Wednesday, June 15, 2016

No Such Thing as Language, Says NY State

Under Part 154, a whole lot of alleged English instruction is moving into subject areas. You see, the geniuses in Albany have decided that, in the time it takes an American kid to read To Kill a Mockingbird, English Language Learners will not only read the book, but also learn English. You see the beauty of that?

And the best part is you can do this whole thing with only one teacher. It's a little known fact that once any teacher takes 12 magical cut-rate credits from the UFT or NYSUT, that teacher becomes an expert in teaching English as a Second Language. In fact, that teacher is so expert that he or she can impart not only the subject matter, but also all the English required to cover it. In fact, once you take those 12 credits, you can magically make ELLs understand the American culture required to appreciate To Kill a Mockingbird, or whatever aspect of whatever subject being covered at that particular moment.

In my school, we're pairing ESL with English, so for all I know, some poor kid could be reading Mockingbird with a bunch of American kids and held to the same expectations. After all, since New York State has now declared that kids will acquire English via magic, this should pose no problem whatsoever.

I'm a little puzzled by this whole thing, though, because I watched Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa explain how important the acquisition of English is, and ridicule those who didn't understand it. Rosa said that those who don't think language acquisition is important ought to go to Japan and try taking tests to see how that worked out for them. Yet when questioned about Part 154, which actively hurts ELLs, all she said was that it was written with good intentions. For me, good intentions hardly justify anything whatsoever.

One of my young colleagues had a bit of luck, in that she'd taken a bunch of English courses as an undergrad. She decided she would take an English license, as she needed only 9 credits to attain one. I happen to have one, and I know it takes not 12, but rather 36 credits. Evidently English is not quite as magical as ESL.

In any case, my colleague had to take a test to get her English certification. The new thing, evidently, is to do this on a computer. She showed up and the computer advised her she had 90 questions to answer. She answered one and the display said 89. She continued, and very thoroughly answered each and every question. By the time it said 1 question remaining she was very proud. She had calmly gotten through each and every question, and she was pretty sure she'd done well.

But then after the last question, an essay question popped up. She was a little surprised. She began to answer the question, but soon thereafter the computer turned off. Her time was up. Whether or not she passes this time, I'm sure she'll manage next time.

But not every ESL teacher is dually certified, or close to it. As courses gravitate toward English teachers who have those magical 12 credits they'll be left by the wayside. That's because the Regents and various other Albany geniuses have determined that we don't actually teach a subject. Evidently a language, in NY State, is not a subject.

By that logic, of course, American-born students should be studying American history in Spanish, Chinese, or Greek. If ELLs don't need language instruction, no one does. It's meaningless. We can just take 12 credits, flip a switch, and everybody can understand anything. Why not teach the American kids To Kill a Mockingbird in Klingon? After all, what's in a word?

Go ahead, NY State. Conduct the next Regents meeting in Japanese. If my kids can do it, why the hell can't you?



Of course a rose by any other name would smell as sweet!

Full disclosure--the Chinese is from Google translate. I took a master's rather than the magical 12, and am thus unable to break the language barrier. 
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