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"Using lively dialogue and memorable anecdotes in school and community settings, Ellen Bigler...convincingly describes the tensions that result when a group of people is excluded from the conversation. It asks readers-educators and citizens of all backgrounds-to consider what it means to be an American as we begin the twenty-first century." -Sonia Nieto, University of Massachusetts, Amherst "American Conversations is an analysis of conflicts over multicultural education in a small upstate New York city and the potential of critical pedagogy to make these battles unnecessary in the future." -Inequalities "American Conversations is based in the upstate New York city of Arnhem, and explores the various perceptions of multicultural education held by different actorsin the city's education system. The city is into its third decade of economic decline with an aging Euro-American population determined to prevent increases in property taxes and viewing spending initiatives as the granting of special favors to the undeserving. The growing Puerto Rican population in the city's schools were caught in this restrictive and hostile environment and education became the public site of contentious discourse about what characterizes American identity. Anthropologist Ellen Bigler examines the conflict through conversations with students, teachers, parents, and community leaders, particularly describing the feelings of alienation among many in Arnhem's Puerto Rican community and the failure of educators to appreciate this problem." -SAGE Race Relations Abastracts "...a resource for anyone engaged in socially transformative work in education." -Anthropology and Education Quarterly "This book offers undergraduates (and curious sociologists) a voyeuristic glimpse into the classroom experiences of Puerto Rican children in mainland school systems. Bigler takes an unswervingly critical position on the issues but also manages to suggest a realistically conceived course of action, with all the requisite warnings about the institutional supports necessary to make such a vision happen." -Contemporary Sociology
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Ellen Bigler is an Assistant Professor at Rhode Island College where she holds a joint appointment in Educational Studies and Anthropology. An educator in New York State schools for fourteen years, she also served as a consultant to the New York State Department of Education on its K-12 Latino curriculum project, Latinos in the Making of the USA: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.
CONTENTS Acknowledgments Introduction: Talking "American" 1 The Making of Arnhem, the "Friendly City" 2 Marginality, Mobility, and the Melting Pot 3 Puerto Ricans Enter a Racialized Social Order 4 Telling Stories 5 Dangerous Discourses 6 Inclusion and Exclusion in the Classroom 7 After/Words Notes Bibliography Index