Parents “hiding” or suppressing their native tongue so as to defend their children from vicious racism has caused the widespread social tragedy of heritage language loss.

Some interesting background information into immigration particularly in Bedford, Canada in the 19th Century and its impact in the 21st Century. How many other countries have similar needs to this where they have needed extra personnel and encourage global mobility for job fulfillment then years later forget about it. What is interesting as in the blog a few days ago it actively says that:

Parents “hiding” or suppressing their native tongue so as to defend their children from vicious racism has caused the widespread social tragedy of heritage language loss.

This is still happening in so many educational places rather than celebrating the differences such a shame for the children, the parents and the language.

If you are interested in the full article here it is.

Your View: Esperanza prospectus a return to city’s bilingual education heritage
By The Rev. Marc Fallon
The Rev. Marc Fallon works in the office of Catholic Social Services in New Bedford. He is a member of United Interfaith Action.

New Bedford’s economic history suggests that current employment dislocations and the need for recalibration of job skills are cyclical. As the whaling era ended in the late 19th century, New Bedford was among the many New England cities receiving migrants to staff the labor-intensive textile mills. While Poles, Irish, Italians, Azoreans, Cape Verdeans and Portugese crossed the Atlantic, local descendants of Francophone Quebecois continental migrants continue to remember and celebrate their forebears’ many contributions. They valued their faith, culture and language, developing a remarkably successful bilingual education system that graduated English-speaking textile workers and workers in many other positions and professions. Yet as we recall the cultural divide between local power brokers and immigrant textile workers of a century ago, it challenges credulity that the city would ignore the wishes of Latino parents for the highest quality education for their children.

As much as the Canadian 1867 Confederation sought to defend minority rights regionally, the Quebecois were ready to respond to the labor opportunities in New England textile factories. The new workers arrived with an ingrained distrust of the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant power cartel they knew in Montreal and apparently transferred this to the local establishment. Deposit their paychecks in Anglo banks? Hardly. The viability of St. Anne’s Federal Credit Union today reminds of the financial institutions that emerged from Catholic parish basements in Fall River, Biddeford and throughout New England. The Francophone Catholic clergy journeyed here in sufficient numbers to staff the “national” parishes. The community placed paramount importance on the bilingual parish schools that would propagate the faith, teach cultural traditions and prepare students for their working careers. I know this because my ancestors in the Congregation of Holy Cross did the teaching.

St. Anthony of Padua Parish opened their school in September 1896 to 300 students before the parish’s first anniversary. Ten years later, 900 students studied in a facility with 14 classrooms and the building now housing the Global Learning Charter School opened in 1924. As the women and men of the Congregations of Holy Cross rebuilt schools in the aftermath of the French revolution, they also traveled with economic migrants to South Bend, Ind., Saint-Laurent, Quebec and elsewhere in North America. Les Soeurs de Sainte-Croix arrived in New Bedford and staffed St. Anthony’s school with two sections for each year K-8, with one section studying in French while their counterparts learned in English during the morning and reversing the curriculum for the afternoon. It appears that catechesis, the history of Canada, and French language and literature built upon the first language of the students (no doubt appeasing parents concerned about foreign cultural influences in the new land) while math, science, geography, U.S. history and English grammar increasingly brought the eighth-grade graduates to full bilingual competency before entering high school.

A century has passed, and the Vatican II Council and countless social changes have taken place in the interim. The 2010 census cries out to us that 17 percent of the city is Latino, a population of internal migrants of the Americas with tremendous similarities to the social characteristics of the Quebecois textile workers. While Catholic religious life is in a very different place than a century ago, a new generation of committed educators and social activists see clearly the local social inequities. Still, one cannot help but be struck by the structural indifference to the educational needs of this population on the part of those elected to serve them.

United Interfaith Action supports the Esperanza School of Language and Culture Prospectus for an Innovation School. Beginning with three grades of K-2, this school would teach students with Latino parents (English Language Learners) in both English and Spanish throughout the school day, eventually developing a K-8 model. This proposal relates to young bilingual students in appreciation of their linguistic and cultural capital, as opposed to the myopic and misanthropic power structure that would track the children to nothing beyond the low-wage jobs of their parents. Parents “hiding” or suppressing their native tongue so as to defend their children from vicious racism has caused the widespread social tragedy of heritage language loss.

The reactionary anti-immigrant xenophobes won their referendum against the state bilingual education program 10 years ago and then skipped town, leaving a vulnerable population with no support. To document that only 36 percent of ELL students are progressing in English language acquisition is to witness a profound social disaster. One must wonder if those in City Hall who discuss education ever speak with those concerned with economic development. Who could cross the present chasm?

We the clergy and faithful members of United Interfaith Action urge that the School Committee adopt the Esperanza School of Language and Culture Prospectus for an Innovation School in testament to the invaluable heritage of bilingual education in New Bedford and the genuine hope it offers for Latino students and parents.

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