Making Americans: Schooling, Diversity, and Assimilation in the Twenty-First Century
Cristina Lash

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Stanford University

Primary Discipline

The United States has become increasingly diverse over the past thirty years, largely due to the latest wave of immigration from Latin America and Asia. Yet little research has explored how schools – as institutions of Americanization – have adapted their curricula, structures, and classroom relations to accommodate these demographic and cultural shifts. My dissertation explores how schools teach what it means to be American in the current context of immigration-driven diversity. Based on a comparative ethnography of two middle schools located in cities with dramatically different levels of immigration, I reveal how schools “make” American nationals and foreigners through direct classroom instruction, school programming and events, and daily interactions between peers, teachers, and staff. My research contributes to the literature on assimilation, national identity, and the sociology of education in several ways. First, I theorize how efforts to reduce the “ethnic distance” between schools and their student populations may be explained as process of bi-directional assimilation, whereby both mainstream institutions and immigrant communities undergo ethnic change (Alba & Nee, 2003). Second, I show how new definitions of national identity (e.g., American) may emerge through this process of bi-directional assimilation between institutions and immigrant communities. Finally, I illuminate how a school’s model of Americanness and the practices for teaching this model are shaped by the local context of immigration. Findings from this study will support policy makers, curriculum designers, and educators to create school communities that are inclusive of our increasingly diverse national population.
About Cristina Lash
Cristina Lash is a doctoral candidate in the Stanford Graduate School of Education. Her current work explores how schools have adapted to racial, ethnic, and cultural shifts as a result of immigration to the United States. More broadly, her research interests include cultural reproduction in education, new theories of assimilation, and the intersection of race, ethnicity, and language. Cristina has been awarded numerous fellowships as a graduate student, including the California Flanders Fellowship, the Diversifying Academia, Recruiting Excellence Fellowship at Stanford, and the Graduate Dissertation Fellowship through the Research Institute for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. She received her M.A. in Social and Cultural Studies in Education at University of California – Berkeley, and her B.A. in Comparative Literature at Stanford University. Prior to graduate school, Cristina was an English as a Foreign Language teacher in Peru, and American Reads Tutor Coordinator at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

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