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Web Letter

On June 28, 2007, Governor Crist of Florida vetoed the bill reducing teacher training for English Language Learners, citing concerns of how the bill would affect the students. The Florida Hispanic Legislative Caucus sent Crist a letter supporting a veto.

US Supreme Court decisions Lau v. Nichols and Plyler v. Doe have been challenged over the years and sustained in maintaining equal educational opportunities for students learning English. We will remain vigilant that they continue.

Chief Justice Roberts said that the best way to not discriminate is to not discriminate. Sounds like a "Just Say No" policy. If it only were so simple.

Rochelle Cisneros

Cocoa Beach, FL

Jun 30 2007 - 11:52am

Web Letter

Adding to Ms. McCaskill's thought, as supposed leaders of the free world, we not only owe it to ourselves to continue the hard fought work started with Brown v. Board of Ed, we now find our selves in the delicate position where we have the opportunity to redefine ourselves in that world. In the world's most heterogenous nation, the benefits of multicultural education can be our poster child for our ability to champion the rights of all people--something that, needless to say, we are lacking in these times.

Oh, and I love you, Professor Williams!

Mikayla Cuyler

San Francisco, CA

Jun 25 2007 - 7:08pm

Web Letter

While it is undeniable that a multicultural experience is an indispensable part of all education that calls itself public, I believe diversity is not the only goal of the integration of public schools, nor perhaps even the most important goal.

Today, the anti-integration movement has recruited many vociferous blacks who take umbrage at the notion that they must be integrated into "mainstream" culture--that it, white culture. Over the insult that integration seems to imply, these blacks (Ward Connerly and others) forget the injury that was and is racial segregation.

But integration never was and is not now only about "mainstreaming" anyone, just as segregation never was only about keeping people separate. Integration aims to bring about the fair redistribution of the material resources of education. For black children, as the full equals of white children, are not deprived of internal resources, but as the inheritors of a racially segregated economy they are deprived of external resources. If these external resources cannot be brought to black children, then black children must be brought into better schools.

The contemporary debate on the reform of public education whitewashes the truth of inadequate funding of urban public schools with the pretense that education requires only quality control and the threat of failure to improve. The belief in the equal distribution of children's internal resources, laudable though it is in itself, has recently been abused to distract attention from the unequal distribution of their external resources. We should not be so easily fooled.

Eric Paul Jacobsen

Saint Paul, MN

Jun 5 2007 - 7:53am

Web Letter

After Brown v. School Board came Lau v. Nichols (1974), another landmark US Supreme Court decision affecting school children who speak a language other than English. Lau was one of more than 1,000 Chinese high school students in San Francisco and Nichols was the then Superintendent of Schools in that city. The Court voted unanimously for the plaintiffs. Justice William O. Douglas articulated clearly that "there is no equality of treatment merely by providing students with the same facilities, textbooks, teachers, and curriculum; for students who do not understand English are effectively foreclosed from any meaningful education." The Court cited Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, indicating that the Chinese students in question and all English Language learners are part of protected category. Today, the American public clamors that immigrants must be proficient in English. The new immigration proposals make English a requirement to legalization and English only movements never cease.

At the same time, getting English language instruction is increasingly difficult. Nationally, adult literacy programs serving English language learners have waiting lists of months or years. Last month in Florida, the legislature passed SB2512/HB1219 which ensures that reading teachers in this State remain ill prepared to serve English Language Learners K-12. The proponents suggest that teaching reading to native speakers is the same as teaching reading to second language learners, a notion that is unsupported by any language development theory or research. Most interesting is that the sponsors of the bill represent a Florida county where there are 414 Limited English Proficient students. Dade County serves 54,000 and Orange County 34,000 of the more than 250,000 Limited English Proficient students statewide.

I find the last sentence particularly compelling: "...in the equality of citizenship that begins with the image of that eager, lonely child on her first day of school, for whom all things might be possible, if we only willed it so?" Today in a common cause in the defense of children the League United of Latin Amercian Ciitizens (LULAC), Spanish American League Against Discrimination (SALAD), ASPIRA, The Council for La Raza, Centro Campesino, National Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), Inc, Florida Sunshine State TESOL among others ask Florida Governor Crist to veto SB2512.

Rochelle Cisneros

Cocoa Beach, FL

Jun 1 2007 - 9:56pm

Web Letter

Professor Williams has exposed the hard bigotry of denial in the meting out of integration policies post-Brown v. Board of Ed. These rights were purchased after all with the blood of those considered undesirable and unworthy according to the "values" of the majority of white Americans at that time. Full integration throughout the country was not completed in some cases until the early to mid-seventies. As a child of the South, southern Florida to be exact, I grew up going to all black schools till the seventh grade in 1970. My high school was the first integrated in Broward County in 1972

Though this experience was quite disorienting and tumultuous physically and emotionally, the end result has benefited me for all my life. The exposure to "mainstream culture" and opportunities to travel through my school and participate in a variety of extracurricular activities social and academic along with the white friends I made at school and the support I got from my family and teachers prepared me for college and helped me understand that I could compete with anyone.

Though integrated schools alone will not be enough to heal our nation's racial divide, it is in my opinion the common denominator of our democracy. All children are required to attend school and our common tax dollars pay for their education. Schools are a natural training ground for our children's futures. To step back from the generations of sacrifice and progress that has been made through integrated public schools and universities and retreat to the blindness and ignorance of bigotry will be a tragic blow to our nation's potential to compete in the world and a devastating act of cowardice towards the young people we say we are preparing to lead us. With the "browning of America" growing daily, how can we prepare our leaders in the dark?

Sherletta McCaskill

New York, NY

May 14 2007 - 8:17pm

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