Unassisted this year by a media blitz, the May-1st-amnesty marches for illegal aliens limped along American streets. In previous years, the media hype surrounding this issue commanded the nation’s attention. When I taught in Texas, my students found the demonstrations more urgent than their novel The Great Gatsby.
During my best class, several Hispanic students asked me for my opinion about the demonstrations. They told me they had friends skipping classes to participate. I answered their question by relating it to the novel and our discussion of the American Dream.
I asked the class lightheartedly what they would think if one day my wife and I were to show up at their homes demanding -- not asking -- that they allow us to move in because their homes were more comfortable than our own. They all laughed at the idea of my wife and me coming to live with them. I empathized with why people want to come to America, but I stated that illegal immigration is a serious problem requiring logical solutions, not emotional reactions. I encouraged them to think about what would happen to me if I were to break the law in another country and then demand the country change its laws. They laughed again at my example.
I had gotten to know my students well during the year, and a surprising number had unexpectedly confided in me that either they or their parents were not in the U.S. legally. As a result, I wanted to answer this question as tactfully as possible.
I decided to ask my students what they thought of peers who blew off studying and ultimately wasted taxpayers’ money. I urged them to consider what parents and other taxpayers might think if they actually witnessed the surplus of teenagers who either disrupt classes regularly or simply collect dust in classrooms where teachers permit them to just take up space and fail. I pressed them to think about the number of students around school who fit this description. Most of the class could appreciate the problem.