Friday, May 14, 2010

Pot Thief Tour 2010 - Day 4

“Where the silvery Rio Grande gleams along the sand,” begins the alma mater of Ysleta High School from which I graduated back in…well, suffice it to say, a different age. My wife Lai and I spoke to three English classes there about what it’s like to be a writer. In retrospect, I don’t know why they invited us, and I don’t know why we accepted. Many of the kids were like others we encounter back in Georgia. Which is to say, they neither read nor write. The closest they come to writing is when they send a text and the closest they come to reading is when they receive one.

I know it’s traditional for people to bemoan the decline of civilization as they age, so maybe I’m just becoming a grumpy old man. Many of the female students at YHS have babies. Some have two or three. The males who fathered those children have, in most cases, no role in the lives of those children..

The entire Lower Valley area where we grow up is an Hispanic ghetto. The signs on the streets and the conversations on the sidewalks are all in Spanish. The student’s grandparents and parents live near them, mostly employed in menial jobs. To escape this destiny requires not only that the student aspire to something very different from the rest of their family, it requires moving into an English-speaking world.

I’m an advocate of multi-lingualism. I believe every American student should be taught a second language beginning in the first grade when our language acquisition ability is still strong. But a nation cannot reach its full potential without a strong common language and a shared belief system.

Getting off my soap-box now to drive back to Silver City.


BillieJohn said...

I like your soapbox...and I think you are spot on...and I like to think maybe one or two of the kids who listened to you got the message, or maybe the seed of a message that will germinate later on.

Hope so...

Monti said...

Things have changed a lot in just a few years. Last week, I got two children in my art classes who speak no English. I speak no Spanish, so that's not a good situation. I believe those who move into the United States should have some background in the English language and so should their children before they enter school. I have some background in French but no other language. In our small town, we now get children from China, Vietnam, Nigeria, etc. as well as from Mexico. Many of these children don't speak English either. I don't know the solution except to respect our native language which is that of the founding fathers...


Kit Sloane said...

My granddaughter from Panama found herself living in Los Angeles at age 8. In three months she had learned enough English to get along. Now, a college freshman, she teases her mother for having an "accent." My son's public high school has 16 dialects that are spoken on campus. All classes are taught in English and everyone eventually learns it. He and the rest of his family are bilingual. Ideally we should all be bilingual. It irks me that Americans think everyone should speak English. It irks me that I can't speak Spanish or French easily or well enough. These kids will learn if taught correctly and encouraged at home, as well as at school. I just hope they retain their native languages, too. Everyone's native language is important, not just ours. Being bilingual is an asset, not a liability, and should be encouraged.

Sunny Frazier said...

Having married into the Mexican community and with many of my friends Hispanic, I see a different problem. The women I know don't have time to read, plus they tell me they don't "relate" to the mysteries. They like my stuff because I write about their culture in a positive and hopefully educated way.

While traveling through Tucson, I met three generations of Mexican women who helped me with directions to the airport. I told them I had written about "La Llorna" and the grandmother's eyes lit up. She spoke no English, so I gave a copy of the anthology to her daughter who translated the story. The granddaughter asked for my autograph--she'd never met an author before. She was going to bring the book to class.

So, maybe WE have a problem. It takes years for some cultures to have the luxury of time to read. Ethnic authors usually write memoirs first, not mysteries.

I'm so proud of Sarah Cortez for being the first to bring out a Latino mystery anthology. I'm just a white girl, but I hope someday to have a strong Hispanic readership.

And no, I never could learn Spanish. I'm pretty lame at languages.