Friday, August 07, 2015

Letter #57--Trilingual Public Schools Ueber Alles.

Dear All-powerful Governor,

My kids started back to school yesterday. August 6th. Everyone is astounded the kids start so early here. I try to explain that they have two weeks off at Christmas and a week off for spring break and 6 snow days that are built in and are pointless because it doesn’t really snow anymore. Starting early and ending in early June/late May makes it look like Arizona is committed to education but I really think the superintendent is hell-bent on year-round school but this academic-calendar-based town won’t go for it. 185 days a year for school is pretty normal across the country, I think. I think it’s 180 in Utah. My kids like school. Well, Max just started Kindergarten so who know how long he’ll like school but they had fun the first day. It’s a Spanish Immersion school. Max told me he learned to read and write Spanish yesterday. I guess the next five years will just be review, then.

It’s a well-integrated school, because of the tri-lingual program. Most of the students take the Spanish/English track but some kids, mostly Navajo, take the DinĂ© track. The Navajo kids don’t usually know Navajo. Their grandparents speak it but their parents don’t. They’re learning it to preserve it. It’s cool and rare and now Zoe, even though she’s on the Spanish/English track, knows a few Navajo words and has a lot of Navajo friends.

I was listening to This American Life podcast today about poor performing schools. The argument for this story was that the only thing that ever works to bring up test-scores of kids in struggling schools is integration. The story recounts a Missouri school district’s loss of accreditation that allowed students to transfer to a well-performing school. The kids did who transferred did better. The test scores in the well-performing school didn’t drop. Nothing bad happened. The parents of the good school were outraged. They sounded as racist as if they had been recorded in 1950, citing violence, the need for metal detectors, and all coded racist language that suggested “those students” would ruin their schools and drive the good (white) people from town.

The students at the good school were more welcoming, which is promising. I keep thinking that everyone generation, people get better, more open-minded, less racist, more communally oriented.  I fear I’m wrong. Something happens when you have kids that makes you think “good education” means for good education for your kids and not necessarily for all kids. It’s a bit of a horrible, if natural, condition that one’s focus narrows and narrows to see only the beautiful potential in your own beautiful offspring. I would like to think I can subvert that natural narrow focusing but I’m not sure I’m so good at it. I ask myself, if the school over here is better for my kid, would I will send them there, superseding my belief that a diverse school makes a better school for everyone? I hope not but it is my job to look at for my kids. But it’s also my job to look out for other kids. It’s all our job, not just yours, to look out for all the kids.

I understand you’ll be visiting my kids’ school soon. I would like to meet you there so you can see that this one school works for all the kids and that all these kids each has a better chance of going to college, where, if you could help restore funding, I can teach them all together and no one will be turned away from college because of their inability to pay or because they were stuck in a poor school that shafted them an education because the people of the good schools wanted them kept out of their kids’ good schools, assuming “those students” wouldn’t be going to college anyway.

I started this post with the “all powerful” salutation because I wanted you to see what you could do to keep my kids happy and tiny and in the fifth grade and Kindergarten respectively (or even vice-versally) forever. But then I thought, if you could be all-powerful, then what I really wish is that each kid in this state has a good a shot as my kids at loving school and learning a lot. You have that kind of power. You should use it thusly.

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