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Citizenship Education and Global Migration: Implications for Theory, Research, and Teaching


reviewed by Maureen McClure, Dao Nguyen, Renata Ramos, Jawanza Kalonji Rand & Xi Wang

coverTitle: Citizenship Education and Global Migration: Implications for Theory, Research, and Teaching
Author(s): James A. Banks (Ed.)
Publisher: American Educational Research Association, Washington
ISBN: 0935302646, Pages: 528, Year: 2017
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Part of what makes this book so useful and important is that it mainstreams necessary new directions in educational theory, research, and teaching. It broadens conversations about social justice internationally,  acknowledges the role that social justice plays in national unity, and demonstrates how difference and interdependence can regenerate democracies.


The book identifies problems both too complex for algorithms and too important to be ignored. Its seasoned authors turn us toward a great challenge; how to construct ourselves as a people without collapsing into ruinous exceptionalism. Each of the authors examines ways in which conceptions of citizenship and education intersect with class, colonial legacies, ethnicity, human rights, identity, immigration, indigenous and minority cultures, race, religion, and much more.


Part One sets the stage, positing two traditional deficit models of migrant education: (a) marginalization and exclusion, and (b) aggressive assimilation. Exclusionists opt for low-cost, willful blindness while assimilationists frame migrants as deficits. The authors protest both models, arguing for investment in migrant education to contribute to national development. Migrants who want to be citizens have specialized languages, knowledge, skills and cultural experience they can contribute to an increasingly interdependent, internationalized, and mobile world.  


Castles (Chapter One) gives readers a strategic map of the challenges presented by international migration. Bashir (Chapter Two) defines supra-national regional economies and cultures as opportunities for shared growth. Starkey (Chapter Three) returns us to the obvious; cosmopolitan citizens can create and manage more fluid identities of interdependence, building on their basic human rights while not losing their core national identities.

In Part Two, law professor Angela Banks (Chapter Four) analyzes U.S. congressional, administrative, and judicial records, creating a compelling case that the granting of U.S. citizenship has historically been predicated on racial categorization and cultural factors such as religion and English language skills. These measures have been used throughout U.S. history to deny or complicate citizenship for Native Americans, Latinx people, and immigrants from Asia and Europe.

Joshee and Thomas (Chapter Five) discuss the histories of multicultural education and citizenship education in Canada and their relationship to the national policy focus of social cohesion. The authors question the notion of Canadian-style “social cohesion” by highlighting that its aim of “harmony above all else” often forsakes social justice and suppresses voices of dissent.   


In Part Three, the authors discuss how the fragility of democracies is exposed through the politics of migrations, both post-colonial and new. Whereas the U.S. national identity was in part framed by immigration, European state identities were formed in part out of ethnic and religious nationalism. This has greatly complicated recent problems of migration. In Chapter Eight, Eksner and Cheema point out the incredible difficulty Germany faces in shaping national identity, pointing out that until recently, citizenship was highly exclusionary, held together in part by jus sanguinus, or the rights of blood. In Chapter Nine, Bozec frames the current refugee and migrant issues in France in terms of the evolving concept of laïcité or secularism, which has recently been linked with rising nationalism and discrimination against Muslim immigrants. This has resulted in controversial, aggressive assimilation policies in schools, supported by continuing cultural controversies over hijabs. Currently, however, small liberalization shifts have been seen.


Part Four consists of robust discussions of citizenship education in three different Asian countries: China, South Korea, and Singapore. Law (Chapter Ten) argues that China makes efforts to balance ethnic plurality and national unity, but that balance is hard to achieve. In a multiethnic country, “despite the common interests shared by a country and its ethnic minority groups, national and ethnic identifications are intrinsically contradictory” (p. 230). Cha, Ham, and Lim (Chapter Eleven) critique the gaps between Korean students’ high scores on high-stakes tests and their low level of civic participation and engagement. Ismail (Chapter Twelve) also discusses the tensions between citizenship education, national economic growth, and students’ standardized test performance in Singapore.

Too often, education in the Middle East is framed in terms of deficits to be corrected. Part Five, however, offers hopeful case studies of progressive teaching practices in Lebanon and Turkey. They are not only interesting in their own context, but could generate spillover effects elsewhere with their “thinking locally, acting globally” approach to inclusion. Akar (Chapter Thirteen) introduces readers to a teacher in Lebanon who designed a unit on political rights and another on child soldiers while still meeting national requirements. Al-Nakib (Chapter Fourteen) claims Kuwait’s school civics curriculum embraces democracy, human rights, and social justice, ideals which are also embraced in their constitution. She also describes Kuwait’s National Youth Project, which encourages young people to become engaged in unity through respectful national identity building.

Alas, despite this idealistic national rhetoric, the problems created by refugees and migrants overwhelm the region’s response capacities. Faour (Chapter Fifteen) finds that, in contrast to state claims of inclusive citizenship defined by diversity and pluralism, exclusion dominates; he describes how Lebanon, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates practice separate politics for non-citizens, such as refugees, migrants, and expats. This limits access to public schooling, so children and families suffer twice; first in their flight, and second in their exclusion in the host country.

Bekerman and Cohen (Chapter Sixteen) complicate the discussion even further with concerns about citizenship textbooks in Israel that portray limited diversity and extol ethnicity in national and international affairs. Turkey’s civics policies also run deep with contradictions; according to Aydin and Koc-Damgac (Chapter Seventeen), citizenship education is taught in social studies from the fourth to seventh grades. In eighth grade, it merits a separate course entitled "Education in Citizenship and Democracy." Its purpose is to build a Turkish identity, however, “the portrayal of any minority groups… in textbooks is still unthinkable” (p. 370).

In Part Six, the disjunctions between state vision and local practice are further illustrated. Both Mexico and Brazil have histories of aggressive assimilationist policies, and both have made transitions to democracies in profoundly unequal societies. In Chapter Eighteen, Levinson and Elizarrarás discuss this history and recent policy goals in Mexico, which have led to an unevenness in practice but which nonetheless promote a more balanced view of multiple cultures contributing to democracy. While national textbooks tout the glory of an indigenous past without mentioning the plights of indigenous people today, the authors describe how one teacher, in classic Freireian style, created a place in his classroom that included the local indigenous community.

In Part Seven, Parker (Chapter Twenty) centers the final chapter around the notion of education as essential to fundamental human rights and responsibilities. Simultaneously, he eschews the idea of education as a panacea, asking: How can there be a democracy in a world where children grow up thinking their communities are invisible because their faces and voices aren’t seen in school textbooks, national curricula, or the popular media?


By focusing on migration issues, the book raises the most important and neglected problem in education: the construction of self. Are we permanent selves, defined externally by age, family, ethnicity, laws, and other cultural legacies? Or are we fluid selves, self-constructed and indeterminate, chronically engaged as citizens of time?


This book is readable and has much to offer both comparative researchers and educators, as well as policy makers interested in how citizenship education has been implemented in other countries. The most important takeaway, however, is that education schools’ theories, research, and teaching need to more boldly address the problems of citizenship.


Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, 2018, p. -
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22391, Date Accessed: 11/20/2018 7:44:55 PM

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