The Pursuit of Happiness

Todd B. Kashdan

Todd B. Kashdan

Mason psychology professor Todd B. Kashdan is a world-recognized expert on the science of well-being, stress, and anxiety. A senior scientist at Mason’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being, he uses cutting-edge science to help people function optimally in life and business. In his newest book, The Upside of Your Dark Side (Penguin, 2014), he talks about how our pursuit of happiness is not just making us unhappy, it is making us less resilient than our ancestors were.

You say that we have a comfort addiction. Can you explain that a bit more?

There is no time in history like the present. Modern people are better able to achieve comfort—with smartphones in our pocket we can dispense with boring wait times, with central air I can alter the atmosphere of my house to avoid even the slightest bead of sweat or chill—and this new comfort is leaving us psychologically weaker.

Although parents recognize that challenge is good for building math skills, they are blind to the idea that similar struggles on the playground are equally as healthy. While adults recognize the importance of personal growth, they are blind to the importance of moving beyond their comfort zone.

You also talk about the importance of embracing negative emotions. How does being angry or sad help a person?

From an evolutionary perspective, negative emotions helped us deal with functional problems that needed our attention—making friends, finding romantic partners, fending off enemies and rivals.

We think differently when we are mildly unhappy. Our negative emotions facilitate more detailed and analytic thinking, reduce our reliance on stereotypes, enhance eyewitness memory, and promote persistence on challenging mental tasks.

Finally, one of the most stable findings in all of psychology is that attempts to hide or suppress negative emotions backfire. We end up ironically feeling even more distress and become susceptible to unhealthy strategies to try to feel less bad, such as binge drinking, aggression, overeating, and even [entertaining] suicidal thoughts. It is wrong to believe that negative emotions are inherently bad for us. This attempt to distance ourselves from negative emotions is what leads to poorer psychological adjustment and weaker coping skills.

So if our ultimate goal isn’t happiness, should we be striving for, perhaps, peace of mind?

Happiness is a horrible choice as a goal, but it is a great byproduct of the journey of being present, open, and in pursuit of what matters most to us. My suggestion: Get out of your head—trying to be happy—and live your life. On the way, you might catch happiness here and there.

Identity and Power in Ukraine

At the time of the publication of Mason professor Karina Korostelina’s book, Constructing the Narratives of Identity and Power: Self-Imagination in a Young Ukrainian Nation (Lexington Books, 2013), Ukraine had stepped to the forefront of the world’s news as the power struggle between the country, independent since the early 1990s, and Russia’s subsequent usurpation of Crimea grew violently hostile. The director of the Program on History, Memory, and Conflict at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, Korostelina is the ideal author for a book about the region: not only is she Ukrainian, she hails from the Crimean capital, Simferopol.

What does the book specifically address?

Karina Korostelina

Karina Korostelina

The book has two purposes. The first is to create and verify a structural functional model of national narrative, which provides us ideas of how people structure national narrative and how they use history to justify the use of power within the society. When a group takes over another group, it’s important for them to create a narrative of power that legitimizes inclusions and exclusions of different groups. The idea of the book from one side is to produce a picture of how competing narratives of national identities lead to justification of particular power relations in a society.

The second purpose was to actually give people an opportunity to understand Ukraine in depth because usually people see Ukraine divided into groups, but there is no study that shows the diversity of narratives within Ukraine and how that diversity is structured.

Is a national identity something we’re born with or we learn?

You learn it. It’s a socialization process. And this is an issue as there are no static national identities, even in countries with long-standing national identities such as Germany and France. The concept of national identity is shaped through socialization processes and political processes. In fact, every single official agent of the nation shapes and legitimizes a particular nation.

Do you offer solutions to the conflict we see now?

I really believe the only way for Ukraine to escape this continuous modern situation of going from one side to the other is to create agonistic dialogue, a shared society, and a shared government—but unfortunately we won’t see it today. The prevalence of one side in the government, especially radical and nationalistic groups, is used by Vladimir Putin to justify annexation of Crimea as protection of Russian-speaking population.

The international community should impose requirements for the Ukrainian government to establish shared power and open negotiations with Putin to return Crimea to Ukraine with some form of joint protectorate that will give him the opportunity to “save face” symbolically.

How do you teach national identity? Is it an easy concept for students to get?

That’s interesting. Almost all my students tell me I changed the way they see life because now they see identity in every aspect of their lives. Because it’s a very fundamental way of how you see the world. You have your own perception of the world, you have your own ways of assessing the world, you see an independent point of view, and to you, you are not part of a group. But at the same time, if you are not part of a group, you are not protected—no one will come to protect you or support you if you don’t have a group to be involved in.

When you are in a group you pay for the support and security by your own freedom because to have the group protection, you have to be loyal, accepting the views and beliefs of the group. You are looking at life through the lens of the group identity; as soon as you become a member of the group, you see the world through the lens of the group. There’s this interesting dynamic between security and freedom—how much do you need security, how much do you need freedom? Social identity is an answer for this existential dilemma.

In the United States, we have 50 states, 50 identities, but one nation.

And in the United States, we have a lot of different narratives. There are a lot of theories to explain this; for example, the theory of optimal distinctiveness. We need to be connected to a bigger identity to have more freedom, but we also need to be connected to smaller identities to feel more loyalty and support.

People in political parties have completely different ideas. They still speak about the Founding Fathers and liberty and democracy, but the meaning of them will be completely different because they have to justify their power and ideas.

We imagine the book was the result of many things on your mind at this time.

It was going to be a small report in the beginning to understand the major ideas and major narratives in Ukraine. But it turned into a book because the material was so rich and interesting and I had the opportunity to develop the structural-functional model of national identity. I present these ideas to understand the components of a national identity, how people create competing narratives of national identity.

What was your hometown of Simferopol like? What do you think is different now?

Simferopol always was a very multicultural town with a high level of interethnic tolerance. Manipulations of the pro-Soviet government in response to the return of Crimean Tatars provoked communal tensions but never led to violent conflict. Peaceful co-existence was always an important value for residents of Crimea but diverse loyalties to Russia and Ukraine shaped social boundaries between populations.

Many Crimeans saw unification with Ukraine in 1954 as a mistake and never developed strong ties to Ukraine. But this longing for cultural connection to Russia impeded the real assessment of totalitarian and imperial nature of this country today.

The Challenges of International Adoption

When Mason anthropology professor Linda J. Seligmann and her husband adopted a baby girl from China in 2000, the reception they received triggered her professional, as well as personal, curiosity. The experience led to her latest book, Broken Links, Enduring Ties: American Adoption across Race, Class, and Nation (Stanford University Press, 2013), which focuses on families who have adopted children from China and Russia, and families who have adopted African American children transracially.

What made you decide to write the book?

Linda J. Seligmann

Linda J. Seligmann

When my husband and I adopted our daughter from China, I began to be aware of a much wider range of reactions to us as a family than I initially thought there would be. The comments reflected curiosity, ignorance, and sometimes pleasure that we had “saved” a child, and now and then a potent dose of racism. Strangers felt free to overstep boundaries of privacy that they might usually have respected.

As an anthropologist, I came to think that there were cultural assumptions that must be driving these comments and behaviors. I began to be interested in understanding better what those assumptions were and, especially, how they affected the lives of adoptive families.

Many people have done research on adoption, but most of that research has been from a psychological, social work, or therapeutic orientation rather than anthropological perspective, and it has heavily relied on survey data and experimental methods.

For your book, you relied on interviews instead.

Yes, over five years, I conducted open-ended interviews and participant observations with adoptive and nonadoptive parents and grandparents, with children and teens, as well as with brokers in the adoption process—attorneys, social workers, and government bureaucrats. The families I spoke with lived in rural, urban, and suburban areas across the United States. Some of the interviews lasted up to six hours at a time because people wanted to talk openly about their experiences.

Was there anything you learned during your research that surprised you? 

I was most surprised by the quiet efforts that adoptive parents were making to create open channels with birth relatives. These were not easy undertakings because of divides of class and the values associated with particular class positions and geographical distance in the case of transnational adoptions. Adoptive and birth relatives have created rituals that acknowledge multiple parenthood and ties among them. Some regularly get together. In many cases, the children themselves have encouraged these relationships.

I also found that adoptive families themselves wanted to share their experiences.

While some of the adoptive parents I spoke with had also embraced aspects of the cultural assumption that the normative American family should comprise heterosexual parents and children who looked like the parents and were biologically related to one or both of them, many more of them were fighting against these assumptions. They were trying to take account of their children’s roots; for example, fighting back against classroom assignments that were narrowly defined, such as making family trees. They were also trying to achieve more open channels on a regular basis with birth relatives of their children.

A number of interesting experiments were under way, and even if they were not always successful, they indicated that the shape and practices of American families were changing in significant ways that might, eventually, undermine some of those assumptions.

Another thing that surprised me was that I knew many adoptive parents with children from Russia had taken that path because they very much embraced traditional assumptions about what an American family was and believed that adoption was “second best.” They wanted desperately to pass as a biological family. I found evidence of this, but what I found was that adoptive parents also wanted to protect the privacy of their family, especially their children, from the kinds of invasive questions I had experienced.

Assimilation has always been a big issue, and I imagine that it plays a role in outsiders’ reactions to these families.

In an earlier era, Korean American adoptees had been expected to simply assimilate and become “white,” rejecting their roots and culture. Many transnational adoptive families have taken to heart the suffering these adoptees experienced and have tried to respect their children’s cultural heritage and roots by taking their children back to China and introducing them to Chinese food, language, and dance, for example.

Yet the children themselves, especially as they get older, have rejected many of these efforts because they themselves, like so many immigrants, are not Chinese, but rather Chinese American. The children are trying to bring together these multiple strands of their identities—they make circuit journeys to their country of origin; they have fictive kin ties with “crib mates” from their social welfare institutes or orphanages; they defy school assignments like the family tree and create bushes with multiple branches and novel kinship terms; they hold annual gatherings where they recognize their losses yet also celebrate who they are that allows them to defy being slotted into a single category; and they share their stories with each other, creating emergent communities.

What do you think the future holds for international and transracial adoptions?

I think that the more open discussions and exchanges about adoption are leading to serious reflections on how geopolitical inequalities structure adoption practices, both within the United States and between the United States and other countries. There is a growing awareness of the need to define and defend children’s rights in a broad fashion to prevent child trafficking, the horrors of re-homing, and the ease with which those with greater economic and political power are able to proceed with adoptions that may not be in the best interest of the child. At the same time, there’s a long way to go in defining exactly what we mean by children’s rights.

I also think that we need much more longitudinal research on the experiences, sentiments, and the cultural practices of transracial adoptees, as they move from childhood to adulthood and form their own families.

 

Finding the New Normal

Don’t all couples want to know how their happiness stacks up against everyone else’s? In Jim Witte’s new book, The Normal Bar (written with Chrisanna Northrup and Pepper Schwartz), they can find out that and a whole lot more. Using social science as a basis, Witte, director of Mason’s Center for Social Science Research, and his co-authors conducted the most extensive survey of romantic relationships ever, discovering some surprises along the way.

Jim Witte

Jim Witte

What is the “normal bar” exactly?

We use the term the “normal bar” to characterize the range of attitudes and behaviors expressed and reported by different types of individuals. The term is meant to be descriptive and not prescriptive, and we recognize that the bar may shift over the course of a relationship and varies with different types of relationships. The idea is to provide individuals and couples a reference point against which they can compare their own relationships. We leave it to our readers to judge how their own normal compares with that of others. We do, however, try to identify which normal is most closely correlated with happiness. If readers feel their relationship does not measure up, they can gain insight through the book’s simple advice and tips for changing their relationships in ways reported by those who say they are happiest in their relationships.

A sticker on the front of the book proclaims that this is the “most extensive survey of romantic relationships ever!” Can you talk about how you collected all that data and what the major challenges were?

The survey is the most extensive based on the number of respondents, as well as the number of questions. Other surveys may have had more respondents or more questions, but it is the combination of nearly 100,000 respondents and more than 1,300 questions that sets the Normal Bar apart from other studies. Not every respondent answered every question; rather, respondents completed a short core survey and then they could choose sets of questions from one or more of 15 follow-up topics. Interest in a topic is a good predictor of survey response so we were able to get a large number of individuals to complete questions in each of the follow-up areas. To secure respondents, we worked with a team of media partners (AARP, AOL, Huffington Post, and Readers Digest), who promoted the survey online and in print. In return, we provided them results from particular survey questions as content for their websites. By using this range of partner organizations, we were able to collect data from a diverse sample.

What was the most surprising thing you found from the survey results?

One surprise was the importance that men attached to romance, not sex, but romance. For example, just over one-quarter (28 percent) of women reported falling in love with their partner at first sight, while nearly half of men (48 percent) said it was love at first sight. Also, men along with women wished they had better communication with their partners.

Who are the target readers for this book, and what do you hope they get out of it?

The target audience comprises individuals in romantic relationships who are looking for insights into how others, particularly those who characterize their relationships as “happy,” “very happy,” or “extremely happy,” are living their relationships. The book is certainly targeted more to women than to men and specifically to women who are between the ages of 30 and 60 and to women who are likely to have some education beyond high school. We certainly know that men and other women are among the readers from feedback and comments we have received. But we also know that women of a certain age and educational background who are interested in the quality of their romantic relationships are more likely to buy the book. On the other hand, these women were also those who were more likely to complete our survey. In this way, our approach is similar to that of an election poll. Election polls focus on likely voters, and the Normal Bar data comes from likely readers.

For all our readers, we hope they will be able to compare the current thoughts and behavior of themselves and their partners to the thoughts and behaviors of happy couples. After doing this, if a reader wants to change what’s normal in his or her relationships, we hope the advice and tips offered in The Normal Bar will provide the tools to do so.

Fighting the Good Fight: An Interview with Mason Professor Angela J. Hattery

When Mason sociologist Angela J. Hattery published her research monograph Intimate Partner Violence in 2008, the acquisition editor at Westview Press approached her to write a textbook.

Angie Hattery

Angie Hattery

“I was hesitant at first since I’d never written a textbook before, but I knew it was desperately needed in the classroom,” says Hattery, the associate director of the Women and Gender Studies Program. The result is her eighth book, The Social Dynamics of Family Violence, which she co-wrote with Earl Smith, Rubin Distinguished Professor of American Ethnic Studies at Wake Forest University.

This is a difficult book to read because of the subject matter. How does that work in the classroom?

I used the book this past semester, and the students definitely indicated that it was a difficult text to read because of the subject matter, especially for students who had experienced intimate partner violence, worked with abused children, or were anticipating the aging of their parents. That said, they all indicated that the book was worth reading despite the difficulty because it helped them understand violence in families in a way that was more universal than their own experiences or their own stereotypes. Those who work in schools, for example, felt the chapters on child abuse and what to do about it would help them in their jobs. Those who were interested in violence prevention found the chapter on prevention and intervention to be particularly useful.

What it means for the classroom is that we had to first establish a level of trust so students could share their experiences and ask difficult questions. It also meant that the classroom had to serve as a place to process reactions, not just process learning. This approach—which was really demanded—along with the subject led to a classroom that was a real learning community; a place where ideas were interrogated, including students feeling comfortable challenging arguments made in the book.

Was there anything you were surprised to learn during the writing of this text?

Because I had not previously done any research on elder abuse, I learned an awful lot about it to write this book. As a daughter of parents who are seniors, it was personally beneficial as well, so that I can more easily recognize the kinds of issues that my parents face.

What hope did you take away from writing the book or teaching the class?

At the end of the book and the end of the semester, the students were desperate for hope and something they could do to make a difference. One of the students in the class plays on the women’s basketball team. I challenged her to organize her teammates so that every time they travel for a game and stay in a hotel they bring back the hotel toiletries so we could collect them and make a donation to a shelter for battered women and children. The first class after Thanksgiving, after their first trip, she proudly arrived in class with a huge bag of toiletries she and her teammates had collected. She also delivered the news that the team had made a commitment to this project for the remainder of the season. All I can say is wow! This is the reason we write books like this and the reason we teach.

All the President’s Czars

Mark Rozell

Medieval emperors in Eastern Europe were known as czars. Now, 1,000 years later in the United States, the term is a metaphor for certain White House officials who are given authority over a specific policy area and are not confirmed by the Senate or subject to congressional oversight.

The use of these positions has a long history and has increased substantially in the modern era. The authority to create such positions is the subject of much debate, especially as the number of czars has vastly expanded over the two most recent presidential administrations.

Mason public policy professor Mark Rozell has studied executive branch power extensively throughout his career and takes a look at this controversial topic in his latest book, The President’s Czars: Undermining Congress and the Constitution, co-authored with Mitchel A. Sollenberger of the University of Michigan–Dearborn.

Under what authority does the president have the ability to create these positions?
Czars are a constitutional aberration. There is no official title of executive branch “czar” in the U.S. Constitution, federal laws, or government manuals. Czars may in theory exist to merely provide advice to presidents, but the reality is that many of these officers have gone well beyond merely advising and often supervised statutory programs, administered a policy area, controlled appropriated funds, or regulated industries. White House and executive branch aides who exercise decision-making authority that has the force of law and are not confirmed by the Senate violate the U.S. Constitution.

Should the public be worried that these czars have no democratic accountability?
Many czars have made significant policy, regulatory, and budgetary decisions while largely operating independently of the normal constraints built into our constitutional system. In a system of government that seeks to prevent tyranny by ensuring each branch can check the others, there are dangers in allowing executive branch officials with far-reaching powers to be isolated from legislative oversight and controls.

Are the czars effective in ways that Senate-confirmed positions are not?
The utility of the czar position is that it somewhat helps the president to manage some of his complex duties. Nonetheless, that an office has utility for our system does not make it constitutional.

What has been controversial about the use of czars?
President Obama has appointed more czars than any president since FDR. Some of them, such as [pay czar] Kenneth Feinberg [overseeing executive compensation for companies that received government bailout funds and managing the BP oil spill payout], have exercised some of the most formidable powers of any government official.

Any odd or unusual uses of the czar title?

There are some oddly named positions such as the healthy foods czar (Sam Kass) and the Asian carp czar (John Goss).

Czars have been used by Presidents Bush and Obama to enact policies that Congress can’t or won’t. Is this a failure of our current political climate or an overreach by the Executive Branch?

There has been an enormous amount of controversy over Obama’s czars, much of it obscured by partisan rancor. Many positions labeled as czars by Obama’s opponents are clearly misnamed because they are Senate-confirmed and subject to the normal constraints of our system of separated powers. But overall, the president has overreached his authority in the use of many unconfirmed czar positions, as did his predecessor George W. Bush. Czars are mostly a contemporary feature of an expanding executive power, where presidents increasingly try to govern without constraints.

Why was this the right time to release a book on this subject?

My co-author and I had planned to write a book refuting the unitary executive theory. We first got into the topic of czars and never looked back to the original plan. Fascinating subject; no one had written a book on it before. We had the chance to do something original here.

How long have you been looking at the subject of czars?
Both of us have written over substantial periods of time on issues of executive authority and separation of powers. But the origin of this particular project was barely a year before we had to deliver a completed manuscript in late 2011. The topical nature of the whole issue gave us a lot of motivation to move the project more quickly than the typical academic book.

—Jim Greif, MPA ’07

Creating a Blueprint for Health Research

Kathryn Jacobsen

Kathryn Jacobsen is an old hand at writing textbooks. After the success of this associate professor in the Department of Global and Community Health’s 2007 text Introduction to Global Health, she decided to tackle the world of research in Introduction to Health Research Methods (Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2011). An epidemiologist, Jacobsen explains that her field focuses on the research side of public health.

“Epidemiologists are the number crunchers of public health, and we use the research methods described in my textbook to identify what populations are affected by particular diseases and what the risk factors for those diseases are,” explains Jacobsen.

So tell me about your new textbook.

What’s exciting about this book is that it covers the whole research process. It starts with how to come up with an idea for a research question, and it goes all the way through how to publish a paper or present at a conference. My goal was to try to make research accessible to new researchers. I just finished my fifth year at Mason, and I’ve really enjoyed publishing with students. I’ve published about 20 papers with students—mostly master’s students—in the past three years. Guiding them through that whole process from a research idea to a published paper is what I drew on for this book.

Why did you decide to write it?

I hadn’t seen any other book that had this comprehensive view of the whole research process. There are a lot of excellent research methods books out there that focus on one method, and they’re 500 pages long and really intimidating. I wanted to create a book that wasn’t about comprehending the details of elaborate multimillion dollar projects but instead would help new investigators do meaningful research on their own.

How important is research to the world of public health?

Research is important for pretty much everything. I think a lot of people hear the word “research” and think it is limited to scientists wearing lab coats and experimenting on mice. But in reality, research is needed to answer a multitude of important questions, such as, Does this new drug work? Am I at risk for having this kind of disease? If we try this intervention, will it keep people from getting sick?

If we’re not doing research to see what improves health, then we may be wasting our resources. Health research is crucial for answering real-world questions about effectiveness. This is a book that applies to public health but could also apply to clinical medicine, psychology, or the social sciences. Because although the questions are a little bit different, the process of careful research that we use to answer them is the same.

Right of Way

The stories in Right of Way (Washington Writers’ Publishing House, 2010)describe fictional Cleave Springs, a gentrifying neighborhood in the nation’s capital. These insightful stories introduce the neighborhood’s dazzling variety of characters—longtime survivors and new arrivals, preservationists and visionaries, black people and white people—as they navigate the complexities of diversity and change, and strive to realize a comforting vision of home. Wingfield captures and explores what it means to live in a city in the 21st century. Right of Way won the Washington Writers’ Publishing House 2010 fiction prize.

After earning an MFA, Andrew Wingfield, MFA ’99, joined the faculty of Mason’s New Century College, where he directs the Environmental and Sustainability Studies Program. His novel, Hear Him Roar, was published in 2005 by Utah State University Press.

The History of Refugees in America: A Conversation with Mason Professor David Haines

David Haines

Prior to coming to Mason in 1997, anthropology professor David Haines worked for the federal government’s refugee resettlement program. A two-time Fulbright scholar, he has worked on and written about immigration issues for much of his career. In his most recent book, Safe Haven? A History of Refugees in America, Haines examines seven decades of immigration history and shows how refugees and their American hosts continue to struggle with a variety of issues.

What prompted the writing of this book?

I have been involved in refugee research and policy for several decades. It was simply time to bring together the different pieces of that experience and try to create an integrated portrait of the relationship between refugees and America. It was also my hope that the book could serve as a reminder that this relationship, although sometimes troubled, nevertheless remains an absolutely fundamental current in American immigration today, as it has in the past. Without understanding refugees, we cannot understand American immigration; without understanding American immigration, we cannot understand America.

Was there anything in your research for the book that surprised you?

I continue to be surprised at the extremity in views of refugees, but perhaps this is understandable given the enormous social and cultural diversity among the refugees who come to the United States. Unlike the great majority of other immigrants, who are already connected to us as family members of previous immigrants, refugees are often from new origins and with unpredictable destinies.

Perhaps the true surprise, then, is the goodwill and energy that many Americans continue to demonstrate in welcoming newcomers who are perhaps our greatest diversity challenge.

The word “refugee” is used frequently across the media. What is a refugee in the contemporary world?

The word really has two main meanings—at least in the United States. One, more cultural and emotional in tone, is rooted deeply in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic heritage. That meaning acknowledges that people often must flee, that their flight may have spiritual as well as political and economic roots, and that they are often fleeing as a people, rather than simply as individuals.

The other meaning, more precise and legalistic, is usually connected to the United Nations definition of refugee that was incorporated into U.S. law with the Refugee Act of 1980. That usage involves a more individualized judgment about the precise reasons for flight, whether that flight was across national borders and whether the refugee could return home or find haven in another country.

The two meanings are, of course, related in many ways, and any good American refugee policy has to encompass both of them. Nevertheless, the two meanings diverge in important ways. In practical terms, for example, the more cultural and emotional definition rooted in American history, thought, and spirit is the only feasible basis for accepting large numbers of refugees, while the more precise and legalistic definition is more appropriate for individualized judgments about refugee status.

Immigration was a hot topic in the past election and looks like it will continue to be so in the next. Do you feel the country/government has made any progress in this arena?

It may well be a hot topic, but that is heat not light. I do not think the media or the government is doing a good job explaining immigration to the American people. We actually have a fairly sensible overall immigration policy—although I do think we are losing the balance between understanding America as land of refuge and as land of opportunity.

The big problem today is not really about immigration policy overall. Instead, the collusion of government inaction and business thirst for low-wage labor has created a large undocumented nonimmigrant population. In particular, the government (again with the collusion of business) failed to implement the control mechanisms put in place by the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act. So this is not a failure of immigration policy but a failure in implementation. Furthermore, the majority of the undocumented are from one particular country, Mexico, our most populous neighbor and a neighbor on whom we have not had a very positive effect over the years. So, again, this is not really immigration policy in an overall sense; instead, it might be better seen as something like “neighbor policy.”

Whatever the causes, the net result is that there is a large undocumented population. Some solutions are available. One would be what I think virtually every American would support to some degree: legalization for those people who have been in America so long and so successfully that it would be senseless to deport them. The proposed DREAM Act (with legalization for some of the undocumented attending college in the United States) is one example of this approach.

Another solution would be to recognize that the majority of these people are from a neighboring country. Why, then, do they have to become immigrants instead of simply being people from a neighboring country, people who have a right to be in America not as immigrants but as Mexicans? I do not have much hope that these kinds of options will be pursued. Politicians are not looking for the middle ground or effective practice. They are looking for votes, and, for votes, they need to polarize public opinion rather than inform it.

Self-Study Teacher Research: Improving Your Practice through Collaborative Inquiry

Self-Study Teacher Research: Improving Your Practice through Collaborative Inquiry

Anastasia P. Samaras, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Education

Designed to help teachers plan, implement, and assess a manageable self-study research project, Self-Study Teacher Research: Improving Your Practice through Collaborative Inquiry (Sage Publications, April 2010), this textbook covers the foundation, history, theoretical underpinnings, and methods of self-study research. Filled with interactive activities and examples, this book encourages readers to think deeply about the how and the why of this essential professional development tool as they pose questions and formulate personal theories to improve professional practice.