This is a musing – offered in the form of a story – about the matter of access to post-secondary education for the children of undocumented residents. This story is offered in an attempt to simply raise the questions needed in order to assist with the future analysis of this complex and multilayered situation. The premise of this story is that recent high school graduates are taken to and left on a deserted island.
This is a musing – offered in the form of a story – about the matter of access to post-secondary education for the children of undocumented residents. This story is offered in an attempt to simply raise the questions needed in order to assist with the future analysis of this complex and multilayered situation. The premise of this story is that recent high school graduates are taken to and left on a deserted island. Among these now-stranded recent high school graduates is a group of children of U.S. citizens who themselves are young adult citizens. Others are children of undocumented immigrants residing in the U.S., who themselves are young adults and non-citizens. Both groups of students are exiting high school having graduated. They are similar in most ways in their enjoyment of things typical to young adult life: cells phones, reality television, hanging out with friends, the love and support of family, and the learning that their caring high school teachers exposed them to during each school day. All have been challenged during high school in order to make the grades, meet standardized assessment benchmarks, and graduate. Most of these young adults look forward to making the most of their lives, to creating their own homes and families and carving out their place in this world. The group of non-citizen young adults is the most economically disadvantaged since their parents cannot legally work in the United States; the assumption is that their parents have low incomes, perhaps near or below the poverty line. High school ends and summer is here! Surprise! These graduates are taken on a trip to a deserted island and left there with only the clothes on their backs – with one exception; On the island, there is a locked treasure chest which inside contains only a few crude tools to be used for chopping trees, constructing lean-tos, fishing, gathering fruits from high trees, etc. Once on the island, the young adults/ recent graduates are divided into two groups: citizens and non-citizens for the purpose of obtaining a key. All of the citizen students are given a key to open the treasure chest and access the crude tools. They may then decide to make whatever use of the tools they wish, as much or as little as possible. They are instructed to keep the key in their pockets and not share it with the non-citizens. They can use the tools in the chest to improve their means of surviving on the island. The non-citizens are not offered and in fact denied the key to the treasure chest. They are instructed to figure out how to survive without the benefit of the crude tools. This situation exists despite the fact that the non-citizen young adults have the ability to benefit from use of the tools. Both groups are expected to live out their young adult years here on this island. How will the non-citizens feel as they struggle to create shelter and forage for food without the benefit of the tools afforded to their peers? How will they view the citizens who are faring better in meeting basic survival needs because of access to the tools? Will they feel resentment, envy, anger or depression? How will they feel about their marginalized place on this island when only weeks ago, while in high school, they enjoyed the same access to the same tools offered to the citizens? What will not having use of the tools to do their future prospects for survival? Where and to whom can they turn to for survival when all else fails? The citizens? Will the citizens find that, in time, they must offer their own food and shelter to the non-citizens once they see how the non-citizens struggle to sufficiently create or obtain their own? Might the plight of the needy non-citizens cause the citizens to feel either compassion and empathy or resentment and disgust over the fact of their need to co-exist on this deserted island? Will non–citizens eventually give-up even trying to mete out survival on their own and resign themselves to rely heavily on the citizens who have the tools they cannot have; and if yes, will the non-citizens rationalize such giving-up out of feelings of hopelessness and a “why bother?” attitude? Does denying access to any tools proliferate the “why bother?” mentality? How will the citizens feel about the non-citizens’ increasing reliance? Will they wish that the non-citizens could build their own huts and forage for their own food using the crude tools they themselves employ or will they take pleasure in providing support without empowerment to the non-citizens? Would the citizens insist that the non-citizens make plans to obtain their own keys and withhold support unless such plans materialize? Is there something wrong about the fact that the non-citizens do not have access to the tools because they are the children of their parents and their parents are illegal immigrants? Can we assume that without access to the tools, the level of survival skills for the non-citizen group will remain stagnate? Will they remain deficient in their ability to contribute to the overall quality of life on the island? In fact, significant citizen-resources will need to be deployed towards assisting non-citizen survival. Would it be better if that resource investment went instead into empowering the non-citizens to find ways to obtain keys and make use of the tools? Would the quality of life for the student-citizens improve if the non-citizens had keys to the treasure chest? Is the situation on this island indicative of values in conflict? The End.
Assistant Dean, Student Services
Bucks County Community College, Newtown, PA
Doctor of Management Community College Policy Candidate
University of Maryland University College (UMUC)
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