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Town Square

Neighborhood Schools As Global Microcosms

Original post made by Lisa Steinback on Jun 1, 2006

Neighborhood Schools As Global Microcosms

I'm passionate about neighborhood schools. I believe, among other things, that the purpose of a public school is to provide a diverse environment for students. Whenever I visit my son's school I marvel at how well the kids of all backgrounds and nationalities get along, play together and collaborate on projects. This is what I dreamed of for my kids. I found myself explaining this to my mom the other day... "Mom, the world of today is just like Tiger Woods!" I exclaimed. That's what it's like in the world and our school provides a microcosm of what our kids will see when they enter the working world. Our neighborhood schools provide an exposure to many different cultures and traditions. Students learn, from a very young age, to celebrate and appreciate this diversity. As an example, our neighborhood school has a Chinese New Years celebration complete with a huge dragon made by kindergarteners. We also celebrate Cinco de Mayo, complete with hand-made tortillas. Most importantly, the friendships students make result in many opportunities to participate in other families' cultures and traditions. Not only have my kids learned from other families about their cultural backgrounds and traditions, but our family has been able to educate many of my son's friends about our culture and traditions. As adults, they will be collaborating on projects across the globe and this understanding will be a real asset.

Thomas Friedman, in his best-seller The World Is Flat states, "The more you have a culture that naturally...absorbs foreign ideas and best practices and melds those with its own tradition – the greater advantage you will have in a flat world."

That is why I feel strongly that adding another language immerson program to our district is the wrong direction. Adding a specialized language academy is the opposite of what we need to be doing. We need to preserve neighborhood schools and the diversity they foster instead of having specialized language academies which focus primarily on a target language and culture. The understanding our kids demonstrate in the microcosm of their school playground will go a long way toward producing adults that see diversity as the true asset that it is.

Comments

Posted by R. Donan, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 1, 2006 at 5:32 pm

I have to agree with you about the richness that students and families bring to the schools in sharing their cultures. There is nothing greater than to be able to share our backgrounds in an environment that is respectful and welcomes diversity.

However, I do believe that by singling out a foreign language over other languages for an immersion program in the schools is wrong. The school district is a microcosm of families who represent various foreign tongues; such as French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, German, Cantonese, Mandarin, Taiwanese, Tagalog, Farsi, etc. In hindsight, since a Spanish immersion program has already been implemented, we have essentially opened the door for other languages to be considered.