Saturday, February 11, 2006

Leave My Pocho Child Behind

Leave My Pocho Child Behind: "The Texas Constitution stipulates that every child in Texas is to receive a free and public education. Within that context, several programs have been implemented to help students succeed in school, stay in school, and accommodate their special needs in order to learn. One of those programs is bilingual education.Bilingual education basically allows a non-English speaking student to learn English as they progress in the classroom. But bilingual education has come under fire from advocates who choose to entrench non-English speaking students in an English immersion program. English immersion is a system in which non-English speaking students spend a year learning almost entirely in English before moving to mainstream classrooms. English immersion hasn't really been considered in Texas. It may have been the topic of conversation within the conservative 'education reform' crowd, but it really hasn't garner enough attention until now. Yesterday, the Texas State Board of Education heard testimony on English immersion program in public schools. Such programs have been adopted in the states of California, Arizona and Massachusetts, but their success, or lack thereof, was the highlighted topic of conversation presented by the Lexington Institute - a conservative policy think tank out of California.This isn't the first time the SBOE has been the political battleground for a n"

I've had discussions about this with my wife, who teaches Head Start and is working towards a teaching degree. She gets to see many pre-schoolers who don't speak English or have limited ability to speak it. My wife is also a fan of Core Knowledge Curriculum, which is a way of teaching that builds on culture. The main concept of this approach is that we should teach our children about their own and other cultures as a basis for learning, and then build the other skill sets on top of that. The reasoning is that you have to establish something with which the student can associate new information. You can't just throw facts and figues at children, or new words in the case of language education, and expect them to make sense of it all. There has to be some context.

What schools are doing now is that they are putting recent immigrants who may have been in higher grades learning multiplication, division, science, and other good basic skills in Mexico, and they put them back a few grades while they learn English so that they can learn enough to pass the TAKS in third grade. So, if you have a Mexican fifth grader put into first grade to learn the language, how is that not already segregating the student? The Mission school district has started a program where recent immigrants are given special instruction before being put into the mainstream. This way, the students don't lose two or three years of education because of the language barrier.

Segregated they will be in both instances. They will either be left behind with younger students or they will keep up to their grade level in a separate program from the mainstream. So the question then becomes, why lose the education these children received in Mexico by demoting them so that they can learn English?

Going back to the Core Knowledge theory, these monolingual children already have a handicap in learning, language. Let us not forget that they have another challenge to overcome, that of culture. When you learn a language, you don't just learn words and phrases. You learn ways of thinking, culture, and history. These are valuable to children in becoming American. This gives the new language and school subjects some context with which to attach the materials. Sadly, it's not just immigrant children who lack this, our school systems are trying to teach children in the absence of culture. Lately it's become shameful to promote American culture. We have to be "multi-cultural" which means Not American. This is bad because your own culture is a way of approaching the world and learning new things.

An example would be a child whose parents expose him or her to the family business, whether it's a shop or whatever. Obviously, that child will learn about matters like cost control, taxes, regulations, and employee training and will approach the world with that core knowledge of a business person. At home, that is the child's culture. Learning about the life of a farm kid may be interesting, but there is no personal connection with the farm life for the business kid. So, if we want the child to learn success, he has to be exposed to and taught success through the culture. By being "multi-cultural", we are neglecting our children's education because they have no personal culture with which to attach new information.

This is why Jay Leno is able to get adults off the street who know nothing about life in the United States. They don't know our history, they don't know our contemporary leaders, they don't know anything practical, and they will be in charge of somebody someday. With today's teaching to the test approach and an emphasis to diversity, we are leaving our children with no knowledge of who they are, no context for their learning, and no true, lasting knowledge.

So, Pochito is being left behind already. Segregation to learn English for a year or two is the least of his problems. He has a lot more to learn about being American if he hopes to make something of himself.

Before you jump all over me about being Anti-Mexican, keep in mind that our Mexican culture treats women as inferior; as evidenced by Vicente Fox, believes blacks to be inferior; doesn't stress parents participate in the education of their children; is replete with corruption at many levels; and promotes looking out for #1 above all else. This is not American culture. Those Americans who carry out their lives by Mexican culture don't get very far because it doesn't fit in with what makes America great. In the Rio Grande Valley, many of us like to think that we are Mexican. We still have some vestiges of the culture; but, we are not Mexican. You know what I mean. When you go to Mexico, you don't fit in. You feel like you stand out. And, in typical American arrogance, you think you can teach those Mexicans something. If you have family over on the other side, you know that your life is much better here and you realize the big difference in cultures on opposite sides of the river.

We are not completely American in the Rio Grade Valley, either. Think of our region as a transitioning area. One of the requirements of a successful transition towards success, which is what we want for students, is learning English, learning American culture, and building upon what they already learned instead of holding them back. The only successful people in America who don't speak English were already successful before they got here. Everybody else has to learn the language to make it.

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