Role of race and ethnicity in the lives of children in history

The US-based Society for the History of Children and Youth is holding an online discussion through their listserv, H-Childhood. Responses will help shape the next Society for the History of Children and Youth newsletter.

Facilitators have posted two general questions that they hope will spark a good discussion. Here are the questions:

  1. What role did race and ethnicity in particular (along with class, gender, age, and region) play in the lives of children and youth of color in history? More pointedly, did race and ethnicity make for or lead to fundamentally different experiences of childhood for children and youth of color as compared to their white counterparts?
  2. Why is it important (if you think it is) to study children and youth of color in history? Will this work change our understanding of the history of childhood and youth in fundamental ways? If so, how so?

Discussion ends April 3rd.

30% cap on immigrant children in Italy’s schools

Citing lack of integration and social cohesion, Italian Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini proposes a quota for the maximum number of immigrant children in Italian classrooms.

The minister highlighted a case in Rome where parents refused to send their children to school because of what they perceived was an unreasonable foreign pupil ratio. Only 15 children of 180 were Italian.

Minister Gelmini said: “This is a situation which calls for reflection but at the same time we must also educate foreign children in Italian and teach them our constitution. Experience shows that it’s not enough just to insert immigrant children in classes.

‘We need to balance and weigh out their presence. There have been cases in which entire classes are made up of immigrant students, which is not ideal for true integration”. 

Two related news stories:

Mail Online: Italy wants 30% cap on number of immigrants per class to help with integration. March 27, 2009.

Telegraph UK: Italy’s centre-right government wants 30 per cent cap on immigrants in classrooms. March 24, 2009.

Para nuestros niños

The US-based National Task Force on Early Childhood Education for Hispanics was established to enhance educational achievement and opportunities for children of Hispanic descent and to influence US education policy.

The Task Force is made up of early childhood educators, academics, researchers and policy makers. The website provides several interesting resources, including research reports, fact/information sheets, policy briefs and the final report of the Task Force: Expanding and Improving Education for Hispanics.

Kenney: Language = successful integration of newcomers

Last week, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney addressed delegates at the Calgary Metropolis conference and was quoted as saying that immigrants should “be required to have working knowledge of either English of French” in order to come to Canada. These remarks have been widely reported and debated in the media, including:

The Toronto Sun, English or french or out

The Calgary Herald, Kenney right person for immigration minefield

Ottawa Citizen, Immigrants should be able to speak English or French

Rudyard Griffiths (Dominion Institute and author of the recently released book “Who We Are: A Citizen’s Manifesto“) writes today in the National Post, defending and championing language as the key to successful integration. 

Happily, children are addressed in his piece. An excerpt:

“The federal government should also put special emphasis on second-language training for school-age children, particularly in the country’s major cities. In Toronto, the city that attracts the majority of newcomers to Canada, the percentage of elementary schools with English-as-a-second-language (ESL) instructors has declined from 41% to 29% in the last decade while the number of students requiring such instruction has doubled. The federal government should find ways to work with the provinces to get more funding for language instruction into urban classrooms to relieve overburdened ESL instructors”.

IDC Child detention study

From the International Detention Coalition (IDC) March 2009 e-Newsletter:

“The IDC is undertaking a research project to investigate the incidence and impact of immigration detention on children at national, regional and global levels”. As part of a larger international campaign, the research project will include a literature review, stakeholder interviews, and a survey of IDC members.

Survey deadline is April 28th. For more information, contact

Canadian Council on Refugees spring consultation

Canada became a signatory to the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees on 4 June 1969. The Canadian Council on Refugees (CCR) will commemorate the 40th anniversary of this event, following their annual Spring Consultation to be held May 28-30, 2009 in Quebec City, QC.

The theme for the CCR Spring Consultation this year is “Protecting Refugees and Immigrants in Hard Times” (and includes a session on children in detention).

Related resources:

Refugee Rights Day (April 4, 2009)

CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) on Child Refugees

Canadian Refugee Health Conference (Nov 24-25, 2009)

CCR Annual Status Report on Refugee and Immigrant Rights, 2008.

Diversity matters conference, BC

Conference call. Diversity Matters: An Ongoing Conversation, sponsored by Providence Health Care, BC and Covenant Health, AB will be held November 2-3, 2009 at the Coast Plaza Hotel in Vancouver BC. From the conference brochure:

Conference Description 

Healthcare practitioners, educators, and community service providers face increasingly diverse populations in their professional work. This diversity includes an expanding range of unfamiliar patient beliefs, preferences and expectations about the “right” way to learn, maintain health, make treatment decisions, and communicate. These changes are also often accompanied by significant language and other symbolic barriers between providers and the people served. New or different inter-professional competencies and organizational approaches are therefore needed to ensure the provision of safe and ethical care. Presenters at this conference share their knowledge and practical experiences in transforming models of health care to better serve our culturally diverse patient populations. 

Conference Objectives 

1. Raise awareness of the implicit values and premises of health care delivery 

2. Provide knowledge about diverse health models, beliefs, and practices encountered with multicultural and multi-religious patient populations 

3. Learn culturally competent approaches for engaging with religious and culturally diverse patients, families, and communities 

4. Understand the communication issues and skills needed to provide education to diverse patient and provider populations 

5. Identify systemic barriers and solutions for serving limited or non-English speaking patients, residents, families, and communities.

TVO and HIPPY partner for immigrant children’s literacy and language development

Announced yesterday, TVO and HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters) will partner to develop and deliver literacy programming for newcomer children. From the press release:

Phase I of the partnership, currently underway, involves the integration of new TVO resources for early learners into HIPPY’s in-home training programs for parents.HIPPY home visitors will now be using special epidsodes of Gisèle’s Book Club, helping kids and parents discover together the joys of reading and diversity as well as the complete Gisèle’s Big Backyard Get Ready for School DVD and CD-ROM, which helps demystify the transition from preschool to kindergarten.

For phase II TVO is creating a user-friendly online community set to launch in the Fall of 2009. The site will focus on two key areas of need: delivering skill-based literacy tools that parents can use with their children and addressing the challenges and opportunities related to instilling a sense of cultural identity in New Canadian children as they prepare for Ontario’s school system. Web content will include panel discussions on cultural identity; video profiles of New Canadians telling their stories; instructional videos on How to Read with Your Child … as well as a variety of interactive opportunities, research articles and multi-lingual resources.

Settlement needs of BC immigrant and refugee children

Last June, Welcome BC held a Learning Forum and Consultation on the Settlement Needs of Immigrant/Refugee Children 0-6 years of age and Their Families.

The purpose of the day was to provide government with specific advice regarding appropriate programs for newcomer children from birth to age six, and their families “in the intersecting areas of Early Learning and Early Childhood Development”.

Available online now are some very useful resources and materials prepared for the conference by various BC government departments, including: the Attorney General; Children and Family Development; Health; Education; Public Library Services Branch; and from the Burnaby ECD Table. Resources include current (2006) demographic information on countries of origin, home languages, strategic directions of the various departments and etc. There is also a written report on the learning results/outcomes of the conference consultation and participant evaluations:

2 page Executive Summary

Report on the Results of the Learning Forum and Consultation on the Settlement Needs of Immigrant/Refugee Children 0-6 Years of Age and their Families. Prepared by Karen L. Abrahamson.


New York Times series on immigration: Teaching newcomer children

Beginning today, the New York Times will run a series on immigration, inviting a national debate on the topic in the United States. The first installment is a discussion on how best to educate immigrant children. To be followed up this Sunday.

The series will be interactive, inviting comments from readers and includes a searchable database of the history of ethnic diversity in each school district and an interactive map showing census data on settlement over the past century.

Today’s stories include: 

Robert Linquanti comments on “No Child Left Behind: Pros and Cons”. Linquanti is with WestEd research agency in San Francisco.

Chicago superintendent Roger Prosise writes a piece entitled “For Bilingual Education, You Need Bilingual Teachers”

Co-directors at NYU Immigration Studies, Marcelo Orozco and Carola Orozco write on “Teach in Two Languages”.

A California principal, Linda Mikels counters with a piece entitled “No, Teach in English”.

Looks like a fascinating series. Follow it online at the New York Times “Room for Debate” webpage.