Thursday, June 17, 2010
Extended response to ...Whose Blog??? Donna's Blog
Donna, you posed some thought provoking questions and as I pondered I wondered why it was necessary to sacrifice culture for the benefits of assimilation. You ask, "Can children learn classroom English without losing the closeness of family?" I like to think yes. While perhaps 30 years when Richard was in school, values and theories were different, today it seems that we know better and should do better, by supporting English acquisition without marginalizing the value of a home language or culture. I was struck by how quickly and completely the parents followed the nuns request 'Is it possible for you and your husband to encourage your children to practice their English when they are home?' The nuns purpose in asking Richards parents to speak English at home was probably to encourage the children to practice, get more opportunities to speak in a non threatening arena. I doubt they realized the full force of their words. As educators we have to be ever mindful of the power of our suggestions to families, who are willing to do anything to help their children succeed. We must carefully consider the repercussions of what we say. It is important to convey to families that we value their home language and are not asking them to forsake it. I personally can't imagine a situation where I would encourage a family to give up their home language, however, I know that sometimes in families with children who language delays decisions must be made. There are other ways to encourage children to practice English in the home, and while some of them may require a little extra creativity and effort, both on the part of the school and the part of the family, it seems a small cost compared to losing the closeness of the family. What if Richards family continued to have English nights, perhaps playing games, or watching T.V. (especially nature or science programs, but really anything as long as they are talking about it), take weekend outings in English, etc., but also used their home language for comfort, family, rituals and meals? Could a balance be struck honoring both their private and public selves? Would the incremental delay in learning the "language of public society" be worth it? "...and for how long could I have afforded to delay?" Rodriguez asks. Families, not educators should be the ones to make that decision based on what they feel comfortable with. Sometimes the price of quickly raising test scores is simply too high.