Mandatory Spanish classes anger Grapevine family

By KATHERINE CROMER BROCK
STAR-TELEGRAM/KELLEY CHINN
“If we’re going to do this for Ashleigh, there needs to be a policy change,” Leigh Allison said.

GRAPEVINE — While the rest of her fifth-grade class was taking Spanish classes mandated by the Grapevine-Colleyville school district curriculum, Ashleigh Allison sat in the Timberline Elementary School library writing a report about France.Ashleigh and her mother, Leigh Allison, say teaching elementary school Spanish only makes life easier for Hispanic immigrants in the community who do not learn or speak English. And Ashleigh shouldn’t be forced to conform, they say.”She wants to be that one voice that forces them to learn English,” Allison said. “We’re not going to turn America into a bilingual country to accommodate you.”

National debate

The Allisons’ stance reflects a larger national debate about immigration and the rising number of Spanish speakers in the United States.

“On the one hand, we’re all for teaching foreign languages,” said K.C. McAlpin, executive director of Virginia-based ProEnglish, which works to preserve English as the common language of the U.S.

“But it would be naive to think that the country does not face the growing threat of bilingualism because of the massive influx of mostly Spanish-speaking immigrants. They’re coming in faster than the country can absorb them.”

Language of choice

Texas’ curriculum requires a school district to offer, “to the extent possible, languages other than English” for elementary- and middle school-age children.

Most districts offer some level of language instruction, said Monica Martinez, curriculum director with the Texas Education Agency. And for most, Spanish is the language of choice. It’s easier to learn and speak than many other languages, and school districts can hire more experienced Spanish teachers than teachers of other languages.

“But it could be French. It could be American Sign Language,” Martinez said. “It’s left to local district discretion to determine what they offer.”

‘Best for kids’

Grapevine-Colleyville elementary students must take Spanish two days a week in nine-week rotations with art classes. It has been a part of the district’s curriculum for 15 years, said district spokeswoman Megan Overman.

“The whole intent is to give students a foundation that we believe broadens their experiences and prepares them for success in our diverse world,” Overman said. “You’re not going to get language acquisition out of elementary Spanish.”

Overman said there has been “little or no objection” to the curriculum from parents or the community. “Our goal is to try to do what we believe is best for kids,” she said.

Views of bilingualism

McAlpin said he worries that in the long run, forcing Spanish on students, and in effect promoting bilingualism, will harm the country.

“Every place in the world where societies have been divided about language, there have been conflicts that many times lead to violence or antagonism that we have so far been able to avoid in this country,” he said. “Why break the successful mold of the melting pot?”

Rudy Rodriguez, retired director of the bilingual education program at the University of North Texas, said exposure to foreign languages at an early age helps children become more comfortable interacting with people from other countries and cultures.

He also said that there are benefits to the “bilingual brain” and that learning a second language actually improves a child’s brain function.

“It is a wonderful, enriching experience for children to have the opportunity to learn a language other than English,” he said. “We’re moving very rapidly into a global economy where boundaries between countries are becoming less distinct.”

Allison said she and her daughter aren’t anti-immigration. They are pro-English language for immigrants.

“This is not saying, you cannot speak your native tongue,” Allison said. “Grasp your tradition and your culture. But when you are outside your front door, you must speak English. We have to understand you.”

Compromise

Ashleigh said she knew the day that she enrolled at Timberline that she didn’t want to take the required Spanish classes.

“There was a lot of Spanish kids and not a lot of other kinds of kids,” she said.

Her mother said: “We were very much the minority. She couldn’t understand anybody and really felt isolated.”

The percentage of Hispanic students at Timberline has increased from 13 percent in 1996 to 54 percent of the school’s 706 students last school year.

At the beginning of November, Allison e-mailed the counselor saying she was “not interested” in Ashleigh’s taking Spanish. Timberline Principal Cody Spielmann replied that Spanish is required by the curriculum and that there were no other options.

“Ashleigh feels the course would be a waste of her time since she has no aspirations in the future to have a career requiring bilingual talents,” Allison wrote to the principal, “nor does she feel compelled to accommodate those who live in our country who refuse to learn the primary and current native tongue of English.”

Allison wanted her daughter to be allowed to study in the library or to take a different foreign language. Allison then appealed to district administrators but got the same response: Ashleigh had to go to class.

Allison kept her daughter out of Spanish class for three weeks, sending her to school an hour late twice a week with a note stating that she was absent because of a “moral objection” to the class.

At the end of December, Allison filed a grievance with the Grapevine-Colleyville school board. But in a pre-hearing meeting, she and Deputy Superintendent Jim Chadwell reached a compromise to allow Ashleigh to study in the library and write a report on a country of her choice.

She learned about the government and food of France and tried to teach herself some common French phrases, but without a teacher, the language is difficult to master. “I was kind of bored because there wasn’t anybody else there,” she said.

‘Policy change’

The curriculum rotation has moved from Spanish to art class at Timberline. But before the year is out, Ashleigh will be faced with the same situation.

Does she plan to take Spanish then? Absolutely not.

Allison said she is scheduled to meet next week with Spielmann and other district administrators to hammer out a better plan for Ashleigh’s alternative class. Instruction in any other language would be acceptable, she said.

Allison suggests an online language course, such as Rosetta Stone. She’ll even pay for it. And she hopes that the discussion yields an option for other students who oppose learning Spanish.

“If we’re going to do this for Ashleigh, there needs to be a policy change,” Allison said.

Overman said the district is willing to work with parents to make decisions about educating their children. While parents shouldn’t expect an overhaul of the district’s world languages curriculum, the district will review it.

http://www.star-telegram.com/news/story/456532.html

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13 Responses to “Mandatory Spanish classes anger Grapevine family”

  1. It’s good to see that you have a Fair Use notice posted on your “about” page, but please stop lifting entire stories from the original content publishers. It’s poor netiquette, not to mention likely to catch the eye of overzealous attorneys. Instead, please paraphrase the story and then link to the original source. Thanks for your consideration. Blog on…

  2. Amy Birdwell Says:

    I am a teacher in GCISD and Spanish classes are not held twice per week, but only once.

  3. Eric Hawxby Says:

    While I agree that English should be the official language of the United States, but for far different reasons than Ashleigh and her mother, I can’t help but feel that this family has some not-so-foreign-friendly-feelings, which is driving this mother’s desire to keep her daughter from learning. When Leigh claims that “Instruction in any other language would be acceptable,” she is making her argument way less credible. Any other language, huh? Except Spanish? Even with Mexico bordering the United States she feels that learning a minimal amount of Spanish will be detrimental to her daughter. So Ashleigh would be more comfortable learning Hebrew and Swahili? Will these languages be more useful to Asheleigh Allison as she grows up? Perhaps. But most likely not at all. Leigh, Ashleigh, this is not YOUR country, this OUR America. If you study the history of our great Nation you will discover that this is a Nation of immigrants. I’m wondering if Leigh and Allison are actual Natives of a pre-colonized America? Even if they are, which I doubt, then why such an objection to learning Spanish? Spanish is a beautiful language and Spain is an equally beautiful country that has made tremendous contributions to our global culture. This misguided and underinformed family is equating their dislike for the Spanish language with their dislike for the wonderful people of Mexico. This is not a very thoughtful or culturally acceptable perspective.
    I think it is great that Leigh and her daughter felt like a minority. Now, they are more capable of understanding how people in the minority feel. I would think they would take away a lesson from this experience, but instead they want the nation to accomodate their lifestyle while crying out that they don’t want to “accomodate” the lifestyles and cultures of others. Please tell me a reason why your culture should take precedence over the cultures of others? I really would like to know.
    I think that making English the official language of our culturally diverse country will help us to transcend our differences and understand each other’s fascinating cultures. By withholding Ashleigh from her Spanish classes Leigh is only doing her daughter a disservice. Also, I take offense to Ashleigh being the voice, “that FORCES(?) them (who’s them????) to learn English.” This is an ethnocentric stance akin to the sentiments of leaders who have used concentration camps to get their message across. Ashleigh is not going to get very far forcing anybody to do anything. If Leigh and Allison would simply do some research, they would find that people who migrate to this country are overwhelmingly in favor of learning English.
    The real issue here is Leigh’s xenophobia and HER desire to have people “accomodate” HER culture. This family’s resentment of people from Mexico is transparent. Ashleigh and her mother should embrace cultural diversity, instead of alienating themselves from the world at large in the year 2008. The world is changing, it’s not just Asheligh’s and Leigh’s White America any more, and it really never has been. People who relocate here, from whatever country, contribute to the cultural diversity and the cultural richness of America.
    Leigh shouldn’t punish her daughter by keeping her from being educated base on her prejudice for the people of Mexico. She’s not doing her daughter or anybody else any favors. Leigh is making herself appear to be a bigot and I cannot find anything in this article to prove otherwise. Leight and Allison should use the resources available to them (which are endless in our great, great, country.) Instead, they want to cling to a mindset that is under-educated, under-informed, and what people would consider to be “white trash,'” (which I’m sure is not the case) rather than informing themselves.
    The world is changing. English is the language of oppurtunity, but not the end-all, be-all of languages. Learning and appreciating any language will only unite us, not seperate us.

  4. mrcfunds Says:

    Take Back Our Country Song

    Hi,

    Can you please place a link on your website / or blog; to this Take Back Our Country Song it’s a patriotic song that is very inspiring, and truthful. I wrote this song after being fed up with what I see happening in my neighborhood and to our country daily on the news.

    I am just an ordinary citizen that went away to serve at age 19. And I am sick and tired of the lies and chaos our ELECTED SELLOUT OFFICIALS has put this country into. So I wanted to do my part, as a soldier of the USANG, I wrote this song and put it on this video.

    My state Louisiana was hit hard by hurricane Katrina and hundreds of illegal aliens moved into our community took away jobs that we Americans were ready to do, and now crime has gone thru the roof. I am sick and tired of these people in my neighborhood and hanging out on our street corners. WE MUST DO SOMETHING TO PUT A STOP TO THIS!

    Please check out my video Take Back Our Country Song on YouTube.com here’s the link. And FORWARD it to everyone on your email list. This is my way of fighting back and giving back to my country.

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    Richie Collins
    http://FalseArguments.net

    Take Back Our Country

  5. immigrants who dont learn english dont because they refuse to assimilate because they think they can return the u.s back to mexico they refuse to accept the fact that the U.S is still better managed than mexico

  6. i was raised by a dad who didnt speak english and a mom who droped out of school but they insisted i go to school and learn english because that is what built america and now illigal immigrants want to take my acheivments and make them mean nothing

  7. […] the website, you obviously concentrated on the reporting undocumented people and that was all. Mandatory Spanish classes anger Grapevine family American Chaos Oath of Allegiance American Chaos H.R. 1999 American Chaos […]

  8. Ronald Lewis Holt Says:

    Dear sirs, while I often put myself in the shoes of people, human beings, who come to our country for a chance at a better life and freely admit I would do the same, I’m writing today to counter the oft cited claim of Mexican ownership of the south west.
    Mexico’s claim to the southwest is revisionism at its most convenient and unchallenged. As an American Indian (1/2-Registered) I’d like to remind my Mexican brother that the Indians of the southwest were never driven out of our lands and subjugated to reservations or rainy seasides and pine trees instead of our cactus, canyons and unrelenting heat. Even the United States Government could not capture and contain famed renegade ‘Geronimo’ from these lands. These lands had co-owners mi amigo. Under white man’s laws? Whatever. Browns? No. We were there and the Mexican Government had no better luck than the whites did with Geronimo. We owned that land together. But on a stance of pure logic, how far back do we go to contest and make claims to ownership as a defiant stance of justification for breaking laws?

    Of all of the Mexicans I know, the legals have a special contempt for the illegals. I’ve had closer relationships with more illegals than I have those who have entered through legally. I’ve noticed how hateful legals can be towards illegals. (Educated blacks resented the eubonics movement in much the same way). Perplexing that it would cause this kind of in-fighting. Subsequently I am supportive/sympathetic to the immigration issues involving Mexico. -WITH some reservations out of deference to all people who would look to our nation for inspiration-

    While its true that there are people the world over who need asylum here or would like a shot at the American Dream just by virtue of being a border country shouldn’t grant Mexicans any special treatment this way. Many of my buddy’s would send home large amounts of their checks to their families. Its not being taxed for Social Security. Its not being taxed at all. Its money going straight out of the country. That should be addressed.

    Its a proven fact that those who compartmentalize and refuse or are reluctant to assimilate will earn half as much as those who do assimilate. Its hurts them to do this. This too is a burden on the system in many ways that hurt all concerned.

    How about Ecuadorians coming into Mexico? Mexico does not like the idea of thousands of illegals entering their country. Nor do those with a passing
    interest in the subject of legal/illegal immigration. It really takes being deeply involved and having debated the subject from many different angles to really have an understand of it’s complexity.

    Before I lived in Los Angeles I knew 2 Hispanics. After 8 years of working construction I literally knew and counted many as friends. I learned to love and respect the Mexican work ethic and strived to match and better it when I could. I learned about their culture. Prior to this necessary education I would sometimes spout insensitive nonsense about our borders. But now I have a special place in my heart for the Mexican people and I believe that we must eliminate those from the debate who use race to scare or divide. Its is a debate we must have and resolve. But let us do it with respect for our southern brothers.

    R. L. Holt

  9. greetings, I can’t find your contact information but your layout design looked rearranged on opera and internet explorer. Anyways, i just suscribd to your rss.

  10. Amy Luedeke Says:

    I came across this website and article when looking up something related to reporting the hiring of illegal aliens which I believe my landlord may be doing. I live in Orange, CA. I am 48 years old and am currently back at college (have a 4-year degree with a major in sociology) in an Occupational Therapy Assistant program in order to find employment in the healthcare field. I am considered too old and not bilingual in order to be chosen for the best applicant pool for most office positions, customer service, as well as social service positions in my area. I feel like a minority where I live and have not felt embraced by most hispanics and feel they are quite exclusionary and don’t want to accept other cultures. I don’t understand why we are servicing people who can only speak Spanish and therefore our jobs require Spanish speaking. ESL classes are offered for free and are all over the place for the Hispanic population as well. I did take Spanish this past summer — 4 nights a week for 8 weeks — at the community college. I enjoyed finally attempting to learn the Spanish language. I need to know it out of necessity now. I took French in high school and college. I wish I would have had the opportunity to learn a 2nd language when it is best to learn one at the elementary school age. It is very difficult for me to learn a new language at my age, no less to become fluent. I would agree that English is and should be our Country’s primary language and all should be able to speak it so we do not require someone to be bilingual to get a job now in certain areas.

  11. Thanks for the information, very informative.

  12. if you go to Europe, have no problem speaking Enghish, know why?kids are learn English in school not the neighbor country language. Grmany are full of Turkish they speak Turkish in there community, NOT in school, hospital, work etc. come in my country learn my languages not me being forced to learn your Spanish I learn what I like not what the mexicans want.

  13. i would like to learn more about the english language specially the english grammar ‘

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