View from Lodi, CA: Abolishing America – In The Classroom
According to an April 10th Lodi
News-Sentinel story (“New
Class in Lodi aimed at teaching English, Spanish
literacy to Latinos,” by Ripley M. Howe), there
is now yet another new program designed for non-English
speaking parents and their non-English speaking
The key word in the preceding sentence is “another.”
Over the fifteen years that I have
taught at the Lodi Adult School, I have seen
programs come and go. They all look good on paper. And
they are all widely touted at the outset. But few have
But there isn`t the slightest need for “new” programs
since the Adult School gives—as it has for decades– ESL
instruction to any
interested student at all times of the day and in
all corners of Lodi and North Stockton.
And for parents who want to learn with their
children, the Adult School offers the Community-Based
English Tutoring Program (C.B.E.T.).
Adults can bring their school age children to study
English under the supervision of a certificated teacher.
But the Latino Family Literacy Program, with its
thinly disguised sub-rosa agenda of promoting
Hispanic culture while minimizing America, is not
only unnecessary, it is grating.
Based on Howe`s observations at the Lawrence School,
the teacher begins the class by calling out, “Ninos,
ninas, attencion!” This is an odd way to begin an
English language class.
The parents are assigned books written in English and
Spanish. They read to their children and talk about the
stories and topics presented in the text. Most books
discuss family life.
While one of the goals is “to improve the English
skills of Latino parents,” Latino Family Literacy
also “encourages parents to teach proper Spanish
verbal and reading skills to their children and to talk
to them about life in Mexico.”
Here comes the kicker. Writes Howe, “The action
all takes place in Mexico and this is a key element of
On the day Howe attended, the assigned book was
“Family Pictures.” Topics with a Mexican theme
included the day we found a dead hammerhead on the
beach, bursting the birthday piñata and eating
watermelon chilled straight from the refrigerator.
Conspicuously missing is a good old-fashioned
American value like how I look forward to the 4th
of July parade.
So I`m wondering: the class teaches Spanish verbal
skills? Everything happens in Mexico? And the Mexican
element is considered “key”?
All this nonsense falls under the all-inclusive
“self-esteem” wherein some theorist has sold the
concept that no child is complete without an in-depth
understanding of his heritage.
But throughout Howe`s story, you can see that the
first concern is keeping the roots to Mexico strong
Read parent Nicolasa Robles` take on the class.
Through an interpreter, she said, “I want to help my
son in school, especially to speak
Spanish as well as English.”
Shouldn`t the goal for him to
speak English as well as he speaks Spanish?
Other troubling aspects nag at me.
- Latino Family Literacy meets
only once a week for two hours. According to the
curriculum, children and parents study at home. Take
it from someone who knows—not much home study will
occur and next to no English will be learned in two
hours per week.
- According to the Latino Family
website, “Each program requires a 5-hour
training for parent trainers and includes a cultural
competency overview for working with Latino families,
a training manual with a weekly curriculum, parent
handouts, outreach flyers, sign-in sheets, and simple
instructions for preparing a literacy or language
hours? Teaching this subject is the stuff of Master`s
Degrees. And simple instructions for preparing literacy
literacy is tough work. To pretend otherwise
- Christina Esperson, the Lawrence
Kid-Link coordinator, says that Latino Family Literacy
shows parents how to introduce their children to what
a book is. Some do not even know how to look at a
book. Said Esperson, “Some of these children have
never even opened a book.”
don`t know one end of a book from another are a sad fact
of the California public school system.
how many more children with no academic background we
will try to educate before we finally admit the
obvious—that we cannot do everything for everybody.