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.

My New Home, TVO documentary about immigrant children

From the press release:

TVO examines the immigrant experience through a child’s eyes in a special interactive event beginning with part one of the two part documentary, My New Home. The film is followed by a live, interactive webcast discussion on Your Voice at on the immigrant experience in Ontario. This event airs during Belong or Bust: Where Do I Fit In?, a week of premier documentaries, dramas and current affairs programs that explore a variety of viewpoints on the themes of culture and identity and our place in society.

My New Home premieres Sunday March 22 at 8pm and again on Sunday March 29 at 8pm on TVO. Directed by Daisy Asquith and produced by Ricochet Productions.

Canada in a diasporic framework

The Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies, University of Toronto and the International Institute for Diasporic Studies will hold a conference entitled “Canada in a Diasporic Framework: Future Policies and Agendas“. The conference will be held May 15-17 at the University of Toronto.

“The emerging field of ‘Diaspora Studies’ provides a powerful lens through which to view and understand the contemporary fabric of Canadian society and the opportunities and challenges it faces. In an attempt to proactively address these pressing concerns, the University of Toronto’s Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies and the International Institute for Diaspora Studies are convening an international conference to address the character, capacity and concerns of Canadian Diaspora communities, as both domestic and international actors, in order to analyse, understand and project possible outcomes of these vital dynamics forging twenty-first century Canada. Though focussing primarily on the Canadian context, the conference will also seek to place Canada in a comparative international perspective and to address diaspora issues pertinent to Canada, Europe, Australia and the US, among others”.

Call for reviews: International Journal of Multicultural Education

Taken from the National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME) listserv: “The International Journal of Multicultural Education (IJME) is soliciting reviews of multicultural children’s books for its fall issue on Indigenous cultures to be published in December. Reviews can be done for picture books, easy readers, transitional readers, chapter books and literature for young adults.

“IJME is a peer-reviewed open-access journal for scholars, practitioners and students of multicultural education. Committed to promoting educational equity, cross-cultural understanding, and global awareness in all levels of education, IJME publishes two issues a year on various multicultural education topics. 

“The review should consider the text from a multicultural perspective, paying attention to multicultural and monocultural themes, civil rights, cultural normativism, intercultural exchange, hybridity and so forth. Some questions might be: How does the author represent relationships between characters of different races or ethnicities? Does the text advocate for multicultural ideals in terms of political correctness or of civil rights? Are its representations of culture authentic or pejorative? Is this book likely to change the minds of its readers? Will it strengthen the convictions of those readers who share its perspective? How does this book compare with similar books on this theme?

“For picture books, additional questions might be, does the artist create authentic individualistic representations, or are they generic or stereotypical? Do the illustrations enhance the value of the text or are they superfluous? Do they possess pedagogical value in themselves, pointing toward traditions or unusual modes of representation”?

Submissions should be sent to More information can be found at the IJME website. Deadline is December 1, 2008.

Integration of vulnerable migrants: An IPPR event

The Institute for Public Policy Research (UK) is hosting a seminar on the Integration of Vulnerable Migrant Groups. From the website, this description:

“In recent years, there has been considerable interest in migrant integration and social cohesion. Concerns have focussed on the scale of recent immigration, its impacts on social cohesion, and apparently ‘inassimilable’ migrant and minority ethnic communities. Migrant integration and social cohesion have been accorded high priority across all parts and levels of Government. Policy initiatives have been accompanied by a growing body of research literature that provides new insights into immigrant integration and social cohesion. Yet there still remains a pressing need to ensure that research on migrant integration is used to inform policymaking”.

The seminar will be held Nov 24/08 in London. IPPR often posts podcasts and transcripts of their events afterwards. 

We are hopeful that immigrant/refugee children are recognized as among the most vulnerable of migrants and included in the discussion.

Child migration report by Save the Children, Sweden

Child Migration and the Construction of Vulnerability, Save the Children, Sweden, “attempts to look beyond the current emphasis of child migration (mainly trafficking of children for sexual purposes, unaccompanied asylum seekers and refugee children), to consider the broader context including when and why migration violates the rights of the child“.

First presented at the Focus on Children in Migration conference in Poland in 2007, the report demonstrates the need for more research on children and migration. As the introduction to the report says “Many reports are available on migration in general but rarely integrate the consequences of migration for children“.

Brave new schools: Identity and power in Canadian education

From the Atkinson Centre for Society and Child Development

The 2008 R.W.B. Jackson Lecture ~ Brave New Schools: Identity and Power in Canadian Education

We are pleased to present Professor James (Jim) Cummins, a renowned second language education scholar in the Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, and Canada Research Chair, Language Learning and Literacy Development in Multilingual Contexts.

As the 2008 Jackson Lecturer, Cummins will draw on data from a 5-year research program entitled From Literacy to Multiliteracies to stimulate re-examination of the foundational principles of Canadian education in an era of increasing diversity and urgent global challenges. Influenced by international agencies such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), educational policy-makers in many countries have adopted an increasingly technocratic approach to the promotion of literacy and numeracy.  The focus has been on the identification and implementation of evidence-based “best practices.” However, the frame of reference within which these “best practices” have been generated typically consigns issues related to societal power relations and teacher-student identity negotiation to the margins of consideration.

This lecture will call for a radically different approach to educational policy-making. The constructs of teacher-student identity negotiation and societal power relations will be proposed as empirically validated influences on academic achievement and as fundamental to the development of effective educational policy and practice. Recent OECD research and policy recommendations on the education of immigrant students will be analyzed to show that the marginalization of issues related to power and identity in educational policy-making is an ideological process that is far from “evidence-based.” A very different set of policy options and pedagogical opportunities for Canadian education emerges when the empirical and theoretical frame of reference is broadened to acknowledge the centrality of the multiple forms of diversity that increasingly characterize schools both in Canada and internationally.

The lecture will be held Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at the George Ignatieff Theatre, Toronto. Reception at 6pm, opening remarks and lecture at 7pm. 

To RSVP and/or for more information, call 416.978.1125.

Authentic identities: Immigrant children and multiculturalism

The May 8th editorial in the Calgary Herald is titled Caught Between Two Worlds and lightly touches on immigrant children’s identity development: the Canadian way or the way of the child’s family and culture of origin. “Forging an authentic identity in Canada is not an easy task” concludes the editor. reports Sat May 10th that Governor General Michaelle Jean, during her trip to France, called upon the people to remain “ever vigilant in the face of the slightest sign of intolerance, and to use every means possible to counter the lack of understanding by some that too often leads to the exclusion of others”.

For children, inclusion and identity and inextricably linked.

Media coverage of Jean’s official visit was rife with comments on the success of Canadian multiculturalism. Is (official) multiculturalism the best way to support forging authentic (Canadian) identities for immigrant children?

A reading of the most recent report in the Bernard van Leer Foundation’s series on Early Childhood in Focus, blogged on below, provides a useful framework for this discussion. From the preface, “Traditionally, identity formation has been perceived as mainly as being about processes of development, socialisation and enculturalation, with child-rearing experts offering wide-ranging views on how these can best be achieved. One prominent view has seen the young child as immature, unformed and dependent. Acquiring identity has been understood as a gradual process of embedding into the norms, values and social roles of the parents’ culture, shaped by the training offered by parents and others. An alternative view has seen the child’s identity as largely preformed and maturing through play and exploration in the protected spaces offered by caring adults.

Neither of these views accord with contemporary theories of identity formation, which respect children’s unique identity at birth and their role in constructing and reconstructing personal meaning within cultural contexts. There is also increasing recognition that children negotiate multiple, shifting and sometimes competing identities, especially within complex, multi-ethnic and multicultural contexts”.

The Bernard van Leer Foundation asks us to consider “as children move into group care and education, further sensitive support is needed to enable them to forge new identities which do not conflict with the family and cultural identity they have acquired at home”.

One more excerpt from this excellent report:

” When considering identity development in migrant families, the traditional view has led to seeing migrant children and adolescents as having to bridge two cultures or value systems. In this dominant tradition, it was believed that many children either reject their home culture in favour of the dominant culture (assimilation), or on the contrary reject the dominant culture and cling to the traditional beliefs and values of their origins (separation), although the ‘ideal’ situation would be the integration of both worlds recognising children’s multiple identities….Educational practices that foster children’s multiple identities need to avoid two pitfalls: colour-blindness and tokenism. Colour-blindness is the denial of differences, very often out of an honest concern to treat ‘all children equal’. In practice this means that parents and children from minority communities are welcomed, but receive the (unintentional) message that they need to ‘adapt’ as soon as possible to what is considered ‘normal’ within the dominant culture.

Tokenism on the contrary involves teaching the ‘culture’ of a child’s home life as fixed and static. Parents’ and children’s identities are thereby reduced to their origin by assuming there is something called ‘the Magreb culture’, ‘the Asian way of doing things’ or a ‘typical lesbian family’. In practice this means that special, yet stereotypical, events or displays are set up for children and families (such as a festival celebrating Iraqi new year with traditional clothes and food). Such activities risk being both patronising and stimatising, in that they overlook the complexities of children’s personal histories and family cultures and ignore socioeconomic and other differences.

An important way to avoid these pitfalls is to build real and symbolic bridges between the public culture of the early childhood centre and the private culture of families, by negotiating all practices with the families involved” (Michel Vandenbroeck, Senior Researcher, Department of Social Welfare Studies, University of Ghent, Belgium).

Developing positive identities: Young children and diversity

The Bernard van Leer Foundation has released a resource on the theory and evidence of how identity can be impacted by adversity, discrimination and diversity in early childhood, entitled Developing Positive Identities: Young Children and Diversity.

This release is the latest in the Bernard van Leer Foundation’s Early Childhood in Focus series. Earlier editions were Attachment Relationships: Quality of Care for Young Children and Early Childhood and Primary Education: Transitions in the Lives of Young Children