The United States is one of the richest countries in the world. (World Bank 2003) Yet, money has not exempted us from significant issues of racial and educational inequalitiesâ€¦
Programs such as the ESL program I am volunteering for at the Bellevue Library try to address some of the issues of disparity that stem from not having a firm command of the English language and our American customs and mores. For those participants being Indian, Asian or Spanish and being new to the English language puts them at a distinct disadvantage for educational opportunities, as well as other opportunities, such as employment.
This problem exists because our society is built equal opportunity concepts but does not adequately support the tenet. It is clear through the continual research from the students of course that funding is lacking in nearly every program focused on leveling the disparity between races and education. This, again, despite our country being one of the wealthiest in the world. Our culture, through its value of collectivism, propagates this disparity as it is looked at as the burden of the student to enter the American educational system ready to conform to our not only our language, but our values, perceptions, ideas, attitudes, goals and even our linear, logical thinking patterns! This prerequisite of cultural conformity disables most foreign students from successfully entering into the formal American education society.
We as a society need to consider all those living in America as our brothers and sisters in nation. We need to consider our success as relative to how every man, woman and child is successful in the availability and attainment of quality and equal education and opportunities unimpaired by racial considerations. By forming our concept of community beyond the standard concept of a group of people who live in the same area with a common background and shared interests within a society, to one that includes those who do not necessarily have that similar background or interests but yet should be able to attain those same American ideals.
If we were able to expand this idea of community to be all inclusive, to include all those living in America equally, then we would not find it acceptable that a student who would like to reach out for formal American higher education would be encumbered by English being their second language. We would then consider it a necessity that our nation provides funded classes to help immigrants grasp the English language and learn how to adapt to functioning in our culture while maintaining their unique identity. Completion of such a program should enable a student to be prepared to work in a position similar to what they would have held in their country. They would also be able to enter college unfettered by disparities based on language and thinking patterns and an understanding of what is expected, in order to obtain further education enabling even more opportunities they wish to seek out. As a national community we would consider this vital to our nation’s success because every individual would then be able to perform at their fullest potential. In the end a unity would be found across former community and racial and inequality boundaries which would make us collectively stronger and better able to achieve our goals and envision new ideals.
While the pros are apparent through this discussion, the cons are a bit tricky. You could easily see a program to enable immigrants and those learning English turning into a conformity factory. “Here are the American ideals, traditions, and customs. Learn them, take them in, and become one.” In doing so rich cultures would begin to lose their uniqueness and individuals would begin to lose their sense of identity. As a nation we would be in jeopardy of becoming one mass robot. To counter this con we would need to adjust the American image beyond apple pie and baseball to allow for diversity. In doing so we would achieve the ability for us citizens and residents to unite into a rich American identity without the con of conformity.
World Bank (2003). 2 Aug. 2005 http://www.worldbank.org/data/databytopic/GDP_PPP.pdf.
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“Cultural Considerations for People with a Disability.” Continuous Improvement Handbook Section D. 01 July 2004. Australian Government Department of Family and Community Services. 2 Aug. 2005 http://www.facs.gov.au/disability/ci_handbook/section_D.html .
Encarta World English Dictionary [North American Edition]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2005.
Gottschalk, Barbara. Interview. ESL Instructor. Youngstown State University. 1995.
Lewin, Ellen. Tutoring Tips for ESL Tutoring. Minneapolis: Minnesota Community College.