“I personally believe we developed language because of our deep inner need to complain.” — Jane Wagner
If you sit in our teacher’s lounge long enough, you’ll hear the complaints. So I avoid it as much as I can, even though occasionally I must enter the lounge to use the copier at lunch time. And on this particular day, I had to use the copier for some last minute homework. Thusly, I heard it, from the one person at our school who constantly confirms that old adage about opinions being like rear ends–we all have them.
But not all of us share all of them out loud–and some of us is not the one of us at our school who does so out loud. As a result, here it came: “You know, this is America, and we speak English in this country, and everyone should be made to learn it!”
I gather up my stuff and try to quickly leave. Since I wasn’t a “part” of the conversation, I can avoid having to participate in it. But I acknowledge to myself, the inherent ignorance of the statement, reminding myself that the U.S. Constitution establishes no official language for the country.
“…there is a persistent tendency to blame any missteps to bilingual children on early exposure to two languages…well-known variations in the onset of rate of language acquisition among monolingual children are ignored…the decline in literacy skills, the object of so much concern and discussion at every educational level, is forgotten when even slightly substandard performance in these areas is given by bilingual children. Unfortunately, because bilingualism is almost always considered a major contributor to such difficulties and may even be considered a source of a range of behavior problems, parents and educators alike tend to be very quicky in deciding to eliminate one of the languages when problems arise.” — N.S. Goodz
Ah, that must be it. Our lounge opinionator must have that insight about why speaking “The Spanish” supposedly produces so many naughty undesirable kids at our school. Right, got it. Believe or not, after a number of years where I teach, I still find it surprising to find out that you can find casually professed ignorance at a place where education is supposed to be the main thing.
Since I was at 6th grade camp last week, and only in my classroom for a day on Tuesday before needing to run some errands involving my little girl yesterday, I at last realized that I needed to sign the paperwork in order for the 3 kids from my current group of 6th graders eligible to be re-designated as Fully English Proficient (or F.E.P.), to gain that status.
Our school usually has a little ceremony tacked on to a Citizenship Assembly towards the end of the school year. The students’ names are called, and they all come up and get a special little certificate, which, I know, has to warm the heart of the one-who-knows-all at our school: these kids can officially now speak English!
So it was last Spring, as we sat towards the back of our Multipurpose room at last year’s re-designation ceremony, that I sat with a group of last year’s 6th graders. As the kids’ names began to be called to go get their certificates, one of my kids turned to me and asked what was going on, i.e., what did it mean to be “re-designated”? As I began to process how to quickly and quietly explain the process, I was beaten to the punch by one of his classmates. In many ways, his explanation was simple, elegant, and to the point, at least with regards to the political climate in certain parts of the country these days.
Without missing a beat, S.D. quipped, “It means those kids are no longer Mexican!“