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Letter: Reader puzzled over new language plan

 

In reading the article “New way of thinking, learning” I was amazed at the amount of questions that kept coming to mind as I was reading.


As a 100 percent Portuguese woman and remembering my mother repeatedly telling me, we live in the United States, and it is important that you learn English, how to read, and write.  My parents would not speak to us in Portuguese, but required that we only speak English. So as I read the article that, Madison School’s Dual Language Immersion Program was in place to teach the five kindergarten classes 90 percent of the instruction in Spanish, and 10 percent in English.

 

My first question was, is “Spanish” as in Spain, or is it the Mexican language? The article continued to say that half of the class speaks Spanish, and the other half speaks English. My question is, how do kindergarten children learn how to spell, read and learn the history of the United States? When do they switch to the other side, and become acclimated to English as their first language, and Spanish as the second language, and do the parents understand how that will all happen? Were all the parents informed of what their children would be doing, and if they were given information to help them understand how their children would be taught in this new way?


And were these children given a choice to learn another language maybe in German, or Italian, Chinese, or Japanese? How accommodating were the choices to the actual families of these kindergarten students.


Also, with compassion for these children, I wonder: if they have to move to another town, or state, and this system is not in place, how much will it set them back in learning our English language, and write, in English? How will they cope with this change? How much will they be teased because they cannot read in English at a fourth grade level?


It was also stated in the article that 75 educators and community members gathered in a festive mood to launch the “end of the beginning.” My first thought is “What?”


The beginning of what? Confusion for a small child trying to acclimate to the environment where they live on a daily basis, and most of the people speak English as their first language? 
The beginning of what, and why? We in the United States have chosen English as our first language, and many have come from different areas every day and learn English.


I wonder how many Japanese, or Chinese, or other nationalities are in this “Dual Language Immersion Program,” and if so how can a kindergarten child not only learn Spanish as their first language, English as their second language, and dump their heritage language?


As I got older I wanted to learn my Portuguese language and attempted to take classes to help me learn, on MY decision to do so, NOT dictated to me. The article went on to elaborate that by the fourth grade Spanish and English will reach 50 percent, again what happens to those children who move to another town, or state, and they do not have the same program? How will these children catch up, and how will that impact a child who is now older, but can only read English at a kindergarten level? Does Madera really think they are doing what is good for these children?


I was also very concerned about the statement made by “Madera’s best known educator, Barbara Flores, Ph.D., 1966 graduate of Madera High School, teacher, author, speaker, and longtime professor of education at California State University San Bernardino.” Her statement was, “It is being able to carry on a tradition.” So my question is a tradition for whom?


The Chinese, Japanese child, in this kindergarten class, or a tradition for a professor?


I am a mother, grandmother, and great grandmother, and I am concerned that these people are so involved with starting something new, they have forgotten one thing: the children who are actually in these programs.


In conclusion, when I think about how I learned the English language in school, and had the ability to read and write in English, I was very proud that I was able to communicate and make friends who also knew English, but were of another nationality. We were no longer divided, but even though they were Spanish, Italian, German, and more, we all could communicate in the same manner. I have made many friends because I was able to find a common ground, English!


I pray I am missing something, or the numbers were just the opposite, 90 percent English, and 10 percent Spanish. May our children have a mixture of friends, and enjoy their early years in school.


— Cecelia Jones,
Madera