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Coming of Political Age

Coming of Political Age: American Schools and the Civic Development of Immigrant Youth

Rebecca M. Callahan
Chandra Muller
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 188
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  • Book Info
    Coming of Political Age
    Book Description:

    As one of the fastest-growing segments of the American population, the children of immigrants are poised to reshape the country's political future. The massive rallies for immigration rights in 2006 and the recent push for the DREAM Act, both heavily supported by immigrant youth, signal the growing political potential of this crucial group. While many studies have explored the political participation of immigrant adults, we know comparatively little about what influences civic participation among the children of immigrants.Coming of Political Agepersuasively argues that schools play a central role in integrating immigrant youth into the political system. The volume shows that the choices we make now in our educational system will have major consequences for the country's civic health as the children of immigrants grow and mature as citizens.

    Coming of Political Agedraws from an impressive range of data, including two large surveys of adolescents in high schools and interviews with teachers and students, to provide an insightful analysis of trends in youth participation in politics. Although the children of both immigrant and native-born parents register and vote at similar rates, the factors associated with this likelihood are very different. While parental educational levels largely explain voting behavior among children of native-born parents, this volume demonstrates that immigrant children's own education, in particular their exposure to social studies, strongly predicts their future political participation. Learning more about civic society and putting effort into these classes may encourage an interest in politics, suggesting that the high school civics curriculum remains highly relevant in an increasingly disconnected society. Interestingly, although their schooling predicts whether children of immigrants will vote, how they identify politically depends more on family and community influences. As budget cuts force school administrators to realign academic priorities, this volume argues that any cutback to social science programs may effectively curtail the political and civic engagement of the next generation of voters.

    While much of the literature on immigrant assimilation focuses on family and community,Coming of Political Ageargues that schools-and social science courses in particular-may be central to preparing the leaders of tomorrow. The insights and conclusions presented in this volume are essential to understand how we can encourage more participation in civic action and improve the functioning of our political system.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-794-2
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    Rebecca M. Callahan and Chandra Muller
  6. INTRODUCTION High Schools and the Future of Our Democracy
    (pp. 1-13)

    The simple actof voting gives voice to the needs and desires of a population and is a critical aspect of political participation and civic engagement. Voting offers a measure of citizens’ perceived agency in society. As a citizenry grows and changes, the political processes associated with its governance are expected to respond in kind. In the American democracy, this relationship requires an educated populace—a citizenry able to recognize and define not only the individual’s obligations to the greater society but also the government’s obligations to the citizen and to the society at large. American public schools have evolved...

  7. CHAPTER 1 Immigration, U.S. Schools, and the Changing Youth Vote
    (pp. 14-32)
    Molly Dondero

    Recent, dramatic demographicchanges in the school-age population initially prompted our questions about the political development of children of immigrants. High rates of immigration to the United States over the last twenty to thirty years, coupled with an unprecedented geographic dispersion of immigrants, have made immigrants and their children a growing presence throughout the country. As such, today’s children of immigrants will have a major impact on the American educational and political systems for decades to come.

    Although considerable research has examined the educational incorporation of children of immigrants, much less attention has been paid to understanding their political incorporation...

  8. CHAPTER 2 Adolescents’ Families, Schools, and Communities: Shaping Political Engagement in Young Adulthood
    (pp. 33-44)

    During adolescence inAmerica, an individual’s social world widens greatly. As a child, his or her world and identity development were centered in the family and the home. During adolescence, however, the individual begins to branch out, making connections with friends and other community members beyond the fold of the home. The world of the adolescent expands largely through the school—through relationships with peers, teachers, and mentors and the social networks that shape the educational experience. This is not to say that families and communities are no longer important, but rather that schools are uniquely situated to have a...

  9. CHAPTER 3 Children of Immigrants and Their Schools
    (pp. 45-61)

    When children ofimmigrants walk through the doors of their high school, they enter a world with peers and teachers from different backgrounds and they experience the academic curriculum from a U.S. perspective. Their academic and social lives are shaped by shared courses, relationships with peers and teachers in the school, and participation in extracurricular clubs and other school activities. In crossing the school’s threshold, children of immigrants enter a world that may be quite different from their family and neighborhood life.

    A substantial body of literature has documented the development of family relationships among immigrant children in the United...

  10. CHAPTER 4 Academic Opportunity and Stratification Among Children of Immigrants and Children of Native-Born Parents
    (pp. 62-77)

    We hypothesize thatAmerican high schools shape future political participation through two primary pathways. First, high schools stratify students, sorting and ranking them into courses at different levels, with different demands, and assigning indicators, like grades, of academic performance and college readiness. Such stratification contributes directly to students’ educational attainment and adult socioeconomic status, which is one of the best-documented educational determinants of voting (Brady et al. 1995). Second, high school social science coursework is designed to teach students how the U.S. political system functions; the roles of voters, stakeholders, and advocates in a democracy; the three branches of government;...

  11. CHAPTER 5 Social Science Preparation and the Adolescent Children of Immigrants
    (pp. 78-96)

    We turn ourattention now to the second way in which schools prepare students for political participation: the social science courses designed to develop civic knowledge and skills. Since its inception, the U.S. high school has evolved to guide youth toward professional and civic participation in adult society, and all high schools today simultaneously prepare youth for college, for the workforce, and for civic life by setting minimum graduation requirements for all students and college eligibility requirements for others. In fact, with the expansion in secondary school enrollment during the last century, high school course-taking now contributes significantly to social...

  12. CHAPTER 6 Schools and the Political Participation of Children of Immigrants
    (pp. 97-120)

    In prior chapters,we discussed immigrant political participation, academic preparation, and schooling at the start of the twenty-first century, as well as the impact of these factors on young adults’ political participation. We have explored a number of ways in which schools may contribute to adolescents’ political development and their early adult political participation, with an eye toward the unique situation of adolescent children of immigrants as they become young adults. In this chapter, we examine the relationship of high school experiences to actual political outcomes during early adulthood.

    We ask our questions in this chapter through the lens of...

  13. CHAPTER 7 Conclusions and Implications: Adolescent Children of Immigrants and Their Schools
    (pp. 121-132)

    We began thisstudy with the premise that high schools are important venues for adolescents’ political development, providing experiences that help them become active in our nation’s democratic process. Schools not only prepare young people for labor force participation but also socialize them in important ways to become independent adults who contribute to their communities and the larger society in both thought and action. We hypothesized that children of immigrant parents find their school experiences particularly salient; that they typically embrace school opportunities; and that exposure to new ideas through social science and politics coursework resonates for them as they...

  14. APPENDIX: Data and Methods
    (pp. 133-142)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 143-144)
    (pp. 145-162)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 163-170)