How New Digital Technologies Make It Possible To Privatize Censorship and Manipulate Citizen-Users

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For most Americans, protecting free expression means countering threats from government. Private corporations are not usually seen as threatening free speech. But as private technology companies increasingly mediate access to information and services, the distinction between governmental and private censorship becomes less clear. Concepts of free speech and freedom of expression may need to be revised and enlarged to take account of new threats in the age of digital communications—and policies to protect freedom of expression may need to counter threats, often subtle, from the private sector as well as government. (more…)

How U.S. Higher Education Promotes Inequality—And What Can Be Done To Broaden Access and Graduation

Degrees of Inequality

A few decades ago, going to college seemed to be the surest route to the American dream, a path to greater opportunity for most young people. Yet today the U.S. system of higher education is evolving into a caste system with separate and unequal tiers. To be sure, more students from all backgrounds attend college and graduate with valuable degrees. But far too many from low-income and middle-class families depart early with no degrees and crippling levels of student debt. U.S. higher education as a whole is increasingly reinforcing rather than reducing class differences—and federal and state government policies need to change course. (more…)

Are Americans Really Anti-Intellectual?

Inventing the Egghead cover

Media coverage often implies that Americans are ill-informed or hate intellectuals. Politicians are known to make fun of the highly educated—as Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown did when he sneeringly tried to slight his 2012 election opponent, Elizabeth Warren, as “the professor.” Or media features may play up the supposed popularity of ignorance, as in the spoofs of Sarah Palin’s 2008 vice-presidential campaign and television coverage of grammatical errors in signs at Tea Party rallies. In such instances current news events are sometimes said to reflect a long history of American “anti-intellectualism.” So frequently does that term get bandied about in the mainstream media that it almost seems obvious that Americans really do revel in ignorance and mockery of the best-educated.

But in fact, positing anti-intellectualism as typical for America is a relatively recent phenomenon. The term “anti-intellectual” has appeared in the New York Times over 650 times since 1870, and more than three-quarters of the times happened after historian Richard Hofstadter published his 1964 book Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. For nearly 100 years, in short, Americans were rarely described as anti-intellectual. Only over the most recent half century, has “anti-intellectualism” become a recurrent interpretive lens to make sense of society and politics. It is worth looking more closely, as I have done in my work, to better understand the concept and the realities. (more…)

Helping the Growing Ranks of Poor Immigrants Living in America’s Suburbs

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Ask Americans to draw a mental map of who lives where, and they will likely say that immigrants and the poor live in large cities such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, while middle-class whites make their homes in the surrounding suburbs. But these mental maps are often inaccurate. Today, more poor people live in suburbs than in central cities, and more than half of all metropolitan-area immigrants reside in suburbs. Immigration, job growth, and residential choices are making our nation’s suburbs more economically and culturally diverse. (more…)

The Roots of Multicultural Diversity in Revolutionary America

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Opinions vary about whether multiculturalism and ethnic and racial diversity are divisive or beneficial to contemporary American society – but most of those discussing the issue presume that these are relatively recent trends, especially characteristic of the late-twentieth and early twenty-first century United States. The Immigration Act of 1965 is often cited as a watershed moment, a major policy change that opened the door to unusually diverse streams of immigrants, giving rise both to new ethnic, religious, and linguistic groups – and also sparking nativist reactions based on worries about a fraying national community. But a look back across U.S. history reveals that ethnic diversity and multiculturalism are hardly modern innovations.

Indeed, multicultural realities and ideals were present from the U.S. founding. Subsequent eras have brought new waves of arrivals, adding more cultures, religions, and languages into the mix, but not changing America’s core identity so much as adding to it. Only one major time period – the era between the 1920s Quota Acts and the 1965 Immigration Act – brought a temporary partial delay in the U.S. march toward greater cultural diversity. (more…)

The Benefits of President Obama’s Program to Protect Undocumented Immigrants Who Arrived as Children Before 2007

August 15, 2014 marks the second anniversary of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the Obama administration program to protect young undocumented immigrants originally brought to the United States as children. If these young people were brought across the border before 2007 as minors under the care of adults, America is effectively the country they have grown up in and, the President argued, it makes no sense to threaten them with removal. Under the Deferred Action program, if such youths and young adults have stayed out of legal trouble and go through a specified application process that includes paying a hefty $465 fee, they are exempted from the threat of deportation for two years at a time and granted Social Security numbers and renewable work permits. As of March 2014, 673,417 young people had applied to the program and 553,197 were approved for its protections and benefits. Very soon, temporary protection will begin to expire for the earliest Deferred Action applicants. Many beneficiaries have begun to apply for renewals, but community-based organizations realize that they need to mobilize, both to encourage renewals and to draw more eligible applicants into the program. (more…)

Understanding How Mexican Immigrants Become Full Members of American Society

Image from Graham Lees
via Flickr Creative Commons

Several decades ago, most immigrants to the United States settled in a few urban areas in California, Texas, and Illinois. But that has changed in the past twenty years, as immigrants have spread out to build their lives in communities all over the country – including suburbs, smaller cities, and even rural towns. Mexican immigrants and their families account for many of the new arrivals living in what scholars call “new destination” communities, and the best estimates suggest that about one-third of people from Mexico live in communities outside of the original big three immigrant states. Are the Mexican immigrants who have settled in new places doing better than their counterparts who settled in traditional immigrant hub locations? (more…)

A Sign of Progress: Mike Brown Could Not Be “Willie Hortoned”

In 1986 a black Massachusetts prisoner serving life for murder brutalized a Maryland couple during a weekend furlough. The prisoner’s name was Willie Horton. During the 1988 presidential election the George H.W. Bush campaign made extensive use of the story and the image of Willie Horton to attack his opponent, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. Dukakis was branded as a coddler of criminals, unable and unwilling to protect the public. There was of course nothing new about the tactic of manipulating white fear of black criminality for political gain. (Dukakis neither initiated the furlough program nor did he have control over it as governor.) But the spectacular success of the ploy in the 1988 presidential campaign made “Willie Horton” shorthand for this maneuver. (more…)

The Downsides of Excluding Millions of Immigrants From Health Reform

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The Affordable Care Act of 2010 promises to extend health insurance coverage to tens of millions of uninsured people across the United States – but not to everyone. Non-citizens are among those most likely to lack health insurance coverage, yet large segments of the immigrant population have been excluded from the benefits of health reform – and may face greater barriers in the future than in the past. (more…)

Will the United States Adopt Start-Up Immigrant Visas to Foster Economic Innovation?

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In the fall of 2013, Stanislav Korsei and Oleksandr Zadorozhnyi arrived in Vancouver, Canada, bringing with them from their home country, the Ukraine, a new tech company called Zeetl Incorporated. Their arrival to build a new life in Canada was enabled by a successful application to that country’s Start-Up Visa program, one of the world’s first to offer permanent residency status to young immigrant entrepreneurs and their families. Korsei and Zadorozhnyi secured $30,000 in funding from a Canadian business accelerator, which entitled them to apply for the program. One year later, Zeetl was acquired by Canadian social media company Hootsuite. The exact valuation of Zeetl has not been disclosed; the deal illustrates tangible results for Canada’s Start-Up Visa Program, and Korsei and Zadorozhnyi are already working on their next startups. (more…)