Sunday, December 11, 2005

Sorry, I don't speak "basic human decency"

If you read the linked article (re-linked since original story was taken down), you'll hear the story of Zach Rubio, a 16 year-old bilingual student in Kansas City. Rubio was suspended from school for speaking Spanish in response to one of his friends asking him a question in the hall in Spanish.

"This is not the first time we have [asked] Zach and others to not speak Spanish at school," wrote the school disciplinarian in her "discipline referral" of the student.

What was the thinking here? Following pressure from his parents, and Latina/o American rights groups, the school has revoked the suspension and apologized, and are uninterested in commenting on the situation to the press.

I imagine there are two explanations at work here. The first is that language can become a way to disrupt class. In teaching bilingual students in a variety of languages, I have had the experience of a student using a second-language to interrupt class. It's really not any more of an issue than other interrupting behavior, and I don't see the need for special sanctions against it. But this explanation is completely inapplicable in this situation--Rubio was not in class, and he was not disrupting anything.

The second one is more sinister. It is the unempathetic need for control that many of those charged with educating students feel. It's the same reason why many instructors are upset when students show knowledge in a subject that they themselves do not possess. I believe that the students displaying language skill sparked jealousy and mistrust in the administration and ultimately led to the discipline despite no logical justification.

Rubio's family plans to sue. I hope they win and win decisively. I've seen the casualties of an educational system that spit upon the bilingual. Why do you think the kids of my generation have lost half of their potential language masteries? I am a product of the linguistically lost generation in our multi-ethnic society. I am bitter and I want to see blood--not for vengeance, but to ensure that our society's bigotry and need for control don't visit this harm upon future generations.

Every academic study has shown that multi-lingual students, when provided with proper support, initial lag behind their peers in elementary school, but far surpass them by high school in all languages they possess expertise in. Let's call English-first philosophy for what it really is--a nasty, hateful version of flat-Earthism. At least contemporary flat-Earthers aren't wielding their philosophy to bully gifted young men like Zach Rubio.


Blogger Ironcheffie said...

You have no idea how many times in high school that I've told our dumbass bitch principal and referred to her "臭機掰" under my breath.

(Local Taiwanese dialect, if you don't get it... it's the C word)

8:14 AM  
Blogger Gar said...

Nice link... I'll be sure to send it off to the rest of my cohort at grad school as a reminder of how far we have to go in terms of having a society and education that not only accepts, but encourages multilingualism.

All asshats espousing English-only need to have their heads checked.

1:06 AM  
Blogger Trey Desolay said...

It seems that the linguistic crime that got this kid suspended was phrase "no problema."

Let's hope the cafeteria never serves chili con carne.

2:48 PM  
Blogger Edo said...

Excellent insight. Wish I could read the original article though (link broken... looks like MSNBC moved it or pulled it)

2:04 AM  
Blogger Lee Herrick said...

amazing and sad and infuriating.

3:23 PM  

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