A monograph of long gestation, Peter J. Spiro’s At Home in Two Countries: The Past and Future of Dual Citizenship (NYU Press) is clearly not aimed at the readership of Americans who are considering an exit strategy right about now. A number of handbooks are already available, should that be your interest.
The author, a professor of law at Temple University, is more concerned with the logic of dual citizenship -- its evolution as a juridical concept and a practical option over the past 300 years or so -- than with the logistics involved in obtaining it. That said, Spiro notes that he and his children, while all born and residing in the United States, now also hold European passports. It’s a reminder of his larger point: that the tide of globalization in recent decades has turned dual citizenship from an anomalous and potentially dangerous condition into something almost commonplace -- or at least no big deal. Whether it will remain that way is another question.
The historical narrative in At Home in Two Countries has a fairly well-demarcated beginning, middle and end -- with each phase defined by how much strain dual citizenship places on the relationship between the individual and the nation-state. (Also by the potential for conflict it creates between the nation-states involved, but let’s leave that to the side for a moment.)
In the beginning, everything is reasonably straightforward. You were not the citizen of a nation-state but the subject of a sovereign. God had placed you in your respective positions -- tying you together on this earth for what were, presumably, good reasons that, in any case, were not up for discussion. It was “not in the power of any private subject to shake off his allegiance, and to transfer it to a foreign prince,” as the U.K.’s House of Lords declared in 1747, nor could “any prince, by naturalizing and employing a subject of Great Britain … dissolve the bonds of allegiance between subject and crown.”
Implicit in such an official statement of the doctrine of perpetual allegiance is the reality that it was being violated in practice. And within 30 years came the virtually unthinkable developments in the American colonies, where British subjects began “shak[ing] off … allegiance” to their sovereign without “transfer[ing] it to a foreign prince” but to their own republic instead.
Emigration was a constant drain on the sovereign’s human capital -- especially on military resources, since it provided a way to avoid conscription. So a variant of the doctrine of perpetual allegiance remained in effect even after the secular nation-state took over from divinely installed royalty. Becoming the naturalized citizen of another country did not necessarily bring an end to expectation that you should meet the motherland’s obligations and obey its laws. Nor would your children be exempt. That could make visiting family in the old country a risky enterprise. Dual citizenship of this sort was involuntary and unintentional, and it had potentially grave diplomatic consequences if the government of an individual’s adopted country tried to intervene.
The legal and political fights so occasioned throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries make for the most interesting pages in At Home in Two Countries. Laws and treaties took shape that made expatriation, naturalization and election (i.e., the choice of nationality by someone born to parents of different citizenships) more routine and less volatile -- as much as that was possible, anyway, amid wars and international tensions.
But the other side of this stabilizing trend was -- at least, until fairly recently -- a strong sense that dual citizenship itself was something to be avoided and prevented as much as possible. At best it would be a temporary condition, to be cured with the proper paperwork and no delay.
“On the one hand,” Spiro writes, “dual nationals represented a potential spark in the tinderbox, as issues relating to their protection or responsibility for their actions could readily escalate into interstate conflict. On the other hand, in a world premised on the fact of some level of interstate conflict, dual nationals could only be presumed to do an adversary’s bidding from within.”
In the United States, the peak of what Spiro calls “the consensus opprobrium” regarding dual citizenship came in the early 1950s, with Cold War nerves at their most taut. The timing is interesting, because it coincides with a rapid decline of the issue driving much of the 19th-century debate: the concern with foreign sovereigns trying to conscript naturalized citizens traveling abroad. It was no longer a problem routinely facing the American diplomatic corps, and by the 1960s, European and Latin American countries adopted conventions to end it as a source of friction among themselves.
“As states stopped fighting over dual nationals,” Spiro says, “there was much less incentive to combat the status.” What followed was the slow and uneven normalization of dual citizenship, as some countries ceased to require emigrants to renounce citizenship upon naturalizing elsewhere and others reaped benefits from absorbing immigrants who maintained their birthright citizenship. (“To the extent that a renunciation requirement deters naturalization,” writes Spiro, “society’s loss from the reduced rate of naturalization plainly overshadows the benefits of enforced renunciation.”)
So from the era of perpetual allegiance (in which dual citizenship was more or less a contradiction in terms) to the long decades of reducing the strains of expatriation and naturalization (when dual citizenship became an anomaly to avoid), we’ve reached the epoch of high globalization, with dual citizenship an established if not quite ubiquitous mode of transnational life. With dual citizenship “normalized as an incident of globalization,” Spiro devotes a chapter to the case for “the emergence of an articulated, protected right to the status” recognized by international law.
Here the author hits a note of expectancy that implies something almost historically inevitable: the result of forces moving in certain identifiable directions. For the course Spiro identifies moves in a recognizable direction. From epoch to epoch, the individual gains power in determining his or her status vis-à-vis instituted authorities. At the same time, conflict among those authorities tends to subside. Nationalism will grow kinder and gentler, to be replaced in time by a higher stage of cosmopolitan citizenship, as envisioned by Immanuel Kant or Thomas Friedman, albeit in somewhat different ways.
It will take much work and goodwill, but there’s no reason why things can’t keep moving forward in a virtuous circle. The potential for retrogression is not really a part of the scenario. It figures the normal global citizen of the future as someone choosing among citizenships -- rather than as a refugee without the option of claiming a single one, caught between nationalisms out for blood. In Spiro’s long-term perspective, the evolution of dual citizenship seems destined to keep on advancing, while at the moment it feels like we are at the edge of something, possibly a cliff.
As a higher ed faculty member, my cognitive dissonance toward the term “big data” was palpable. My body would stiffen and my arms would fold when discussing the use of student data to increase enrollment or support academic performance.
Although my background in research instilled in me great respect for inquiry and data -- as did my childhood affinity for master observer Sherlock Holmes -- I was never at home with the idea of data with the term “big” thrown in front of it. Research, to me, was a very human endeavor, while “big data” represented something cold, calculated and ethically gray. Big data was the Moriarty to my Sherlock.
Within higher ed, I wasn’t in the minority with my cynicism. In a 2013 Educause report titled “Building Organizational Capacity for Analytics,” the authors identified a “substantial need for raising professional development, capacity building and the analytics IQ of institutional leadership and practitioners, at all levels.” Additionally, a recent Inside Higher Ed article by John Warner expressed skepticism of using aggregated data to predict individual behavior in education.
While I identify with the sentiment behind Warner’s data skepticism, I have come to understand in much greater detail the capabilities of data science and big data. And now that I’ve seen how data can empower institutions to match students to the right programs and provide individualized support through graduation, I am a huge proponent of increasing the use of big data in higher education.
My mind-set shift came care of a career change. After spending a few years working in higher ed, I moved to the private sector to help higher ed institutions increase enrollments, thereby helping students at scale. That move caused an immediate collision between my research-loving self and my dataphobic self, as now my work revolves around the insights of big data.
To reconcile these two seemingly disparate mentalities, I had to do some soul-searching. I quickly realized that my resistance to big data hinged on three things: my attachment to big data’s disreputable forward face, my ignorance of the breadth of big data’s capabilities and my misconception that big data could only create fixed, unchanging portraits of students.
Big Data Has a Bad Reputation
Big data’s public profile leaves much to be desired. As business executive Jonathan H. King and law professor Neil M. Richards pointed out in a 2014 Forbes article, “While there’s nothing particularly new about the analytics conducted in big data, the scale and ease with which it can all be done today changes the ethical framework of data analysis.” And we’ve seen this ethical dilemma play out for the worse in predatory marketing practices in a number of sectors, including higher ed. Once again: Moriarty.
Familiar questions about privacy, ownership and transparency of data are particularly salient in post-Edward Snowden America. Many privacy clauses lie buried in pages and pages of legal text, most of which consumers never read. With online activity becoming so ingrained in our daily lives, it is unreasonable to think that we can either: a) discontinue our online activities due to privacy concerns or b) fully attend to the myriad legal agreements our online activities make on a daily basis. If one wants to remain (or become) a contributing member of society, neither of these options is plausible.
Yet a simple truth underpins this ethical debate: big data itself is ethically neutral. As Debra Humphreys, vice president of strategic engagement at the Lumina Foundation, points out inGame Changers: Education and Information Technologies, “People define how technology is deployed, not the technologies that people invent.” Because people are at the crux of all ethical gray areas in big data, higher education institutions are confronted with the responsibility -- and opportunity -- to set the ethical standard for the utilization of data science.
Big Data Is Just That: Big
I remained unaware of the breadth of big data’s capabilities for quite some time. To visit examples put forth in Warner’s article, I too had caught word of studies that correlated things like first-semester credit loads and pre-emptive access to courses with student success. Yet we all know that correlation is not causation, and Warner rightly pointed out that “by focusing on questions of what (take 15 hours/access course early), we allow ourselves to keep from confronting the much more important questions of why.” This assertion lies at the crux of the misunderstanding of data science in education. We do have the capability to more narrowly get at the why behind student success on a much more individual level through data.
The truth is that data analytics capabilities have grown exponentially. Now millions of data points can be assessed in relation to all others. As Vernon Smith posited in Game Changers,
“A growing body of best practices and interventions that remove barriers to student progress and success exists, but those interventions would be better informed if they were based on what the research and actual behaviors indicate, rather than on anecdotal notions or experiences alone.”
In terms of research, these anecdotal notions come when they are founded on too little data. While sweeping interventions hinge on single data points like early access to online course materials, big data has grown the ability to concurrently assess millions of data points -- demographics, test scores, previous academic performance, employment, family size and learning styles, to name a few -- and potentially identify “at-risk” students. Holmes was right: “the world is full of obvious things which nobody by chance ever observes.” Leveraging big data to reveal those obvious things can help institutions paint a predictive picture of a student’s likelihood of success.
Data Analysis Is a Living Process
All that said, I wholeheartedly agree that predictive modeling alone is not the panacea to end all student failure. Neither is collecting real-time student data the only answer. The problem with many real-time indicators of student struggle is that once they surface, it’s often too late. Many students simply won’t raise their hands and say “help!” and it’s often too late to effectively assist them with red-flag indicators like not showing up to class or not logging onto a learning management system. Yet when we combine that predictive model with real-time indicators of student performance, you’ve got a living, individualized and iterative foundation for student support.
To maximize impact, we must view data in terms of iteration and interaction. By merging predictive models of student success with real-time indicators of student performance, we home in on a more individualized foundation for student success. Predictive models inform a baseline understanding for each student, then data on each student’s continuing exchanges with and performance at an institution can help inform interactions throughout the entirety of the student lifecycle. Only then can interventions hinge on a more holistic story than log-ins or credit hours alone can tell.
I am passionate about the mission of higher education, which is why I’m now doing what I do. Higher ed institutions fill a vital role in society and place value on information and high ethical standards. On the surface, higher education’s commitment to research, teaching and serving the public seems in opposition to the unethical applications of big data to simply maximize profits. Yet if we focus on transparency, customization and innovation, we can employ big data to more fully pursue our mission and goals. In this way, we’ll say to our students, prospects and stakeholders, “You know my methods, Watson.”
Danielle Caldwell is a former faculty member and current adjunct professor in Westminster College’s master of strategic communication program. After working with Westminster College and Southern Methodist University, she moved to Helix Education to help colleges and students at scale. Helix Education provides colleges and universities a comprehensive suite of technology and services to power data-driven enrollment growth.