Our own Catherine Seipp has a great piece on National Review Online about the forced ghettozation of Latino schoolchildren, shoved by many school districts into bilingual classes that neither they nor their parents, who view learning English as a crucial step up the socioeconomic ladder, want. The hook for Cathy’s piece is the HBO movie Walkout, one of those self-congratulatory docu-flicks about a battle long ago won, this one (in 1968) for the right to speak Spanish on the campuses of Los Angeles schools. The hero was activist Sal Castro, who’s still around on the L.A. schoolboard making sure that Latino kids remain in a new kind of segregated education. Cathy writes:
“More problematic is the enduring policy issue of bilingual education begun by these protests. The walkouts ushered in three decades of herding native Spanish-speaking students into a patronizing ethnic and linguistic ghetto, broken only when California’s Prop. 227 severely scaled back bilingual education here in 1998. As it happens, this year marks the 10th anniversary of the state’s anti-bilingual backlash, which began when Skid Row activist and Episcopal priest Alice Callaghan organized about 100 Spanish-speaking parents who wanted their Ninth Street Elementary children to learn English in class….
“I asked Castro how that could be, when the pendulum has swung from kids being swatted for speaking Spanish in class, to forced bilingual education, to our current post-Prop. 227 situation. Ambitious Latino students now wonder why the only foreign-language instruction available to many of them is Spanish, a language they already speak.
“‘It’s like they’re saying, ‘You guys aren’t smart enough to take anything else,'” a North Hollywood high-school senior who wanted to learn French complained to the Los Angeles Times.
“‘No, ma’am, here you go,” snapped Castro in response. ‘That’s the problem – counselors in our school were programming kids to learn French. What Mexican family can help their kid with French homework?”‘
When I told my husband about this absurdity, he said, “Gee, neither of my parents knew Latin, so I guess I shouldn’t have been allowed to take Latin when I was in high school. And if Castro had been running the school system when I was a kid, I could have gotten out of taking algebra–because both my parents were too math-impaired to help me with my homework.
Indeed, following this reasoning, why should kids have to go to school at all? Why shouldn’t they just stay home and let their parents teach them whatever they know? Why bother with chemistry class when your dad can teach you how to mix meth on the kitchen stove? The good news is that once we get rid of schools, we’ll be rid of the Sal Castros of this world, too.