Schools:Quietness or Dialogue
By Fernando Rodriguez-valls at Mar 08, 2008
Schools in California wasted a tremendous opportunity to open their campuses to a bilingual future after Proposition 227 darkened playgrounds with “English Only” ashes. Cultures were foreclosed, thus barriohoods lost their culture in the hands of conservative forces that were appealing for a mainstream culture, which could subjugate the incipient minorities (Beykont, 2000).
The impact of Proposition 227 on California affected schooling practices for language minorities and increased Latino underachievement. Kerper- Mora (2002) concluded that by excluding primary language structures, “the federal legislation would curtail the rights of parents and local school boards to determine the type of instructional program that they felt were most effective for their children” (41).
Indifferent to the vernacular voices that clamored for a linguistic recognition of their culture, Pedalino (1998) stated that the accumulated research of the past 30 years revealed an almost complete lack of justification for teaching children in their native language. She believes that neither students have a higher sense of self-esteem when they are taught in their first language, nor do they show stress if they are introduced to English from the first day of school. Can students walk into English-Only hallways using polychromic shoes?
Lareau (1987) explains that schools tend to diffuse polychromic knowledge that students bring to school. In public schools, cooperative learning, which is they for successful cognitive acquisition (Johnson, et.al. 1994) becomes a utopia, thus the three different levels: community, school, and district creates are unable to share goals that are beneficial to individuals and to all other group members. Meaningful homework is not only a force that drives students to achieve their personal goals, but also connects all the educational agents involved in an education that wants to be comprehensive and provide equal opportunities to all civic agents of our society.
Contrary to this progressive flow, Entwistle (2000) supports a conservative educational agenda. He analyzes the ideas of acculturation, cultural awareness, and cultural maintenance. Entwistle concludes that schools are not best environment for a “radical, counterhegemonic” revolution. I disagree with him: Teaching is a political act because education is everything we have. The only way to empower students is to build a sense of unity; each culture needs as a socio-cultural reference. Are there teachers within public schools who fight for this cultural harmony?
In the book, Latinos Unidos, Trueba (1999) introduces us to Mr. Villegas, a fourth grade math teacher who gives his students “the knowledge and cognitive skills that translate into high achievement” (Trueba, 1999). Mr. Villegas has created a classroom environment that is student centered; students feel welcomed and they achieve. Why is the curricula indicator important?
Trueba points out that by engaging students and teachers with different methodologies positive results are achieved. However, he specifies that these positive interactions are possible with teachers who are the same race as their students. Although, Trueba does not broach the idea; it seems that teachers who do not to share the same ethnicity as their students have similar impacts. Orellana, Ek, Hernandez (1996) suggest that from the perspective of the children, language was immensely associated with identity; identity was equated in part with national origin and national origin was marked in the color of skin, hair, and eyes. Does a teacher who is a different ethnicity, but speaks the primary language of her/his students have a greater or lesser effect on their learning? How does this equate in students’ minds? Ethnic differences amongst the teachers and students should not prevent educational successes or predict educational failure. Effective education uses a communication channel where the agents, speaker and listener, are aware of each other’s cultural perceptions (Delpit, 1995). According to Krashen (1985) students who have a lower affective filter are better able to acquire language; we believe that this is also true in social linguistic acculturation. If applied to acculturation we observe one of the following: denativization or nativivation. In denativization students tend to assimilate better into the host (target) culture because they adopt the ideas of the culture, along with retaining their primary culture. In nativivation students apply their prior set of values onto the host culture, and thus experience difficulties in acculturating into their new society. Student development can be compared with Andersen’s (1981) theories of language acquisition, in which students who are able to adopt new concepts of language and apply them to the second language, acquire that language faster. When transferring this to acculturation, students that adopt the concepts of the host culture have a smoother process when adapting to the host culture.
Today many scholars agree that traditional, mainstream-normative, public school curricula are not adequate for minority students, nor even for anlgo students (Gordon, Piana, Keleher, 2000). Yet our public schools continue to mandate the use of curricula that ignores and pigeonholes minority students. This mainstream curriculum often perpetuates stereotypes. Habitually, within the mainstream text stereotypes are presented as normal and absolute truths; they rarely go beyond popular belief and seldom present ideas that challenge students to question their validity. Ironically in our schools, the students who constitute the minority are the majority, so why do many teachers continue using these practices?
Ladson Billings (1994) denounced those wedged teachers by requiring the development of a culturally relevant pedagogy. She proved to the skeptical that success is possible among students of diverse backgrounds. She invited transforming educators to further research on teaching techniques, which will bring equity among students. If we know that achievement is possible among immigrant students and students of diverse cultures; why are we still bombarding our pupils with reductive tests that emphasized performance goals and decontextualized knowledge? (Apple, 2003)
This mainstream cognition may be useful for an elite group of suburban students who are “served’ by teachers’ practices guided to perpetuate the status quo. Yet, students of color are labeled as underperformers. Does our curriculum guarantee a democratic, culturally diverse, equal education for all students?