At last, someone in the community speaks out publicly and forcefully on the hidden shame of the city—the inability of students to function in English.
The bilingual education programs set up in the Nogales school district just aren?t working because there is no transition from Spanish to English, Superior Court Judge Roberto C. Montiel told the school board at the last meeting.
In other words, students function in Spanish through the early grades and then in the fifth grade are suddenly expected to be proficient in English.
“?but it?s not happening,” Montiel said. “Somehow, magically in the fifth grade they?re going to learn to take a test in English.”
Montiel is not a casual observer, sniping from the sidelines as do so many self-centered people in the community who are talk but no action.
As he will tell you, when he began first grade in Nogales he did not speak English. He learned it little by little, both in the classrooms where English was stressed in the beginning grades and on the playgrounds, learning from the Anglos.
Montiel will tell you that had he never learned to communicate in English, he never would have become a successful lawyer and then a judge.
And as a judge, he can tell you the tragedy of seeing people come through his court, unable to speak English well enough to advance in life, doomed to a dead-end existence of lowpaying jobs or crime.
Their futures become ones measured in how many years they will spend in state prison because turning to crime seems to them the only alternative to the prison of not speaking English well enough to make something of themselves in an English-speaking world.
It is not uncommon for both Montiel and fellow judge Jose C. Lerma to have persons appearing in their courts saying they spent 12 years in the Nogales, Ariz., school system but still have to have a Spanish translator to tell him what the judges are deciding.
The Spanish language is a beautiful one, a much more expressive one than English, a language in which one can take pride in using, Montiel told the Nogales International.
But the harsh reality, he adds, is that it is an English-speaking world that the students face—and to get ahead, English is required.
But that message seems to get lost somewhere in the Nogales school system.
“I think it needs to be said that the bilingual program as we have seen it here in Nogales is failing and it?s failing as evidenced by the fact that we?re afraid to have our kids taking a test in English,” Montiel told the school board.
“I believe that all of us should speak both English and Spanish, but not if we have to sacrifice.
“I think we need to go back and evaluate the bilingual program we have today—it?s not working.”
Hector Arana, the new school board president, agrees.
“We?re not doing a really good job of teaching them English,” he told the board at the same meeting.
“I think it?s time for the board to reevaluate and have the courage to do it, take a step forward to say that enough is enough, we?ve seen the evidence, let?s do something about it.”
We hope he follows up on his words.
In the meantime, judge, keep talking.