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
children.

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
been successful.

The

Latino Family Literacy
class is offered at Lawrence
Elementary, George Washington Elementary and the

Joe Serna, Jr.
Charter School.

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
the class.”

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
umbrella of

“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
and healthy.

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
    Literacy

    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
    program.”

Only five
hours? Teaching this subject is the stuff of Master`s
Degrees. And simple instructions for preparing literacy
programs? Teaching

literacy
is tough work. To pretend otherwise
guarantees failure.

  • 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.”

Kids who
don`t know one end of a book from another are a sad fact
of the California public school system.

I wonder
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.

Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English
at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly
column since 1988. It currently appears in the


Lodi News-Sentinel
.