First Advisor

Charlie Curry-Smithson


In the field of education, there is a debate as to the appropriate goal of schooling. For some, it is the transmission of information from educator to students; resulting in the production of individuals who have an understanding of how society works, and what that society has defined as their role in it. For others, the goal is the production of individuals capable of understanding how society works and of applying the creative skills necessary to transform it.

This paper is a look at three educational theorists; Paolo Freire, Henry Giroux and Jim Cummins, and how their theories of transformative education apply to the education of Southeast Asian refugees in the Burlington, Vermont. This paper answers two questions. Do theories which call for urban school reform apply to smaller suburban school districts? And are theories and teaching methodologies generated in the Americas culturally sensitive and appropriate to the needs of Southeast Asian students, particularly recently resettled refugees?

Through interviews with a teacher and administrator in the English as a Second Language (ESL) program, interviews with an administrator of the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program, and a survey administered to Southeast Asian youth at Burlington High School, this paper comes to the conclusion that recently resettled refugees from Southeast Asia are not able to participate in the types of education espoused by Freire, Giroux and Cummins until they have become comfortable with the English language, and the culture of the American school.

This paper provides some suggestions for other small school districts faced with the challenge of establishing programs to educate Southeast Asian language-minority students.


Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education | South and Southeast Asian Languages and Societies