08 Jun On Democracy and Learning for a Cause: Students writing about important issues

On Democracy: Student writing about important issues

Last week, the Schechter Manhattan Middle School students published a book of their writing, On Democracy.  Click here to purchase a copy. The anthology of their thoughts about democracy and the United States government offers insight into the perspectives of adolescent citizens, the future leaders of our country.  The project was conceived and led by Schechter Manhattan Humanities Teacher, Michael Sweet. Michael founded Learning for a Cause, a nonprofit student press initiative, that has produced many student anthologies. Below is an interview with Michael about details of the book writing and publishing project and his perspective on the student experience of it.


What is Learning for a Cause and how did you come to found it?

Learning for a Cause is a nonprofit student press initiative that I founded in 2004 in Montreal. At that time print-on-demand publishing technology (POD) was just emerging and no one had really leveraged its benefit for the classroom yet. I saw an opportunity. I had been teaching writing and getting kids to write for me, the teacher, but that somehow seemed to lack authenticity. I wanted students to write about real issues in real books for a real audience. By combining the POD technology with my ELA curriculum I was able to connect my students with the world beyond our classroom walls – with an authentic audience. Now that we had the ears (or perhaps more correctly the eyes) of the community at large, the question become, “What should we say?” With the help of my students, over time, we decided to narrow the focus of Learning for a Cause to writing that helped illuminate some of our society’s most pressing issues like environmentalism, homelessness, racism, equality etc. Now, some fourteen years later, Learning for a Cause is still alive and well as an initiative with over a dozen full-length anthologies in print.


What was is it like to bring the Learning for a Cause project and approach to Schechter Manhattan- in regards to our pedagogy and curriculum?

Bringing the Learning for a Cause initiative, which essentially follows me around, to Schechter Manhattan was a smooth process. The pedagogical approach here is very progressive and constructivist. The idea that students should make real books about real issues is a natural practical extension of that philosophy. In terms of the curriculum, that too was really a seamless integration. Students in both sixth and seventh grades think about democracy and, by extension, some of the issues we, as a society, must grapple with in order to maintain our republic. Given the realities of the political landscape in America at present, it seems fair to view the questions surrounding democracy one of society’s “most pressing issues.” So it all fit like a glove, actually. Learning for a Cause, and more specifically teaching with a real-world purpose is important to me and my teaching practice. I’m very pleased and thankful to have landed at such a school as Schechter Manhattan – a school that values, appreciates, and supports this project.


What did you hope that students would get out of the experience?

My hope for the students with this particular project, On Democracy, was multi-fold. Most basically, I wanted students to understand that the work they do in school can be valuable to not only their own education but to the broader world outside the school walls also. School is not, when done properly, merely a place of busywork. People will read this book and think about their opinions and their perspectives. That’s empowering for anyone of any age, but especially validating for an adolescent. Secondly, I wanted students to have an opportunity to think about our democracy and some of its strengths and weaknesses. I think it’s good practice, from a civics education perspective, to have students think deeply and practically about political and civic issues prior to reaching the age when they will vote. These kids are citizens now. They are leaders today, whether in their school, their community, or just among their friends. Practicing good citizenship, and by extension thinking about what that looks like, need not wait until the age of eighteen.


Are you pleased with the outcome of their work?

I’m immensely pleased, as I have been with all the books Learning for a Cause has released over the years. By allowing students to “free write” and think about these questions in a safe and non-judgmental space they were able to get to the core of many of these prompts. Although I did edit and take excerpts from those free writes, the words between those covers are still their words, the students retained their agency – a vital component of making this project work. Additionally, Jared wrote the student introduction and Maya designed and produced the cover illustration, both as a result of their own initiative. Oh, and we even received a positive endorsement from one of the city’s leading educational academics! What more could one want?


What do you think your students learned?

Fundamentally, I think the students learned that democracy is an imperfect thing. It requires its participants to think, engage, and tinker. I think they also came to learn that despite its imperfect nature, democracy is still the best political arrangement – a notion that is, perhaps, more critical to keep in mind today than any time in recent memory. Finally, I hope students also learned to think carefully about their writing; that books are permanent records.


How did Martin Sheen get involved?

I’ll give you the brief version of the story. Years ago we published a book, Down to Earth, which featured a foreword by now Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau. Martin got his hands on a copy of the book and was impressed to the point that he picked up the phone one evening and called me. Although his intent was to congratulate me, I had convinced him to commit to that year’s book before the end of the conversation. That was in 2009! We’ve stayed in touch since. He even came to Montreal and met with some of my student writers! Martin is a great man. He is very hands on with issues that he cares about. In this case, we spent several hours on the phone crafting this introduction. It is not a “secretary job” by any means.

What’s next for Learning for a Cause?

Every year is different. The project is amenable enough that it can adapt and evolve to meet various curricula. I’m very happy and excited to be returning to Schechter Manhattan next year and, of course, Learning for a Cause will come with me. Let’s see what happens!

Shabbat Shalom

Benjamin Mann

Author’s Chair

Each week we will feature the written work of our students. We hope that you will stop back next week and see what they are writing and thinking about.


Gan children wrote about their weekends

“I rod mi bickl it was fum”
(I rode my bicycle.  It was fun.)

“I got my blow belt it was on Saturday June 2.”
(I got my blue belt.  It was on Saturday, June 2.)



This month in Literacy, Kitah Bet students have been doing an author study on Kevin Henkes. They have immersed themselves in his works and have been carefully examining his writing style. Most often Kevin Henkes’ protagonists are small animals.

In this assignment, Kitah Bet students were asked to write their own story using Kevin Henkes as their inspiration. They each came up with their own small animal and had to think about their physical and personality traits, as well as a problem they need to resolve.

Here, they have drawn their animal character and labeled the physical characteristics they have, which they will use as the starting point of their story

Click here to view work by Zac, Daniel, Ayelet, Rony, Naomi, Bela & Ethan


The 5th grade researched immigration to America and Israel. We then wrote research papers on our selected topics of immigration.

Angel Island

The sobs of the deported still haunt Angel Island to this day. The Angel Island Immigration Station was built in 1910 on San Francisco Bay. Most of the people who went through Angel Island were Chinese and throughout the time Angel Island opened and closed, approximately 175,000 people came through. When being constructed, it was completely focused for the soul purpose of immigration and convenience. The people who came were forced to go through harsh exams and interrogations to be able to go to the U.S and, most of the time, the U .S wasn’t what they expected. First, after arriving at Angel Island, they had to go through a grueling process and after they were finally able to leave, America wasn’t what they had hoped it would be. When they got to America they had to face more hardships than anyone could have imagined. Angel Island had already done a good job of destroying the dreams of many.

Angel Island first opened on San Francisco Bay in 1910. It had purposely been built on San Francisco Bay because this area was very isolated; this was good because it isolated diseases that immigrants might carry and it made sure that immigrants couldn’t communicate with other immigrants already in America. Angel Island had purposely been built for people coming to the West Coast from Asia.

A few years before Angel Island opened in 1880, congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act. The Chinese Exclusion Act stated that only certain Chinese people could come to America. Only people who were travelers, teachers, merchants, diplomats, their families and servants, and students could come. This was allowed so America could keep important trade relations with China; these people helped make certain trades continue. Angel Island was built to make sure everyone coming to America wan’t a criminal or something along the lines of that. But some people weren’t criminals, they just didn’t have a certain job, so those people pretended to be someone else, or to have a job that they didn’t, so they were allowed to come to America. These people were referred to as Paper Sons.

The Chinese Exclusion Act was enacted for many different reasons. The most important and common reason was prejudice. Many Americans didn’t like the Chinese and they didn’t have reasons as to why. A lot of people didn’t like the Chinese because they were taking jobs that the Americans could have. Others didn’t like them simply because they were different. By the late 1860’s the economy was in decline and the competition for jobs was fierce. The Chinese were easy targets; they were blamed and scapegoated for the condition the economy was in. The Chinese Exclusion Act ended in 1943, because China helped America in war, even though in 1904 it had been amended to be permanent.

The Chinese Exclusion Act had caused many people to become Paper Sons. Paper Sons are people that got papers saying that they were originally born in the U.S so they could get past the interrogation. They would get a coaching book, filled with things they needed to memorize for the interrogation. On the boat ride to Angel Island they would study it. Right before they got to Angel Island they disposed of the book. Most people threw it overboard. It had been easy to do this because of the great San Francisco Earthquake and fire that had destroyed the city’s birth records in 1906. Also, if a person was originally from America they could come, no matter what job they had in China. Their children could also come. Being a Paper Son became a necessity if you wanted to come to America and you didn’t have a certain job because laws stated you couldn’t come. In other words, you weren’t welcomed.

On the boat ride to Angel Island the Chinese were usually placed in the least expensive section of the ship. They couldn’t afford anything better. This section was called the steerage and it was at the very bottom of the boat. In the Steerage there was a very short supply of food and water. They had to use rainwater to wash their faces; they couldn’t waste any of the clean water. Immigrants had to take turns sleeping in beds. While some slept in the beds, others had to sleep standing up. In the small space diseases spread quickly and were often deadly. When someone died the ship would have a sea funeral. To do this they would wrap the person’s body in cloth and throw them into the waves.

After getting off the ship, one of the first things that happened when immigrants arrived on Angel Island was the medical exams. During the exams doctors inspected people’s ears, noses, teeth, and eyes. They also listened to breathing and searched for any other signs of sickness. If someone had a disease that was incurable, or might affect their ability to earn a living they were sent back. The hospitals had different facilities for Europeans and Asians. At Angel Island the doctors wore white and this was very uncomfortable for the Chinese; in China white was the color people would wear for funerals. Those who passed their medical exam went back to their room to wait for the interrogation.

People were interrogated to make sure that they were who they said they were; sometimes people lied in order to get into America. The interrogators would ask hard questions hoping that only genuine family members would know the answers. They were hoping that the Paper Sons hadn’t thought of the question and, therefore, wouldn’t answer the question correctly or the same as their family members. After the interrogation they went to their barracks to wait. If a guard came in and said that person’s name and good fortune or go ashore in Chinese that meant the person had passed, and was free to enter the U.S. If a person was being deported, and they hadn’t passed, the guard came in, called that person’s name, and then silently made motions as if he were crying. Paper Sons always had a risk of being caught.

The barracks that the detainees lived in had rows of bunk beds, stacked two or three high, that could be folded during the day. In the rooms they had one or two Ping Pong tables at the edge of the room and the windows were barred so people could not escape. The rooms were separated by race and gender. Outside the rooms were hallways that had tables and chairs where people could talk, play dominoes or read newspapers and books. Outside the barracks were two separate, small fenced in areas; one for Europeans and one for Asians. In these spaces people could exercise, play volleyball, or get some fresh air. These areas were fenced in so immigrants couldn’t escape.

The cafeterias were separated by gender. Men and women would eat at different times throughout the day. The Chinese detainees were served Chinese dishes and though this act may seem helpful, to make the Chinese feel more at home, since the kitchen staff wasn’t accustomed to making Chinese dishes in a traditional manner it didn’t come out as it had originally been intended to. Some people didn’t care that the food didn’t taste amazing; they had never gotten enough at home, in China. To them this was a blessing. Others thought it was horrible and gross.

After thirty years of operating and serving as the gateway for Asian immigrants, Angel Island closed in 1940. At midnight on August 12, 1940, an electrical fire broke out in the basement of the Angel Island administration building. The building was destroyed. The firemen were able to save the building, but the government chose to close the immigration station and move it to another facility in San Francisco. After its closing the U.S. Military used Angel Island as a war camp during World War II. After World War II it was abandoned. Afterwards, in 1963, it became a California State Park and in 1997 Angel Island was declared a National Historic Landmark. The California Department of Parks and Recreation now manages the site.

Once the Chinese arrived in America and were allowed through Angel Island, they had to get a job. They were forced to work in unsafe conditions in America. The Chinese often worked on building railroads and hundreds of them died in explosions and other accidents. In 1867, in protest of working conditions, some of the Chinese laborers walked off the job. People were shocked; they had come to think that the Chinese would work in any condition. Also, any work for anyone Chinese was unsafe. This was because people would storm towns, killing any Chinese people they saw. No job was worth this. The only jobs people would hire the Chinese for paid very low wages. The Chinese were struggling. They couldn’t get a job that could support them and they were forced to take low wage, unsafe jobs. At first the Americans loved it. They could get workers for very little money, and it made life a lot easier for the Americans. The Chinese cleared land, did mining, and did agriculture throughout the West. As the Chinese became more established they sought higher wages and their success as independent miners and farmers was what made a lot of Americans resent them.

In conclusion, Angel Island was a very unhappy and lonely place. When people came there they were faced with awful interrogations and dreadful exams. When people left they were faced with discrimination and a life just barely getting by, or not getting by at all. And when, finally, the Chinese immigrants got the chance to do something where they could have a good life, people were jealous and took it away from them. The story of Angel Island is one that inspires many, because of the immigrants who were forced to survive the harsh conditions there.


Cuban Immigration

Did you know that out of all immigrant groups in America, Cubans have been one of the top ten largest? In 2016 they were the 7th largest group and right now there are 1.3 million Cubans living in the United States. Between 1950 and 1970, 221,505 Cubans immigrated to the United States. Faced with communism and the threat of their rights and money being taken away, Cubans moved to America. Unlike other immigrant groups, Cubans were welcomed warmly to the USA.

One reason people left Cuba was political instability. The leaders of Cuba did not seem to care about the Cubans and therefore life was very difficult. In the 1930s Gerardo Machado was president. He used his army to get what he wanted and he tortured people who did not agree with him. People were so unhappy that they rebelled against him, had a big war and won. They got a new president named Fulgencio Batista. People liked him at first because he established a minimum wage which helped the poor people earn money. As time went on Batista became very poor to his people, and in ways he was like Machado; he used his army to get what he wanted. Life was hard under Batista. There was a lot of crime and people were poor. Many people thought he was one of the worst presidents in Cuban history.

Fidel Castro, a revolutionary who supported the poor, led a rebellion to overthrow Batista’s government. Not many people know that Castro was not very popular at first. In fact he started with only 100 people in his army. In Castro’s first battle he lost and was put in jail. Fortunately, Batista did not care about him and let him out of jail. Castro continued to build his revolutionary army and went to Mexico. When he came back he attacked the Cuban army again but the Cuban army knew he was coming and he was defeated. In fact the Cuban army beat Castro’s army by so much that Castro was one of the only people to escape over the mountains. Even after that Castro did not give up. He continued to build an army but this time he attacked the Cuban army in secret and this battle he won. When Castro won Batista’s supporters fled.

Castro became president on February 16, 1959 and established communism as the form of government in the country. With communism the government takes all the land and businesses and has control of it so nobody was rich or poor. Many poor people were happy with Castro and hopeful that life would improve, but the rich people want to leave because they were afraid that their jobs and wealth would be taking away. At first Castro denied that he was a communist but after a while it became evident that he was. America did not like Castro because of this and thought communism would threaten the U.S. democratic way of life. They believed that what happened in Cuba would happen in other countries.

It was obvious that Cuba and the United States were not allies, and the Bay of Pigs invasion proved that. America had a very big sugar trade with Cuba and they threatened to stop that because they did not want to trade with communists. America eventually did stop their sugar trade with Cuba, so Cuba traded with the Soviet Union (the Soviet Union was also communist and they were America’s biggest rival). The Soviets, Cuba, and the US almost had a nuclear war because the only way the Soviets would agree to the deal is if they got to build a nuclear base on Cuba because Cuba is closer to America the war was called of because nobody wants a war. The US government hated Cuba so much that, in order to get the citizens to start a revolution against Castro, the US army sent an army to the Bay of Pigs. The invasion failed horribly, and the Cuban government turned to the Soviet Union, who sent nuclear missiles to Cuba. This angered the US and was known as the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Unlike other immigrant groups, the Cuban immigrants who immigrated to the US in the years 1950-1970 did not face many challenges.They did not have a hard time because they were mostly upper class and middle class and were therefore even called Golden Exiles. Some of their jobs consist of lawyers, doctors, executives, owners of firms, big merchants, sugar mill owners, cattlemen, representatives of foreign companies and professionals. Another reason they did not have a hard time was that some Cubans who had already immigrated helped ease the shock for the Cubans who came in Castro’s time. They helped by advising them on matters such as securing U.S. social security cards, helping them get jobs and adjusting to the U.S. They also helped them learn English, enrol their children in schools, and enlist in the federally funded Cuban Refugee Program, which provided free medical care and food. The exiles themselves helped one another find jobs and living quarters. It important to realize that the government also helped the lucky Cuban immigrants. The government loathed Castro and his followers so they welcomed the Cuban immigrants who left Cuba because of his policies. The US government helped by loaning them money so they were able to start businesses. They were given good opportunities by the US government which made life comfortable in their new home.

Cubans came to America because America offered lots of hope for Cubans immigrating. One of the hopes America gave was freedom of speech. In America you would not be put in jail for speaking your mind. People could speak freely in America. Another reason Cubans came to America was economic freedom. In America you had the opportunity to get the money you deserved and make a living but you did not get that opportunity in Cuba because Castro was a communist and the government was in charge of everything and believed that you should not be rich or poor.

While the Cubans did not have much trouble in the financial department they did have some trouble adapting the the culture in the United States. Even though Cuban culture was highly Americanized before 1960, they did face some challenges. They had to leave their friends, their family and all their belongings behind.

When the Cubans came to America they had to find a place to live. Like other immigrant groups the Cubans chose to live amongst other Cubans. They clustered together in Miami, in Southern Florida, a city close to Cuba. Because there were so many Cubans living in this one place, they started calling Little Havana, after Havana, the capital of Cuba. When you walk through Little Havana you might think you are in Cuba because there are Cuban shops, restaurants, a lot of Cuban businesses, and the streets are named after Cuban things. Little Havana is not very big, as it is only 4 square miles, but it houses thousands of Cuban immigrants. In an attempt to lighten the financial burden that the Cubans were putting on south Florida because there were so many of them, the government moved people to New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Boston, and Washington, D.C.

Faced with communism and joblessness, the Cubans who came to America hoped to find better paying jobs and freedom to be themselves. Cubans had an easier time in America than many other immigrant groups, because America’s government did not like Castro and was willing to help anyone who didn’t like the Cuban government . The Cubans also had an easier time because there were already Cubans living here to help them get used to a different country. That is what life was like for Cuban immigrants.


Russian Immigration in the 1990’s

The Post Soviet Aliyah In the early 1990’s, was one of the biggest waves of immigration in Israel’s history, which actually saw over 5,000 olim come from the former Soviet Union in just a single weekend. The reason for this is because living in the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev (The General Secretary of the Communist Party) finally introduced freedom for certain things, like where to live and what to wear, but the Soviet people did not exactly have a good life, due to anti-semitism, Communism, and poverty. In order to have a better life, many people wanted to emigrate. Jews wanted to go to Israel because Israel is the Jewish state, and according to the “Law of Return”, Jews were allowed to go to Israel and become citizens. When Gorbachev lifted restrictions regarding emigration, Jews fled the Soviet Union in great numbers. Once they arrived in Israel, they were surprisingly accepted by the Israeli society, and faced with little discrimination.

In the 1990’s Mikhail Gorbachev was the general secretary of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union. His program, called Perestroika, helped reconstruct and change the communist political system in Russia. Gorbachev had also brought the end to the cold war, which ended the rivalry between the U.S and the Soviet Union. Gorbachev made an effort to make life in the Soviet Union better than what it was at the time, but there were other people in the government who did not believe in changing or updating the communist idea, and made it hard for him to do so. Therefore when Gorbachev lifted restrictions regarding immigration in 1989, people who wanted to escape fled the Soviet Union for a better life without any communism, poverty, or anti-semitism. A life of of freedom.

Another reason why people wanted to leave the Soviet Union is because there was a deteriorating economy. This was really serious, because although some people had money that could by houses with, eventually that same money was only enough to buy a little meal. This shows how intense and unpredictable life was in the Soviet Union.

A third reason why people left Russia is that there was a lot of anti-semitism. The communist government suppressed the Jewish religion, as well as the practice of pretty much every religion. For example, Jews were not allowed to publicly practise their religion, and most synagogues were closed or burned. But even with all this happening. Jewish people still held onto their culture and beliefs.

One of the reasons why going to Israel would be good for the Jews of Russia was because of the ‘Law of Return’, which allowed Jews to immigrate to Israel and become citizens. The ‘Law of Return’ was enacted by the Israeli government on July 5th, 1950, and it was modified in 1970. The modification was made to extend the right of return to people who do not have Jewish status under Orthodox interpretations of Halacha, but who have a Jewish grandparent. This modification also allowed for the spouses of qualified immigrants to immigrate with them too. Another thing to keep is mind is that the U.S had stopped accepting Soviet immigrants, while Israel had opened its borders to them. So with the law of return in existence, Jews everywhere can now become citizens of Israel with ease.

Another reason why going to Israel was a good option for soviet Jews was because it was considered politically and economically stable. For example, Israel was still forming as a country so there were a lot of jobs. Also, the Israel the government was more stable than the government in Russia. Additionally, a lot of zionists supported Israel as the land of the Jews, so it sounded like the best option to many Jewish people.

When the immigrants actually arrived in Israel, they were accepted by the society at first. People would say, “With every immigrant, our strength rises.” But after a while, people started showing discrimination towards the immigrants. The reason for this was because people were scared that there were a percentage of non-Jews immigrating along with the ‘real’ Jews, and passing as halachic Jews. Another reason why people started showing discrimination is because people were afraid that the immigrants were taking away jobs and adding too much competition for the available jobs. But the main reason for discrimination was the cultural differences. The immigrants stuck together and kept their language and culture, rather than becoming more Israeli. Because of this, some people were not welcoming of the Russian Jews, especially the veterans of the Israeli society.

With all of the new immigrants coming to Israel, the issue of housing started to form. So many Jews came at once, and there was not enough housing available for everyone. Because of this problem, Ariel Sharon created a program to build new buildings. But even with that program, there were not enough buildings with roofs, so the government had 430 caravan sites set up. Another problem was is that many immigrants ended up living in “Russian neighborhoods” where immigrants were 50% of the population. That made it hard to adapt to Israeli society.

In conclusion, faced with anti-semitism, an unstable government, and poverty, the Jews in the Soviet Union fled their country to live in Israel. They made a big impact on the Israeli society in that time, and this impact can still be felt today. For example In 2009, Science Minister Daniel Hershkowitz said “The immigration wave helped the Israeli universities. One out of every four university staff members was now a Russian-speaker.” Also, prime minister Netanyahu called the Russian aliyah “One of the greatest miracles that happened to the state.” This shows just how much the Soviet aliyah of the 1990s helped Israel.


Swedish Immigration to America.

“De var den första av många att lämna sin by. De kom från ett land av små stugor och stora familjer. De var jordens människor, och de kom från ett lager som i tusentals år hade blivit till marken de nu lämnade”. Vilhelm moberg – The emigrants (Utvandrarna).

“They were the first of many to leave their village. They came from a land of small cottages and large families. They were people of the soil, and they came of a stock which for thousands of years had filled the ground they were now leaving”. Vilhelm Moberg – The Emigrants (Utvandrarna).

Vilhelm Moberg described the story of Swedish Immigration to the United States. Around 1.3 million Swedish people immigrated to America in the late 1800s to early 1900s. Faced with natural disasters, poor farming conditions, hunger and poverty, the Swedes left Sweden and came to America with the hopes of becoming citizens and having a better life. But when they finally came to America they had to face some challenges.

One reason Swedish people wanted to leave was because Sweden became overcrowded. During the late 1800, Sweden became overcrowded with people. People lived a longer life because of the good health care that existed in Sweden. The population doubled in 100 years and there was not enough room for everybody to live comfortably. Farming was a common job, but there were a lot of farmers in a limited amount of space. Since it was so crowded, people wanted to leave.

Another reason that the Swedes wanted to leave Sweden was because they didn’t have enough food. The 1845 crop failures and the Swedish Hunger of 1866 – 1868 also known as “the Great Hunger Years” led to the death of many thousands, by poverty and disease. Sweden had suffered poor harvests several times. The spring and summer of 1867 were extremely cold all over Sweden. Snow was still left in June especially in the Northern part of Sweden. The late spring was followed by a very short summer and an early fall. This caused not just bad harvests, but also made it difficult to feed the animals. The consequence was raising food prices. This caused widespread famine. The famine struck throughout Sweden, but was especially severe in the North. Because early ice and snow disturbed communications, it was hard to transport and distribute emergency food supplies to the starving areas. The year of 1868 was, in contrast to the previous year, not cold, but very dry. This caused a failed harvest and starving animals, which caused a continuation of the hunger. The great famine of 1867-1868, and the lack of trust in the way the Swedish authorities helped the needy is one reason why Swedes fled poverty to the United States.

Religious persecution was another factor that made Swedish people leave Sweden. The government of Sweden was connected to the State Christian Church, and, until 1858, people who practiced another religion faced being put in jail, or sent out of the country. People felt bad for the people who were practicing another religion because of that. The Swedes that celebrated another religion moved because that could not stand it anymore.

Next reason is that some people chose to leave Sweden because of the military service required by the government. In 1860, young men were required to train in the Swedish military for 30 days out of the year. The Swedes had to stay there as the laws became very strict and demanding. Men choose to immigrate with their families rather than be in the hard army service.

The weather is Sweden was bad weather for living and farming. A lot of the land also did not have a good terrain for farming. The Swedes moved to America to gain money and get rich and then buy farmland so it could be like it was in Sweden. The Swedish immigrants who moved to America because of land moved to the Midwest, looking for richer land that can make more food , and open land which they could develop. They also moved to the Pacific Northwest states.

The huge economic growth in America and opportunities for getting jobs attracted people to America. Swedish immigrants moved to America to find a new life, to become richer and to join family and loved ones who had already settled in the country. President Lincoln’s Homestead Act of 1862 and the enormously expanding industries of the North after the Civil War represented two important pull factors for Swedish emigration to America. The offer of free land in the Homestead Act was very interesting for the Swedish people who wanted to work on the farm. In America the Swedes were very welcome and the Americans often called them the best immigrants because the Swedes like to work very very hard. Swedish immigration also came here because of the promise of open land and by the “America letters” from friends and families who already moved to America.

Next when the Swedes moved to America they moved to gain money and get rich and then buy farmland. The Swedish immigrants who moved to America because of land moved to the Midwest, looking for richer land that can make more food , and open land which they could develop. They also moved to the Pacific Northwest states, which had a lot of forests which reminded them of back home.

When the Swedes arrived in America they faced some challenges. One of the challenges was to learn a whole new language. Another big challenge was that the Swedes moved to America but still wanted to keep their Swedish culture, and still celebrate Swedish holidays. Most of the Swedish immigrants quickly made their way to the new states and places in the Midwest of America, like Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois. Swedish immigration also came here because of the promise of open land and by the “America letters” from friends and families who already moved to America.

As the possibility of buying land became more hard and expensive and the American society was more industrialised the Swedish people who usually used to be farmers had to move to the big American cities like New York. The women became maids and the men often builders and carpenters. Many stayed in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Minnesota is probably the most Swedish of all states because Swedish people think that it reminds them of their own home because of the way the countryside looks.

In conclusion the Swedes left Sweden to live a better life and to gain money. They were very afraid of the trip but they made it and when they came they needed to face some challenges that they didn’t know about but after they learned how to speak, write and read in English they ended up being the Americans favorite immigrants.

  –  Elinor

Italian Immigration to the United States of America

Did you know that during the 1900’s to the early 1920’s about 3,156,000 Italians came to America? Most of the Italians came and lived in Little Italy, New York. Italian immigrants were unique because immigrants who came before them helped new Italians find jobs in America. Faced with natural disasters and overpopulation Italians came to America in hopes of safety and more jobs. When they arrived they faced many challenges but the Italians stayed and became very successful.

One reason people left Italy was because of limited food. There was not a lot of food because there were droughts. Sometimes there was so little rain that farmers could not grow crops to give to people food to eat. Not only were there droughts but there was ice that destroyed vineyards. The ice made it so the grapes wouldn’t grow which meant less food and drinks. Since food was so limited, people wanted to leave Italy.

Another reason people left Italy was because of the threat of volcanoes. Vesuvius was a volcano in Italy that erupted many times, causing many Italians to want to leave Italy. The eruptions of Vesuvius covered several cities in ash, making the living conditions terrible especially with the air. This pushed Italians to leave because they didn’t want the lava to hurt them and because their homes were covered in ash. Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 1906 killing more than 1,000 people. This eruption ejected the most lava ever recorded in a Mt. Vesuvius eruption. Just two years later it erupted again when Italy was preparing to host the summer olympics. The eruption destroyed cities, and destroyed villages of San Sebastiano al Vesuvio, Massa di Somma, Ottaviana, and part of San Giorgio a Cremano.

Not only did Vesuvius make Italians want to leave, but they also wanted to leave because of earthquakes. Many earthquakes scared Italians into wanting to leave their home. A earthquake in San Remo killed thousands as well as it destroyed a lot of architecture. In 1908 in Sicily the earthquake Messina lead to a tsunami which killed 200,000. In 1915 a earthquake in Avezzano killed 30,000 in central Italy. Even though the earthquakes didn’t come often, when they did, they were terrible.

In addition to the environmental reasons, economic reasons for emigration were also a big reason Italians left Italy. There were not enough jobs because of overpopulation and the jobs available were things that were not commonly known how to do. Overpopulation occured due to the fact that Italians had big families. The only jobs available were jobs in factories, but Italians didn’t know how to do these jobs because most of them grew up on farms so they were poorly educated about factory work. Another reason was because people could not afford to pay for medicine, doctors, and other important things like that. Finding jobs was a very big problem for Italians.

A final reason Italians left Italy was for social reasons. A social reason was that some people who could not make enough money for food stole other people’s food. The other people worked hard for the money to get that food. This made the Italians feel as if they were not safe and after they had to buy new food and than that means that they wasted their hard earned money. Italians who worked in the government and had high social status took advantage of those with not very good jobs and people with lower social status by making life harder for the people who had lower social status. Life was really hard in Italy and many people wanted to leave for these reasons.

After all the terrible things happening in Italy the Italians decided to look for a new home in America. America had a lot of job opportunities for everyone. Jobs such as fruit sellers, vegetable sellers, fish sellers, bread makers or bread sellers were available. Men had many job opportunities. They worked in coal mines, factories, and rock quarries. Men also built many things like railroads, buildings, bridges, tunnels, and subways. Women mostly worked at home sewing clothes. Kids sometimes sold newspapers. In most Italian families everyone worked hard and in America they had many options for where they wanted to work hard.

Not only was there a more acceptable range of jobs but Americans had more schools which had better education. Adults needed to learn English to be able to get a job. The schools in America could provide that for them. Kids needed to learn everything like math, English, social studies, and more. America could provide this for them giving adults and kids better education.

Another reason Italians were drawn to America was because many had family who they heard had established better lives for themselves. People wanted to be reunited with their family and join them in America. They had heard that America was safer. There were not as many crimes in America. Italy was at war and America was not at war. The Italians thought that the social environment was good and they could join the existing Italian community in America.

Additionally, America had fertile land for Italians to use their farming skills. Since there was fertile land, they could farm food to eat. The water in America was purified so everyone could drink it. America didn’t have as many natural disasters as Italy did. Finally Italians decided to come to America.

Lastly, America offered more religious freedom than Italy. In America there was a wider range of religions, but Italy was mostly Catholic. If you were not catholic there were more places to express your religion. Most Italians were christian and in America they would be able to find churches to practice their religion.

Once in America Italians had a lot of problems with their jobs. First they couldn’t always find jobs, if they did find a job it had a very low pay. Italians had to work in tenements which was the worst possible working conditions. Most of the Italians worked and lived in tenements. According to Dictionary.com, a tenement, or “tenement house, [is] a run-down and often overcrowded apartment house, especially in a poor section of a large city.” Some of them even turned their home into stores. In most families kids had to work just to get enough money for their families. Part of the reason Italians didn’t have jobs is because Americans didn’t want to hire Italians because they were different. A lot of Italian women worked at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, they were there during the fire and all of them died at work. All those women worked there because no one else would hire them. If the Italians could have gotten jobs that were better, had higher pay, and better working conditions it would have solved a lot their problems.

Poverty was a very big problem for the Italian immigrants when they arrived. Poverty was so common because Italians could not find jobs to make money. They couldn’t find jobs because they didn’t speak English, and that made it so they couldn’t communicate to get a job. In order to fit in they had to learn English.

Just like many other immigrant groups, Italians faced discrimination. One way Italians faced discrimination was that Americans blamed a lot of their problems on Italians. Due to this many Italians were killed, even though they didn’t do anything wrong. For example, Americans blamed Italians for taking Americans jobs. Also, over 100 Italians were blamed and killed because people thought some Italian people had killed a policeman. Another example of a way Italians faced discrimination was that Americans didn’t want to hire Italians because they were different and because Americans didn’t trust them. Another form of discrimination made it hard for the Italians to maintain their religion, because Americans would not let them pray in their churches. Americans didn’t understand the Italians which made Americans not want to be around them.

Language barriers were a big setback for the Italians. Americans couldn’t understand Italian and Italians couldn’t understand English. Adults had a harder time learning English, when kids had a easier time learning it faster. In a lot of families kids knew English much better than their parents. Since kids knew English better, kids had to take over lots of responsibilities for their parents. It was harder for adults to learn English. It was this way because kids brains learn things faster than older brains so adults had trouble learning English.

Once in America the Italians faced many challenges like political problems. A political problem they faced was that in 1921 a quota act was established. This made it so not everyone who wanted to could enter America because they only excepted some immigrants. This was a problem because Italians wanted to come to America. Political problems were not the only problem they faced.

Even though tenements were horrible and unhealthy places, the Italians had to live in the tenements because thats all they could afford. They also had to work in tenements even if their job was easier in a factory because Americans thought Italians were different so they didn’t want different people in their factories. It is important to realize that tenements were a mild upgrade for the Italians but they were still terrible places.

When faced with natural disasters and over population Italians came to America in hopes of safety and more job opportunities. When Italians arrived they faced many challenges, but the Italians stayed and eventually became very successful. Discrimination and poverty were two of the biggest challenges Italians faced in America. A success that Italians accomplished is that many Italians helped fight for America in world war II, and one Italian American who received a medal of honor, his name was John Basilone. Today there are over 17,000,000 Italian Americans and many of them have made important contributions. A famous and important Italian Americans was Frank Zamboni who invented the Zamboni. In conclusion Italians faced many challenges in both Italy and America but they stayed and became very just like the immigrants above.

  –  Abby

Mexican Immigration

Imagine you were poor, sad, just looking for scraps of money to feed your family. Suddenly, you hear about a great country, with a program that provides you with work. The best thing is that the country is nearby. Well that was how the Mexicans felt. 500,000 people, mostly men, immigrated between 1910 to 1962. The Bracero program helped them the most because it gave them valid work permits. Due to the Mexican Revolution and poverty, people left Mexico for a better life in the United States. When they arrived, it was not as good as they hoped.

There were many key reasons to depart Mexico that shaped the history of Mexican immigration. One of these reasons was the Mexican Revolution, that took place in 1910. The cause of the Mexican Revolution was because lots of people fought for control over land. People wanted a ruler who would treat them fairly. At the time of the Mexican Revolution, Porfirio Diaz, the ruler of Mexico, built roads and worked with big companies, but did not care about his people. He took away people’s land to build and spent money on companies, not on his people. He was overthrown in the war. Because of the violence, there was no food or jobs and people did not feel safe. Many homes and farms were burned down. It was a sad time in Mexican history and many people wanted to leave.

Another one of the reasons to leave Mexico at that time was Mexico’s economic problems. The Mexican army used most of the governments money for weapons, which meant little money for wages. There were so many people, but not many jobs available. People had to start working when they were very young. Therefore, many people had to live in poverty, never knowing when they will eat their next meal. People felt like they would never have economic opportunities in Mexico and wanted it leave.

A final reason people wanted to leave Mexico was the horrible natural disasters that Mexico experienced.. Severe climate change led to lack of water to drink. In addition to that, the 1911 Michoacan Earthquake hit mexico, killing many people in the process. To top it all off, in 1946 a tsunami hit the Gulf of Mexico, destroying many houses and making it one of the most tragic times in Mexico’s history. People did not feel safe from natural disasters.

People were drawn into America for many different reasons. One of these reasons was the Bracero Program, a controversial agreement between the U.S. and Mexico which began in 1942. A lot of Americans went to fight in WWII so their job became open. This meant Mexicans had a lot of job opportunities during the wary. The Bracero Program gave the Mexican immigrants work permits so that they can work in America. The Mexican immigrants went mostly to work in farms and build ships and tanks for the United States. Although Americans offered Mexicans jobs through this program, it was also controversial because some people did not want the Mexicans to come and did not treat them well. Nonetheless, this was a unique program that helped Mexicans come to America.

A final reason Mexicans were drawn to America was that it is nearby. America and Mexico share a border. This means that they have a shorter journey to go through. Although this kind of a journey is always tough, the Mexican immigrants had less rivers to cross, less miles to walk, and less challenges to go through. The Mexicans had lots to hope for when they get to America.

Once the Mexicans got to the U.S. they found out there were some challenges to face in this new land. One of these challenges was the new language. Most Mexicans did not understand English at all. But the work contracts were written in English. Americans decided to take this as an advantage. The Mexicans had to work in the dust, heat or cold. They worked with cheaper tools but they were harder to use.They were also exposed to dangerous pesticides. Even though they had jobs, the working conditions were disappointing and dangerous.

A final challenge Mexicans faced was not being accepted by society. Americans did not like the idea of Mexicans competing for jobs. That’s why they decided to kick some of them out of their land. Mexicans that crossed the border illegally had no protection under the law. This meant that even if they did the smallest bit of vandalism, they would get a punishment without a fair trial.The Mexicans had also faced a lot of discrimination. People had stereotypes of Mexicans as dirty and lazy, and therefore treated them poorly. Some of this prejudice still exists today.

Faced with a terrible war, Mexican immigrants fled Mexico to America in search of a better life. Many were brought to the US for a job supplied by the Bracero Program. When they arrived they realized that working in america was not as good as they thought. Although Mexican immigrants in the United States had to face lots of discrimination throughout the years, they had some successes. There were actors like Jessica alba, Louis C.K, and Michelle Forbes. There are athletes like Antonio Martinez ,Devin booker, and many more. This just shows how Mexican Americans adapted to life in America and made themselves known throughout the years. Even today Mexican immigrants have to face some challenges like not being accepted by society and discrimination. There are now 20,000000 people in America who can say that they have a Mexican descendant. The Mexican people made themselves at home in America.

  –  Yhonatan