The following is a reaction paper I wrote this morning for my Instructional Issues in Language, Teaching, and Learning class. I liked how it turned out, the feelings it brought forth, and I wanted to share.
After reviewing the posts of my peers and the articles from the past few weeks, I find myself wondering, “How do we please everyone, and offer quality education?” American education has set many standards that are based on research. Highly educated, well spoken men and women sit in meeting rooms and discuss the future of education for our children. Most of these people have never gone hungry or experienced a severe communication barrier. In the meantime, children go to school every day in frustration, fear, and confusion from both sides of the diversity fence.
Woodson stated, “Negros have no control over their education and have little voice in their other affairs pertaining thereto” (Woodson, 1990 pg. 22), but the same could be said for our children today. Substitute the word “negros” with English language learners, learning disabled students, impoverished students, or even minority students, and one begins to see what the climate of education is like in the United States.
Woodson also gave us this wise statement, “Real education means to inspire people to live more abundantly, to learn to begin with life as they find it and make it better…” (Woodson, 1990 pg. 29). “Real education” is not something we have going on today. We have forgotten how to allow our children to explore and learn. We have become a nation that is preoccupied with test results and assessments. This form of performance standard leaves behind those who are not performing typically and this usually includes English language learners and special needs children.
As an educator, I am saddened and elated in the truth contained the statement made by Tamura, “The controversy surrounding bilingual education demonstrates that the debate has less to do with pedagogy than with the symbolic power of language use” (Tamura 1996 pg. 444). Language is the root of communication and ties communities together. In order to reach our children, and teach them effectively, we must understand them. I put this quote here because it goes back to real education. No matter what language our students are using (pidgin, slang, Spanish, Chinese), we must find a way to communicate with them and reach them. This is what being a good educator is about. “Language intolerance has been especially strong when those in power have felt threatened by people they consider culturally different from themselves” (Tamura 1996 pg. 432). And? We are all culturally different, and if we are intolerant of difference, we cannot rightly be tolerant of anyone or anything as we are all different.
As educators we take on a huge responsibility. If we desire success we need to think about the whole student, the culture they come from, and the language they choose to use. As a society we have come a long way accepting diversity, but our children are leading us in this area, and we need to follow their lead. As much as we need educational reform, we also need reform in how we view our fellow man. Meeting them where they are and appreciating where they have come from is what will make us a superior educator.
Tamura, E. (1996). Power, status, and hawai’i creole English: an example of linguistic intolerance in american history. Pacific Historical Review. Pacific Coast Branch. American Historical Association.
Woodson, C. (1990). The miseducation of the negro. New Jersey: Africa World Press.