Usually I write about current education topics and services that are offered in different colleges and universities. Immigrants and their role in education is a topic that I’ve been thinking about lately. Who do I call first generation immigrants? Well, we are those who came from other countries to the United States in the hope of a better future. We are those who came to here in our twenties or older, who completed the last two to three years of high school in this country or went to colleges or vocational school here.
What about us? One word says it all. We are driven. We take in as much as we can, in as little time as possible. Most of us have the drive to learn the language and be able to function. We have accomplished so much in such little time that the whole state of New Jersey will be soon too small for us. Of course, New Jersey is nowhere near Florida or New York, but Haitians are getting up there in numbers and accomplishments.
What does that have to do with education? I can tell you, as a college professor, I can distinguished clearly between a first-generation and subsequent generations of learners. The first-generation student will apply him or herself. That student will always ask what to do in order to get a good grade. The student will always be in the library, in the learning center, will stay after class to get extra help. That student will participate actively even if the English is not always correct. That student will trigger some good discussions and make the class interesting. The homework assignments will be complete and done with concern for the reader. And the teacher is viewed as a source of knowledge, a facilitator and a professional.
What about the other generations? They have lost that drive. They come to class as if they had better things to do. They hardly do any work and expect the exams to come from the small amount of notes they took. They are quick to say “I don’t have that in my notes; you didn’t mention that or I would have that in my notes.” They party hard and many now smoke marijuana. There is nothing wrong with that you say; the president and a few presidents before him did the same. Well let me clarify a few things. For starters he graduated from an Ivy League school. He didn’t live in an apartment building. He grew up with educated grand-parents that helped him along the way. How many of us can say the same?
Yes, the subsequent generations have it easy. But few understand the value of a good education. The job market is very competitive. Many qualified and experienced people have lost their jobs. Now a 22-year-old is competing with several experienced 45, 50-year-olds. And who do you think is going to get the job? It is important to have an edge. A student today has to learn well and be almost infallible. He or she needs to keep informed and that means know what’s going around the world. Not just know what every reality show is about. Know more than one language and possibly major or minor in more than one field.
Technology is advancing and making our life simpler, but behind that technology there is a great mind. I always believe that Haitians are very intelligent. If given the right opportunities we can accomplish great things. Well, the ball is in your corner, second, third and subsequent generations. It is up to you, now to make that great new discovery; to cure that disease; to come up with that new economic strategy that will revolutionize the world; or to come up with that new treatment that will make us live for ever. Come on Haitians, we can do more than create chaos. We can be brilliant.