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I'm a couple of days behind on LJ, but on Tuesday stoneself alerted us to a story unfolding in the Midwest of an Asian-American student who has spoken English fluently all her conversational life--more than enough to maintain a 3.9 GPA in her classes as a senior at Storm Lake High school in English-only Iowa; she has refused to take an English proficiency exam multiple times because she finds it racist and demeaning. She is being asked to take the test because on her school registration she indicated that she speaks Lao at home; her parents speak little English. She speaks two languages, which, although advantageous elsewhere, can be a liability in the US.

School officials are falling all over themselves to make an example of her, including jeopardizing her chances of getting university scholarships, which is beyond punitive and moving into the realm of egregiously destructive of a young woman's potential. Dennis Baron looks at the story a little more analytically, shows us an example question from the test and notes that the Rules-At-All-Costs administration in Storm Lake isn't really following the rules at all but is being absurdly inflexible because.. why? That's the question. What's your answer?

APA for Progress provides some contact information for school administrators in Storm Lake. You know what to do.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
fishmonkeytrip
Mar. 21st, 2009 12:55 am (UTC)
Interesting issue.
Don't have any questions but some thoughts popped into my head, so I can share those. Firstly, I wondered what the Laos education system requires of non Laos speakers in their education system. My experience with the Thai education system, not forgetting these are not only completely different but in some parts diametrically opposed nations, is that they are massive sticklers and as a result, similar to the French, they churn out perfectly literate intellectuals that enter speedily into unemployment in countries that havent quite figured out that certain essential services require specific skills. So, what's the Laos take on this same issue for non literate / writers of Laos entering and exiting their education system, is a thought.

The other thought of course is that some of us are born to conform and live relatively uneventful peaceful lives while others are born to make statements with their life - so, the very best of luck to the young woman.

'There is also the somewhat relevant issue of the fate of nearly 200 Cambodian refugees whose parents fled the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge. They were granted safe haven in the United States, and have spent most of their life there. But under a policy introduced by former US President George W Bush, refugees who have broken the law are being plucked out of their American lives and deported to Cambodia. Despite the unfamiliar surroundings, and often not even being able to speak the language, they're trying to make the most of life in their new country. '

You can search youtube for a variety of US coverage on this issue, starting here perhaps.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41aj9llh8RA

agoraphiliac
Mar. 21st, 2009 01:57 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting this. I'll write to an administrator.

I'm amazed at how frequent this kind of thing is--punitive rules to control students. A friend who earned several advanced degrees while using university mental-health services to the max told me that nowadays, some college students are being told to take a leave of absence when they are depressed.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/pto-3782.html

I know, that's only tangentially related.

And so is this: Eve Sedgwick has an argument in Touching Feeling that goes like this: Foucault is OK for France, but here in the US we don't need to analyze disciplinary society, since our problem is much more frequently that there is no society (no welfare state, say). Here, it's the Wild West: work at a job or die. But then I see things like this Storm Lake story.

I'll write something more focused to that administrator, leaving out this rant.
hrolleif
Mar. 21st, 2009 03:24 pm (UTC)
It does seem very outrageous that they would keep her from her classes and threaten her scholarships (not sure they actually have the power to remove those, though?) over a stupid test which she obviously doesn't need. I don't really think the exam is racist, though. My partner (who is white, from Europe) had to take an English proficiency exam in order to get naturalized.
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