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.