But two frustrating and troubling stories about English language learners in last week`s paper have caused me to reconsider. Maybe I shouldn`t go looking for headaches.
Specifically, News-Sentinel reporter Jennifer Bonnet outlined in her lead story "Ahead of Nationwide Trend," the English development programs the Lodi Unified School District has created for the approximately 11,000—or 38 percent of total enrollment—of its Hispanic non-English speakers. [Ahead of Nationwide Trend, by Jennifer Bonnet, Lodi News-Sentinel, October 23, 2008]
Bonnet`s supplemental story, "Local Program Reaches Out to Children, Parents," emphasized the importance of family reading and cultural awareness. [Local Program Reaches Out to Children, Parents, by Jennifer Bonnet, Lodi News-Sentinel, October 22, 2008]
The language curriculum commitment reflects the national trend that correlates to the United States` ever-increasing illegal alien adult population and the children they bear.
Unfortunately, the programs are not unique to Lodi.
In a sidebar to Bonnet`s story, various population statistics confirmed this same development throughout California: nearly two-thirds of all children living in the San Joaquin Valley are Hispanic, 25 percent of all its residents speak a language other than English at home and in Fresno County Hispanic residents make up 48 percent of the population.
Then there`s the national numbers: 11 million Hispanic students currently enrolled in K-12 and the staggering approximation that by 2050 a 116 percent increase in K-12 Hispanics will occur versus a non-Hispanic growth projected to be only 4 percent.
If those figures concern you, I have bad news. They reflect the least worrisome numbers relating to recent Hispanic immigrants to California.
Try these from the Census Bureau: in areas of high Hispanic concentration in southern California many adults are illiterate in their native language.
In Los Angeles, for example, 53 percent of its adults are illiterate and in south Los Angeles where the Hispanic concentration is the greatest, the illiteracy percentage hits 84 percent.
Their official classification is "low literate" meaning they can sign their name but cannot read a bus schedule or fill out a job application.
In my twenty years of teaching ESL, I have seen too many undereducated come into my classroom, stay a day or two, then leave without making any serious effort to learn. Worse, many who should be in class never bother.
My conclusion is that the programs consistently fail. Taken in their totality, they don`t warrant the financial outlay or the teacher time invested. You might as well light a match to your money.
Every statistic available today on English proficiency since I began teaching in 1986 is dramatically worse.
High among the reasons that the aggregate Hispanic population does not learn English is that illiterate people add to itself at a rapid rate. Between 2000 and 2006, the San Joaquin Valley`s Hispanic population increased from 30 percent to 36 percent. No end is in sight.
Bonnet`s stories referred to district "reach out" programs that advised non-English speaking parents of their rights and educational options.
However, it is important to understand that the responsibility for effective Mexican parenting and child rearing lies in Mexico.
That`s the deal that Mexico has cut. And we`re the saps for going along.
Even Mexico is occasionally embarrassed by its parasitical behavior.
Toward the end of the show, a caller asked Fox: "Don`t the leaders of Mexico feel ashamed that so many of their countrymen are leaving to find a better life in a country rather than their own?"
Fox, caught off guard, replied: "It`s our main obligation, our first obligation, to build up these opportunities in Mexico for our own people."
Despite Fox`s pledge, last year in Mexico was the same as the one hundred that preceded it: everything for the rich, nothing for the poor except a push out the door toward the U.S.
Joe Guzzardi [email him] is a California native who recently fled the state because of over-immigration, over-population and a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He has moved to Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the growth rate stable. A long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.