Civic Lessons: Public Schools and the Civic Development of Undocumented Students and Parents

Rogers, John, Saunders, Marisa, Terriquez, Veronica, Valez, Veronica | January 1, 2008

In the Court reasoned that by providing undocumented students with core academic instruction, public schools could contribute to their participation in democratic institutions and thus enhance civic life. This article assesses this and a set of related claims. Drawing on three data sets, the authors consider how access to public schools shapes the civic development and civic engagement of undocumented students and their parents. They first introduce data from a longitudinal study tracking the civic development of youth through high school and into adulthood. They then share survey data that indicates the relatively high levels of school participation among undocumented immigrant parents in . Finally, they report on a case study of twelve community-based groups who support robust school participation of undocumented immigrant parents. They find that public schools are key sites where undocumented immigrant youth and adults encounter other citizens and engage the state. Public schools teach about, and provide practice in, civic engagement. Undocumented immigrant students and parents develop knowledge, skills, and commitments for civic engagement by participating in school activities, school-based social networks, school governance, and educational reform.