December 9, 2005

In Kansas, Knowledge Is A Bad Thing

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 4:28 pm

El discusión contra de la evolución se parece reflejar una creencia más profunda en Kansas: el conocimiento es malo. Una persona no está definido por lo que sabe, pero por lo que rechaza saber. Aquí está la exhibición más reciente de una imposición agresiva de la ignorancia de los funcionarios de la escuela:

Most of the time, 16-year-old Zach Rubio converses in clear, unaccented American teen-speak, a form of English in which the three most common words are “like,” “whatever” and “totally.” But Zach is also fluent in his dad’s native language, Spanish — and that’s what got him suspended from school.

“It was, like, totally not in the classroom,” the high school junior said, recalling the infraction. “We were in the, like, hall or whatever, on restroom break. This kid I know, he’s like, ‘Me prestas un dolar?’ [‘Will you lend me a dollar?’] Well, he asked in Spanish; it just seemed natural to answer that way. So I’m like, ‘No problema.’ ”

But that conversation turned out to be a big problem for the staff at the Endeavor Alternative School, a small public high school in an ethnically mixed blue-collar neighborhood. A teacher who overheard the two boys sent Zach to the office, where Principal Jennifer Watts ordered him to call his father and leave the school.

No soy defensor de la educación bilingüe. La experiencia de California ha sido que una inmersión total en inglés en la clase en los que hablan solamente español les ayuda aprender el inglés más rápidamente, que es todo al bueno. La instrucción en inglés solamente imparte conocimiento verdadero, mientras que la instrucción bilingüe es un obstáculo al conocomiento.

Mientras que una política del inglés solamente es enteramente apropiada en la clase, esta escuela en Kansas le ha tomado una medida más lejos. Están implicando — no, están indicando explícitamente — que la capacidad de hablar una segunda lengua es mala. Conocimiento es malo, ignorancia buena.

Como he escrito antes, amo escuchando a Spanglish aquí en el sur de California. Pienso lo que encuentro tan hermosa de Spanglish es la facilidad con la cual los hablantes cambian hacia adelante y hacia atrás entre inglés y español. Podrían comunicar fácilmente su pensamiento enteramente en una lengua o la otra, pero la conmutación no tímida hacia adelante y hacia atrás es un síntoma de su facilidad con y maestría de ambas idiomas. Es una exhibición del conocimiento, de la capacidad, y de la habilidad, pero sin estar para jactarse. Es una manera natural comunicarse.

Pero éste no debe ser tolerado en Kansas, donde están los estudiantes deshonrados para su capacidad y les dijeron que el español debe ser ocultado detrás de puertas cerradas en la casa. Junto con Darwin.


The anti-evolution debate seems to reflect a deeper belief in Kansas: knowledge is bad. A person isn’t defined by what one knows, but by what one refuses to know. Here’s the latest display of an aggressive imposition of ignorance by school officials:

Most of the time, 16-year-old Zach Rubio converses in clear, unaccented American teen-speak, a form of English in which the three most common words are “like,” “whatever” and “totally.” But Zach is also fluent in his dad’s native language, Spanish — and that’s what got him suspended from school.

“It was, like, totally not in the classroom,” the high school junior said, recalling the infraction. “We were in the, like, hall or whatever, on restroom break. This kid I know, he’s like, ‘Me prestas un dolar?’ [‘Will you lend me a dollar?’] Well, he asked in Spanish; it just seemed natural to answer that way. So I’m like, ‘No problema.’ ”

But that conversation turned out to be a big problem for the staff at the Endeavor Alternative School, a small public high school in an ethnically mixed blue-collar neighborhood. A teacher who overheard the two boys sent Zach to the office, where Principal Jennifer Watts ordered him to call his father and leave the school.

I am not an advocate of bilingual education. California’s experience has been that a total immersion in English in the classroom helps Spanish-only speakers learn English more rapidly, which is all to the good. English-only instruction actually helps impart knowledge, while bilingual instruction is an obstacle to it.

While an English-only policy is entirely appropriate in the classroom, this school in Kansas has taken it one step further. They are implying — no, they are explicitly stating — that the ability to speak a second language is bad. Knowledge bad, ignorance good.

As I’ve written before, I love hearing Spanglish here in Southern California. I think what I find so beautiful about Spanglish is the ease with which speakers switch back and forth between English and Spanish. They could easily state their thought entirely in one language or the other, but the un-self-conscious switching back and forth is a symptom of their ease with and mastery of both languages. It is a display of knowledge, of competence, and of skill, but without ever being for show. It is a natural way to communicate.

But this is not to be tolerated in Kansas, where students are stigmatized for their ability and told that Spanish must be hidden behind closed doors at home. Along with Darwin.

11 Comments

  1. I sympathize with you, but isn’t your conclusion a bit of a stretch?

    Comment by wildwest — December 10, 2005 @ 6:29 am

  2. You mean because I’ve taken a couple specific situations and generalized it to the entire state and all fields of knowledge? I call it a mere “rhetorical device”, but “a stretch” works too.

    😉

    Comment by Bob — December 10, 2005 @ 10:04 am

  3. Yeah.

    Comment by wildwest — December 10, 2005 @ 10:22 am

  4. As a lifelong Kansas resident, I’ve got to respond. Rhetoric may be a fun way to make a point, but the truth is a little more complicated.

    First, the school is only one of thousands of schools in the state. Second, when the superintendent was informed of the situation later that day, he reinstated the student and emphasized that the school does not have a policy against speaking Spanish (or any other language) outside the classroom. Third, while there is a distinct anti-intellectual mentality in some parts of the state — especially rural areas where the locals watch their young adults go off to college and never return — it’s simply not fair to paint the whole state with the same brush.

    I grew up in a small Kansas town of about 4,000 residents. My best friend from high school spent 10 years as a missionary in Mexico. Now he is back home tutoring nearly 100 students whose first language is Spanish, in a town where until recently nobody spoke Spanish. Things are changing, and a lot of people don’t like change. Some respond out of fear. But change is inevitable.

    From the news reports, it may look like the reactionaries are in firm control in Kansas, but the truth is a little more complicated.

    Comment by BruceA — December 10, 2005 @ 5:04 pm

  5. Personally, I always prefer the truth over “rhetorical device,” thank you, BruceA.

    Comment by Jacke — December 10, 2005 @ 5:12 pm

  6. Now on this one, Bob, I came away from it cold. It kind of reminds me of a post I commented on yesterday where a Christian posted about how Democrats are anti-Christian because of a magnet that the Washington Democratic Party had for sale on it’s site of “fisher of men” symbol with flames and the word hypocrite within it. I made the point that just because one site has that on it does not mean that all Democrats are anti-Christian. I stated that the Washington Democratic Party doesn’t speak for all Democrats, not even everyone in their state. Also, since the image was taken down and the capture of the page didn’t explain why they had the image up there, or even what they felt the image represented, I couldn’t judge their intentions but that I hoped they didn’t feel all Christians were hypocrites because that would actually be said. Logic and reasoning went straight over their heads. They were too busy spouting about how bad Democrats are, how evil, how Republicans would keep the White House forever because Democrats are know-it-alls with no conscience, etc. All I could do is shake my head and pray for God to help them. They had some serious hate issues going on over there.

    Now, as to how that and this reminds me of each other: I don’t think that because I believe God created the earth that I am anti-knowledge. I am quite intelligent. I don’t mean to flatter myself or anything, but I have a high IQ. It has been tested. I don’t have much in the way of common sense though, so don’t think I am bragging. 🙂 Anyway, I also know that my belief that God created the earth is correct. God says so and He doesn’t lie. Now, just because scientists have been figuring out how God did some of what he did, does not mean God didn’t do what He did.

    I also don’t think the people in Kansas, who fought to have Creationism or “Intelligent Design” included in a text book, are stupid. I personally don’t care if text books say God created the earth or not. It doesn’t take away from what the Bible says and I know how to teach my kids the truth. But, I also don’t think anyone is ignorant for wanting their kids to learn that there is an alternative out there and that alternative is that God or even a “Creator” created the earth and scientists have been working forever trying to figure out how He did it.

    So, long story short, I think you overreached and the post comes off as insulting.

    Comment by Angel — December 11, 2005 @ 11:17 am

  7. Well, thanks for the honest feedback, all of which I take to heart — I over-reached, and for that, my apologies.

    And to Bruce — thanks for your description of things from a Kansan’s point of view, and I apologize to the overwhelming majority of Kansans that I criticized unfairly and inappropriately.

    My biggest regret, though, is that the over-reaching obviously distracted from the real point of this post. Let me give some more context, this time by throwing rocks at some of my fellow Californians. Some people seem to talk and act as though speaking Spanish is a bad thing, period. It comes with comments like “they’re taking over” (which has been said about every new wave of migration) and along with anti-immigrant politics such as depriving illegal immigrants, and even legal immigrants, of social services, or wanting to build a wall between the US and Mexico.

    Speaking a second language is always a good thing. People in the US, and really in the entire world, need to learn English because it has become the global lingua franca. But also being able to speak Spanish, or Mandarin, Korean, Vietnamese, or any other second language is to be admired.

    And of course that was the point of the bilingual post thing (speaking of rhetorical devices).

    And btw, I can see now how tempting the Rush Limbaugh paint everyone with the same brush, all liberals and democrats are as bad as the worst of them, kind of rhetoric is. It makes for much sharper, wittier commentary. Even though it’s not true.

    Comment by Bob — December 11, 2005 @ 12:08 pm

  8. You know, I have found that the more sites that crop up with the whole Rush Limbaugh/Anne Coulter thing the more that just turns me off. And, more and more people have that going on. It leaves me beyond cold; it leaves me frozen. I mean, really. Everytime either of them even mentions God it makes my teeth hurt. While God may love them, I doubt He finds what they say glorifying at all.

    Comment by Angel — December 11, 2005 @ 12:25 pm

  9. Fluency in several languages could be a key to job security these days.

    Learning to love others as God loves is a struggle. Yes, Angel, Limbaugh, et al. pose a major challenge to me, too. I take it to be a learning experience.

    Comment by wildwest — December 12, 2005 @ 5:44 am

  10. Wildwest, I hear ya. 🙂

    Comment by Angel — December 13, 2005 @ 12:54 pm

  11. One of the strong fundations of learning here in Switzerland
    is its diversity of languages. Here the average person can conversate
    in 4 or 5 languages. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why the education system in the States
    left in the hands of such (professionals?????) should not be allowed.

    Comment by Jack Larson — December 14, 2005 @ 2:46 am

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