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Not Your Normal PostGlow Post

I am almost positive I will get a lot of negative feedback. Yet, I feel as a semi-informed and concerned American citizen this is a necessity. If I were the type to do pickets, or march around the capitol, or write my local representative, or write my senator, or write my congressman/woman, maybe I would use that form to state my concerns. However, I am not that type of person.  I can already hear people saying, “don’t complain if you aren’t willing to do something.” For the record I think writing this and posting it on my blog is something.

            A couple of weeks ago I attended a meeting for a school district here in Houston. I was able to get a peek into the money that is spent on special programs. It was astounding to say the least. What concerned me most was the revenue appropriated to English as a Second Language (ESL) students and English Language Learners (ELL).

            Texas has an extremely high Hispanic population. Houston is insanely multi-cultural (I see this as a great thing), Houston also has a high African-American population. Now, when I say African-American population I don’t mean (sorry if this comes out politically incorrect in some way) people who were brought here on slave ships, and have descendants that were around during the civil war black people. I mean African-Americans that still have their African accent. Houston also has a substantial Asian population. For the purpose of this semi-structured rant I will be focusing on the Hispanic population for two reasons. One, the population is rapidly growing faster than the others. Two, because I am writing about the current and future employment market in Texas, and the effects language has on it.

            I feel that a lot of people that will automatically agree with me, will do so for the wrong reasons. Therefore, I’d like to address those sentiments now. I do NOT think that the children of illegals should be shipped back across America’s borders. MANY times, these students are American citizens, and they should not have to pay for their parents indiscretions. I do NOT think that these students should simply be made to speak English throwing them into school with English speakers, and hoping they eventually catch on.

As American citizens, I feel we have a duty to these students to educate them in a way that will be most beneficial to them. I believe this way is by entering them into ELL and ESL programs. These programs allow them to not only speak their native tongue, but to read and write it in a grammatically correct way. Then they help them acquire English; teaching them to speak, read, and write it as well. All of this is excellent, and very necessary if these young citizens are to grow up to be productive members of society. This is even more necessary if we expect them to be successful in the increasingly global and multilingual workforce.

The problem is here. What about everyone else? When you take a look at the current entry level positions in sales, marketing, customer service, one will often see, especially in Texas, “must be bilingual”. When they say “must be bilingual” they don’t really mean that. What they really mean is candidates must speak English and Spanish. This is not likely to decrease, but to increase, as time moves along.

 This is a non-issue for the native Spanish speakers that were taught English through American taxpayers. Again, this is a good thing. However, this is a HUGE issue for English native speakers that weren’t taught to read, write, or speak Spanish (or any other foreign language) until they entered high school; when—in most cases—it is far too late for language acquisition.

During this meeting that included teachers, data specialist, school adminstrators along with district administrators I posed this question, “Are there any programs to help native English speakers learn another language through immersion in elementary school?” The response I got—looks that basically made me feel like an idiot; looks that said ‘that is preposterous.’ “The point is to teach them English so that we can teach them everything else,” an administrator finally said.

So now I pose this question to you. I am nuts?? Am I the only one that sees the writing on the wall? Is it not a form of discrimination to teach some children a secondary language, but to leave out an entire group?

This bothered me. I have a son. He doesn’t fit into any special categories. He speaks English. He isn’t a high risk for anything. He can’t be considered low income. As a matter of fact the only way I see my son as disadvantaged is that he doesn’t have both of his biological parents in the home. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t receive the same education as every other student in the public school system. Texas is notorious for un-even distribution of education. Obvious and in my opinion despicable policies that discriminate against the less fortunate. I suppose many can suggest this evens it out. I’d be inclined to agree, but the old saying two wrongs don’t make a right seems fitting.

It is easy to say that the entire public education system simply sucks. I could say that, but I wanted to say more. Maybe just maybe someone with some power, or someone that will picket, write letters, or do something else will see this, and maybe, just maybe this will get fixed before it is too late.


6 thoughts on “Not Your Normal PostGlow Post

  1. I won’t lie, when I first started reading this I got really anxious about this being a “They moved here, they should speak American!” rant. I’m so thankful it wasn’t and even more thankful for this point of view.

    It has literally never occurred to me to think about it the other way around, to think how horribly we fail at giving our kids a second language OTHER than English.

    I always say, “I speak every language my parents knew,” which is tongue in cheek since my ancestors were English and Irish. I’ve long felt the effects of French classes started in high school (which is basically nothing) and longed for another language.

    And I’ll take ot a step further: in my chosen profession, it’s usually MUST BE BILINGUAL. I sigh at those. It’s a horrible feeling and I’m jealous of those who were blessed with many languages in their homes.

    I want the US to be multicultural. I want to hear many languages on a street corner. I want our roots to be maintained and nurtured. I don’t want everyone homogenized and speaking English. But I also wish I had that chance, and my child, too, to be viable in this multilingual situation.

    A girlfriend of mine recently moved to Paris to work at her company’s branch there. She’s not French, but is fluent because her mother (also not French) happened to be a Francophile and enrolled her daughter in a bilingual program as a little girl which cost – literally – thousands of dollars over the course of her schooling.

    I’ve already been thinking of ways of how to make Peyton bilingual in Spanish so as to open up a massive part of the world and the workforce (& just all around badassery that comes with it). I’ve even researched it, but the English-Spanish programs in my area were so expensive I laughed. So I completely see your point.

    It’s utterly inexplicable to me why we’re not taught Spanish from kindergarten on (I say “Spanish” due to the proximity to Central and South America). Switzerland has four – yes, FOUR – official languages and we can’t even figure out two. Makes me love Canada that much more.

    Cool post, girl. Very thought provoking.

    • Oh Hy, I can’t tell you how big of a smile came across my face as I read your response. In the almost year that I have been blogging off and on; this is the first time I have ever closed my eyes before hitting the comments button in fear of the angry mob of words headed my way. Thank you for reading on despite what you thought this post was, I am sure some won’t.

  2. I suggest you don’t view this issue as a fairness issue, although it may seem unfair to allot additional resources to one group and not another. The reality is, there are so many unfair situations in public education that I assure you, these bilingual students are not coming out as well-educated as English speaking students (without explaining how, I’ll just say I have an inside track to the disparity in quality of education). I suggest instead you view this as lost opportunity for your child, no worse then the lost opportunity to learn music in elementary school due to budget constraints. Every study shows learning music early makes a child significantly better in math and science and more successful overall. By eliminating funding, you’re required to go out and pay for private lessons just like you’d pay for private language instruction. With limited resources, you’d choose the one that was most important to you. If you look at it this way, it makes it a simple budget decision on both your part and the schools. If you look at it as a fairness issue, you will be very disappointed at all of the additional attention the school will need to pay to a young Spanish speaking student just to bring the quality of education up to par with an English speaking student.

    • I’ll agree with you it isn’t fair overall and it never will be. I suppose I should appreciate the fact that my son goes to music class every week. It is one of the reasons I chose his school, they don’t forsake the arts.

      This is where I disagree. Algebra, chemistry, and other various classes that students will take aren’t necessary for an entry level positions. It is quickly getting to a point where speaking Spanish is a minimum requirement, just like speaking English normally is. Therefore my son isn’t missing an opportunity for an “extra” like art, or music. He is losing what will soon be a vital opportunity, not a supplementary one.

      Oh so long ago Education consisted of the three R’s. They were staples, and a necessity. The necessity for ‘reading’ is shifting to not only reading English, but other languages to. It shouldn’t be an extra one, especially when it isn’t an “extra” for others.

      Secondly, when the funding goes away for music, it goes away for everyone in a district, or state, not for certain populations. The opportunity is lost for all.

      • The day that music, art, second languages, and all the other things like them (P.E., even! In some places, at least…) cease to be considered ‘extras’ or ‘specials’ will be a happy day indeed. I’m *thisclose* to moving to Finland, a place where education, teachers and students are actually valued.

  3. Similarly, when I first started reading this, I was all ramped up to get super mad about some ‘merican wanting the rest of the world to speak ‘merican. Thank you. I am from WA, but I currently teach ESL in Spain. I am frequently asked, “What languages do you speak?” much in the same way that someone would ask, “What are your favorite foods?” It’s expected that people speak second, third, or fourth languages.

    Despite the fact that being a native English-speaker provides me with innumerable opportunities that are denied to others (pretty much everyone is dying to learn English, and it pays well to teach), I am frequently at a disadvantage because my Spanish isn’t fluent, and I don’t speak a word of French, Portuguese, Arabic, German, or, well, anything else. I am constantly at a loss to understand the indifference/arrogance that many United States residents display at the thought of learning or speaking foreign languages. And frankly, taking two years of a foreign language in high school is a joke.

    I don’t see any reason to prevent US schools from becoming completely bilingual, or better yet, tri-lingual, from the elementary level on. It’s just a matter of attitude, really. Like you say, leaving foreign language skills out of education does nothing but relieve children of opportunities and place them at a disadvantage.

    Anyway, thank you. Thank you for being open, for seeing the big picture, and for being willing to speak out about it. Respect to you.

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