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Voice: Learning English well does not rob students of culture

November 21, 2001

Mr. Lopez, your effort to read between the lines of Mr. Elias' recent reporting of the encouraging results of California's standardized test scores is to say the least reactionary and to say the most it does a great disservice to the children making great strides in their education.

First, Mr. Elias was not dealing with the past as to how "limited-English speakers" were dealt with back then, but with the current status of these children and the efforts being made to help them learn. The past is there to help us not make the same mistakes and as a result make things better, as in this instance.

Secondly, Mr. Elias is not placing blame but reporting facts and the facts state that "limited-English speakers" dragged down the overall scores. Must we always be looking for the gremlins of racism behind every corner? He did not say immigrants, because not all immigrants are English-deficient.


Thirdly, what about the student's self-identity? What about his culture? Since when did it become the duty of the school to teach the student what is obviously the responsibility of the parents and family? Is it the school's primary responsibility to teach students values, customs and traditions particular to each student's culture?

I dare say, no.

Mr. Lopez, you say the immigrant should be taught English "but not at the expense of his language, thus his culture."

Do you really think that by teaching a person a second language, history, literature etc., he/she will lose touch with his cultural roots? Nonsense!

In all your book learning did you once forget Mama's menudo, the words to "Las Mañanitas," or what to do with a piñata? If you did, shame on you.

Mr. Lopez, you state it is your opinion that we should return to a system (bilingual education) that did not produce the results that were expected. Are we now so afraid of success and progress that we are willing to go back to a well-intentioned failure? How's that saying go "Experience teaches us that we don't learn from our experiences."

If a student is having trouble coming to terms with who he/she is identity-wise, meaning his/her culture, then his parents and family have failed him, not the school. School is not the place for one to find his/her cultural roots. He/she may learn something about them, but that's not where they are planted.

Finally, this country is about freedom. We are free to express our differing cultural backgrounds while coming together as Americans and sharing with each other our customs and traditions, using a common language. The more proficient we become in this common language, the better we understand each other and cultural barriers can be overcome.



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