Home > Uncategorized > In Immigration Debate, AND in School, Don’t Overlook the Value of Hard Work

In Immigration Debate, AND in School, Don’t Overlook the Value of Hard Work

August 25, 2017

Over the past several years– and especially over the past year or so, much has been written about the ongoing debate about immigration. Jeff Flake, a GOP Senator from Arizona, wrote a compelling op ed piece in last week’s NYTimes that argued for acknowledging the value of hard work as well as the value of advanced education when developing immigration policy. In deciding whether to admit an immigrant seeking asylum or a better opportunity, many politicians are fixated on credentials. Not Jeff Flake, who argues that immigration policy needs to take the importance of hard work into consideration:

History doesn’t much record the unglamorous and often excruciating work of moving sprinkler pipe, digging ditch, chopping hay or keeping a broken-down feed truck running for just one more year… Without such work there is no ranch. Without ranches, my town and towns like it falter. And so in my estimation, Manuel (a hardworking immigrant who worked on the Flake’s ranch0 is just about the highest-value immigrant possible, and if we forget that, then we forget something elemental about America.

Near the end of the article, which uses the Flake’s ranch hand Manuel as an example, he writes:

When President Trump embraced a proposal this month that would cut legal immigration by 50 percent, I spoke out against it, thinking of the immigrant workers I grew up with. When re-evaluating immigration policy, it is right to give priority, through a point system or otherwise, to those who have skills and abilities unique to the new economy. We did this in 2013, in the bipartisan immigration bill that passed the Senate. But there must always be a place in America for those whose only initial credentials are a strong back and an eagerness to use it.

This line of thinking led me to consider our current education policy, which uses test results and timed progress through “grade levels” as proxies for entry into college and into the higher earnings that are associated with a college degree. Where does public education take hard work into account? If a student makes an earnest effort to complete assignments but works at a slower pace or learns in a different way than his classmates do we reward that student in any way… or punish them because they are “behind”? And if we punish them by giving them low grades or holding them back despite their earnest efforts, why are we surprised when they decide to work less diligently in later years? And here’s the bottom line question: are we diminishing the eagerness of students to work hard and apply themselves by branding them as incompetent because their rate of learning and style of learning is outside the norm?


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