Tue, Jun 07

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Online event

MACRI Talk: Educating the Enemy

Teaching Nazis and Mexicans in the Cold War Borderlands

MACRI Talk: Educating the Enemy

Time & Location

Jun 07, 6:00 PM CDT

Online event

About the event

*Please Note: The date for this event is now Tuesday, June 7th*

Join us for a virtual conversation with Dr. Jonna Perrillo about her recent book that compares the privileged educational experience offered to the children of relocated Nazi scientists in 1947 El Paso, Texas with the educational disadvantages faced by Mexican American students living in the same city. Join us for an enlightening conversation!

Educating the Enemy begins with the 144 children of Nazi scientists who moved to El Paso, Texas, in 1946 as part of the military program called Operation Paperclip. These German children were bused daily from a military outpost to four El Paso public schools. Though born into a fascist enemy nation, the German children were quickly integrated into the schools and, by proxy, American society. Their rapid assimilation offered evidence that American public schools played a vital role in ensuring the victory of democracy over fascism.  Jonna Perrillo not only tells this fascinating story of Cold War educational policy, but she draws an important contrast with another, much more numerous population of children in the El Paso public schools: Mexican Americans. Like everywhere else in the Southwest, Mexican American children in El Paso were segregated into “Mexican” schools, where the children received a vastly different educational experience. Not only were they penalized for speaking Spanish—the only language all but a few spoke due to segregation—they were tracked for low-wage and low-prestige careers, with limited opportunities for economic success. Educating the Enemy charts what two groups of children—one that might have been considered the enemy, the other that was treated as such—reveal about the ways political assimilation has been treated by schools as an easier, more viable project than racial or ethnic assimilation.

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