As the end of the academic year
approaches, I again ask myself if my job as an
English as a Second Language instructor
at the Lodi
Adult School is relevant.
Certainly the non-English-speaking
population in Lodi has increased in each of the fifteen
years I have been an
. In fact, one evening in late April, I
walked throughout the school`s neighborhood—several
blocks in each direction - and didn`t hear a word of
Yet, despite the bigger base of
non-English-speaking adult students
living within a
stone`s throw of the school,
hit an all-time low this year.
Non-attendance is a mounting
frustration for me because ESL classes could not be any
Not only are classes
(i.e. paid for by American
but also the adult school`s open
enrollment system allows students to come and go
their own schedule
without any concern of being
Whether a student can only stay for
two of the four daily classroom hours or only attend one
day of the five Monday through Friday sessions - no
Absences of several weeks—even
months - are common. The students are always welcomed
What really put the kibosh on
attendance this year was a class offering the GED (=
of high school diploma) run by the
San Joaquin Delta College,
a two-year college. The
hook: the class prepared students to take the GED - in
instruction and materials
were all in Spanish.
When I got wind of this, I implored
my students not to attend."What good will a GED in Spanish
I asked. "Stay in my class;
improve your English, then take the GED in English."
Despite my pleas, many students
changed venues. And since the typical adult student only
has "X" hours in a week to spare for classes, most could
not attend both the GED class and my own.
When I urged my students to stay in
my class to hone their English skills, my thinking was
that no employer would be interested in a GED taken in
Spanish. What proof would it provide that the prospective
employee could read and understand English?
Imagine my surprise then when one of
the defectors came around last week to show off his
made out completely in English -
without any clue that the test he took had been in
The GED test was administered in
was written in Spanish and the math
problems done in Spanish. But the GED certificate awarded
was in English—identical to the one awarded to people
who pass the test in English!
There`s more. With his brand
spanking new GED certificate my former student—illegally
in the United States,
by the way— can now apply for
to attend Delta College. All he has to do is
complete an application—in Spanish—and write an essay—in
Spanish—about how important achieving the GED has been
Stop the madness!
I am surprised at how naïve I was.
What, after all these years on the
immigration reform front,
would make me think that
there would be some identifier on the certificate that
would indicate the test was given in Spanish?
My former student now has his GED
certificate and can check off on future job applications
(one that you
be applying for?) that he has either a
high school diploma or the equivalent.
But I stick to my guns.
The right choice for him would have
been to stay in class and master English.
I spoke with Amy Flores, Human
Resources Management Analyst for the
City of Lodi
about the Spanish version of the GED.
don`t distinguish between the English and the Spanish
tests," she said. "But if an applicant cannot speak
English, then he will not get our better jobs. We`re
looking for firefighters right now and we`re
certainly not hiring any who don`t speak English. The
first group of firefighter candidates we chose will be
also be required to take a supplemental written test—in
hiring general laborers, too. They don`t need to
speak English fluently. But that job doesn`t require a
high school diploma or a GED."
In the end then, those who aspire to
long-term prosperity in America need to speak English
Short cuts like the GED in Spanish
may create phantom opportunities. But when the critical
job interview comes along, if the applicant can`t speak
English, no one will be fooled.
Until, that is, the day comes when
employers to accept
That`s the next step. And, unless we
get immigration under control, it`s just a matter of
time.Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English at the Lodi
Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column
since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.