Making Americans: UNO charter schools and civic education

UNO Charter School Network

Article Highlights

  • The UNO Charter School Network's 12 K-8 schools and one high school serve a student body that is 95 percent Hispanic.

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  • Voting is the civic skill most emphasized by UNO--and to the exclusion of some other civic skills like protesting.

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  • UNO understands citizenship education as a project of assimilation and Americanization.

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This policy brief is the third in a series of in-depth case studies exploring how top-performing charter schools have incorporated civic learning in their school curriculum and school culture. For more information about AEI's Program on American Citizenship, visit www.citizenship-aei.org.

Making Americans: UNO Charter Schools and civic education

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On a mid-September weekend in 2011, the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times ran two starkly contrasting stories. The front page of the Tribune reported on some 1,200 Chicago public-school students commemorating the 10th anniversary of 9/11 by organizing public memorials and honoring local police and firefighters.[1] The Sun-Times, meanwhile, brought word of activists in Massachusetts pushing to ban the Pledge of Allegiance from public-school classrooms, lest students suffer undue thought control.[2]

This juxtaposition is invoked by Juan Rangel, CEO of the UNO Charter School Network, with a purposeful mix of pride and exasperation. Pride, because UNO’s students—almost all children of immigrants from Mexico or elsewhere in Latin America—were those who made page one for commemorating 9/11. And exasperation because the worldview manifested by the Massachusetts campaign represents so much of what UNO tries to fight.

“This is part of the problem we have in our country,” Rangel says of the anti-Pledge drive. “And you take that, and multiply it with the challenges of an immigrant community that doesn’t have its feet clearly cemented in our country, and it leaves people in limbo. I think we have a responsibility as an institution to help transform that community.”[3]

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Notes       

1. “Flags for the Fallen,” Chicago Tribune, September 10, 2011.
2. “Group Says Reciting Pledge ‘Reminiscent of McCarthyism,’” Chicago Sun-Times (Associated Press), September 11, 2011.
3.“Teaching America: How Charter Schools Can Help Close the Civic Achievement Gap” (remarks, Washington, DC: AEI, September 14, 2011).

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