Warning: What you are about to read has been deemed offensive to multiculturalists, diversity officers and certain ethnic minorities. But since a growing percentage of these folks cannot decipher this without translation, I’ll press ahead … in English.
Everywhere we turn these days, Spanish is in the air. Court translators are demanding more money from government. Spanish voting machines have been ordered, the better to drum up Democratic votes. DMV tests now come in Spanish to ensure equal access to our congested roadways. And our schools are erecting their own tower of babble. But we’re not talking about bilingual education. That academic fraud which keeps Spanish speakers conversing in their mother tongue has been amply discussed and discredited.
No, this is about teaching Spanish to English-speaking elementary pupils. It’s yet another tawdry tale about the surrender of a once-coherent culture, and one more example of misplaced priorities.
The Clark County School District apparently figures it’s doing such a great job of language instruction that it has carved out an hour each week to force-feed Spanish to students in first through fifth grades. Of course, the district’s vision of excellence is an illusion since district reading scores slump below the national averages (which are none too high). On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, our black fourth-graders rank in the lowly 34th percentile.
Literacy problems drag down other test batteries as well. District officials rationalized this year’s anemic science scores by noting that the tests called for — gasp! — ‘heavy use of reading skills.’ Rightfully embarrassed, Superintendent Carlos Garcia wants all students reading at grade level … by third grade. Huh?
Meantime, our social-engineering educrats push FLES — Foreign Language in Elementary Schools. Though they cannot provide exact numbers, officials say the vast majority of our 155 elementary schools offer the program that consists of Spanish videos and other visual ‘reinforcing activities.’
It’s really the blind leading the blind. Some 3,000 teachers — some trained in teaching Spanish, some not — just switch on the VCR, slap in a cassette and let the pupils fixate on the boob tube. Program coordinator Elena Steele-Baker calls FLES a winner. She says second-language acquisition boosts literacy, advances multiculturalism and helps America compete in the global economy — not necessarily in that order. Citing a random year-end survey, Steele-Baker claims ‘students retain 79 percent of what’s shown on the videos.’ She adds that middle schoolers who have gone through FLES fare better in foreign language courses.
Because the district does not generally provide foreign language electives to elementary pupils, officials believe that FLES is a cost-effective alternative. But is it? Most youngsters interviewed in my own random sample call it a waste of class time. With some using FLES for sleep time, students can go through five years of the program without gaining any Spanish skills. Without tests, true accountability is nil.
Let’s be clear here: There’s nothing wrong with teaching foreign languages. Let’s also stipulate that Spanish isn’t the only tongue out there. But English instruction clearly must be Job One, and the district is derelict on that score.
Worse still, neither students nor parents have any say about FLES. The decision to offer the program rests solely with principals and staff under ‘site-management’ rules. Inculcated in the bureaucratic liberalism that elevates multiculturalism to a state religion, they dutifully cue up the videos.
FLES is just one talking point on the larger agenda to deconstruct a society historically rooted in a common language. Now school clerks are strongly encouraged to duplicate forms, fliers and newsletters in Spanish. And the school district’s elementary division superintendent hounds principals to ask how they are promoting Hispanic Heritage month.
To ensure that locals toe the line, the federal Office of Civil Rights, which forbids schools from verifying student citizenship, mandates ever more programs to serve non-English speakers. It’s little wonder that Hispanic parents demand that district employees address them in Spanish while American youngsters are taught to honor and echo the language of Mexico’s conqueror. Viva La Raza.
Ken Ward ([email protected]) writes about education and is author of the new book, ‘Saints in Babylon: Mormons and Las Vegas’ (available at www.1stbooks.com). His column appears Wednesday.