Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Language-based Charter Schools in DC

This letter was published in the Washington Examiner on Feb 14 ---

'Language-based charter schools lead to segregation'

"Re: 'Hebrew, Arabic among 11 proposed new charter schools', Feb 12 ---

"As a former public school Spanish teacher, I think that starting publicly funded charter schools for Arabic or Hebrew language instruction is not a good idea, because such schools are quite likely to serve only narrow Muslim or Jewish student bodies.

"If there is sufficient demand for Arabic or Hebrew language instruction, as there is for Spanish or Mandarin, then by all means offer the instruction in regular public schools.

"Using language instruction to segregate -- yes, segregate -- kids is a sure way to further fragment our society.

"Edd Doerr, Silver Spring"


Don Wharton said...

This is an extremely timely post. Lee and I were talking about this last night. We certainly do not want to structure our society in a way that increases eventual conflict.

Anonymous said...

I think that's a pretty bizarre argument. There simply aren't enough "Muslims" (are you unaware that there are Arab-speaking Christians?) and "Jews" to self-segregate themselves in any school in D.C. The Hebrew Charter school in Brooklyn is very diverse - and giving students an appreciation of foreign languages, any languages is a WONDERFUL thing for DC! Shame on you for letting your religious prejudices drive your view of what's best for DC denizens.

Don Wharton said...

@Anonymous Very interesting comment! We cherish data that will change our perspective. If you have a source to share we would be happy to read it and consider it. Language has been used to define and magnify cultural divisions with conflict and war too often the outcome. If language is used to cement positive cultural relationships that would be quite beneficial.

Gary Berg-Cross said...

Edd Doerr responded:

I am accused of ignorance and "religious prejudice". Not so. I am aware that there are Christian Arabs, but they are quite distinct from Muslims, many of whom are not Arabs. Also, the Hebrew charter school in New York is diverse largely because of Christian evangelical kids learning Hebrew so that they can proselytize in Israel.

I am a former Spanish teacher. My wife and I translated and published in Spanish Humanist rabbi Sherwin Wine's (AHA's 2003 Humanist of the Year) book Staying Sane in a Crazy World (Como mantener la cordura en un mundo loco). Our kids were raised bilingually from birth, and I have lectured in Spanish in the US and Mexico.

To accuse me of ethnocentrism or "religious prejudice" is absurd.

Rebeccah Gan said...

I think this debate is an interesting and important one. However, the statement that the "Hebrew charter school in New York is diverse largely because of Christian evangelical kids learning Hebrew so that they can proselytize in Israel"is simply not accurate. Public schools are barred from tracking religious affiliation, I would be curious as to where you obtained such statistics. The NY school is 55 percent white and 45 percent black and Hispanic -- it is one of the most integrated public elementary schools in Brooklyn. Moreover, the principles of language immersion, global citizenship, diversity, and academic excellence are worthy, and a good immersion school, including a Hebrew one, will serve DC children well. Far from being a tool to "define and magnify cultural divisions," or a mode of "structuring our society in a away that increases eventual conflict," bilingual education serves as a bridge between cultures, and helps foster critical 21st century skills. Sherwin Wine himself spoke several languages, including Modern Hebrew, and I doubt very much that he would be opposed to bilingual education generally, or Hebrew-English public education specifically.

Edd.Doerr said...

Rebeccah: I am bilingual, as are my kids. My wife is trilingual. I favor serious language instruction from the earliest grades on.

I stand by my letter in the Examiner. Let languages be taught in regular public schools.

Rebeccah Gan said...

It sounds like your truck is really with charter schools in general, as opposed to this specific charter school. I can definitely respect that opinion, having enjoyed an excellent public school education throughout my life. I note that you live in Silver Spring. The reality is for DC residents, charter schools are here to stay. Parents support them, our mayor supports them, and as we know, Congress strongly supports them. Given that reality, bilingual charter schools should be promoted. You seem unfamiliar with the Hebrew charter school movement. Please check out some of the many articles written about the NY Hebrew Charter. I think you will be surprised by what you would find there: http://www.villagevoice.com/2011-05-25/news/hebrew-spoken-HLA-hebrew-language-academy/. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/25/nyregion/25hebrew.html

Edd.Doerr said...

A great many of the charter school promoters are unfriendly to public education and the right of teachers to have unions. Further, charters are on balance not all that great. There is abundant support for the studies that show that only 17% of charter schools are better than local public schools, 37% are worse, and the rest are about the same.