Being American

We celebrated the Lunar New Year in school on Friday. A first grade parent came in to read to her son’s class and told us afterwards:

My son was born in China and moved to New York City when he turned one year old. We went back China a couple of times to visit my family in the past five years, but I noticed that he doesn’t like Mandarin and Chinese traditions. He always told me: mom no Mandarin. I felt hurt but I understand that he lacks the setting to value his background culture. But it’s very important for him to learn and know his roots as he grows up.

Such cultural celebrations will make him proud of his Chinese heritage and help him learn the culture. I appreciate you provided the opportunity for my family to make the improvement for his culture learning.

Embracing one’s origin while ‘becoming’ American is a challenge many ICS children share. Just this morning a new student began school with us; until he was four, he spoke his mother’s language, Bahasa. Now that he’s in kindergarten, he too tells her he only speaks English. But we know that, in time, our students will come to appreciate their unique stories and traditions.

The order the President issued on Friday regarding refugees from seven Middle Eastern and African nations was, in some sense, not surprising. As many other elected officials have noted the language he used seems, at best, ill-advised. And the implementation was handled very poorly.

Since 2001 the United States has admitted about 450,000 refugees from the Middle East and South Asia, the vast majority from Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. In some cases they worked for our government as translators, and are now threatened by terrorists themselves.

According to a study by the Cato Institute,

Of the 3,252,493 refugees admitted from 1975 to the end of 2015, 20 were terrorists, which amounted to 0.00062 percent of the total. In other words, one terrorist entered as a refugee for every 162,625 refugees who were not terrorists. Refugees were not very successful at killing Americans in terrorist attacks. Of the 20, only three were successful in their attacks, killing a total of three people and imposing a total human cost of $45 million, or $13.84 per refugee visa issued. The three refugee terrorists were Cubans who committed their attacks in the 1970s and were admitted before the Refugee Act of 1980 created the modern rigorous refugee-screening procedures currently in place.

ICS cares deeply about a coherent, content rich curriculum that provides students with the background knowledge they need to think critically about their society. Balancing our traditions with the inevitable need to adapt as the world changes. Not reacting before thinking.

We invest every day in this long term goal. School staff and parents alike. But kids as young as ours struggle to process news like this with sophistication (we wish all) adults (could) do. Discussing or teaching about the new president and his proposed policies is not appropriate for our classrooms. Yet.

At this age and in these times, we talk about our values; kindness, respect and love. We found this 1946 poster and thought it was apposite. It is hanging next to our water fountains. Where we hope our children, and parents, will read it.