A friend was just telling me about a friend of hers (and an acquaintance of mine) recently featured in the Columbus Dispatch. Her name is Erica Vieyra and she's a high school Spanish teacher. Each year, she asks her students to take on the identity of a Hispanic person trying to legally immigrate to the U.S. The students research how to do that and fill out all the official paperwork. Erica then stamps 'denied' on the immigration papers and asks them to come up with a plan to illegally enter the country and find work. After the students finish the project, they give a presentation on their findings.
It's not about promoting illegal immigration - it's about educating students about all sides of a big issue in the United States and in the Hispanic community. Erica's a really good teacher who always looks for new, creative ways to help her students understand more than just Spanish words. Since the Hispanic population is one of our fastest growing segments, it probably doesn't hurt students to understand more than how to say the word 'chair' in Spanish.
And what a great research project! Students are learning about the country they're supposed to be coming from, about what it's like to come from a less than privileged background and just how involved the immigration process is. In addition, by adding in the illegal aspect, these students learn just why people risk so much to enter our country and what it's like to build a life on next to nothing in financial resources. This school district isn't exactly the poorest in the world, so if the project helps them understand what it's like for people with limited means, (Hispanic or not) more power to them!
Where the 'People are Big Giant Arses' Part Kicks In
Apparently, the conservative bloggers are having a field day spewing their special brand of hate. These ignorant people said that Erica was encouraging people to enter the country illegally, promoting bisexualism because she showed the movie Frida in class (ridiculous! we watched Romeo and Juliet in the 9th grade and no one said we were learning about teen sex) and pushing her liberal ideas on students. Basically, they were calling for her head on a platter and saying that teachers shouldn't be responsible for teaching empathy - they should stick to only Spanish.
In fact, some of them even said they don't understand why their tax dollars are supporting foreign language programs. Um, maybe because our tax dollars support a robust education system designed to help our country be competitive in a GLOBAL economy. Understanding other languages and cultures is a key part of that. I seriously can't believe people are this close-minded and ignorant. Why wouldn't you want your children to have the advantage of knowing a second language? Trust me - I wish I had taken more than my 3 years of high school Spanish. And maybe if I had a teacher like Erica instead of one who recited vocabulary words to me, I would have.
What's even funnier is these people who are lambasting the education system aren't apparently aware of proper spelling or grammar. One example, obviously written by a less than stellar mind: The NEA needs they're head on the chopping block now, not tomorrow. For the love of God, 'they're' means 'they are,' NOT 'their.'
And Since When is Empathy a Bad Thing?
I realize I'm a little bit of a lefty - but I think education is one of the most important things in this country and I don't agree with teaching one side of an issue. Students should understand all aspects of an issue so they can make an educated decision on how they feel about it. They're going to be voting adults in a year or two - it's important that they understand critical thinking, problem solving and yes, empathy, now.
That's my soapbox and I'm sticking to it! (Yes, I realize my previous post was on having to see the 'junk' of anatomically correct baby dolls)