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The Wonders of Language Immersion

Original post made by RWE, South of Midtown, on Jan 31, 2008

A friend at Edutopia just sent this over:

Web Link

It's a very well-done video that shows the on-the-ground reality - in the classroom - of language immersion.

I'm still neutral on language immersion. On review, however, it does offer impressive new vistas, and opportunities that would open up to our kids.

Certainly, as the world shrinks, we can do more to put foreign language instruction back into our schools.

I don't have the answer to how this can be done, or whether immersion is the only way, but watching that video creates a desire to see more minds opened up to the possibilities of other languages, and all the advantage that implies.

If we could simply move beyond the political rancor that's associated with immersion, and *make better instruction happen* (by enabling our teachers, and funding programs), our kids will win (and so will our future world).

Comments (4)

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Posted by oh joy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2008 at 10:49 am

RWE, If immersion is so wonderful -- and I don't disupute that it is -- why isn't PAUSD making immersion more accessible to all? The lottery numbers are dismal for entry into Spanish Immersion. The vast majority of children get turned away. Guessing from the attendance at the Mandarin Immersion meeting, the same will happen with that program. -IF- a District decides to offer immersion, it should commit to improving the odds for children to enter the immersion programs. To call these programs "choice" is a farce.

Everytime I see these "Immersion is Wonderful" posts, I can't help but think about how it must feel like salt rubbed into a wound for the hundreds of parents who applied to SI over the years and were rejected.


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Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 31, 2008 at 11:27 am

oh joy, I empathize with your frustration. PAUSD appears to face a conundrum that is complicated by fiscal restraint and a lack of effective leadership on this issue.

Is it possible that some new thinking could be applied to this problem? we all want better instruction for our kids. How might it be possible to enable universal immersion, without breaking the system? That's the question that I would suggest starting with, and then applying effective leadership at BOE, parent, community, and administrative levels to make it happen.

The only way forward with something like this is to avoid casting aspersions based on past incidents. It would be a challenge, but isn't that what life is for - to face challenges and solve problems in ways that enhance our being?

That may sound flowery, and naive, but here (and elsewhere) it's an effective way forward.


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Posted by oh joy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2008 at 12:06 pm

RWE, sorry if this comes across as cynical, but I don't see it happening. What's missing is a group of Highly Motivated Parents. The initial SIPAPA parents pushed & pushed until they were heard and their requests were fulfilled. Same with MI parents, except that I might exchange the word "requests" with "demands". Once these groups got what they wanted, they moved on to making it a solid program for their own children.

The next group of potential Highly Motivated Parents are the ones in the queue. They'd like their first-born to get into SI, but they don't make the lottery. So they enter their neighborhood school, their child makes friends and settles in, and that's the end of that.

Unless those parents who didn't make the cut band together, it'll be an endless cycle of wishful thinking when their child is pre-kindergarten, followed by making do when they lose the lottery.

There IS no group of parents who are driven to open up the lottery system and turn it into a true "choice" program.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2008 at 12:11 pm

Be careful what you wish for. The kindergarten curriculum is now very full and the kids are being taught what was taught in second grade not so long ago. As for second graders, they are being taught what traditionally was for higher grades, and so on and so forth. I had kindergarteners 9 years apart and I am amazed at the difference in their levels of learning.

For this type of progression, expecting them to be immersed in a language they have no knowledge of and expecting them to come through it with flying colors, as we do in kindergarten, is like whistling for the moon.


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