Thursday, February 07, 2008


In Texas, one family stands up for the right not to know jack about your neighbors:

Mandatory Spanish classes anger Grapevine family

While the rest of her fifth-grade class was taking Spanish classes mandated by the Grapevine-Colleyville school district curriculum, Ashleigh Allison sat in the Timberline Elementary School library writing a report about France.

Ashleigh and her mother, Leigh Allison, say teaching elementary school Spanish only makes life easier for Hispanic immigrants in the community who do not learn or speak English. And Ashleigh shouldn't be forced to conform, they say.

"She wants to be that one voice that forces them to learn English," Allison said. "We're not going to turn America into a bilingual country to accommodate you."

Er, this isn't a plot to destroy our English-speaking heritage -- it's just standard-issue foreign-language instruction as most of have experienced it in American schools for generations. And Spanish is this kid's only choice for the same reason that French and German were my only choices when I was in school -- because offering just the limited menu is easy:

... Texas' curriculum requires a school district to offer, "to the extent possible, languages other than English" for elementary- and middle school-age children.

Most districts offer some level of language instruction, said Monica Martinez, curriculum director with the Texas Education Agency. And for most, Spanish is the language of choice. It's easier to learn and speak than many other languages, and school districts can hire more experienced Spanish teachers than teachers of other languages.

"But it could be French. It could be American Sign Language," Martinez said. "It's left to local district discretion to determine what they offer."

As for whether this course is helping Americans inappropriately accommodate people who refuse to speak English, um, I don't think so:

Grapevine-Colleyville elementary students must take Spanish two days a week in nine-week rotations with art classes.

Two days a week for half the school year? That's going to enable the reconquista?

Oh, please. Like a lot of Americans, I took years of high-school French, in full-year, full-week courses, and a few years ago I couldn't even pull off asking for directions in Montreal. Most language instruction in American schools is pathetically inadequate -- languages are treated as something you learn because you're simply supposed to be in school learning stuff, much of which you'll never use in real life; a foreign language is thus treated as more or less like trigonometry. But even woefully inadequate language instruction is too much for this family.

Oh well -- at least Ashleigh's mom doesn't mind Ashleigh learning about France. I guess the "freedom fries" era really is over.


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