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Educational policy analysis archives
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Educational policy analysis archives.
n Vol. 9, no. 3 (January 22, 2001).
Tempe, Ariz. :
b Arizona State University ;
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida.
c January 22, 2001
Impact of U.S. overseas schools in Latin America on political and civic values formation / John J. Ketterer [and] George E. Marsh II.
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1 of 9 Education Policy Analysis Archives Volume 9 Number 3January 22, 2001ISSN 1068-2341 A peer-reviewed scholarly journal Editor: Gene V Glass, College of Education Arizona State University Copyright 2001, the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES. Permission is hereby granted to copy any article if EPAA is credited and copies are not sold. Articles appearing in EPAA are abstracted in the Current Index to Journals in Education by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation and are permanently archived in Resources in Education .Impact of U.S. Overseas Schools in Latin America on Political and Civic Values Formation John J. Ketterer Jacksonville State University George E. Marsh II University of Alabama Abstract This study focuses on the attitudinal outco mes of schooling in American Overseas Schools in Latin America with res pect to democracy and citizenship, the formation of views about the U nited States, and student attitudes about the American international school.Introduction The American democracy is the oldest in the world and the promotion of democracy has been a central focus of U.S. foreign policy since World War I. The evolution of Latin American nations towards democra tic models of governance during the 1980's was trumpeted as a diplomatic triumph. T he argument has even been made,


2 of 9prematurely perhaps, that the historical process of the selection of an ideal model of governance has ended and that the democratic model has emerged triumphant (Fukuyama, 1992). Although the decade of the 1990's saw some regression in this process, virtually every nation from Mexico to Braz il has attempted to develop democratic institutions. Many of these “experiments ” are yet in their infancy and all of them depend upon the values and ideals of leaders w ho will be elected to key offices in the future. Diamond (1993) documents the importance of educational institutions; he mentions the “international diffusion of values and beliefs” which may occur through practices which occur within “democratizing institu tions” (p. 421). He observes that Culture springs from history, tradition, and collec tive myths, and is also forged and reproduced through a variety of institut ional settings in which norms are learned, beliefs generated, and values in ternalized. Prominent among these settings are, of course, the family and the school…[which may] contribute to significant change over time. (p 412) It is a little known but important fact tha t a significant number of political and business leaders in Latin American nations have bee n educated in American Overseas Schools (AOS), and many enter American universities after successful completion of an American high school education in an overseas schoo l. Bilingual and infused with the values implicit in U.S. pedagogy, these young peopl e become the mayors, judges, industrialists, journalists, cabinet ministers, and presidents of their countries. Clearly, the political culture of the United States has profound direct and indirect influences on the attitudes of the future leaders of Latin America. T here have been no studies focusing on the attitudinal outcomes of students in American sc hools overseas. The AOS schools are essentially American hi gh schools in Latin America. Typically, these schools offer a traditional, colle ge preparatory American high school curriculum. Unlike AOS schools in other regions of the world, the AOS in Latin America frequently incorporate host country languag es and national curricula in the school model. However, American citizens trained an d certified in American universities serve as principals and certified Amer ican teachers deliver the central elements of the curriculum. With the fiscal and tec hnical support and guidance of the Office of Overseas Schools of the U.S. Department o f State, most of these schools have achieved accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), the entity which accredits institutions in the United S tates from Texas to North Carolina. (The Office of Overseas Schools is staffed with a D irector and six Regional Education Officers, each assigned oversight of a geographic r egion. The Director of the Office is Dr. Keith D. Miller ( The web site of the Office of Overseas Schools may be found at out_state/schools/ofront.html.) Many of the AOS schools have a long history, such a s the American School Foundation (ASF) of Mexico City, which has operated an America n-type school with an American curriculum for over 100 years. Half of the ASF stud ents enroll in colleges abroad, predominantly in the United States. Although these schools were originally established to educate the children of American citizens who li ved with their families in Latin America (as part of the diplomatic corps or the int ernational business community), that mission has clearly been altered by economic and po litical factors. Orr (1974) observed that the schools “exemplify the valuable qualities and merits of a democratic educational system” and serve as a “living example of American community democracy” (p. 10). He declared that “The success or failure of the U.S.A. both internally and as a model, will be directly related to the effectiveness of educati on and schooling” (1981, p. 2). Conlan


3 of 9(1982) spoke of the AOS schools as “isomorphic emba ssies.” As the world economy changed over the years host-country children in Latin America were increasingly drawn to American schools where they could learn English. The downsizing of the U.S. diplomatic corps and a c oncomitant “nationalization” of the work force in the international business community accelerated this demographic change in the 1970's. American schools have retained a “U. S.” identity through the networking of regional educational associations, greater use o f the Internet than comparable schools in the continental United States, and the recruitme nt and training of U.S. teachers who already possess advanced degrees from U.S. universi ties. American history, civics, and literature are central to the curriculum. Host-coun try students, from Mexico to Brazil, who graduate from these schools receive the America n high school diploma (commonly they also receive the host country diploma, or “bac hillerato”). Most plan to attend U.S. universities, either as undergraduates or for gradu ate study, and later return and assume responsible positions in their homelands.Purpose The unique role that a U.S. education plays in the career planning of future Latin American leaders has not been examined, although it has been a subject of comment. AOS schools directly influence the development of t he values and attitudes of many Latin American leaders. The purpose of this researc h was to assess the political attitudes of 12 th grade students attending 12 AOS schools in 8 count ries. Three distinct groups of students were targeted in this study: American citi zens, Host Country Citizens, and Students who were citizens of some third country (c hildren of parents who form part of the international diplomatic or business community) The supposition that American Overseas Schools contribute to the formation of pos itive values of democratic participation and civic service should be investiga ted. Arguably, the extent to which these schools are in fact promoting these values is a valid measure of the efficacy of the schools themselves.Research Questions Three research questions were developed for this study. (1) Is there a significant interaction effect between the independent variable s of political region and citizenship on students' attitudes? (2) What is the relationshi p between the length of time a student is enrolled in an American school and the developme nt of positive attitudes? (3) Is there an attitudinal difference with respect to gender on these measures?Method Subjects The subjects of this study were 695 12th grade st udents representing 21% of the approximately 3,200 12th grade students atte nding AOS schools in 4 geographical and political regions: Mexico, Central America, Spa nish-speaking South America, and Brazil. The schools were distributed among the foll owing countries: Mexico (3), El Salvador (1), Guatemala (1), Paraguay (1), Ecuador (1), Argentina (1), Peru (1), and Brazil (3). U.S. citizens represented 15.3% of the sample and host country nationals represented 68.2% of the sample. The other 16.5% wa s accounted for by third-country nationals, pupils who were not American citizens or citizens of the countries where they attended schools.


4 of 9 Instrument The survey instrument, Attitudes toward Democracy (ATD ), consisted of 40 Likert-type items based on a 5-poin t rating system ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree. The items were associat ed with three categories, concerning (a) attitudes about democracy, citizenship and serv ice, (b) attitudes toward the United States, and (c) attitudes about the role of school. The first scale combined the two aspects of responsible democratic participation, ri ghts and obligations (People for the American Way, 1989). The second scale measured stud ent attitudes about the U.S. government and overall attitudes about the people o f the United States. The third scale assessed student attitudes about the role of the sc hool in their social and political formation. The instrument had high overall reliability (Cronbach Alpha = .85) and the three scales individually yielded alphas of .85, .70, and .68, respectively. The ATD instrument was mailed to the directors of the 12 schools and a dministered under the supervision of certified teachers according to a set of standard i nstructions.Results and Discussion An ANOVA revealed a significant interaction [F(6,683)=2.41, p<.05] between the variables of citizenship and political region on Sc ale 1, attitudes toward democracy and citizenship. Citizens of Mexico, Central America, a nd Brazil had significantly more positiveattitudes on this scale than their counterparts in Spanish-speaking South America. U.S students in Brazil had significantly less positive attitudes than U.S. students in Mexico. Host country students in Brazil had significantly m ore positive attitudes than U.S. students in Brazil. There was no significant interaction betwee n the two classes of independent variables on Scale 2, although there were significa nt main effects in both areas. Table 1 shows the ANOVA for Scale 2, attitudes toward the U nited States. Significant differences were found betweenthe attitudes of U.S. citizens and the other two gr oups. Attitudes of the host and third country pupils were significantly more negative, an d the mean response of both groups was to the negative side of the scale.Table 1 Analysis of Variance for Scores on Scale 2: "Attitudes Towards the United States"Source of VariationSum of SquaresDFMean SquaresF p Main Effects: Citizen Region 1310.52 674.91 380.66 5 2 3 262.10 337.45 126.89 5.887.572.85 <.000.001 .037 Interaction: Citizen X Region 385.45664.241.44.196 Explained1977.3011179.754.03<.000Residual30452.0468344.59


5 of 9 Total32429.3369446.73 The ANOVA revealed a marginally significant interaction [F(6,683)=1.94, p<.10] between the independent variables of political regi on and citizenship for Scale 3, attitudes about the role of the school. Interesting ly, host country students in Mexico were shown to have significantly more positive attitudes about the United States than host country students in the other regions. The length of time enrolled in the AOS scho ol had no relationship to the development of positive attitudes about the United States (correlation = -.006; p=.89). However, student attitudes on Scale 1 (Attitudes ab out Democracy, Citizenship and Service) demonstrated a positive correlation (corre lation = .143; p<.001). Similarly, with respect to Scale 3 (Attitudes about the School), st udent attitudes were found to satisfy the statistical test for significance (correlation = .087; p=.02). However, it must be noted that these correlations, given the large sample siz e, are so close to zero as to provide little evidence of a causal relationship, even if t hey could be so interpreted. To measure the relationship between the va riables of gender and the mean student responses of each of the three scales, t -tests were calculated for the independent samples. A significant difference ( t =-3.90, df=693, p=<.000, 2 Tail Sig.) was found on Scale 2, attitudes about the United States. Female students had significantly more positive attitudes than male students about the United State s. Although the data revealed a large number o f interesting relationships and circumstances, a summary of the main findings follo ws: Twelfth grade students in AOS schools who are citiz ens of South American countries possess extremely negative attitudes abou t democracy and citizenship. 1. U.S. citizens who are 12th grade students in AOS sc hools in Brazil are negative about democracy and citizenship. 2. International and host country students in all of t he Latin American AOS schools are extremely negative about the United States. U.S 12th grade students were predictably more upbeat. 3. Mexican students in the 12th grade in AOS schools e xpressed significantly more positive attitudes about the United States than the ir counterparts in other regions. 4. Female 12th grade students in the AOS schools expre ssed more positive attitudes about the United States that the males in the same schools. 5. The length of time a student is enrolled in the AOS school has no clear impact on the development of positive attitudes about democra cy, the United States, or the role of the school in the social formation of the s tudent. 6.Conclusions The generally negative attitudes about the United States expressed by students throughout Latin America in the AOS schools should be a matter of concern for the U.S. State Department, which oversees these schools. A p rogrammatic approach system-wide to social studies curricula should be considered. I f the American Overseas School serves the quasi-diplomatic function of modeling democrati c institutional behavior, then educators should focus on developing a model with t he express purpose of promoting positive attitudes. It should be noted, however, th at at least a portion of the negative response might be age-related, and there is some ev idence that with time and maturity these attitudes may improve.


6 of 9 The relatively more positive attitudes of Mexican students may well point to a strategy for improvement of student attitudes in ot her regions. The AOS schools in Mexico are among the oldest in the world. They are generally viewed as deeply embedded in host country culture. They have traditi onally incorporated the Mexican curriculum into the U.S. curricular model as an enr iching factor. The fact that Mexican culture has been “included” rather that “excluded” in the structure of these schools may be a factor in the more positive attitudes of Mexic an students. The lack of impact of the time a student s pends in the AOS school on the development of his/her attitudes is disappointing. This is yet another indication that school leaders and regional planners should focus o n the formation of students' attitudes as a valid formative goal of the school curriculum. The significant difference between the att itudes about the United States of young women and young men in these schools can only fuel speculation. It may be that the threat of economic competition with the United Stat es is more acute for young men than for young women. We might also speculate about trad itional roles of women in Latin America, the attractiveness of U.S. popular culture and other factors. For the present, this finding must remain an interesting puzzle, alt hough further investigation as to its cause might indicate a path that would lead to gene ral attitudinal improvement. The findings of this study lead to new and important questions about the role of the school in the attitude formation of students. How s hould the school model reflect or incorporate the cultural context? Can the curricula of these schools be restructured to improve attitudinal outcomes? The mission of the AO S schools is generally understood to be that of representing a positive model of an e ffective democratic institution. Because this is the case, the U.S. State Department 's Office of Overseas Schools and regional educational leaders should take actions di rected at programmatically and systematically addressing that goal.ReferencesConlan, A. L. (1982). The contributions of American sponsored overseas schools in fostering, promoting, and maintaining cross-cultura l understanding between and among the peoples of the Americas (Doctoral dissertation, The University of Alabama, 1982). Dissertation Abstracts International, 32, 4273. Diamond, L. J. (1993). Political culture and democracy in developing count ries London/Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers.Fukuyama, F. (1992). The end of history and the last man New York: MacMillan. Ketterer, J.J. (1998). The impact of selected Ameri can schools in Latin America on the attitudes of students regarding democratic values, the obligations of citizenship and community service, and the United States of America (Doctoral dissertation, The University of Alabama, 1998). Dissertation Abstracts International, 59 (05), 1413d. Orr, P. G. (1974). A research matrix: The American sponsored overseas school Buzzard Bay, MA: Center for International Education, Massac husetts State College System. Orr, P. G. (1981). Overseas education: Quo vadis and the quid pro quo [Fast Reference Series No. 018]. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alab ama, International Education Associates, Inc.


7 of 9 People for the American Way. (1989). Democracy's next generation: A study of youth and teachers Washington, DC: Peter D. Hart Research Associates Inc. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 324 253).About the AuthorsJohn J. Ketterer College of Education Educational Resources Jacksonville State University Jacksonville, AL 36265 Voice: (256) 782-5837 Fax: (256) 782-5959 Email: jkettere@jsucc.jsu.eduJohn J. Ketterer, Ed.D. is currently an Assistant P rofessor at Jacksonville State University, Jacksonville, Alabama. He is a former school superintendent, and worked extensively in overseas assignments. His current r esearch interests include the study of the impact of postmodern philosophy on school polic y and programming, bilingual and multicultural education, the role of education in d emocracy, and distance education. George E. Marsh II College of Education Instructional Technology The University of Alabama PO Box 870302 Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0302 Voice: 205-333-9105 Fax: 205-333-8288 Email: E. Marsh II, Ed.D. is currently a Professor in Instructional Technology at The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. His research int erests include epistemological studies and applications to organizational theory a nd instructional design, distance education, and online delivery systems.Copyright 2001 by the Education Policy Analysis ArchivesThe World Wide Web address for the Education Policy Analysis Archives is General questions about appropriateness of topics o r particular articles may be addressed to the Editor, Gene V Glass, or reach him at College of Education, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 8 5287-0211. (602-965-9644). The Commentary Editor is Casey D. C obb:


8 of 9EPAA Editorial Board Michael W. Apple University of Wisconsin Greg Camilli Rutgers University John Covaleskie Northern Michigan University Alan Davis University of Colorado, Denver Sherman Dorn University of South Florida Mark E. Fetler California Commission on Teacher Credentialing Richard Garlikov Thomas F. Green Syracuse University Alison I. Griffith York University Arlen Gullickson Western Michigan University Ernest R. House University of Colorado Aimee Howley Ohio University Craig B. Howley Appalachia Educational Laboratory William Hunter University of Calgary Daniel Kalls Ume University Benjamin Levin University of Manitoba Thomas Mauhs-Pugh Green Mountain College Dewayne Matthews Western Interstate Commission for HigherEducation William McInerney Purdue University Mary McKeown-Moak MGT of America (Austin, TX) Les McLean University of Toronto Susan Bobbitt Nolen University of Washington Anne L. Pemberton Hugh G. Petrie SUNY Buffalo Richard C. Richardson New York University Anthony G. Rud Jr. Purdue University Dennis Sayers Ann Leavenworth Centerfor Accelerated Learning Jay D. Scribner University of Texas at Austin Michael Scriven Robert E. Stake University of Illinois—UC Robert Stonehill U.S. Department of Education David D. Williams Brigham Young UniversityEPAA Spanish Language Editorial BoardAssociate Editor for Spanish Language Roberto Rodrguez Gmez Universidad Nacional Autnoma de Mxico


9 of 9 Adrin Acosta (Mxico) Universidad de J. Flix Angulo Rasco (Spain) Universidad de Teresa Bracho (Mxico) Centro de Investigacin y DocenciaEconmica-CIDEbracho Alejandro Canales (Mxico) Universidad Nacional Autnoma Ursula Casanova (U.S.A.) Arizona State Jos Contreras Domingo Universitat de Barcelona Erwin Epstein (U.S.A.) Loyola University of Josu Gonzlez (U.S.A.) Arizona State Rollin Kent (Mxico)Departamento de InvestigacinEducativa-DIE/ Mara Beatriz Luce (Brazil)Universidad Federal de Rio Grande do Sul-UFRGSlucemb@orion.ufrgs.brJavier Mendoza Rojas (Mxico)Universidad Nacional Autnoma deMxicojaviermr@servidor.unam.mxMarcela Mollis (Argentina)Universidad de Buenos Humberto Muoz Garca (Mxico) Universidad Nacional Autnoma deMxicohumberto@servidor.unam.mxAngel Ignacio Prez Gmez (Spain)Universidad de Daniel Schugurensky (Argentina-Canad)OISE/UT, Simon Schwartzman (Brazil)Fundao Instituto Brasileiro e Geografiae Estatstica Jurjo Torres Santom (Spain)Universidad de A Carlos Alberto Torres (U.S.A.)University of California, Los