Language Education Policy Studies
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DEFINITIONS & RATIONALE for Making Empathetic Multilingual Environments in Schools (MEMES)

"Defining" Displacement:

More than 65 million people are forcibly displaced (UNHCR, 2016), and the number is probably modest. 

Refugee is a legal term for students who have immigration status based on asylum, and we hope to include many educators of students displaced by war, such as Syrian, and Yemeni; or 2nd or later generations of Afghani, Albanian, Bosnian, Central American. However, “Displaced” is more broad and includes: Native and African American, undocumented students; (im)migrants who have been forcibly or by their own volition displaced because of violence, poverty, or policies related to ethnicity; students displaced by natural disasters such as the recent hurricanes in the Caribbean. “Displaced” also includes students who are second or later generations but are not fully acculturated, and/or value or face linguistic or cultural difficulties related to their heritage.

We want to recognize that students had another life before migrating, and that they are building new lives in another language. It is not an easy endeavor.

Rationale for the project:
World news and the UN cite the crisis of children out of school and promise education for refugees. Huge numbers of persons displaced—by war, natural disasters, ethnic violence, economic realities—enter host countries worldwide. Access to school is difficult. Education covers language, as there is no education without language. Cultural, political ignorance, media disinformation, and monolingual, standardized school policies create a situation where everyone, including teachers, need resources.

The 21st century is a century of massive displacement (in which we live!), with millions of families who are forcibly displaced. In the host societies, the result is shifting demographics. Part of the transition to new societies happens in schools. School knowledge is standardized, and along with testing, students need to learn the language quickly. The issue of displacement and immigration is heavily debated in the media, and some negative connotations may effect those in power to make policy. Teachers are caught in the middle because the students are sitting in their classrooms.

Memes today are the popular word for pictures with captions, often shared in Facebook or other social media. However, the idea of memetics runs deeper than today’s memes. Memetics involves the replication of culture and its ideas, human cultural transmission analogous to genes. The memes we will propose are purposeful and meaningful, and the acronym helps us draw attention to this project.

The next page is about plurilingual pedagogy or Translanguaging classroom strategies.

Students at the Refugee Youth Summer Academy in New York City are taking their first steps to adjusting to life in a U.S. classroom. This year's class of 118 students comes from families who have been granted asylum in the U.S. The NewsHour Weekend's Ivette Feliciano has the story.

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This information was originally published on the website of the International Network for Language Education Policy Studies ( as

Harrison, K. M. (2017). Definitions and Rationale: Making Empathetic Multilingual Environments in Schools. In F. V. Tochon (Ed.), Language Education Policy Studies (online). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin—Madison. Retrieved from:
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