“A Good Citizen is What You’ll Be”: Educating Khmer Youth for Citizenship in a United States Migrant Education Program


  • Theresa Ann McGinnis Hofstra University




Citizenship education is a complex and multidimensional construct. This article adds to the discussion of citizenship education by examining, ethnographically the ways the “vision” of a US Migrant Education Program is circulated through the program’s discourse practices to Khmer American children of migrant agricultural workers. The article does not discuss the formal legal status of citizenship, but the program coordinators’ beliefs about the skills and dispositions needed for the Khmer youth to become “good citizens.” Within the coordinators’ visions, the fixing of the youth’s perceived deficiencies drive the curriculum, and as such the full participation of the youth as active citizens is not achieved.

Author Biography

Theresa Ann McGinnis, Hofstra University

Theresa McGinnis is an Associate Professor in the Teaching, Literacy and Leadership Department. She received her doctorate in Reading, Writing and Literacy from the University of Pennsylvania. Her dissertation, Khmer Youth in a Migrant Education Program: Discourses, Literacies and Possible Selves, describes the literacy and discourse practices of Khmer children of migratory agricultural workers as they engage with their urban schools and communities. Her research interests include sociocultural theories of literacy, the transnational literacy practices of immigrant youth, and digital spaces as sites for identity construction. She has presented her work in these areas at national and international conferences sponsored by the American Anthropological Association, American Educational Research Association, National Council of Teachers of English and the International Sociological Association. Dr. McGinnis’ work has been published in several peer-reviewed journals including: Anthropology and Education Quarterly, Linguistics and Education, The Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy,  and the Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement.

As a faculty member in the Literacy Studies program, Dr. McGinnis has taught a wide variety of undergraduate, masters’ degree level and doctoral degree level courses. She has designed courses on digital literacies, and on the cultural and historical perspectives of literacy. In addition to her University teaching, Dr. McGinnis has spent over 12 years teaching Middle School students in the urban communities of Los Angeles and Philadelphia.



  • Abstract
  • PDF
Further information



How to Cite

McGinnis, T. A. (2015). “A Good Citizen is What You’ll Be”: Educating Khmer Youth for Citizenship in a United States Migrant Education Program. JSSE - Journal of Social Science Education, 14(3), 66–74. https://doi.org/10.4119/jsse-760