Filipino Students and the Promises of American Citizenship

Saturday, January 9, 2010: 12:10 PM
Gregory B (Hyatt)
Veta R. Schlimgen , University of Oregon
This paper examines U.S. education in the Philippine Islands as part of a larger process that established close connections between the island colony and the U.S. imperial metropole.  The paper traces the establishment, expansion, and pedagogy of colonial education in the Philippine Islands following U.S. victory in the 1898 Spanish-American War.  Notably, the public school system achieved tremendous reach, so that, by the 1920s, an entire generation of young men and women were primed to seek a college education – at state-side colleges and universities.  This paper, then, focuses on the aspirations and struggles of Filipino students who migrated to the mainland United States during the inter-war years.  They migrated as “Americans” – but paradoxically not as U.S. citizens – with the expectation that they would enjoy fully the opportunities of higher education and then return to build up their Island homeland.  But the realities of racialization and racism in the American mainland trumped the aims of aspiring students.  This essay argues that even when students did not realize their scholarly goals, they drew on an American education to counter American racism and to struggle for some of the vestiges of American citizenship, including the right to property ownership and to a living wage as well as liberty in marriage.
This paper contributes to conversations about “Islands, Oceans, and Continents” by examining how colonial education policy initiated a process that – unexpectedly – formed powerful and personal bonds between the colony and metropole.  Colonial education, then, contributed to a circulation of ideas and peoples that brought Filipinos and Americans closer together, a trend that would reshape both U.S. and Philippine communities.
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