Rationality in any language - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Rationality in any language

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Posted: Wednesday, November 26, 2003 2:15 pm | Updated: 1:48 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

The East Valley Institute of Technology, under threat of legal action, has finally reversed its ham-handed policy of insisting students speak nothing but English on campus — including low-voiced personal conversation having nothing to do with what’s being taught.

Despite several sincere requests from students, appeals from this page and elsewhere, the English-only rule stood while EVIT officials have been working with students on the issue. The actual reversal came only after EVIT students announced Monday complaints had been filed with the Civil Rights Office of the U.S. Department of Education.

EVIT student Patricia Otero, 16, deserves credit for standing her ground on this issue and enduring ridicule on her way to winning the day after a two-hour meeting Monday.

So, now what? EVIT, Otero and other concerned parties still have work to do, as removing the English-at-all-times rule doesn’t detail those specific instances when English should properly be the only language spoken.

We suggest a rational, sensitive approach in accord with the English-immersion principles of Proposition 203: Communications between students and teachers, in classrooms or outside class when the subject is instruction-related, should be in English. Assignments, oral or written, must be in English.

And in those EVIT classes involving outside customers, such as the cosmetology school where Otero is a student, instructors should teach and enforce good manners. In other words, students should be taught that conversing in a language within earshot of a customer who doesn’t speak that language can be construed as rude to that customer. Students who want to speak another language should keep private, personal conversations about non-school matters out of such earshot as much as possible.

Bilingualism is here to stay. Even if every illegal immigrant were to be miraculously removed from U.S. soil today, the growing number of quite-legal Latinos who prefer their native tongues in at least some forms of their cultural and commercial lives is too big to ignore in the marketplace.

English speakers who feel miffed because they don’t understand Spanish, should consider learning it, as so many American business executives and even President Bush have. It would promote understanding of another culture just

as so many Latinos who are learning English are doing.

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