Spanish kids aren’t allowed to speak Spanish in school, and yet Latinos make up 20% of the school-age population in this country. What message does that send them?
KANSAS CITY, Kan., Dec. 8 — Most of the time, 16-year-old Zach Rubio converses in clear, unaccented American teen-speak, a form of English in which the three most common words are “like,” “whatever” and “totally.” But Zach is also fluent in his dad’s native language, Spanish — and that’s what got him suspended from school.
“It was, like, totally not in the classroom,” the high school junior said, recalling the infraction. “We were in the, like, hall or whatever, on restroom break. This kid I know, he’s like, ‘Me prestas un dolar?’ [‘Will you lend me a dollar?’] Well, he asked in Spanish; it just seemed natural to answer that way. So I’m like, ‘No problema.’ ”
But that conversation turned out to be a big problem for the staff at the Endeavor Alternative School, a small public high school in an ethnically mixed blue-collar neighborhood. A teacher who overheard the two boys sent Zach to the office, where Principal Jennifer Watts ordered him to call his father and leave the school.
The family looks like they’ll be seeking legal action. Good.
Since then, the suspension of Zach Rubio has become the talk of the town in both English and Spanish newspapers and radio shows. The school district has officially rescinded his punishment and said that speaking a foreign language is not grounds for suspension. Meanwhile, the Rubio family has retained a lawyer, who says a civil rights lawsuit may be in the offing.
Thankfully, it looks like the kid got an apology.
Regardless, American students are getting seriously shafted by rules that seek to the lessen the inclusion of other languages in our hallways and classrooms. Why? Well, because a majority of the citizens of most other first world countries speak two or three languages. Does anybody else think this is going to seriously limit our effectiveness as a global superpower in the future? Especially as we move into a world where the worldwide economy is beomcing more collective and less specialized. If you think outsourcing is bad now, just wait ten years and we’ll talk about the good ole days back in 05.
And yes, we’re the top dog now and those countries will bend to our particular whims, but with China’s global economic dominance looming in the not so distant future, one has to wonder if this type of language-phobia will cost us dearly.
Quick tip: learn Spanish AND Chinese.