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Speak Spanish, Get Suspended

Thursday, Dec. 08, 2005 10:40 PM

As if the folks in Kansas weren't already drawing fire for their determination that the concept of Intelligent Design qualifies as science, a principal at one school suspended student Zach Rubio for speaking Spanish.

And it wasn't offensive or disruptive to the classroom environment. Outside of class, Zach only answered a friend's request to borrow a dollar with, "No problema."

Principal Jennifer Watts defends her action by saying this is not the first time Zach has been asked to not speak Spanish in school.

Except that for a bilingual person, it's perfectly normal to answer a question in the same language. For that matter, 'no problema' is almost idiomatic. Go watch Terminator 2; even time-traveling cyborgs can grok it without getting their neural net processors in a twist.

Zach's father, who is a U.S. Citizen and has lived in Kansas City for 25 years, took advantage of the knowledge he gained in studying for the citizenship test. He asked to see the school's written policy.

There wasn't one.

The suspension has since been rescinded, but a lawsuit may yet ensue on the question of civil rights.

I'm all for people learning to speak English as part of participating in our culture and our society, but our language should not become a second border that needs to be crossed.

The Ministry has received 1 comment(s) on this topic.

hissandtell - 2005-12-09 22:12:03
Without exaggerating even slightly, I found this story open-mouthed astonishing. Apart from anything else, "No problema" is a standard Bart Simpson line mimicked, I would suggest, by millions of people every day who do not otherwise speak a word of Spanish. I have to wonder at the kinds of language used in casually classrooms at the Endeavour School. In my own school (I was a principal for a few years) I encouraged everyone - teachers and students - to scatter their dialogue with as many non-English terms as possible which they were likely to encounter in everyday life. In fact, this use of creative language was part of our state education system's "Productive Pedagogies" to promote higher-order thinking, substantive conversation and high-metalanguage instruction. ("The teacher provides ongoing and frequent commentary on language use, perhaps using jokes, puns, ironic comments on her/his own or students' language, points out how differing sentences, text-types, discourses actually work, compares and contrasts them, and shows how language can be used to constitute texts, knowledge and power.") In Australia, naturally, these include using several multicultural expressions and Aboriginal slang words used on a daily basis. (And things like the occasional "Guten Tag" and "Nyet" and "Merci" were tossed around as a matter of course, even at preschool level, and gosh - sometimes we even said "champagne" when we really meant "generic sparkling wine".) Having a workable grasp of, and appropriately using, a nation's dominant language is one thing, but this action is so ludicrous it's beyond offensive and sails well into the realms of just plain embarrassingly crazy. Love, R xxx