Generation One Point Five
What Is a Generation 1.5 Student?
There has been a large amount of interest in recent years in meeting the needs of ESL students in the composition classroom, “particularly with the the growing number of second language writers entering our colleges and universities.” Figured among these students of diverse ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and academic backgrounds are a population of students, situated between recent adult immigrants to the United States, and their second generation children. They are known as Generation 1.5.
It is here that we will insert a disclaimer on the process of delimiting the identifying characteristics of a group of people. There can be no universality in any definition that can be made, as exceptions will always be present, and to claim an absolute definition risks over simplification, exclusion, and essentialization. However, several definitions have been put forth that have overlapping qualities, and the use of a definition in this case provides a beginning basis for our discussion.
An article entitled, “Introducing the Cultural Mashup Dictionary: Our first term, 1.5 generation” states that the term Generation 1.5 “is used by most as a blanket term for those born abroad and raised here.” However, it continues, subcategories have been delineated that further examine the nuances of this definition: those who arrive before age 5 are considered generation 1.75, being closer to the second generation, with little or no memory of their native country. Whereas those who arrived between 13 and 17 would be generation 1.25, who are “more likely to have an outlook similar to the first generation” (Rojas “Mashup Dictionary”). Additionally, Rumbaut states that “Those who came between ages six and twelve are the classic 1.5ers. They are truly in-between.” For our purposes, Generation 1.5 will include all students who were born outside of the United States, but then immigrated as youth.
How Prevalent is Generation 1.5 in Today’s College Composition Classroom?
Today’s college composition classroom includes a rapid growth in Generation 1.5 students. The more this population grows, the more instructors need to be aware so that they can adapt to meet the needs of their students. According to Miller-Cochran: “Of significance to writing teachers is the growing number of language and literacy backgrounds present in community college composition classrooms. According to JoAnn Crandall and Ken Sheppard, “about one in four community college students is an immigrant” (5), and recent research in the field of second language writing has highlighted the growing amount of linguistic diversity in college composition classrooms (Miller-Cochran; Roberge, Siegal, and Harklau)” (Miller-Cochran).
This trend is underscored by the fact that the U.S. Census projects that by 2043, the U.S. will no longer be a white-majority nation. Therefore, schools and universities will increasingly enroll a more diverse student population, which will most likely include more Generation 1.5 students. As more non-native English-speaking (NNES) students enroll in U.S. schools, colleges and universities, the importance of the issue of academic literacy has become more relevant. According to Gee, a “high proficiency in English and the ability to use it for academic purposes are viewed as essential conditions of these students’ successful socialization into the academic culture and, arguably, success in their academic and professional careers.”