Graduation Speech in Spanish Agonizes Parents

Jeanne Sager

speak englishSo what do you want out of your kid's high school principal? An educator who believes in including everyone? How about a guy who uses every moment he can to impart some education? Or would you rather your school board just pick someone who will stick to the same old tired traditions that have served 'mericans for years? If your vote is with the latter, grab your pitchfork and head to Nevada where parents are all in a tizzy because their kids' principal dared give his graduation speech to the class of 2011 in English and in Spanish.

Yes, you read it right here, folks, Principal Crespin Esquivel decided to take advantage of the fact that students at Whittell High School learn another language before they graduate and make the whole crowd feel truly welcome at the commencement ceremonies, and parents are P.O.'d! Apparently Esquivel failed to pick up the memo that said one must only speak English when within the borders of America. It's yet another battleground for the "English as a national language" debate, but parents, this one affects you. Because what's the point of sending your kids to school to learn another language if you have such a problem hearing that language spit back at you?

The irony here is that at Whittell, like most high schools in America, students take classes in a second language to help them gain a competitive edge in the job market. At Whittell in particular, Spanish is offered all the way up to AP level. We want our kids to learn these languages because of what they can do for them -- the better jobs, the bigger salaries. And yet there are people still so uncomfortable with their usage, so wary of being "cut off" because they themselves can't understand the other language. 

What kind of message does that send a kid? It's OK for you to learn to speak it for a good job, but it's not OK for someone else to speak it because their culture makes me uncomfortable, and I'm too lazy to go buy some Berlitz CDs? Oh, right, a "you're better than them" message. One that's all about class and separation and nothing about the American ideal of a melting pot.

Sorry, folks, but if we want our kids to learn another language, we have to be OK with our kids USING another language inside America. Otherwise, it becomes a race issue, and you don't want to go there ... do you? Really?

Do you think the principal was wrong? Would you want him at your kid's school?


Image via antwerpenR/Flickr

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