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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Mailbag

    ESL programs necessary for children to learn English

    This letter is in response to Janne Perona’s answer to the Wednesday Columnist Showdown question: “”Should the state fund bilingual or ESL programs for Spanish speakers in primary and secondary public schools?”” Perona’s negative response is emblematic of a problem with the basic understanding of bilingual education in ESL classes in this country. Bilingual education does not teach Spanish; it uses Spanish to teach English. Just as students in Spanish 101 are taught basic rules of the language in English, so must non-English speakers be taught the basics in their own language. Perona asserts that people who come to America should learn English; the fact is that they do.

    For the past two years, I have observed ESL classes at schools in Tucson through a project with the Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology and have seen firsthand the detriments of English-only education. In Tucson, we have a large and ever-growing refugee population; many of the children come from places where there is no formal education available and speak a language with no written form. When they come to America, they are placed into classes in which they are expected to learn to read and write in English, despite having little to no knowledge of what the alphabet is – a concept that is not easily communicated through hand gestures and facial expressions. Since their teachers are legally prohibited from speaking in the students’ languages, the students are prevented from making serious progress. I do not know from what Perona makes her conclusion that bilingual ESL classes are “”disgraceful,”” but from my experience, that statement is not anywhere close to factual.

    The fact of the matter is that teachers know how best to teach their students; they know their skills, they know their abilities and they know how to communicate the information most effectively. The majority of teachers in this country agree that bilingual education is necessary, at least for a while, in order to maximize English learning. Legislators, superintendents and political pundits are not the people that should be making this decision. The legal restrictions in place in Arizona are born out of a fear of Spanish that amounts to moralized xenophobia. Teachers should be permitted to do their jobs, and people should stop playing politics with children.

    Peter Poer
    Senior majoring in anthropology and mathematics

    Harvey Mudd program indicative of bright, enthusiastic students

    As the director of the engineering clinic program at Harvey Mudd College, I was happy to read Lori Foley’s column, “”Asking More from Internships,”” on Tuesday. Our program demonstrates that undergraduate students can learn by doing important and useful projects for “”real world”” sponsors, working effectively in teams and accomplishing great things. Past projects have included development of instrumentation for Antarctic scientists, stroke diagnosis tools and even circuit boards that are scheduled to fly in space. In every project, the students were challenged to manage their own project, control their own budget and report their own results. For all the criticism leveled at young people today, programs such as ours show that the future can be bright indeed if students are given the opportunity to participate fully in their education. Consider that last year, undergraduate projects in our program resulted in 13 patent disclosures. I am not knowledgeable enough to comment on undergraduate programs at the UA, but I hope that your students can share in similarly rich experiences.

    Foley offered me the opportunity to discuss our program as her deadline approached, and I was unable to speak with her. As a result, I feel responsible for a few minor errors or misstatements that should probably be corrected. Our projects are typically 1,200 person hours, not 12,000. Also, we have been doing clinic projects for more than 40 years, not 35. Finally, the college does not turn a blind eye to underage drinking. On the final point, the confusion may come from our Honor Code, under which students hold themselves and their fellow students to high standards of behavior.

    The Honor Code can allow students a great deal of freedom, such as selecting their own preferred time to self-administer exams, but it also calls for students to exercise self-restraint in matters of personal behavior. In my view, supporting self-restraint and self-governance do not constitute a blind eye.

    Notwithstanding these small concerns, it is nice to see our little corner of the world highlighted in your paper. Thanks for noticing.

    Patrick Little
    Johnson Associate Professor of Engineering Management director, engineering clinic
    Harvey Mudd College

    Basketball campout not a depressing affair

    I was appalled when I read Mike Ritter’s Tuesday article about the students who camped out before the Washington game this weekend. It was apparent that he was merely there to cover the scene for the paper and not because he was interested in what was taking place at all. His disposition that night tainted his coverage of the story because he wrote about what an awful time everyone was having and how nothing was worth the result. As someone who set up his nine-person tent with his friends on the steps of McKale Center at 3 a.m. that night, I was excited when I saw that a reporter from the paper was there. I was insulted to see that the one time students receive press for camping out all night, they receive poor press. Not everything people do in life is enjoyed during it, but the end result can be quite fulfilling.

    Tensions were high all night as to who actually deserved the front-row seats. The bitterly freezing night spent sleeping on the cold, hard concrete certainly was not as cozy as a down featherbed, but the high that we experienced when we received our tickets made the uncomfortable night worthwhile. How can we expect a better following from students if the actions of the avid athletics followers are denigrated by false reporting? Consider other schools with major basketball programs – Kansas, Duke, UNC – and how their students receive tickets. Duke has K-ville, where students live on the quad for weeks at a time in hopes of obtaining even the most meaningless game ticket. For weeks Arizona students have been showing up the night before games to camp out and start a tradition, and what kind of recognition do we receive? We earn a cynical and snide article written by a sleep-deprived reporter who had no intention of describing that night in its true mood. Good luck to next year’s class of tenters – they are on their own.

    Chris Haddad
    general biology senior

    Pro-choice position most consistent

    Rob Sulzbach’s Wednesday letter regarding the complexities of the abortion debate was right on target. This is one issue in which thoughtful dialog between the self-styled pro-life and pro-choice camps is sorely lacking. Sulzbach focused on the nature of choice and how the fetus has none. But the issue is not whether the fetus is allowed to develop, but who makes the call. In the pro-life position, the government decides for the woman. For example, the recent law passed in South Dakota outlaws abortions even for victims of rape or incest. For true pro-lifers, the fact that a woman may have become pregnant as a result of rape is irrelevant. To be consistent, then, pro-lifers should also oppose any and all actions that result in the intentional termination of human life, including the death penalty and the use of deadly force by military and law enforcement.

    Pro-choice supporters, on the other hand, believe that issues of reproduction and sexuality are so intimate and specific to each individual woman that the government should not interfere, at least when competent adults are concerned. Decisions on life or death are too complex to be left out for politicians to decide.

    In the spirit of our American traditions of individual freedom, choice is the only consistent alternative.

    Francisco Gonzalez
    assistant director, Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Office

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