about immigration that we all receive daily.
Thankfully, our students take many courses while in college, and some of them help them fill in the gaps. Just the other day, one of my students made very articulate connections between NAFTA, losses in specific Mexican job sectors and immigration. I think this came in part from a political science course he had taken. In the past, students with an education background have been able to inform all of us in the classroom about education policies that affect Latinos. Those are shining moments when the students do the interdisciplinary work for you.

It's also heartening to know that we have many colleagues across campus who are researching and publishing on many facets of immigration. Picking up the latest issue of Inside Illinois, I was excited to read about two such projects.

For our students' sake, immigration and immigrants should be topics that show up repeatedly across disciplines and throughout the curriculum within each discipline--especially in Spanish courses.

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