This coming Monday is the Martin Luther King holiday. It is time for reflection on how far we have yet to go to truly be a land where any person can truly be anything he or she wishes. As a teacher of ELLs, I deal with this in many veiled forms on a regular basis. This last Friday, we had a lesson on the Civil Rights Movement and students brought up The Dream Act. For those reading this blog from other countries, this is an act that would have allowed any child of undocumented residents who graduated from college and/or served in the US military to go on the fast track to citizenship (6 years). DREAM ACT
Many bilingual and civil rights groups are active supporters of it since the children addressed in the bill did not violate any laws in coming here. There were children who were simply brought here by their parents. To deport them "back to their homeland" makes no sense since the only land they know is this one. In my class, every ELL has a family member in the military and none of them are US citizens.
One big win is that students with good grades may now attend California universities at in-state rates. Of course, it is another political hot button. BIG WIN FOR UNDOCUMENTED STUDENTS I must confess here that I see it as a plus since I not only teach them English, but also as an ELIC (English Language Instructional Coach) support other content teachers with ELLs in their classes. Punish the parents if you must, but why the children. Punish the parents with fines, but to deport kids who left their countries as kids through no will of their own seems heartless. CABE (California Association of Bilingual Education) and NABE (National Association of Bilingual Education) are both active supporters of these students as are many educators. The contributions they would make to our society are enormous. Why lose that potential?
So back to my class. I have never stopped pushing them to reach for the stars. If public colleges won't give them scholarships for political reasons, go to private ones who have no strings in this area. Students can also go to community colleges that is true, but many Latino students never seem to graduate from them. This is why I try my best to get them into 4 year institutions. Why is this worth the effort? Well, one success story I have is that one of my students from the worst school in Los Angeles went on to the Peace Corps and is now living in Washington, D.C. and working for Peace Corps Headquarters!
I hope we, as a country, continue to live up to Dr. King's Dream.