Americans in Mexico-shoe on the other foot?

Wednesday 22 April, 2009

This article by Oscar Avila in the Chicago Tribune  Mexican immigrants: U.S.-born students struggle after returning to school in homeland highlights a lot of cultural differences with our neighbor to the south which I think shed some light on how we might look @ things if the situation were reversed.  Suffering from culture shock when moving to a new country.  Language difficulties, “feeling stupid,” & becoming at-risk students when placed in a new classroom.  Mexicans when they come to America or Americans in Mexico?  Apparently it’s very similar in both directions.

Education is a deeply culturally-biased institution.  Classrooms & the teacher/student dynamic are different everywhere you go. My impression is Mexican classrooms are much more authoritarian & not as democratic as ours in the US.  I attended high school in 1 of the best school districts in the state of Michigan, went to 1 of the best US public universities, & earned a Master’s degree from the best school in global business.  I know how the best educational institutions work.  I taught @ a very urban school of business @ a university on the south side of Chicago.  I also taught for a semester @ a private business academy in a small town in southwestern Poland.  I’ve experienced how resource-constrained schools operate too.

I have tons of respect for the students I taught on the south side because they had many more issues to deal with than I did.  Many were single parents working full time jobs.  I can’t imagine going to school full-time with those responsibilities.

The Poles were inveterate cheaters.  I tried to do my best to thwart them, but they beat me.  I organized the room for my final exam in a U-shape so that I could see them, but they had their backs to me.  The problem was there was a constant whisper throughout the whole exam, so my choice became either fail everyone or no one.  I couldn’t justify failing everyone.

I’m surprised American children of Mexican parents would attend school briefly in Mexico around Christmas before returning to the US.  Just like business, integration is key, & you can’t integrate by drifting in & out of schools.  I’ve been talking with a lot of American businesspeople for whom education is a key component to their global success.  By not paying attention to the cultural differences in education, they could be missing some great opportunities.


One comment

  1. I attended high school and college with Americans with Mexican parents that would depart around Christmas time as well. From what I saw, that DID promote integration especially in the business realm. They had connections and experiences that I could not obtain from text books. Obviously, one must be responsible with their studies and schedule when doing such thing, but they were definitely not missing opportunities, they were creating them.

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