This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 27, 2007 2:12 PM. The previous post in this blog was Emilie Boyles: "Lock him up, I'm innocent". The next post in this blog is Linchpin High School. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

How hard ways

A reader writes:

While walking our dog at the school, my wife found a discarded homework assignment for a middle school student. It was a project proposal called Peopling the Nation. The project is a research project with two components: first, the family/ancestry aspect; and second, the historical/cultural aspect. The student should describe what he/she expects to learn about each one. The proposal was due January 2, 2007. Written, apparently by the teacher, was the only comment on the assignment - "late".

A scan of the page is attached. Handwritten on the page by the student was as follows:


"Before my mom had me my family lived in Somalia. In Somalia there were a war going on so my family moved to Kenya. When the war was going on it was in 1990. After three years later in Kenya my mom was pregnen the year of 1993. A boy named Abu was in the stomach. When I was coming out of the stomeck was Jan 19, 1993. Me and my family stayed in Kenya for three years intell 1996. We stayed in Kenya in the city called Mombasa, Kenya. When my family was living in Mombasa we were poor so my grandmom told my mom that I will live with her in Lamu. When we were poor we had to go to the refugee camp. Then there were American people who offered us to go to America. When we were living from Kenya my mom was pregnet again cause she was having my sister. Our family had a hard time living in Africa but if we go now we wont have a hard time.

"My project would be about how me and my family had a hard time in Africa and how hard ways in refugee camp. I will talk about how we got to America and since then how freedom was in America."

At the bottom, the parent approval space was signed and the teacher approval space was blank.

After reading the discarded assignment I wondered: Did the teacher notice Abu? Did this proposal become a project? Virtually every family if you go back far enough has an interesting, courageous or compelling story of the germination of their American journey. But the currency of Abu's story made it poignant. Abu's story is what Peopling the Nation is all about, isn't it, even if the homework is late? Was this a learning moment for the entire class? At a time when illegal immigration is hotly debated, this legal immigration story is full of promise. It seems to me Abu is going to do just fine in this country.

Comments (15)

It would be surprising if the Somali refugees resettled in Portland from Kenyan camps arrived under the auspices of any other agency.

Just from casual observation it looks like the teacher may have missed an opportunity.


I so much prefer legal immigration such as this where people come to this country and assimilate because they realize the opourtunity and freedom we have here as opposed to lets come here illegally take advantage of the stupid gringo's and send our money back to the country we love. It's too bad that with the new bush kennedy bill families like these will be shut out

It would probably go against the comments policy to characterize Ace's post as a load of ignorant, racist cr*p. So, I won't.

Yeah, he was making a decent point until he decided to start slurring people. Now he's made his other points look wrong by association.


Why is it racist to have a sane immigration policy?

Do you know why Rome fell?

"lets come here illegally take advantage of the stupid gringo's and send our money back to the country we love" is racist.

I did not mean to slur anyone but the fact is the immigration issue is huge right now and we cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that the majority is from south of the border.I do not care if the illegal is from Russia, China or England. We must have a rule of law to maintain a civilized society. You of all people know this. I really enjoy your blog and the discussions that are raised here. I just hope they dont put out a fairness in broadcasting rule to you.

I will respectfuly dissagree with you jack.
I do not find that statement "racist"

I live in North Portland and see that attitude daily

Pauline Kael famously knew no one who voted for Nixon in '72.

According to that logic, no one has the attitude ace describes.

Therefore, it must be racist, even if true.


Allan "solves" the problem by ignoring it and labeling ace a racist - casting the first stone from the mob on the left; Jack agrees; to a degree (he leaves out the "ignorant" part because of the "civil" thing)... and the band plays on.


When I teach US History, I do a similar assignment...try to determine the story of how your family originally came to the US (or, if it's too far back to determine, try to find a story about your family from as far back as possible).

I'm always blown away by how every family has a fascinating story. I had a kid a few years back whose dad got on Papa Doc's bad side, fled the country, then RETURNED to get his wife. Another complained that "nothing interesting has ever happened to my family!", then told the story of his Japanese-American grandfather's experience in WWII internment camps. Another told a tremendous story of escaping war to come to America...from 17th or 18th century Scotland. It's awesome stuff.

Don't assume that the teacher fumbled this one...there are conceivable reasons why this might have been unmarked. Perhaps Abu did give his presentation.

casting the first stone from the mob on the left

White guys like "ace" can't start throwing the word "gringo" around. It's just not allowed. Buh-bye to you, too.

Don't assume that the teacher fumbled this one...there are conceivable reasons why this might have been unmarked.

Yes, there's no way to know what became of this project based on a piece of paper blowing around the schoolyard.

"[migrant workers] come here illegally take advantage of the stupid [employers]"

You have it backward. In reality big US employers illegally take advantage of: (1) the desparate migrant workers, as virtual slave labor, and (2) US and local governments, who not only let big US employers get away with illegal exploitation of migrants at the expense of the US working class, but also illegally employ migrants themselves.

The migrants wouldn't come here if US employers had incentive to employ US workers at decent wages.

Illegal immigration is only a problem because US employers can get away with employing criminally cheap labor.

At Jackson Middle School (and I suspect all Portland Public Schools) the Peopling the Nation project is part of the standard curriculum for all 8th graders. This paper sounds like the preliminary outline, done in January. There are other check-points after that, to make sure students keep on track for such a major, long project. The final presentation is a poster board display with illustrations as well as written history, due at the end of the year. The entire 8th grade class displays their poster boards in the library in May, and the community is welcome to view them. Parents are invited to hear their child give their oral presentation to their class and teacher. My guess is not only Abu but also many in the community benefited from finishing this project.

Each student may pick whatever aspect of their heritage they find most interesting. I remember one about the being adopted and finding birth parents, another about the impact of domestic violence on the student and her family. Each of my kids picked a different topic, ranging from my immigration to their father's ancestor who was a leader in the Delaware native peoples. Other students wrote about war heroes, of adored grandparents, of pioneers and refugees, even celebrity ancestors. Each story beautiful and meaningful, like Abu's but each unique.

The Peopling the Nation project is for many the most memorable experience of 8th grade and all of middle school. I encourage non-parents to visit, if you see the notice on a middle school reader board next May.

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