Saturday, June 09, 2007

Teaching English as a Second Language

It is somewhat amazing when you think about it that in the United States of America we provide free public education to all the children in our community, no questions asked. Although providing that education consumes a sizeable percentage of all the tax money collected on the local level I have never heard anyone suggest that we stop doing it. No one talks about how much lower their taxes would be if free public education were eliminated.

We don’t think of the money we spend on education as charity. We are sold on the concept that it benefits us all to provide education to all. We do not even balk at spending more for educating “special needs” children. On what basis could we object to the costs required for any particular child once we have accepted the general concept of educating all the children? If someone were to claim that so much was being spent on Special Education that it was impacting the quality of education provided to the other students we would probably say, “well, we just need to come up with more money, then.”

But something about illegal immigrants upsets some people so much that they resent the money spent to educate “those” children, Here are some of the comments posted online to a Moline Dispatch/Rock Island Argus article about East Moline schools hiring bilingual staff to better meet the needs of students for whom English is not spoken at home:
This is an English speaking nation and I resent my tax dollar being spent on instructing anyone who don`t bother trying to learn the language of my country. Press one for English--press two for instruction on leaving the country until you do.

I have to say that I strongly resent the expansion of the ESL program, not because I hate children or can't stand immigrants, but because in an increasingly competitive world, our children are being left in a cloud of dust by an uncontrolled stampede of illegal immigration.

I don't believe my taxes should be paid just to educate my child, I do, however, believe that when it comes time for my child to receive their education I should be able to expect a sound, solid base. This cannot happen with limited resources (tax dollars) being stretched beyond capacity.

The bright children are left without challenge. More and more "gifted" programs are cut, while we spend our tax dollars on teaching basics like speaking English, and often to those who are here illegally or not paying taxes.
It is simply a matter of equity and sound governance, not a matter of racism. As we shift our resources from teaching science, math, arts, and music to programs teaching simple communication, we lower the level of education for all.


Of course, illegal immigrants do pay taxes. When it comes to the property and sales taxes that pay for education they pay just as much as anyone else. But that is beside the point. Our commitment to educating all the children is not based on how much the student’s parents have paid in taxes.

Why do these people resent the cost of educating these “special needs” children while not objecting to other “special needs” students? I think the people making these comments see illegal immigrants as “the other”, not like us, not part of our community. It is not inevitable that this would be so. Almost all the illegal immigrants came here for the kinds of reasons Americans normally approve of and identify with. They came here looking for work so that they could provide for their families. They heard there were jobs here and they came looking for work, not a handout. They do not qualify for food stamps, Medicaid or Section 8 housing.

Judging from the comments it seems the main reason they are seen as “the other” is because they do not speak English. It is not obvious why that should put them beyond the pale. My paternal grandmother’s parents and grandparents came as immigrants to this country from Schleswig-Holstein, in what is now Germany. My great-great-grandparents came to this country as adults and although they picked up some English they always spoke German at home. My great-grandparents learned English as a second language in school. I suspect that many of those posting those intolerant comments also have immigrant ancestors who learned English in school as a second language.

13 comments:

thescoundrel said...

The thing with the forums is they attract intentionally bigoted statements; some are probably posted by individuals just wanting to stir up the coals and start arguments. But I do agree with the premise of not using tax dollars to educate illegal immigrants. Not because I think they do not deserve an education but because I do not agree with them jumping to the head of the line. I want immigrants to enter this country. I feel it helps the country not hinders it. But if they want in to the country they need to get in line with everyone else looking to enter the country, and wait their turn. And rewarding those that have cheated and jumped ahead of the others playing the game by the rules, that are also wanting the same chances is the wrong way to do it. There is limited funding and those funds should be spent on those legally in this country.

Dave Barrett said...

Not educate the children of illegal immigrants?! But we collect sales and property tax from them. Are you talking about taxation without education?

thescoundrel said...

Play semantics and call it what you will. Public education is a social service. This country has no obligation to pay for any social services for individuals in this country illegally. When you are operating outside of the law then you accept the restrictions and boundaries that are a part of that process. When you choose to push those boundaries is when you get caught by the law. If the illegal aliens are paying taxes it is because they have no way around it with out getting caught. That does not give them the right to tax paid social programs. Any money they lose through automatic tax collection programs is the prices they pay to avoid capture, incarceration and deportation. It is a part of doing illegal business. It is no different than the money thieves lose to money laundering and fencing stolen goods. It is the cost of operating illegally and outside the law. If that makes them part of a shadow society that is their choice for operating outside the law. They have two choices they can return back to their point of origin, get back in line and enter the country legally or they can return to their country of origin and fight for the rights they want in their country of origin. Entering this country through the bypassing of legal channels is a crime. The penalty for exposure is not and should not be rewarding the criminals with social programs. The penalty should be deportation. Rewarding criminal activity is not the way to end lawless behavior.

Dave Barrett said...

thescoundrel,
Educating children is rewarding criminal behavior?

We are not going to round up and deport 12 million illegal immigrants. And since there are no jobs waiting for these people back in their home countries no matter how badly we treat them most of them are not going to voluntarily return home.

The only thing the punative approach toward illegal immigrants will accomplish is to make their lives more miserable and uncertain than they already are and to make beasts of us.

Having a large group of people in our contry who pay taxes but have no democratic rights or power will have a similar effect on us that the system of slavery had on the slave owners.

thescoundrel said...

I do not feel rewarding people for illegal behavior is conducive to fixing illegal activities. Rewarding that behavior only suggests that it is an acceptable methodology for future generations of illegal aliens attempting circumvention of the legal process of entry in to this country. As I said any taxes paid by the illegal aliens are paid because they are part of a shadow culture avoiding the law. That does not give them the right to use social programs designed for legal citizens. Any tax money paid by loss to point of sale taxes and services are the price they pay for hiding in the shadows. Being a culture that has no rights to determine public policy is the price they pay for living in the shadows while avoiding the law. Public education is a social program for the legal citizens of this country.

Dave Barrett said...

thescoundrel,
I believe your view of the nature, purpose and goals of our commitment to free public education to all children in our community is not widely shared, thank goodness.

Anonymous said...

Should we refuse a free education to the children of Scooter Libby? After all, he broke the law . . .

Stella and Connie said...

The solution is to change out immigration laws! If we need workers, why are we making it so difficult and lengthy to process residency and employment visas? When people are desperate, they will do what they feel is necessary to survive. We would be no different. What would you do, wait ten years to get a visa, and watch your children go hungry selling chiclets on the street, or take a chance at a better life where there are jobs.
The answer is CHANGE THE IMMIGRATION LAWS! Stop turning otherwise good people into criminals.

Jim Mowen said...

Dave, thescoundral is 100% correct. These people are in this country ILLEGALLY. When will we understand that ILLEGAL activities indeed restricts rewards and rights - always has, always will (should).

Goodness, if you start playing fast & loose with this portion of 'illegal' - what laws do you wish to overlook next?

Personally, I have some heartburn on the issue. Mostly, if one wants to be in the US so bad, wants to take advantage of the benefits of being in the greatest country on earth (why else do they come), then, goodness, why on earth can't they learn the language?

I have been to India, I have been to Africa - they speak English (in tiny villages). Why on earth is it racist or a crime to expect someone living in the heart of the United States to speak English?

Yet, liberals think that hard-working taxpayers are supposed to pay more taxes to insure that we have teachers that can communicate effectively (in Spanish) to someone that broke laws (and is breaking laws every single day)?

Milton said...

All Children here should be educated. They need to learn English. It is the only way we can help them.

Elizabeth said...

In response to this: I have been to India, I have been to Africa - they speak English (in tiny villages). Why on earth is it racist or a crime to expect someone living in the heart of the United States to speak English?

I've also been to many countries - in Asia and Europe - they do not all speak English. I have been teaching English in Korea for 3 years, and here the population has been studying English throughout their school years and university. Most still cannot speak with fluency . . . English is difficult. Espcially for those with no exposure before entering our country (which some could debate is the greatest in all areas concerned, for instance our treatment of foreigners). Many are not illegal, but still cannot speak English. In Korea, we push 2 for English, while their official language is Korean. They still recognize the need for additional languages to help us foreginers. You can also press other buttons for Chinese, and some others. We could take a lesson on how to relate to and treat people different than ourselves who might not speak our language. And pressing 1 isn't that much trouble.

jetserg said...

when the torment of this raising inflation startts to really stress the general public beyond their tolerances, then there will be an influx of what could be percieved as hatred. However, this pushing aside the "illigals" will be a movement of survival, not hatred. When people start seeing someone who can not speak english in the local food line. They will automatically think this person is here illigally, and still trying to still our rights, and food at that time. God help them.

Dave Barrett said...

jetserg,
Huh?!?