Knowing Silence

How Children Talk about Immigration Status in School

2024
Author:

Ariana Mangual Figueroa

Learning from children about citizenship status and how it shapes their school experience

Revealing the complex ways young people understand and negotiate immigration status and its impact on their lives, Ariana Mangual Figueroa observes when and how six Latina students from mixed-immigration-status families choose to talk about citizenship. She models new ways to collaborate with educators, children, and families, ultimately offering a crucial framework for understanding citizenship in the contemporary classroom.

No words can express all that I think and feel about this beautiful, brilliant book. By listening carefully with both her heart and mind to what young members of mixed-status families say, and don’t say, about im/migration in school, Ariana Mangual Figueroa shows these girls’ depth of understanding about complex social issues that matter deeply for their families. Narrated innovatively and with the utmost of care, with rich analyses of language data and thought-provoking insights drawn from a longitudinal and intimate ethnographic research relationship, Knowing Silence will surely make you think, wonder, laugh, cry—and see and hear young people who are growing up in contexts of immigration in new ways.

Marjorie Faulstich Orellana, UCLA

There is a persistent assumption in the field of education that children are largely unaware of their immigration status and its implications. In Knowing Silence, Ariana Mangual Figueroa challenges this “myth of ignorance.” By listening carefully to both the speech and significant silences of six Latina students from mixed-immigration-status families, from elementary school into middle school and beyond, she reveals the complex ways young people understand and negotiate immigration status and its impact on their lives.

Providing these children with iPod Touches to record their own conversations, Mangual Figueroa observes when and how they choose to talk about citizenship at home, at school, and in public spaces. Analyzing family conversations about school forms, in-class writing assignments, encounters with the police, and applications for college, she demonstrates that children grapple with the realities of citizenship from an early age. Educators who underestimate children’s knowledge, Mangual Figueroa shows, can marginalize or misunderstand these students and their families.

Combining significant empirical findings with reflections on the ethical questions surrounding research and responsibility, Mangual Figueroa models new ways scholars might collaborate with educators, children, and families. With rigorous and innovative ethnographic methodologies, Knowing Silence makes audible the experiences of immigrant-origin students in their own terms, ultimately offering teachers and researchers a crucial framework for understanding citizenship in the contemporary classroom.

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A former teacher in New York City public schools, Ariana Mangual Figueroa is associate professor of urban education and Latin American, Iberian, and Latino cultures at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

No words can express all that I think and feel about this beautiful, brilliant book. By listening carefully with both her heart and mind to what young members of mixed-status families say, and don’t say, about im/migration in school, Ariana Mangual Figueroa shows these girls’ depth of understanding about complex social issues that matter deeply for their families. Narrated innovatively and with the utmost of care, with rich analyses of language data and thought-provoking insights drawn from a longitudinal and intimate ethnographic research relationship, Knowing Silence will surely make you think, wonder, laugh, cry—and see and hear young people who are growing up in contexts of immigration in new ways.

Marjorie Faulstich Orellana, UCLA

Knowing Silence explores how middle-school children navigate their juridical status, revealing immigration as a taboo in schools. Using child-centered methodologies, Ariana Mangual Figueroa unveils the critical yet often invisible aspects of students' lives and highlights unintended chilling effects of school practices. Meticulously researched and beautifully written, this is an important and compelling contribution to the field.

Carola Suárez-Orozco, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments: How I Enter

Transcription Conventions

Introduction: Children as Knowing

1. “Recording Everything I Say”

2. A Spiraling Curriculum of Citizenship

3. Speech or Silence at School

Interlude I. “Cállate”

4. An Interview with the Dream Team

Interlude II. “There’s Always Police”

Conclusion: A Lifetime of Knowing

Afterword: We Are Still Here

With Ruby Estrella Bonilla, Yazmin Montes Lopez, Jennifer Magaly Portillo Rivera, and

Lumari Sosa Garzón

Notes

Bibliography

Index