On Seeing schoolchildren as immigrants, citizens and emigrants
Dr Brian Lambkin
SEGREGATION, INTEGRATION AND THE THIRD WAY:
ON SEEING SCHOOLCHILDREN AS
IMMIGRANTS, CITIZENS AND EMIGRANTS
B. K Lambkin
Centre for Migration Studies at the Ulster-American Folk Park, Omagh
Visions of the future are best communicated by using metaphors, like Charles Handy's 'Empty Overcoat'; and one of the most effective ways of getting to the heart of a 'vision statement' is to examine its main metaphor. This essay examines some of the metaphors that dominate our current vision of education and finds one of the most difficult challenges facing us to be that of finding a 'third way' between the opposing extremes of segregation and integration – religious, academic and otherwise. It offers an insight from the field of migration studies and proposes a renewed vision of education based on the metaphor of 'Migration'. It argues that our vision for education in the twenty-first century - whether integrated or segregated education – may be clearer when come to see schoolchildren as 'immigrants, citizens, and emigrants'.
Seeing schoolchildren as migrants and basing a vision of education on ‘migration’ ought not to seem strange. We have already accepted ‘Migration’ as a key metaphor in information technology. When we replace an old computer system, we don't just 'move' data from the old 'platform' to the new 'platform'; we 'migrate' it. And we do so with good reason. Data is being 'moved' all the time around our current 'platform', but moving it away from the old platform to a new one has such an air of finality about it that we sense the process is like 'leaving home'. So we speak of it as 'migration'. Our computer 'platform' equates to a 'state' or 'country', and, if we think of 'migrating the data' in human terms, then the particular type of migration involved is 'emigration' - leaving one 'state' to live more or less permanently in another. Schoolchildren, like data, are moving and being moved all the time yet, when it comes to their moving schools, talk of their ‘emigrating’ sounds strange, even repellent. In Northern Ireland we don’t 'migrate' children from primary to secondary school, we 'transfer' them. Why should ‘migrate’ sound strange in this context?
Migration and education ought not to sound strange together because the EDUCATION IS MIGRATION metaphor is closely related to the familiar EDUCATION IS A JOURNEY metaphor. This in turn is a variant of the LIFE IS A JOURNEY metaphor, which is one of the most fundamental at work in our culture (Lakoff and Johnson, 1978). All sorts of organisations commonly have vision documents with titles like 'Mapping the Road to Change'. The basic agreement of the Good Friday Agreement is to go on a journey: to leave 'the tragedies of the past' behind; to make 'a new beginning' and 'a fresh start'; and 'to strive in every practical way towards reconciliation and rapprochement'. In other words its foundation metaphor is 'journey' from the past, seen as the violent 'old world', to the future, seen as a peaceful 'new world'. And the particular type of journey involved has been elaborated variously as one by 'train' (Blair), 'car' (Trimble) and 'ship' (Hume).
Similarly, 'journey' is used as a main metaphor in vision statements about education, especially in relation to the management of change. Fullan (1992), for example, speaks of 'the journey of learning' and makes a fundamental distinction between 'moving schools', which are successfully 'underway', and 'stuck schools', which are not. Closer to home, the vision of education reform espoused by Sir Brian Mawhinney, which eventually resulted in the Education Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 1989, was introduced by a consultation document - Proposals for Reform (March 1988). This described the reform programme as 'A Way Forward'; and the report on the consultation was called The Way Forward (October 1988). More recently we have Department of Education documents such as Learning for Tomorrow's World (1999) and Towards a Culture of Tolerance (1999). Their common idea is of movement from one 'state' of affairs to another, with the implication that because our current 'state' is less than satisfactory we must, in a word, ‘emigrate’.
However, as managers of change know, many find thinking about the future like this unattractive. Thinking about emigration, Europeans classically picture it as the mass movements of the nineteenth century from the 'Old World' of Europe to the 'New World' of North America and associate it with failure – the failure of Europe to provide adequately for its children. It is remembered mainly as a response to poverty, lack of opportunity and persecution in the 'Old World'. In Ireland, emigration is still classically pictured as 'exile' in the wake of the Great Famine (Miller 1985). With such a painful historical legacy we are not exactly predisposed to think through our 'journey' to 'tomorrow's world' as 'emigration'. But consider how the character of European migration has been changing radically since the Second World War with access to mass air travel, growth towards European union and acceptance of the principle of free movement of labour. Migration is in the process of becoming normal in the sense that people increasingly expect to move 'home' between countries (or over significant distances within countries) in the course of their lives. However, we continue to think of the social norm as being 'settled', as opposed to being 'on the move'. As long as we do, 'travellers' will be regarded as abnormal or eccentric and migration as 'traumatic'.
For the 'settled' citizen each 'move' is traumatic in that it involves the pulling up and putting down of roots, which is usually a painful and slow process. Taking leave of the home place is often described as a 'wrench' and becoming 'accepted' in the new place may take more than a generation. The migrant coping strategy of regarding the 'move' as only temporary and promising relatives and friends to return soon is often a self-deception until the option of return is finally ruled out. Moves thought to be temporary have a tendency to become permanent and many lives have been 'wasted' by delay in putting down roots in the new place as long as there was expectation was of a return 'home' or a further move, onwards or upwards. Clearly, we need better strategies for a world where migration is increasingly normal. The challenge for education is to identify those strategies and equip our children to use them. Learning from what we know of human migration from the discipline of migration studies is a start.
On the surface, globalisation looks like it might take care of things for us simply by progressively minimising the trauma of migration. As everywhere comes to look more and more like everywhere else there is less strangeness for migrants to encounter, and affordable telecommunications and air travel give access to frequent virtual and actual return 'home'. In a world where no one is further way from ‘home’ than a twenty-four hour journey, the Irish custom of the 'waking' the emigrant is dead. Just to recall that depth of grief is a reminder of the quantum shift that has taken place. Yet we are still a long way from stress-free emigration and easy 'belonging' in a series of new homes. Notoriously, emigration creates a crisis of identity by placing the migrant in a ‘third space’ between two worlds. Put simply, there are two main strategies for immigrants: segregation and integration. In segregation mode immigrants keep (or are kept) apart as far as possible from the receiving host 'culture' and reproduce their 'old culture' in the new place. Typically, they live and work together, continuing to eat and dress traditionally, speak their native language and practise their religion. They tend to marry each other and send their children to school together in the expectation that they in turn will marry each other and maintain the 'old' way of life into the next generation. In this way a 'Little' Germany or Italy or Ireland is created.
In integration mode immigrants 'mix' as thoroughly as possible in the host 'culture', adopting its characteristic language, dress, diet, language, religion and so on. Whereas in segregation mode the 'old' identity is retained and the 'new' identity is resisted (or withheld), in integration mode the 'old' identity is discarded and the 'new' identity assumed. Between the starkness of these extremes a possible 'third way' has come to be seen as more socially desirable. This is for the immigrant to 'modulate' or move more or less frequently between the modes of segregation and integration, so having 'the best of both worlds'. The 'new' identity is assumed without entirely discarding the 'old' identity and the result is a 'hyphenated' or hybrid identity. Thus, immigrants and their descendants think of themselves, and are thought of, as ‘Irish-Americans’ as distinct from ‘Irish exiles’ or simple ‘Americans’ etc.
This third 'hyphenated' way of identity building was not always regarded as desirable. United States policy in the nineteenth century was to regard the immigrant as an 'ancestrally rootless person', a tabula rasa on which to write American identity (Morgan 1996). The state was not concerned about the 'old' identities of the 'huddled masses' that it welcomed. The basic metaphor of the state’s vision for its citizens was that of the 'melting pot'. In return for US citizenship the state required of its immigrants allegiance to the flag and commitment to learn English. The hyphenated identity was regarded as an intermediate stage on the journey to full American identity. Over several generations it was expected that the distinctive features of 'old world' identities would gradually disappear or melt away, as do 'impurities' in the melting pot. But things have not worked out as anticipated. In Beyond the Melting Pot, Glazer and Moynihan (1966) famously pointed to the persistence of ethnic identities and urged the need to rethink the approach to hyphenated American identities. As a result the US school curriculum accommodates a wide range of ethnic studies, including, for example, in several states, an Irish Famine Curriculum (www.nde.state.ne.us/SS/irish_famine.html). The trend towards ethnically-based studies has been evident too in British and Irish education but the full implications of the persistence of 'old' identities in schools have yet to be worked out. Part of the challenge presented by globalisation as it irons out 'large' differences between countries, like different currencies, is for us to safeguard and cherish diversity and individuality by becoming increasingly skilful at developing and celebrating the 'small' differences that constitute the distinctiveness of life in our local areas. We can see this when we apply the 'migration' metaphor to the process of 'transfer' between primary and secondary school in Northern Ireland.
If schools are different 'countries' or 'states', each has its own immigration (admissions) policy and each makes special requirements of its new 'citizens'. They are expected to identify with the school name, badge and heritage; follow its dress code; behave according to its particular rules; and participate as fully as possible in its unique 'culture'. The 'immigrants' gradually attain full 'citizenship' en route to the most senior class. No sooner have they done so than they start to be prepared for 'emigration' to the 'promised land' of secondary education. A special assisted emigration (Transfer) procedure selects the emigrants for different destinations and they are dispersed. Sometimes efforts are made to keep in touch with the 'old country'. Occasionally attempts are made to re-unite its diaspora, perhaps on a special anniversary, but for the most part the break is final.
Secondary schools now have highly developed 'immigration' (admission and induction) policies. The potential 'trauma' of the 'move' is generally recognised and great effort goes into minimising it. The 'immigrants' are encouraged to 'settle in' and feel 'at home' as smoothly and swiftly as possible. How they 'establish' new friendships and how they are 'accepted' by the older 'citizens' is closely monitored. A notable feature of recent years has been the introduction of 'formal' procedures such as special orientation days and the use of older pupils as 'mentors'. These largely replace the unofficial and occasionally brutal customs by which immigrants were traditionally 'welcomed'. Altogether the 'rite of passage' has become more 'civilised' but its development has a way to go. The metaphor at the heart of secondary school immigration policy still tends to be that of the 'melting pot'. Emphasis is on making a 'fresh start', giving allegiance to the 'new country' and learning its ways. A short period of 'hyphenated' identity, during which the immigrant may feel 'homesick' for teachers and friends in the 'old country' is permitted, but not indefinitely. While this may be sensible, it falls short of best practice. What is lacking is a sustained interest in the 'old' identities of the Year 8 immigrants which are bound up with the localities of their primary schools. Ironically, this is true of both the segregated and integrated school sectors, each of which criticises the other for functioning as 'melting pots' of religious and political identity.
In the move from primary to secondary school a major learning opportunity is being missed for promoting a culture of tolerance by teaching about cultural diversity through Education for Mutual Understanding, Cultural Heritage and Citizenship Education. If the diversity of 10, 20 or 50 different primary school identities in the intake is recognised at all, it tends to be regarded as a problem rather than as an opportunity and solved by treating each pupil as 'rootless', a tabula rasa. The argument here is that, for all pupils, the 'move' from primary to secondary school is of a similar kind, if not order, as 'emigration' from one country to another. Schools therefore ought to reflect best migration practice in relation to the strategies which they encourage pupils to adopt.
Optimum migration takes place when the migrant is able to find a 'third way': to 'modulate' appropriately between the modes of integration and segregation. Of course migrants need to be made to feel 'at home' by the receiving culture, but they also need to have particular knowledge, skills and attitudes in order to make themselves 'at home' with their 'new' identity, without losing their 'old' identity. Identity modulation is not new. It takes place on occasion, for example, in co-educational schools when boys and girls are grouped separately, and in integrated schools when Catholics, Protestants and others are grouped separately. The point is that there is a benefit to all in developing the skill of identity modulation. Those able to negotiate ‘a third way’ are more likely to emigrate successfully and graduate with little or no trauma from immigrant to full citizen in the new place.
Characteristic of the effective citizen is a strong ‘sense of place’. Feeling ‘at home’ is connected with knowing how ‘home’ works and how it fits into the overall framework of things. This has been recognised in the need for Citizenship Education which aims, as the Crick Report puts it, 'to introduce pupils to society and its constituent elements, and show how they, as individuals, relate to the whole' (2.7). The classic moment in literature of a schoolchild sensing the connectedness of the world and his 'place' in it is the 'epiphany' in Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man when Stephen Dedalus turns to the flyleaf of his geography textbook and reads what he had written there:
Class of Elements
Clongowes Wood College
Clongowes College must have been doing something right, even without citizenship education on the curriculum. But we cannot reasonably expect all pupils to be as bright and intuitive as the young Stephen Dedalus. If our challenge as educators is to bring all pupils to that kind of vision of the world and that sense of their unique place in it, we do need to move citizenship education from the 'hidden' to the 'revealed' curriculum. The nature of citizenship is revealed by what we expect of 'naturalised' immigrants. As 'citizens' of the school we already expect pupils to participate actively in the school community. The thrust of citizenship education is to extend that active participation to the local and community and connect it with the wider world. Again as the Crick Report recognises:
… the school and its local community provide a perfect context for pupils to examine issues and events and to become involved in active, participatory activities and experiences where the emphasis is on learning through action. This can help pupils to make the connection between learning and acting locally to thinking globally (6.3.2).
Given that the local-global 'sense of place' and 'belonging' is so important to identity building and effective citizenship, all schools have a special responsibility as a main focus of learning in their local area. The special civic service that pupils have to perform for their local community is to study it; to collect and record information about it; to monitor and evaluate its development by comparing it with other places, generation on generation; and to make the results of that study accessible. For optimum benefit what we need is the multi-disciplinary study of our local communities within a co-ordinated, systematic and sustainable framework that will facilitate comparative studies, locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. In a word, we need 'joined-up' local studies to enable pupils as citizens to make sense of the place where they are by relating it to where they have 'moved' from, and where they are likely to 'move' to. This is what the Northern Ireland Civic Atlas Project is about.
Moving the 'Migration' metaphor to the centre of our thinking about education need not entail seeing schools as 'transit camps'. Rather it should lead us to see them as both 'civilised' and 'civilising' places, in which pupils arrive as immigrants, act as citizens, achieve something of the Joycean 'sense of place', and prepare to become emigrants and citizens elsewhere. The insight from migration studies is that is possible to go ‘beyond the melting pot’ and negotiate a 'third way' to citizenship between the opposing modes of segregation and integration. For schoolchildren this may happen when we have a more coherent vision of their lifelong education 'journey' and learn to see them in all their 'moves' - not just from primary to secondary - as 'immigrants, citizens and emigrants'.
Article first published in Education 2020 A Millenium Vision (Gardner and Leitch QUB eds)
Crick Report (1998): Education for citizenship and the teaching of democracy in schools: final report of the Advisory Group on Citizenship, Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, London
Fullan, Michael, (1992), Successful School Improvement: the implementation perspective and beyond, Open University Press, Buckingham
Glazer, Nathan and Moynihan, Daniel, P. (1963, 1970), Beyond The Melting Pot: The Negroes, Puerto Ricans, Jews, Italians, and Irish of New York City, MIT Press, Cambridge Massachusetts and London
Lakoff, George and Johnson, Mark, (1980), Metaphors We Live By, University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London
Miller, Kerby A., (1985), Emigrants and Exiles: Ireland and the Irish Exodus to North America, Oxford University Press, Oxford
Morgan, V. (1996), ‘Pluralism and Cultural Enrichment: Educational Options’ in McKenna, P. (ed.), Pluralism in Education: conference proceedings, Dublin, 97-104.