One of the goals of my trip to California was to learn the stories of other people in the hope of bringing those stories to my students who might not (ever) get to experience the California coast and/or working with migrant farmworkers and their families. The purpose behind these stories is to eradicate negative misconceptions that tend to saturate people’s beliefs and views.
One example of a negative misconception that formed the basis of conversation among my students today is that most illegal immigrants are criminals who are running from law enforcement in their country, which is why they flee to the United States. As I listened to my students talk, I was stunned at the degree to which this idea was forming the foundation of all of my students’ other thoughts about immigration. This idea that illegal immigrants are mostly criminals literally was shaping their entire idea of immigration policy and immigration reform, etc. It seemed like a great time to interject in the conversation and ask my students to consider the assumptions they were making.
To interject, I told stories of some of the experiences I had in California last June working with migrant farmworkers, their families, and other employees and volunteers at Puente. In particular, the story that came to mind was the story of my experience on the farms meeting the farmworkers and seeing their homes. The man who was most predominant in my mind was the gentleman who asked Ben, one of the Puente staff, for help navigating a complex document from the United States government that had bureaucracy written all over it. The gentleman was trying so hard to comply with what the document was asking him to do, but he couldn’t navigate the language barrier, which is why he asked Ben for help. This story began to soften some of my students’ very harsh views of illegal immigrants.
After class, I received a message from a student that included this quote: “It’s nice to have a teacher who has the real world experience that you have, which trumps anything I could read in a book or hear second hand, like with your program working with migrant workers.” This is EXACTLY why I wanted to have this experience in California last summer (minus the obvious personal growth and benefits I received). I am so happy that these stories are at the very least forcing my students to pause and reexamine their thinking.
As I was preparing for Philosophy Club today, I came across this thought, “A conflict of ideas is conducive to the advancement of knowledge.” I hope that presenting an array of perspectives for my students gives them the kind of “conflict” this quote refers to in order to help them solidify their perspective, values, and beliefs as young adults and human beings.
Everything we do has a purpose…