Mittwoch, 11. September 2013

A hypothetical letter with real-world implications

Today's blog is about a letter to teachers and administrators as to why I feel they should not cut the German program within my hypothetical school district. Hopefully, I will never have to go through with this sort of thing, but as a future German educator, this is a distinct possibility, especially since Spanish has, and probably always will be, the language of preference for many ISDs and districts.

To the parents and school district of (INSERT DISTRICT HERE),

It has recently come to my attention, that the school board is seeking to remove all non-Spanish language classes from our schools. This is one of the more disheartening possibilities that has been put forth for consideration for quite some time now. The implications of moving to a Spanish-only program are far more damaging than may first appear. First, and foremost, students will be limited by what they can study and retention of a language will diminish through forced decisions on what sets of languages students are allowed to learn. Being a Spanish-only district will send a message to our students that their preferences and feelings toward their own education do not matter, and that they are to be simply being treated as numbers on rosters. Of course, learning Spanish, or any other language, is of great value within our society, as we push for more emphasis in a bilingual society. However, forcing students to learn a particular language against their will does little more than to force them to refuse to put forth effort in order to rebel against learning the new language.

As a high school student, I was given the choice between French and Spanish. Several friends of mine, who had immigrated from Spain, had confided in me that the that Spanish programs at the school were teaching a debased form of a Mexican-dialect of Spanish, which, as they explained it, was little above the level of Ebonics or Cockney in English. That being said, I opted for French immediately, even though I would have preferred a German class instead. By having the choice between Spanish and French, I was able to live with my decision and work towards learning my new language. I wasn't nearly as happy as I could have been, had there been a German option, but never the less, I found the situation far superior to that of being forced into a Spanish room against my will.

With that in mind, think of this scenario another way. It is your first day of band, and you have no choice but to play the French Horn. You have no say in this, despite arguing and begging to be allowed to play the clarinet. Instead, you are told to sit quietly in your chair, read the music and play along with everyone else, or you can fail and be kicked out of the class. Most students, when forced to learn something against their will, when choices are normally offered to them, will rebel openly or silently by refusing to put forth more than the minimal amount of effort. The experience of playing in band, or being in a language classroom, is then greatly diminished, and the student is cheated of potentially building upon life skills, thinking critically, and potentially becoming globally aware of issues and ideals outside of his or her general home-town surroundings.

Secondly, we must also consider the implications of a Spanish-only school. With the number of Spanish speaking children enrolling within our district continually rising, we must consider the possibility of these students being cheated of the ability to learn a third language. With a Spanish-only program, and state and school requirements forcing students to take two years of a foreign language, should we truly rob these students of an experience that could enrich their lives by allowing them to take French, Italian, German or even Latin? We emphasize resume building and college preparedness, yet we balk at the idea of producing exceptional members of society when the time calls for it. When given a choice between one, bilingual student who's native language is Spanish, and said student studied Spanish for two years, or a trilingual student, who would you hire or accept to your school? Student one appears to be lazy on paper, since he or she opted for Spanish, even though the student had no choice but to relearn a language that he or she was already proficient in. Do we truly want to hinder the abilities of our students in the future due to our short-sightedness?

Lastly, we need to consider the global implications of limiting our students to only one foreign language option. When considering the vast majority of European nations, and dare I even compare the United States to the superiority to language literacy within the developing world, many foreign students are at least bi or even trilingual. Several family members of mine are from India, and they speak Hindi, English and Gujarati. As a supposedly developed nation, it would seem to be of greater importance to allow our students to have the option of learning multiple languages if they so choose. If the United States is to remain a viable nation within the global economy, our students need to be well-equipped for the work world beyond our school's campus and even the university classroom. Continually, bilingualism is becoming less and less preferred within the professional realm, and our students deserve to be exposed to as many languages as possible.

I ask each of you to consider these vast and sweeping implications. I am not speaking from a perspective of maintaining job security, but from the standpoint as an educator who cares about the future of our children. If we are to push for the success of our students, then we must arm them well, train them for what is to come, and gird them for the battles before them. Without versatility in our curriculum, the whole system in itself will fall apart from within, and our students will suffer greatly.

With much respect,

Herr Evan Semeneck

1 Kommentar:

  1. Evan,

    I thought your post was very well-written, firstly. I disagree with the part about the Mexican-dialect being taught, and how it is improper Spanish. All of the Spanish that I have learned has been grammatically correct, and when I traveled abroad, I had no problems communicating with other Spanish speakers. However, I loved your part about how an all-Spanish school is a horrible plan. At the high school that I am currently teacher assisting at, there are many native Spanish speakers in our classrooms. Aside from some minor grammar knowledge, the students are breezing by the material and learning very little. With other opportunities, comes greater reward in the sense that those students will possibly become trilingual. It truly is necessary to have other language classes other than Spanish, especially with the growing Spanish-speaking population in the United States.

    Take it easy,