BY CARL L. BANKSTON III
There is a very small but symbolically interesting controversy at my university over this year’s recently announced commencement speaker, the Dalai Lama. The controversy does not concern religion, but international politics. It seems that some of our Chinese students have expressed concern over the choice, either because they agree with their government’s classification of the Tibetan Buddhist leader as persona non grata or because they are worried about whether their government will recognize degrees granted at a ceremony involving him.
The reason that I say this is symbolically interesting is that I think this little issue reflects the growing entanglement of our country with China in ways that go far beyond trade. Immigrants from China constitute one of our largest sources of population growth. Nearly 600,000 people from that country gained admission to the United States in 2011 alone, according to the Yearbook of Immigration Statistics. China also sends more students to our institutions of higher education than any other countries except our neighbors, Canada and Mexico. In 2011, well over a quarter-million individuals from China (277,742) entered on student and exchange visas.
Both the immigrants and the students bring financial benefits to this country. Certainly many universities actively seek to pull in tuition dollars from China. One can safely predict though, that Chinese political and social issues will loom much larger in our future.
The Moral Liberal Sociology Editor, Carl L. Bankston III is Professor of Sociology at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. He is the author and co-author of a number of books and numerous articles published in academic journals. An incomplete list of his books includes: Growing Up American: How Vietnamese Children Adapt to Life in the United States (with Min Zhou, 1998), Blue Collar Bayou: Louisiana Cajuns in the New Economy of Ethnicity (with Jacques Henry, 2002), and A Troubled Dream: The Promise and Failure of School Desegregation in Louisiana (2002), Forced to Fail: The Paradox of School Desegregation (hardback, 2005; paperback, 2007), and Public Education – America’s Civil Religion: A Social History (2009) (all with Stephen J. Caldas). View Professor Carl L. Bankston’s Amazon.com Page here. He blogs at Can These Bones Live?
Copyright © 2012 Carl L. Bankston III.