Linda Chavez on Hispanic Immigration, Assimilation, & Civic Education in America

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This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-host Cara Candal talks with Linda Chavez, a senior fellow at the National Immigration Forum and the author of Out of the Barrio: Toward a New Politics of Hispanic Assimilation. She shares how her ethnic background, Catholic education, and experience working with legendary American Federation of Teachers president Al Shanker, a great champion of civic education, shaped her outlook and public career. Ms. Chavez talks about why she ultimately parted ways with the teachers’ unions on key education issues. They discuss heated policy debates in American K-12 education regarding how to craft and deliver curricula that honor students’ diversity, while also educating for common ideals. Chavez sheds light on changing perceptions of Hispanic students, pointing to the wide variation in socioeconomic and academic achievement levels among those from different Spanish-speaking countries. She makes the case for a more flexible, broad, skills-based national immigration policy that responds to labor demands, and concludes with insights on why the country is struggling to unify around common civic values.

Stories of the Week: In Connecticut, a trend in the making? The state’s tech ed and career system, enrolling 12,000 students, is planning to become independent from the state education department, to increase its autonomy over finances and curricula. A new $100 million Google certification program could put students on the fast track to successful IT careers – bypassing a four-year degree.


Linda Chavez is a senior fellow at the National Immigration Forum. She is the author of Out of the Barrio: Toward a New Politics of Hispanic Assimilation, as well as her memoir An Unlikely Conservative: The Transformation of an Ex-Liberal. In 2000, Chavez was honored by the Library of Congress as a “Living Legend” for her contributions to America’s cultural and historical legacy. She has held a number of appointed positions, among them Chairman, National Commission on Migrant Education (1988-1992); White House Director of Public Liaison (1985); Staff Director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (1983-1985); and she was a member of the Administrative Conference of the United States (1984-1986). Chavez was the Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Maryland in 1986. In 1992, she was elected by the United Nations’ Human Rights Commission to serve a four-year term as U.S. Expert to the U.N. Sub-commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. Chavez was also editor of the prize-winning quarterly journal American Educator (1977-1983), published by the American Federation of Teachers, where she also served as assistant to AFT president Al Shanker (1982-1983) and assistant director of legislation (1975-1977). Chavez was received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from the University of Colorado in 1970 and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from George Mason University in 2012.

The next episode will air on Weds., March 9th, with Leslie Hiner, Vice President of Legal Affairs and Director of Legal Defense & Education Center with EdChoice.

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Connecticut technical schools in line to break away from Department of Education, become independent agency

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[00:00:00] Cara: Hello, everybody. Welcome to The Learning Curve. Well, we’ll be coming to you on March 2nd and I’m so excited because at long last here it is, the two co-hosts of The Learning Curve back together. I think that must be Gerard Robinson on the other end there – is that you Gerard?

[00:00:53] GR: It is me, back together again.

[00:00:55] That’s actually a riff from a seventies song.

[00:00:59] Cara: [00:01:00] Let’s go, sing it.

[00:01:01] GR: Oh no. was trying to think of all the lyrics and who sings it, but I can’t.

[00:01:06] Cara: I would probably know, but I think you were more cognizant in the seventies and I was

[00:01:12] GR: wait, you weren’t even born then,

[00:01:13] Cara: so yeah. Oh yeah.

[00:01:14] Right. Sure. Of course I wasn’t.

[00:01:17] Cara: No, I didn’t notice any bell-bottoms when I was a kid, none at all. Those aren’t even back we’ve we’ve passed bell-bottoms now it’s the nineties that are cool again. Right? I can’t even, I heard something on the radio this morning that the new nostalgia are wired headline.

[00:01:32] kidding, like three years ago, I’m like my husband still uses them. He doesn’t see the point in using Bluetooth. So I don’t know. I guess that’s, you know, you’re, middle-aged when Gerard, when the kids

[00:01:43] Cara: confused. Anyway,

[00:01:44] Cara: how have you been, you have had two fabulous co-hosts well I was away and I had a fabulous co-host where you were way.

[00:01:53] you don’t have to tell us where you were, but you want to update our listeners and some of your, fun, what have you been up to? This has all been work-related of course. No [00:02:00] fun for you.

[00:02:01] GR: So as many of you know, that I have a theme song on the road again by Willie Nelson. And so I was doing a lot of Willie Nelson on the road again, uh, , was in Birmingham, England, , meeting with scholars post-docs and fellows who work for.

[00:02:18] The Jubilee center at, university of Birmingham, , it’s funded by the John Templeton foundation. The current family foundation is also a, two funders of ours at the advanced studies and culture foundation and inviting me to really get a chance to see what they do. And they are one of the Nelly, countries, one of the world’s leaders in, , advocating only for characterization, but putting a research, spin to it.

[00:02:40] And so spent, five days. And then spend time rattled side of Macon, Georgia, meeting with some teachers at an elementary school. Amanda Miller, who is the assistant principal there also the 2015 Georgia teacher of the year, was one of the participants in a summer Institute. We had last year [00:03:00] where we talked about character education, world formation.

[00:03:03] And right now I’m in your neck of the woods, Chicago. I’m here for it. with other grantees and we’re here to talk about education, character, and.

[00:03:13] Cara: So my old

[00:03:14] Cara: neck of the woods, are you going to have a red hell your V you’re adhering to a vegan diet. You’re not going to have a red hot, but if I were there, you know, I would head on over to one of those fabulous establishments,

[00:03:28] Cara: well, you know, Gerard, while you were hard at work, I was hard at play. First visiting after a very, very long two years. , my in-laws and, , my husband is a very big family in Buenos Aires, Argentina. So we were there for a week. My children were reunited with their grandmother, , and all of their cousins and aunts and uncles.

[00:03:50] And it was pretty fabulous. I have to say, I know that Darell co-hosted with you. What are the days I was gone? And he would appreciate that we got stuck in traffic [00:04:00] because there was an enormous. Convoy of revert is one of the teams, the local inside a soccer teams, soccer fans, and boy, you have never seen party buses like these party buses.

[00:04:12] Let me tell you by friends. So that was a highlight. And then after that, we went from one hemisphere almost directly to the other and spent some time skiing with our neighbors to the north in Canada. in Quebec, which is actually just a short drive from here, not too far, but I made sure Gerard that while you were hard at work, I was doing as much relaxing as possible.

[00:04:31] So rest assured rest assured that I’m well rested.

[00:04:36] GR: Well, because of what you just said, I feel better. Cause I just lived through you vicariously through space and time. So this is a good thing. This is why this is the learning curve. We’re on a different curve on the earth. I’m still alive.

[00:04:49] Cara: At least one of us says, at least one of us.

[00:04:54] Well, I have to say I was learning a lot as listeners might have guessed our fabulous producers. are the ones [00:05:00] that push us. Jamie gas gets the credit for finding really cool articles and then tells us, you know, read a bunch of these and figure out which one you want to talk about today.

[00:05:07] And read a very, what I think is thought provoking for me at least article and learned a bit today from the Hartford. And this is about, , Connecticut from Hartford, Connecticut, and the title it’s by Seamus McEvoy. This article, the title is Connecticut technical schools, inline to break away from department of education and become an independent agency.

[00:05:28] Now, George is, is I think, you know, during my day job at Excel and ed, we’ve got this just crack team of folks who they focus on college and career pathways. And so I spend some of my time thinking about college and career pathways, mainly because I’m learning through them. I thought that this was a really interesting article because my knee-jerk reaction, as some of our listeners might understand by now to anything that smacks of like creating a new state agency or another body to regulate something, usually I’m like, oh yeah, let’s hold on.

[00:05:58] That that’s pause. That’s not a good [00:06:00] idea. But this article is all about the idea that number one, career and technical education in Kentucky. Is becoming just and more in demand. They’ve seen huge rise in demand in the past few years. And I think that for our listeners, that don’t think about this topic really important to know that some of the best schools out there are career and technical schools, very high-performing schools that provide kids with lots of different options, right?

[00:06:24] Like not only prepare them for college, but also give them opportunities to think about careers. That’ll take them directly into. Or maybe even for some kids take them into a job, that’s going to help them earn money while they are in college. So it’s just another way of providing options. And, this article is discussing how, when the career and technical education programs are housed in the department of education, departments of education, Are built.

[00:06:50] We’re built to oversee public school systems and career and technical education systems, especially at scale when they have lots of kids enrolled, have different [00:07:00] needs. And so they’re creating this new agency in order to provide administrators and career and technical education, more flexibility in how things are done.

[00:07:08] They’re going to be able to sort of manage the school finances differently. System of schools that they have manage curricula differently. And you know, one of the things I would say that really got me thinking is our folks at XL now have just done phenomenal work around not only assessing in different places, the availability Of courses and, course offerings in paths to career, to college and career that are aligned with the needs of the local economy. So we think that that’s one thing that a new entity like this could spend time doing, but as well as asking really important questions around how. Our students and parents that these diverse options are really available to them.

[00:07:48] And I think a lot of times what we have found is that, for various reasons, school counselors and others, either aren’t aware of the options that are available to kids or are of a mentality of a mindset that,[00:08:00] colleges the way and that there’s no sort of alternative way to get their alternative path that kids might actually.

[00:08:06] They don’t promote these programs as much. So I am heartened by this because I think it’s an opportunity for a new agency to really focus on this resurgence and the importance in the emphasis that many states are placing on career and technical education and to make super high quality. High skill high paying careers that don’t necessarily require a college degree available to kids, especially in a time when more and more people are quite frankly, just opting out of college for many reasons, but including the cost of a college education.

[00:08:38] So I loved this article. I learned a lot and I want to, I’m not gonna go down and visit Connecticut and see how they’re doing. What’s the new agency stuff. So I know that you’ve spent a lot of time thinking about career and technical education. Sure.

[00:08:51] Cara: What do you think? Well,

[00:08:52] GR: as you know, I’m a big fan of CTE and what we often forget is that CTE has got really long roots, deep roots [00:09:00] in our history.

[00:09:00] You know, you go back to 1879 in St. Louis where the first manual training school was created. And then you go to New York in 1881 where we have the first trade school. And so the whole idea of CTE began to mature. As did the United States as cities became larger. As people move from rural areas to urban areas, frankly, as more people decided, Hey, I want to go directly into a trade.

[00:09:26] You find that the K-12 schools are offering more CTE. And so I’m glad to hear this, the creation of another agency to work with it or to report or be responsible. doesn’t bother me. , if you ever want to see one field of education that will move from different spots. Look at early childhood education.

[00:09:47] In some states it’s governor’s office at another it’s education, another, it could be a combination thereof. So I’m glad to hear this. Connecticut is a state with a lot of good people [00:10:00] and hard workers. It’s been a blue collar state, , for many decades. Seeing something like this, I think moves us in the right direction.

[00:10:07] So I like that story. And in fact, it’s not too different from my story, which is that CTE in the same way, but it CTE in the career world. So my article is from Inc and the author is Jeff. Steve and Jeff was talking about, as you may know, Sundar, who’s the CEO of Google and alphabet announced a $100 million educational fund and the fund isn’t for higher education per se.

[00:10:39] He created the fund, to really do two things. Number one, you have 70,000 adults in the United States. Who’ve actually gone through a program where they’ve been credentialed by Google. And as you and I talked about effect, you just mentioned the whole idea that everyone may not go to college either directly at the high school or.

[00:10:58] There are people who simply [00:11:00] want certificate training, something to go into the workforce. And Sundar, I said, you know what? We need to do more of this. And so with the hundred million dollar fund is going to provide an opportunity to educate approximately 50,000 more people who will receive certification.

[00:11:18] And a great thing about the partnership he’s creating with Europe and other groups is that once you go through the training, there’s no upfront. Once you get a job, let’s say over $40,000, you can begin to payback into the fund. And those funds will be used to bring in the next cohort. I’m a big proponent of what I call stackable credentials, something, our friend, John Bailey champion of for a number of years, because as I’ve said, even from my own family, it’s by two younger daughters, decided not to go directly to college or to go to college.

[00:11:52] Or to leave high school with a certificate or licensure or something else, I’m all for it because the whole idea [00:12:00] of how and where you learned is different. Now, the Jeff was really interesting. He said, he’s not calling for the end of higher education. And to just paraphrase something from mark Twain, the death of higher education often been very exaggerated.

[00:12:14] but he did note his article that when you look at a report published by us news and world reports, the average cost for tuition fees to attend a ranked public college in 20 21 22 was roughly 10,000 for out-of-state students. Looking at 23,000 warrants, you’re looking at private schools is 38. But, you know, I know that’s the average.

[00:12:35] We have colleges right now, $70,000 and more. And so if you’re a student and you finishing high school and you want to go into tech or you want to become an entrepreneur, well, one option is to go to a four-year institution or two year institution, or with your article to participate CTE Sundar saying, well, Hey, we’ve got links to a lot of groups who would love to have someone qualified, like.

[00:12:58] So give us a look [00:13:00] and come get her certificate. I’d also like to end by saying, we think about pathways to careers. We all think that this is a 20 year endeavor, but since I’m in Chicago, I might as well give a shout out to the Donald’s because they created hamburger university in 1961. And. More than, oh, that’s, that’s some laughter ah, you must know about

[00:13:22] Cara: just the title. It’s amazing. It’s both hamburger university. And the fact that you always know the date and I know you haven’t looked it up, it’s impressive.

[00:13:29] GR: More than 5,000 students a year 10, hamburger university and get this. And over 275,000 people have graduated with a degree in Hamburgers.

[00:13:42] So there’s already been a template, to get people into the workforce. It’s also worth mentioning DEP and McDonald’s as a franchise is one of the top five in the country to create black millionaires. And so I’ve had a chance to see the impact it had on families and friends for years. So, Sundar, thank you [00:14:00] for what you’re doing.

[00:14:01] I like certificate idea.

[00:14:02] Linda: What about you? I

[00:14:04] Cara: have to say in reference to McDonald’s my brother-in-law, who I saw in politicized way. He worked here in the states for quite a long time. Went to business school at Cornell, , all of these prestigious things. And he too started off at McDonald’s and it made his career.

[00:14:18] so I, appreciate that reference Gerard. no, this is just, I love stories about. Any kind of new money flowing into the system, but when funders have a really clear and targeted idea of what it is they want to do in the, the space that they are going to fill. And I’m really hopeful that this is going to, help to continue to elevate the profile of, career and technical education, which, as I said at the outset is a really, current technical education.

[00:14:45] But. Alternatives to college opportunities too, which is really , what your article was about, because I can remember, when I was in high school, it wasn’t seen as any sort of a desirable path and boy, what, a tragic perception. So I think that, by putting an [00:15:00] emphasis on these issues in this way, we’re in a much better place than we were certainly, 10 years ago when I was in high school chart.

[00:15:07] Yeah, absolutely. We have coming up right after this. , we always have such, I, you know, especially given all, and we should’ve said at the outset, all that is going on in this world right now. Some of the really difficult things that are going on in Ukraine, what we are witnessing there and our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Ukraine at this moment.

[00:15:29] Our next guest is going to have a lot to say about it. She’s very experienced in issues of immigration to this country and very experienced in issues of global affairs. We will be speaking with Linda Chavez, whose lengthy bio I will read coming up right after this break.[00:16:00]

[00:16:19] Cara: Learning Curve listeners today, we are excited to host Linda Chavez. She is a senior fellow at the national immigration forum and author of, out of the Barrio towards a new politics of Hispanic assimilation, as well as her memoir and unlikely, conservative the transformation of an extra. In 2000 Chavez was honored by the library of Congress as a living legend for her contributions to America’s cultural and historical legacy.

[00:16:46] She’s held a number of appointed positions among them chairman national commission on migrant education, white house director of public liaison staff, director of the us commission on civil rights. And she was a member of the [00:17:00] administrative conference of the United States. Chavez was the Republican nominee for us Senator from Maryland in 1986.

[00:17:07] In 1992, she was elected by the United Nations human rights commission to serve a four year term at USF. To the UN sub commission on the prevention of discrimination and protection of minorities. Chavez was also the editor of the prize winning quarterly journal American educator published by the American Federation of teachers, where she also served as assistant to AMT president Al Shanker and assistant director of legislation.

[00:17:32] Chavez was received a bachelor’s of arts degree in English literature from university of Colorado and a master of fine arts in creative writing from George Mason university under Chavez. Welcome to the show and thank you so much for being with us today. It’s terrific to be with. Yeah. Wow. I mean, what a life of accomplishment I’m so excited to hear more about your career and your interests today.

[00:17:59] So you [00:18:00] were born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and you have had, as I just outlined a remarkable career, you’re an influential author, you’re a columnist. You are an important public figure. One of the most important men he would say at the last 40 years. So could you talk to our listeners a little bit about your upbringing and how your life to date has shaped your.

[00:18:22] [Linda] Well, thank you. yes. I had a very interesting upbringing. My dad was a house painter with a ninth grade education. , his family, , the Chavez and army whole families had been in New Mexico. , almost from the founding of New Mexico. , the Chavez came in 1601 and the army hose came in 17. Oh. So very, very deep roots, , in what is now, the United States, but was a first, a Spanish and then a Mexican territory.

[00:18:51] my mother’s family, , also have deep roots. , my mother’s, , English ancestors were already here in the United States, uh, born on,[00:19:00] , what was then the colonies, , in the 16 hundreds. And her father’s family were immigrants from Ireland. So, , an interesting sort of microcosm of what America is all about with, both immigrant and deep native roots.

[00:19:17] I grew up in a lower middle class family, did not, , have a whole lot of, , material advantages. But my father was a great reader, despite only having a ninth grade education himself introduced me, , really as a young person, , to the great Russian writers, he loved Dostoevsky and Tolstoy and Chekhov.

[00:19:42] And so, my love of literature, goes back to, to my father and growing up in that family. , and then, met my husband at a very young age. , met him when I was a freshman at the university of Colorado. , I was actually, living at home and [00:20:00] attending, , day and night classes. The extension center for the university of Colorado in Denver.

[00:20:06] And we were married a year and a half later and have been married ever since. So almost 55 years of marriage. So, and interesting, back.

[Cara] Wow. 55 marriage in and of itself is quite quite an accomplishment, especially in the grand scheme of all of the things , you have accomplished in your life.

[00:20:26] And that is right up there with them. So congratulations to you for, I think anybody. At that marriage, you know, two 19 year olds, one from a professional, upper middle class Jewish family, and another, from a working class, , Hispanic and Irish family, , would have not given us a whole lot of chances for success.

[00:20:46] A lot of people were betting on you, but you showed them I think. Right? Absolutely amazing. Absolutely amazing. and fitting for someone with your bio, you seem like quite a persistent human being. so I know that a lot of our listeners [00:21:00] are going to be fascinated, , by your tenure with, , the AFT and your work with Al Shanker who , among education reformers, especially those of us who, um, we talk about school choice on this show, time to time.

[00:21:13] Al Shanker is both revered and, then sometimes the relationship with the teacher’s union when it comes to certain education reforms, a little more tense, but he was, by all accounts, he really was a great champion of civic education. Could you talk about what it was like working with Al Shanker and for the AST and why you ultimately decided to sort of part ways with the unions on some policy?

[Linda] [00:21:37] Well, I will tell you that Al Shanker was an exceptional man. he was brilliant. he was very, , creative, , very thoughtful about public policy issues. And even though he remained, , a liberal Democrat, uh, until his death in 1997, that did not stop him, , from reaching out. For example, to the Reagan [00:22:00] administration, once president Reagan was elected.

[00:22:03] he did believe very much in public schools. He was not opposed to public school choice, but he was very much opposed to school vouchers, , and federal, , money going to private schools. and I initially would. been, a champion of, of Shanker’s position on that is I was working for the union, but later came to differ with him that issue.

[00:22:29] I, myself, the product of Catholic schools for 12 years, , and I’ve often attributed, , to my, academic success to having gone to Catholic schools. So they were very critical in my development, but Shanker, I think first of all, he was interested in. Not just in domestic politics, but he was very interested in defense policy, very interested in foreign affairs and he was a Hawk, and very much an [00:23:00] anticommunist, very much, believed that, the United States, wasn’t.

[00:23:04] Exemplary in the world. , very much believed that, , without the United States role in leadership in the world, the world would have looked like a very different place. And you mentioned civic education. I actually, , became involved in, created a program to promote civic education. When I worked for Al Shanker as the editor of the American educator magazine.

[00:23:28] And we put together a teaching materials, , for teachers K through 12 to teach about civic values, such things as honesty, loyalty, courage, , and we put together materials that could be used in the classrooms. And I had a very interesting a partner in that. Process a fellow named bill Bennett, William Bennett, who, when I was working with him was a fellow at the national humanities center, but he later joined the Reagan administration became [00:24:00] the, head of the, , , national, , humanities foundation in the government and then went on to be secretary of education.

[00:24:10] And so, he was, as I say, Albert Shanker was perfectly willing, to work with people across the political spectrum so long as they shared, basic values, but his love for America, his belief. that in order to have an educated population, public schools performed, , , in indispensable role, and he believed that teachers needed help in getting materials.

[00:24:38] To their students to teach more about the civic responsibilities of citizenship. And this was in an era when there was a lot of movement to have education, become values, neutral that schools should no longer be teaching right from wrong. and Shanker really was a bulwark against, [00:25:00] uh, some of that. So I’m very proud of the work that I did with Al Shanker.

[Cara] [00:25:04] Absolutely. And it sounds like so much of that. I feel very, very relevant in the current moment, which I hope we can talk about in just a little bit, but I would be remiss not to ask you about your 1991 book out of the Barrio towards a new politics of Hispanic assimilation. and when that book was published, it received great acclaim, but also it was pretty controversial.

[00:25:29] So could you talk a little bit about the main arguments of that book? its reception and its role in sort of the heated policy debates about education at the time. Well, you know, it all sounds rather quaint right now because the view that I had about Hispanics, has become conventional wisdom. I mean, I had this very, , iconic classic view that Hispanics were not a permanently disadvantaged underclass of, people who had been discriminated against and were going to ever forever be downtrodden [00:26:00] without massive government.

[Linda] [00:26:01] My view was that Hispanics, who at the time, most were Mexican American. , but there were also, , Puerto Rican and, some, others, as well, immigrants from, from other countries and their children. particularly Cubans I should say. And what I found is that this book was published in 1999.

[00:26:24] And at the time, if you had turned on the television and heard a story about Hispanics in the U S and particularly about Hispanic education, you would have heard that Hispanics had a very high dropout rate that Hispanics were not succeeding, that they, , were not moving up the economic ladder, that many of them did not speak English.

[00:26:47] And it would have given you. a very distorted view of that population. And so what I did was when I started writing the book, I decided that I would gather research data and [00:27:00] I would look at the population through the lens of trying to look at each of the three major groups at that time separately.

[00:27:09] But not just looking at Mexican Americans, Cuban Americans and Puerto Rican’s, who are American citizens by birth, regardless of whether the court on the island or in the United States, , mainland proper. , and I would look at, , whether or not they were native born, in the U S or whether, they.

[00:27:29] Recently immigrated. And I found out that once you dis-aggregated the data and looked at education levels, earnings levels, English, language proficiency, whole host of, factors that what emerged was a picture that showed that Mexican Americans who were born in the UK. had been schooled in the United States were doing pretty well.

[00:27:52] They were graduating high school, , at rates, not all that different from non-Hispanic whites, and [00:28:00] Cuban-Americans were doing exceptionally. , Puerto Rican’s, depending on where they lived, uh, some of them were doing okay. And some of them were not. And the welfare state played a very big role in that Puerto Ricans living, , outside the high welfare states of New York and New Jersey were doing very well.

[00:28:17] those who lived in the New York, New Jersey area, where you had very high, , welfare payments and very high welfare rates, were not doing as well. And so. I tried to do is to say that, you know, looking at Hispanics as one big group undifferentiated, whether, they had come here recently or had been here generations, like my family had, was distorting the image.

[00:28:42] I said it was a little bit like looking at a picture, , in 19. Teen of the Jewish population, for example, in the lower east side of Manhattan. And if you were to look at the statistics about that population at that time, you would suspect [00:29:00] that Jews were poor. They were not English speaking. They were struggling.

[00:29:04] Yet that would not tell you very much about what the Jewish population would look like 50 years later, or you could do it with Italians. You can do it with German side and the 19th century could do what with almost any immigrant group. And so that was, big change in thinking about the Hispanic population.

[00:29:24] Interestingly, though, I think over time. my understanding of what was happening in the population has been born out. and today we see that, , the Hispanic population that is us born English speaking schools in the United States, , is doing, , quite well and are moving, into the middle-class.

[00:29:44] , up the ranks into the professional classes, but new immigrants, particularly those who are here without documentation who come across into the United States illegally, or who’ve excluded, have expired visas and therefore don’t have legal status. they’re not [00:30:00] doing as well. And, that, really does.

[00:30:03] you look at the whole group together and don’t separate out the groups, , it’s sometimes can give a distorted this.

[Cara] There are so many things I love about what you just said in particular. First of all, as a mother of three children who, , , I’m married to an Hispanic person and my three children probably identify as Hispanic.

[00:30:22] but I so much of what you said about not, painting, all people in a group with one broad brush, I think it’s so refreshing. And I do, I would agree that we’ve moved to a different place, but. Really homed in on, in terms of the language we use to describe people. I think even with, other groups in the United States, we sometimes fall into a trap of describing folks as, , either victims or , painting a picture , that is not always, , honest or helpful.

[00:30:50] So thank you for that. But really , there’s so much in what you said. You also touched upon new immigrants to the United States, and of course you have had a career that’s very [00:31:00] focused on the need for an open and diverse national immigration policy, as well as to some of what you were just talking about education that embraces learning English and shared civic ideals among other things.

[00:31:15] So could you talk to us a little bit about your views? On immigration and how they’ve formed over the years. Of course, you know, some of us came up in a generation. I would put myself here that, where we talked about a melting pot, and now we’ve moved to a place where that’s not how we talk about our nation.

[00:31:30] I’m curious as to your views on this and what are the implications for how we think about, immigration, the United States creating a shared civic society, civil values. are you thinking about that?

[Linda] [00:31:49] Well, you know, the only immigrants in my family came from Ireland. So we’re English speaking. you know, it’s not personal. It [00:32:00] has to do with my view of what this country is all about. And I think one of the reasons we’ve been so successful as a nation is that we’re constantly being infused with new people.

[00:32:11] And these are people who come here wanting a better lives, not just for themselves, but for their children. They’re strivers. they may not come with a lot of money or a lot of education or high skills. but they’re given an opportunity here and they will advance up the economic ladder, but more importantly, their children and grandchildren will advance either.

[00:32:32] further up , that ladder. So I’m for, , very generous legal immigration to the United States. I do believe that we need changes in our legal immigration system because right now our host system is based on family reunification. If you have relatives in the United States who are already. your chances of being able to immigrate if you were a close, relative, , are much greater than if you are [00:33:00] somebody who doesn’t have any groups here in the United States, but, perhaps has skills that we could, use.

[00:33:06] So I think we need to go to more skills spaces. Of immigration, and that we ought to be flexible in terms of the number you don’t want to be admitting lot of people at a time when the country is struggling, economically, if you’re in a recession or, worse, a depression, people aren’t going to be eager to have more people coming in to compete for, fewer jobs.

[00:33:29] But if the economy is growing and you’ve got job opportunities available, Bringing in more people actually helps grow that economy. So, I think we need a flexible policy. I’d like to see what based on skills, but I want to be very broad in my interpretation of what skills we need. We need lots of people at the high end.

[00:33:51] We need people who have engineering degrees, math degrees, science degrees, the whole, , stem. group, of, people with ABET [00:34:00] kind of education backgrounds, but we also need people who are at the, less skill level, who do jobs that frankly Americans feel too educated, , to want aspire to.

[00:34:14] There aren’t a whole lot of, Americans who say, oh, gee, I really hope my kids grow up and pick crops in California. , or, , gee, I really hope that, when my kids, uh, finished high school that, they can go out and, become janitors in our office buildings. We have needs for people to do jobs across the skill spectrum.

[00:34:35] So I would, create a system where you could admit people, who did not necessarily have high education and a high. engineering, computer, skills, but, who, were in their, young earning years, and who had a willingness , to be able to accept work, where we had jobs that are going [00:35:00] unfilled and that, ironically Is, what we have seen happen in a number of industries that employ a lot of people who are not legally in the United States, the meat packing industry, the agricultural industry, these are in fact, areas where a lot of undocumented immigrants are working. I’ll it working, you know, without legal permission.

[00:35:25] But they’re taking jobs, not that would otherwise go to those who are here legally or those who were us citizens, but rather jobs that probably would go on field. And so, I think we need to be very thoughtful about how we reform our immigration laws, , but that there is, , a need for labor.

[00:35:46] We have, about, 8 million jobs. Right now, are going, wanting that we can’t find people to take those jobs. And so we need to, have an immigration policy that encourages people who will come here to work. [00:36:00] But once they’re here, I do believe it’s important to learn English.

[00:36:03] I think that one of the reasons we’ve succeeded so well as an immigrant nation is that we welcome people from all sorts of backgrounds, but we want them to become part of our society. And so teaching, English, particularly to the children of immigrants who come is I think really important. And it’s important, not just for unification of the country, but it’s important for the success of those children to be able to move up that economic.

[Cara] [00:36:32] as a former ESL teacher and in various different settings, everything from factories in Detroit and Chicago to public school system, have to say, I don’t think I have ever met a person who had come to this country and said, I don’t want to learn English. Rather seem like something that is imposed, right?

[00:36:52] Like imposed on them by native speakers of English. And I also think that we shouldn’t confuse the desire to maintain one’s native language [00:37:00] with it. Doesn’t preclude you from learning English nor do people want to go. So it’s only that part of the. debate about the teaching of English, especially in our schools.

[Linda] [00:37:09] Is it fascinating and frustrating to some extent, because I think that so often it forecloses the voices of the people who are most effected right after this themselves. And I have been very, very active on that issue as you know, I have been a big champion of English learners and helping people, acquire English quickly, not just children, but adults as well.

[00:37:33] You know, I think that it would be helpful to, have classes on work sites, for, those janitors and ag workers and people who were involved in the meat processing industry, for example, they have, people they’re helping, during breaks or, after work, to teach English.

[00:37:50] But most importantly, the public schools have a role to play, and  to quickly transition children into English. But as you say that doesn’t prevent you [00:38:00] from, using your native language at home, in your church, as, a Catholic, I very fond of going to the Spanish language masses. It sounds more like the Latin that I grew up with.

[00:38:12] So. that’s the American way. That’s always been the way Germans in the 19th century, who immigrated to the United States, set up their own schools and taught children in, German. in the lower east side of Manhattan, there were very active, , Yiddish theater, Yiddish radio, Yiddish, newspapers, Italians, as well, had very active.

[00:38:34] community groups that promoted Italian culture and Italian language. , but ultimately over time, the children and ultimately the grandchildren, tend to be, not just English speaking, but English dominant and sometimes, English monolingual.

[Cara]: So we have limited time left. If I can keep you for one more, which is probably a Whopper of a question, but, I’m sure you’ve answered many, many of those of your life and [00:39:00] want to just ask you about your memoir, entitled and unlikely, conservative the transformation of an ex liberal, and it talks about, you know, your life and career, and sort of, you mentioned this a little bit before you’ve used this shifted from.

[00:39:12] Well, some might say from the left to the right, , we’re in a moment, we have been in a long, long moment in this country where it seems like the chasm between. People different political parties and affiliations is wider and wider. We, I am talking to you during a really sad week when we’ve seen, Russia invade the Ukraine.

[00:39:33] And, it’s, I think in my lifetime, this is one of the most tense moments. I can remember both in our own nation and, and it seems to be across the globe. Can you give us your thoughts on why it is? We just can’t seem to make things work lately. We can’t seem to find any common ground with what.

[Linda] [00:39:52] That’s part of the problem is that we don’t have common ground. And I point the finger squarely at the [00:40:00] changes that have taken place in the media and by the media, I don’t just mean newspapers and television, cable news, et cetera, but social media and others, we basically have reverted to being very much, into our own clans, , into our own.

[00:40:17] subgroups, where we don’t watch the same programs. We don’t read the same articles. and therefore we don’t have a common, , sense of, fact, , we don’t all have a common sense of views and values and we become less, , respect. I have each other’s opinion. And I think that is a great tragedy, and does not bode well for the future of democracy in this country.

[00:40:43] I think we need to be able to have common reference points. And you mentioned, , the war in Ukraine, the launching of, a power grab and trying to take back and reconstitute the former Soviet empire that, blood under Putin [00:41:00] has been involved in. at one time, when something like that had happened, it would have been uniting to Americans and they would have all sort of gathered around their presence, whether they voted for him or not.

[00:41:10] There is a great deal that I don’t agree with. Joe Biden about, , But this is a time when we have to be United as a nation. And so I, think we’ve got to figure our way out of this mess we’re in or else. I think we are in jeopardy of losing, our more than 200 year history of a democratic Republic.

[00:41:31] we have to respect each other. We have to respect each other’s views. , but we have to have common core principles that we believe in, , in order to see.

[Cara] [00:41:40] Well, I hope people are listening. Linda Chavez. It’s been an absolute pleasure in a learning experience. Thank you so very much for your time today. And I know that this is going to be, quite a downloaded episode of the learning curve. so one form of media, hopefully getting the right message out there to [00:42:00] folks is yours seems right to me.

[00:42:02] thank you so much and I wish you all the best. Thank you.

[00:42:28] Cara: And of course, we always end with the Tweet of the Week. This week’s Tweet of the Week is from EducationNext, Gerard. And it’s a quote from an article from a really cool article, actually that I would highly recommend. And the quote is, we know very little about the economic cost of running an electrical engineering program compared to say a history department.

[00:42:47] Or the resource consequences of steering more students into these fields. And so this article from Education Next’s most recent issue – major differences and why some degrees cost [00:43:00] colleges more than others, I highly recommend. It’s a really cool, in-depth look at a question that we so rarely consider when we talk about college costs and that is,

[00:43:11] What’s the value of one degree versus another in terms of the resources that colleges have to put in? And so they really, they look at different fields of study and they talk about how, it’s more expensive for university to do one degree, to get a kid through one four-year degree than another.

[00:43:27] And this comes down to various things, including class size, to some extent faculty pay how different fields have changed over time. And. Here’s a big one use of adjunct faculty, a topic I hope we can talk about on The Learning Curve at some point, you and I have both adjunct it plenty before, Gerard. Next week, we are going to be speaking with a woman that I think many of our listeners will know – the wonderful Leslie Hiner, who is the VP of legal affairs at Ed Choice and just an all-around delightful person.

[00:43:58] So I’m looking forward [00:44:00] to that Gerard. Safe globe trotting. I wish you well, and it’s so lovely to be back with you again.

[00:44:09] GR: Ditto,

[00:44:09] Cara: Ditto, he says. Alright, listeners until next week, take care.

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